Like swallows to San Juan Capistrano, the annual August migration of motorcyclists to the Black Hills of South Dakota took place the last couple of weeks and Motorcycle USA was along for the ride. It was an anniversary year for the Sturgis Rally
, the 70th to be exact, which meant attendance numbers would be up. And based on a seat-of-the-pants
We take a look back at the week-long antics that was the 2010 Sturgis Rally
, from burnout contests to bikini bike washes, to benefit rides, live concerts and everything in between.
estimation, there were a lot more people than last year. The number getting tossed around in casual conversation was 700,000. How accurate that is, I don’t know, but I did see the traffic jam that ran from the Buffalo Chip to I-90 Tuesday night first-hand as rally-goers did the biker crawl for a couple of hours for a chance to catch the Bob Dylan/Kid Rock show.
A more empirical count comes from Rally Director Brenda Vasknetz who puts 2010 attendance numbers in the 600,000 ballpark. These numbers are a combination of Department of Transportation traffic counts, Mount Rushmore visits, the number of vendor licenses (up 13%), tons of garbage collected (up 15%) and sales tax receipts. The process of tallying all this data is still ongoing, so that number can still fluctuate. And nailing down a head count is difficult when the Rally spills into the towns of Deadwood, Lead, Spearfish, Rapid City and beyond and runs for almost two weeks.
Awww, the smell of spent rubber rises up from the burnout pit at the Broken Spoke Saloon downtown during Sturgis 2010.
For the most part, it was a peaceful assembly. Police contacts were reportedly down by almost 25% and DUIs were down in comparison to 2009 with the South Dakota Highway Patrol (SDHP) reporting 290 DUI arrests early Sunday in comparison to 316 DUI tickets during the same period last year. But the Rally did come at a heavy toll. SDHP reported nine motorcycle fatalities in the area from Aug. 8 to Aug. 14 compared to zero last year. This doesn’t include accidents that occurred out-of-state from riders coming-and-going to the rally. The SDHP released reports on 43 accidents during Rally week and 23 of those were attributed to rider error. The Black Hills are filled with curvy roads with limited visibility. Add to the mix riders on big bikes on unfamiliar roads and you’ve got the recipe for accidents. Alcohol played a factor in six of the 43 reports. Eleven accidents involved motorcycle vs. motorcycle collisions, while eight involved a collision with another vehicle.
For MCUSA, it was a wild and crazy week of rides around Bear Butte and the Black Hills as we kicked it all off at the annual Sugar Bear/Michael Lichter
ride and ended it with some VIP action at the Legendary Buffalo Chip for the Scorpions concert. It was an honor to have a riding shot taken by the man who has immortalized the likes of Indian Larry and Arlen Ness with his lens. Getting to hear Lichter tell the stories behind the pictures at the industry reception for his Eternal Combustion 30 in the Wind exhibit only broadened my appreciation of his work as an artist. No other motorcycle lifestyle photographer has captured the true essence of biker heritage over the past 30 years better than he. Lichter accomplishes this by immersing himself in the lifestyle, camping in City Park, riding countless miles sitting backwards on bikes to get the shot, climbing out of the burnout pit covered in a film of spent rubber and smelling like smoke. Everywhere I turned at Sturgis, he was there, multiple cameras slung around his neck, fingers focusing and clicking away, the consummate professional.
Gotta love some well-done body paint and strategically placed pasties. The Rolling Stones didn't play in Sturgis, but just about every other old school rocker was in town.
We also had the honor of taking part in the third annual Legends Ride. At this year’s event, we met an unlikely trio of TV stars – Rupert Boneham from Survivor
, Lorenzo Lamas, also known as Reno Raines of the show Renegade
and comedian Pee Wee Herman. Yes, that Pee Wee. There were also plenty of talented custom motorcycle builders on hand to help the cause, from Kirk Taylor of Custom Design Studios to Satya Kraus to “Kiwi” Mike Thomas. The Legends Ride, hosted by the Legendary Buffalo Chip Campground and sponsored by the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce, has collected more than $150,000 over the last three years for local charities. This year alone it raised $52,650 for the Sky Ranch for Boys and the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum. A good chunk of this, $25,000, was provided by the owner of Deadwood’s Silverado-Franklin Historic Hotel and Casino, Tom Rensch, who was the winning
Pee Wee at the 2010 Legends Ride.
bidder of the motorcycle auction. The auction featured the 2K10 Challenge bike built by the talented Michael Prugh and welding manufacturing students from Western Dakota Tech.
