They come to South Dakota’s Black Hills the first week of August every year, half-a-million strong. The exodus includes all walks of life, from weathered warriors with patchworks of pins and patches from Sturgis rallies past on faded leather vests to wide-eyed greenhorns taking their first trip down Main Street. Its reputation precedes it, from stories of the late-night parties in the “Back 40” of The Sturgis Buffalo Chip to raisin’ hell at the Full Throttle Saloon on Jackyl night. Sturgis remains as one of the few bastions of unbridled biker revelry left, where campin’ and trampin’ are the norm, where many put aside the rigors of the 9-5 to truly live again, at least for one week. The 74th annual Sturgis Rally will roar to life this weekend and won’t let off the throttle until the last wayward travelers make the long journey home August 10. And while the 2014 Sturgis Rally offers plenty of familiar fare, we’ve noticed a few new wrinkles to the norm that we’re excited about.
One of them is an appearance by the popular Bostrom brothers, Ben and Eric. The Bostroms have competed at the highest levels of motorcycle racing, from World Superbike to AMA Pro Racing. They remember the rally from back in the days when their dad used to drag them there for his races. The Bostroms will be set-up at Exit 32 off I-90 where they’ll have a long list of rally standards, from food, music, and merchandise to live entertainment like Freestyle Harley Riding demonstrations by UNKNOWN Industries. On Tuesday night, August 5, beginning at 7:30 p.m., Ben and Eric will be hosting “The Boz Bros Night at the Sturgis Dragway with Rickey Gadson.” Ten-time Pro Champion Drag Racer Gadson will be the event’s ambassador and will host a riding seminar. They’re also opening up the track to give riders a crack to “run what you brung.” They’ll also be hosting the 1st Annual BozBros Benefit Ride Wednesday, Aug. 6, with proceeds going to the Sturgis Rally Charities Foundation. The 60-mile ride through the Black Hills starts early at the City of Riders Motorcycle Expo on 4th and Lazelle and ends with burgers and beer at the World Famous Knuckle Saloon. The affable duo have made a lot of friends over the years, and their backgrounds racing superbikes has the potential to attract new blood and younger riders to the rally.
Another new twist to the standard Sturgis schedule is the addition of TORC trucks this year. The Sturgis Buffalo Chip has built a wonderful new Powersports Complex directly across the campground off Alkali Road and will host Rounds 11 and 12 of The Off-Road Racing Championship. If you’ve never seen these trucks race before, you’re in for a treat. Racers will bash and dash their way around the dirt course, launching 100-feet-plus off table top jumps in 1000-horsepower trucks that are all motor and suspension. To sweeten the pot, custom bike builder and master metal craftsman Jesse James of West Coast Choppers fame is ready to swap some bodywork with the likes of CJ Greaves and Chad Hord. James has driven trophy trucks in Baja and has competed in plenty of short-course off-road races, but TORC is a different beast altogether. We’ll see how James fares against the best off-road truck drivers around.
We’re also stoked to see another exciting sport headed to the rally this year where riders aren’t afraid to bump and bang bars. AMA Pro Flat Track racers will be competing in the Black Hills Half-Mile by Dunlop August 5 out at Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City, S.D. It’s an exciting flat track season, with Bryan Smith, Jared Mees and Jake Johnson separated by only eight points in the 2014 GNC race. Seeing how Sturgis has its roots in racing thanks to the Jackpine Gypsies, it’s good to see plenty of top-shelf racing action gravitating to the rally once again.
We’ve also noticed Easyriders Saloon is stepping up its game for this year’s rally. It has a huge multi-storied building right off Lazelle to go along with an outdoor concert venue. All of its shows are free, and the long list of entertainment this year includes Everclear, POD, Montgomery Gentry, Theory of a Deadman – the list goes on-and-on. The annual Michael Lichter/Sugar Bear Ride will be held there August 3, and one of our favorite events, the tire-shredding action of the Baker Smoke-Down Showdown, will be contested Wednesday night, August 6. From what we understand, Easyriders has paved a new 1500-spot parking lot for motorcycles, so parking problems of the past should be remedied.
Then there’s our favorite place to party – The Legendary Buffalo Chip Campground. While the term “legendary” might be used loosely by some, the Buffalo Chip lives up to that billing by always reinventing itself, never content to be complacent with offering the same experience year-after-year. Woody, Lon and the gang have created the ultimate fantasyland for adults on a patch of prairie east of Sturgis, creating an experience that’s hard to capture in words alone. You can lounge by the shores of Bikini Beach during the morning, catch a killer custom bike show at the Crossroads during the day, shoot a machine gun out at the Guns of Freedom, then zip line over the amphitheater during the night while catching one of their headline concerts. For nine days straight, some of the biggest names in music will grace the Wolfman Jack Stage, bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Zac Brown Band, Motley Crue, Florida Georgia Line and Pop Evil. The party starts in the main amphitheater, then spills over to the smaller stages where bands like the Living Deads tear it up into the wee hours before the party spreads into the campground and rages until the sun comes up. Once again, we’ll be in the thick of it at The Chip getting into as much action as possible.
