South Dakota: The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

By: Will McGough

July 22, 2014

Next month, hundreds of thousands of two-wheeled petrol heads will descend upon South Dakota for the 74th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the largest motorcycle rally in the U.S, from 4th-10th August. From demoing the newest bikes and decking out your current ride to mingling at sideshow events with like-minded motorcycle enthusiasts, no biker’s résumé is complete without attending Sturgis.

Custom bike | | Sturgis Motocycle Rally

The rally is a great chance to see custom bikes up close and meet other enthusiasts © Jason Thorne/Flickr

The rally is absolutely huge with approximately 100 events each day, so preparation is key to making sure you soak it all in. While there’s no general entrance fee to attend the Sturgis Rally, some of the individual events and organised rides happening within it require registration in advance, including the annual Mayor’s Ride through the Black Hills ($150) and Ben and Eric Bostrom’s guided Black Hills ride ($95). Most of the other events, shows, and competitions are free or can be signed up for on-site, such as the drag racing at Sturgis Dragway.

Main Street Sturgis | Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

The main streets around Sturgis are littered with bikes of all shapes and sizes © Catherine Taylor/Flickr

When you’re not riding, most of the action can be found in downtown Sturgis, where five blocks are designated as bikes-only and probably one of the world’s loudest gatherings takes place. Here, you can pop in and out of watering holes (such as One Eyed Jack’s), visit vendors, and socialise. Be sure to dip into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame, where you can explore exhibits that contain rare and vintage bikes. Come nightfall, check out the lineup of nightly concerts at the Buffalo Chip amphitheatre.

The black hills around Sturgis | Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

The Black Hills area provides the most peaceful and scenic stretch of open road to ride through © Brian Bennett/Flickr

While the hustle and bustle of the downtown area is what makes the gathering special, it’s still all about the love of the open road at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and the natural environment in South Dakota provides plenty of opportunities. Gather up your new friends and cruise through the scenic areas of Black Hills National Forest (featuring Mt. Rushmore), Badlands National Park, Fort Pierre National Grassland, and Thunder Basin National Grassland. You can plan your rides on your own, or follow one of the Rally’s suggested routes.

black hills rally around Sturgis | Sturgis Motocycle Rally

From the wacky to the wonderful; there are so many bikes to see at the rally © Brian Bennett/Flickr

Before you hit the road, you should be familiar with the local motorcycle laws to make sure your trip doesn’t include a ticket. There is no adult helmet law (helmets required for 18 and under) in South Dakota, but clear glasses are required after sunset. Other specific rules include: 1) Modulating headlights are permitted; 2) Passenger seat/pegs are required; 3) Passengers must sit behind the driver; and 4) Both right and left mirrors are required.

Header: Stunts and drag racing are highlights at Sturgis © Brian Bennett/Flickr

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Have you attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by Will McGough


Will McGough

Will McGough is a writer focused on all types of travel, from swimming with pigs to parties in ice hotels. He is inspired by the spectrum of ways in which people live their lives in the different parts of the world. He enjoys the idea of waking up every day to new opportunities, new landscapes, and the new feelings that the former inevitably evoke. When not on the road, he makes his home in Denver at the foot of the Rockies, and writes about his adventures on his blog, Wake and Wander (

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