The event kicked off in historic Deadwood at the Silverado Casino and rumbled past Nemo and through Sturgis before ending at the Legendary Buffalo Chip. Arriving at the Chip, Legend riders were greeted by an open beer bar, plenty of grub and a chance to be one of the first to check out Michael Lichter’s 10th annual Motorcycles as Art
exhibit. They also were treated to the Buckcherry/ZZ Top concert that night. People paid $150 to participate, but the money goes into the kitty to support the Sky Ranch and Museum while riders take away memories of an incredible day, a camera full of photos and the satisfaction that they helped out a good cause.
With an estimated 600,000 bikers in attendance, you could spend all day just checking out the incredible custom motorcycles everywhere. On the Michael Lichter ride, a guy
Michael Lichter's 10th annual Motorcycles as Art exhibit featured 30 custom motorcycles made by the best in the biz to go along with displays of Lichter's photography, many of them being shown for the first time.
pulled up next to me on a crazy gold Harley with sweeping custom fenders and fine rodwork that I immediately knew was a Ron Finch original. Others might have stuck this beauty in a showcase, but it was this guy’s daily rider. There were ample opportunities for custom builders to showcase their work as bike shows were everywhere, from the Rat’s Hole contest at the Buffalo Chip to the Cycle Source show at the Broken Spoke. The granddaddy of them all though has to be the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building.
This year we witnessed Freddie “Krugger” Bertrand go from multiple-time third-place finisher to being crowned the 2010 AMD World Champion and watched our local custom builder, Medford, Oregon’s own Mark Daley of ThunderStruck Custom Bikes, take second place in the Freestyle class. Daley was the highest-placed American in the competition for his bike Sniper, so a big shoutout to Mark for his accomplishment. He’ll have plenty to talk about at his Xtreme Bike Show & Street Party
We also saw another builder we run into frequently on the West Coast rally circuit, Paul Binford of Binford Customs out of Manteca, California, clean house in the Harley-Davidson Ride In Show. We first saw Binford’s Sopranos
bike at the Sacramento Easyriders Show and more recently saw Que Paso?
at the LA Calendar Show. Binford was the big winner of the day and snagged the coveted Willie G. Award. His name will soon be etched on the trophy where it will be displayed at the Harley-Davidson Museum, an achievement Binford was very proud of.
Bikini bike washes are always a popular draw. These girls were having a good time while they made a little extra cash.
It was good to see H-D in the heart of the action in Sturgis. I drove by their former location in Rapid City and it still seemed to be doing well, but you can’t replace the exposure you get from locating right on Lazelle. The majority of riders at Sturgis own Harleys, so it’s only fitting for them to be in the thick of the action. The Motor Company’s downtown location was bustling with activity, from friends racing XR1200s on the dyno at the XR1200 Racing Experience to ladies learning how-to correctly pick-up a motorcycle at the Women’s expo.
And there’s no denying that Sturgis is turning into one of the best musical events of the summer. We got the party started with an energetic Buckcherry show followed by the bearded bluesmen, the original Texas Trio themselves, ZZ Top. Ozzy did his best to keep the party rocking and is still a seasoned showman. He ran through a list of Sabbath and solo hits but he cut notes short at times and was winded by the end of songs, but hell, he was rocking crowds before many of the kids at the show were even born. Tuesday night’s lineup of Bob Dylan and Kid Rock had the Buffalo Chip filled to capacity as a sea of heads ran from the stage to the vendors in back. We shot over to the Monkey Rock one night to catch Stone Temple Pilots and Wolfmother live. Seeing the talented Australian band Wolfmother perform was a pleasant surprise while Scotty Weiland behaved himself enough to put on an enjoyable show and finish a set. And we couldn’t have capped it off any better than we did Friday night when our friends with the Road 2 A Cure organization hooked us up with VIP passes in between the Disturbed/Scorpions show. We were close enough that Klaus Meine was banging his tambourine on our hands during one song. Rudy Schenker can still shred a guitar as we “Rocked the Chip like a Hurricane” on our final night in Sturgis. Motorcycle USA Videographer Eric Novisedlak scored a couple of picks, including one used by Schenker that night along with a drum stick thrown out by Meine. I think I scored more free beers from the backstage beer bar, though. And no, I didn’t ride home that night.