The Buffalo Chip is also known for honoring our military, and Thursday, August 7 it’s holding its 23rd annual Freedom Celebration. This year, The Chip has got none other than General Wesley Clark (ret.) as a special guest, Clark joining a long list of dignitaries supporting the cause. In addition to plenty of guest speakers, there will be a charity ride from Spearfish to the CrossRoads for a catered reception. Afterwards, a special rendition of the national anthem will be performed by the USAF Academy’s Wild Blue Country, then patrons get to hang around and take in the night’s concert lineup headlined by Train. Proceeds from the Freedom Celebration Ride will benefit Wounded Wear/Jumping for a Purpose, Navy Special Warfare Kids, America’s Mighty Warriors and the Community Living Center at Fort Meade VA Medical Center.
Another popular party spot in Sturgis is the Full Throttle Saloon. Ever since truTV brought the antics of the self-titled “World’s Largest Biker Bar” to living rooms across the country, the Full Throttle Saloon has become a household name. With its post-apocalyptic décor and circus sideshow-style entertainment around every corner, the FTS is another place where the party is always full tilt. Michael Ballard and Angie are usually front-and-center meeting and greeting fans. If you can only make it there once, be there Thursday, Aug. 7 for Jackyl night as Jesse James Dupree and the boys always bring the house down.
A trip to the Broken Spoke Campground comes highly recommended as well. The Spoke lies on the fringes near Bear Butte and has a 30,000 square-foot bar you can ride your motorcycle through to go along with “The World’s Largest Biker Pool.” This year Jay Allen is returning as the host with the most. Nobody works a crowd like Allen who will be overseeing contests like the Indoor Motorcycle Rodeo, Popsicle Lickin’, and Loud Pipes Contest. The Spoke also hosts concerts nightly, this year’s lineup concentrating on regional acts and rally favorites like Jasmine Cain and ZZ3. The campground spreads out over 600 acres so there’s plenty of room to pitch your tent, too.
Then there’s the ever-popular Lazelle and Main Streets. In the heart of downtown Sturgis itself, it is the place to go to check out bikes, people watch, shop at vendor booths, and to check out the latest bikes and accessories from the likes of Harley-Davidson, Indian, Victory Motorcycles and others. No trip to Sturgis is complete without a trip to Main Street. Be sure to stop by the watering hole known as The Dungeon Bar with its unique wall décor.
Sturgis is also the place to see some of the coolest custom motorcycles on the planet at one of the many bike shows. Our favorite is the venerable Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show held at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip’s CrossRoads. It is a family tradition, started by “Big Daddy” Rat Smith, continued by his son Ted, and carried on by the third generation, Jay. The coveted trophies are designed by the talented Ted, and winning your class in the Rat’s Hole carries a lot of prestige. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as shows range from the Rivera Primo Trike Show on August 3 to the Paul Yaffe Bagger Nation Bike Show August 5 at the Full Throttle Saloon.
A visit to Deadwood, a short hop from Sturgis, is definitely worth the trip. The town captures the spirit of the Wild, Wild West, its storefronts with wagon-wheel charm. You can test lady luck inside one of its casinos, score a smooth stogie from the Deadwood Tobacco Co., then visit the spot where Wild Bill Hickock allegedly got gunned down by Jack McKall inside the Old Style Saloon #10.
We also suggest paying a visit to the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame. The museum features a wonderful collection of motorcycles ranging from a 1905 Excelsior to a 1961 Matchless Pinto in its splendid cross-section of motorcycling history. The fact that it’s conveniently located on Main Street means you can easily visit the museum, then wander over to Main and Lazelle Streets afterwards.
Last but not least, just get out and ride. Sturgis stands apart from most rallies by virtue of the incredible riding opportunities that abound. You can escape the craziness of the rally with a trip to nearby Spearfish Canyon that cuts through rugged cliffs, thick forests, and has plenty of places to stop and hike to scenic places like Bridal Veil Falls. There are several national parks and monuments within an hour or two, from the Chief Joseph Crazy Horse Memorial to Mt. Rushmore, while Devil’s Tower and the Badlands are both full of mystique and magic.
This barely touches on all the festivities that will be taking place at the 2014 Sturgis Rally, but hopefully provides you with a good starting point. We hit the ground running this weekend, so be sure to check back next week as we bring you coverage from the 74th annual rally in the Black Hills.