A million motorcycles. The stoplight-to-stoplight biker crawl on Lazelle. Lines an hour-and-a-half long to get out of The Chip. Fact or fiction, news preceding the 2015 Sturgis Rally put the fear in us. Not wanting to spend half our Sturgis experience stuck idling in traffic, we needed a plan. Then a light went on. Our videographer was driving out in a Ford truck with a big flatbed, so we executed our strategy, rolled our secret Sturgis weapon into the back and cinched it down – Suzuki’s 2015 DR200S.
The Sturgis Buffalo Chip, our home away from home during the rally, is a helluva place to stay. What you see in the campground will confound and amaze. But it’s also spread out over 580 acres, and bars and stages are spread out everywhere. The walk to the front of the campground’s CrossRoads area from our trailer takes 15 minutes alone. But it also buzzes with action daily, bike shows, guest appearances by generals, Budweiser Clydesdales, roller derby girls smashin’ and skating, bike washes and burnouts. Getting there though requires you to exit the park and loop back around, a time-consuming challenge in a big rig. But we need to be where the action is so trips to the CrossRoads are frequent.
Most of the roads at The Chip are dirt and gravel, perfect conditions for our little Suzuki dual-sport.
The DR began earning its keep two days in. Eric had shot photos and video of Alice Cooper signing a custom bike being raffled off for charity. But that’s all we knew. We did know Ted Smith of the Rat’s Hole was conducting the raffle, but needed specifics – facts about the bike, what charities would benefit, how much were tickets and where could they be bought. Couldn’t find Ted’s number but knew he’d be opening up the Rat’s Hole booth at the CrossRoads. Traffic on Alkali Road, the primary access road out of the campground, was already backing up with idling V-Twins. So I thumbed the electric start of the DR200S, let it warm up a few seconds, then bombed down dirt roads through the campers to the front of the park. Talked to Ted, took some notes, hopped on Suzuki’s little dual-sport and was back at the trailer cranking out the article in less than 15 minutes.
The 2015 Suzuki DR200S would prove useful again two days later. This time Eric was cutting a video for Michael Lichter’s Naked Truth display and needed close-ups of a drag-inspired Panhead built by Cherry’s Company. I needed a copy of Lichter’s “Curator’s Statement” hanging on the wall of the exhibit, too. So I slung the Canon 60D over my shoulder, hopped on the DR, and was at the hall housing the exhibit in minutes. Shot some quick clips, got the picture I needed, and back to the trailer working again in less than 10. Bringing the DR to Sturgis is quickly becoming the best idea we’ve had in a long time.
The roads at the Buffalo Chip are primarily dirt – hilly, gravelly and rocky. Not so fun on an 800-pound cruiser. Lots of fun on a 278-pound DR. Hungry? Hop on the DR and blast over to the pizza man over by bikini beach. Red Bull runs to the Media Center? Check. Catch a sound check in the amphitheater mid-day? Did that. Then there were good old-fashioned fun runs through the campground, blowing by a golf cart loaded down with Mardi Gras beads and a blow up doll. We rolled by the Jager girl on stilts standing out above the crowd pouring shots down throats of the willing. We encountered a motorcycle-riding trio, one guy and two girls sandwiched on one bike in a near naked state. Oh, the things you can see while dinking around The Chip on the DR.
Most of the roads are single-lane, and if a fifth-wheeler or RV is pulling in, traffic backs up fast. Passing cruisers in the dirt became a pastime, the DR’s knobbies gripping tight as we dodged and weaved through the clogged arteries of the campground. It’s slim enough to squeeze in tight spaces others couldn’t, is lightweight and easy to handle. The clutch lever requires the simplest of squeezes and the five-speed gearbox falls into place fuss-free. We revved it out for a grin-inducing 40-mile-an-hour, beer can-dodging romp through the amphitheater and shot up a little roost romping through puddles after a storm. Often we lolly-gagged in first gear just taking in the sights.
It again proved to be a workhorse the day Doug Danger did his death-defying jump over 22 cars. Eric strapped a GoPro on the DR and rode ramp-to-ramp, then numbered the cars in the video he cut to give viewers a good feel for how long the jump really was. It was a perspective nobody else had in their videos and added authenticity to the overall piece.
This was the view outside our front door. From this point it takes an hour to get out of the Buffalo Chip.
From past experience, we knew if we looked out our front door and saw traffic backed up on Alkali Road all the way to our trailer, it takes an hour to get out of the Sturgis Buffalo Chip from that point. More often than not, traffic was backed up past that. Sometimes story leads and interview ops come last second, though. Fret not. We had our secret weapon. If needed, I could mob through the grass next to the road and blow by big-bike riders stuck on Alkali thanks to the DR. Figured if that came about I’d throw out a peace sign as they waved at me with middle fingers as I jumped on 79, legally licensed, mirrored and signaled. I never had to pull my ace in the hole, but was ready to if need be.
The final day in Sturgis, the Suzuki DR200S served us well while exploring some of the dirt roads outside The Chip. The little dual-sport wrapped up its Sturgis adventure by sneaking into the amphitheater that night where it parked amongst the rowdy cruisers whose engines are revved loudly in ovations for the bands. The single-cylinder didn’t need to toot its own horn. It had already proved its worth as a workhorse in its 10 days at The Chip.