We kicked off Sturgis 2010 at the ZZ Top/Buckcherry show...
... and wrapped up our Sturgis experience with the Scorpions at the Legendary Buffalo Chip.
We met plenty of old friends at the 70th annual Sturgis celebration and even made a few new ones, like Jack Iacovides and his wife Skevi Omirou from the tiny island of Cyprus. We met the couple at the Sugar Bear/Michael Lichter ride. Iacovides’ father owns a Harley-Davidson
dealership on Cyprus and the couple was here celebrating their honeymoon. During casual conversation, I learned that they know my old riding buddy Tony Kousaris from Austin, Texas, who is also a Cypriot. They recently sold his brother a motorcycle. Sturgis can prove that it’s a small world.
We also got the opportunity to meet and ride with two of the most inspirational people I’ve met in a long time, Jennifer and Chris Calaprice of the Road 2 A Cure
organization. Chris is a road warrior. He’s been stricken by pancreatic cancer but refuses to let the disease get the upper hand. He’s on a mission to ride 42,000 miles through 50 states, one mile for each person that will be diagnosed with the disease this year. As Chris travels, he spreads the word about the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths to anyone who will listen – legislators, doctors, activists, bikers, survivors and sufferers. Because even though pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths, it only receives two percent of the National Cancer Institute’s annual budget. Chris will climb on a bike and do a 600-mile ride the day after chemo. He’s a former Army Ranger who displays the fortitude of a soldier in his daily battle with disease.
Jennifer, his wife, is equally as inspirational. She doggedly seeks every conceivable avenue to spread the word about pancreatic cancer, doing her damnedest to raise funds in the fight against the disease. On the Road 2 A Cure Facebook page it states that they did 19 radio interviews spanning over five states in the week they were set up at the Buffalo Chip during Sturgis. This in addition to numerous interviews with members of the print media. We hooked up with Jennifer and Chris at the Victory Motorcycles
2011 press intro where they were guests of honor. They were part of the group that set out from Gateway, Colorado for the ride to Sturgis. Victory has donated a Victory Vision Tour motorcycle with special purple paint and Road 2 A Cure graphics for Chris to ride on his journey.
Another great year at the Buffalo Chip draws to a close. Can't wait to see what Woody and crew have in store for Sturgis 2011 in celebration of their 30th anniversary.
There were two other anonymous people we met on our ride to Sturgis in Torrington, Wyoming that would also make an impression on us. We pulled into a Sinclair gas station with vintage pumps that still had meters rolling off the amount of gas pumped along with tumblers displaying price. Going inside to pay with a credit card, we met two friendly-faced teenage boys. Seeing our motorcycle, they asked whether we were on our way to Sturgis. When we told them that we worked for a motorcycle magazine and were chronicling our adventures for a future article, they couldn’t believe it. They didn’t even know that such a job existed. Their universe existed around growing up on a farm in Wyoming, going to school, working at the gas station and riding dirt bikes. They had never been to Sturgis but want to go someday and looked at us like rock stars when we gave them a copy of our magazine. Their wide-eyed reaction was humbling so we’d like to thank the guys at the Sinclair station for putting our good fortune into perspective.
Sturgis 2010 held many special moments, to having our photo taken by Michael Lichter to participating in our second consecutive Legends Ride. We’ve ridden with a wide range of characters, from Rupert to Bert Baker to Sugar Bear and have met a true road warrior, Chris Calaprice of the Road 2 A Cure. And though Sturgis 2010 is in the books, we’re already looking forward to next year. In 2011, the Legendary Buffalo Chip will be celebrating its 30th anniversary and we can’t wait to see what Woody and the Chip crew has in store.