Smell the freedom ... and the leather. From the Black Hills to the Badlands, Sturgis Motorcycle Rally offers plenty of curves on the roads ... and in the bars. Get your motor runnin' for a wild ride.
Each year, for 7 days in August, bikers and revelers gather on Main Street in Sturgis, SD, near the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming for what is nothing short of a good time!
Welcome to “ground zero” -- the hub of activity during bike week. Sturgis may be named after a 19th-century military officer (Samuel Sturgis) but its claim to fame is the annual bike rally. Every year, the small city of 6,700 people sees huge crowds -- last year’s rally attracted 416,727 people. Here, a shot of Main Street during rally week.
People aren't the only Sturgis Rally attendees. Perfect example: These dachshunds ride along Main Street with their owner.
Again, Sturgis isn't just for humans. Pictured here: a chihuahua and his owner dress the part for a week of biker festivities.
It’s not just motorcycles you can enjoy during rally week, it’s helicopters, too. Soar above the Black Hills mountaintops, and take in views of the area’s other historic towns -- Lead, Deadwood, Keystone and Custer -- that also roar with activity during bike week.
Biker builder and trickster Jay Lightnin' performs on the Wall of Death.
With hundreds of thousands of visitors attending the Sturgis Rally each year, long days and nights mean big appetites. Pictured here is just one sample of what the revelers enjoy: a brisket sandwich.
Each year America celebrates Miss America and even Miss Universe. At Sturgis, they celebrate their own annual pageantry by nominating a new Miss Buffalo Chip. The crowd has gathered at the Buffalo Chip stage during Miss Buffalo Chip pageant.
View of Broken Spoke Campground. A popular place for bikers and their friends and family to set up camp during the 7-day rally.
At Sturgis, it’s often the time to turn tricks and show off. The rider is Jeremiah Wood, a performer in the AMD Wall of Death crew. The bike is fastened down to 2 metal poles, which allow the riders to run the engine and make the wheels turn without the bike going anywhere.
Jack Schitt is the master of ceremonies of the Broken Spoke -- one of the campgrounds during the Sturgis Rally. As MC, Jack is in charge of entertaining hundreds of Sturgis Rally attendees during the lively nightlife at the Broken Spoke.
Bikers head 37 miles from downtown Sturgis to see the top landmark in <a title=" South Dakota" href="http://www.travelchannel.com/topics/south-dakota/index.html" target="_blank"><b> South Dakota</b></a>’s Black Hills area: Mt. Rushmore. The most direct route is Interstate 90 -- exit at Rapid City and follow US Highway 16 southwest to Keystone and then Highway 244 to Mount Rushmore.
Gambling was part of the scene in the Old West -- and still is today. Head 11 miles from Sturgis to Deadwood: The historic town bustles with the cha-ching of slot machines at casinos such as The Midnight Star (owned by actor Kevin Costner) and, pictured here, Mustang Sally’s.
Lodging options in the Sturgis area include mountain cabins, bed-and-breakfasts, campsites, chain hotels and mom-and-pop operations like Welsh’s Motel in Wall, SD -- about 80 miles from Sturgis. Closer by, the towns of Rapid City, Hill City, Keystone, Spearfish and Custer are especially busy during bike week.
Bikers cruise through Spearfish Canyon, a deep narrow gorge lined with ponderosa and spruce pine trees. The route comes with lots of curves, offering one of the best riding experiences in South Dakota’s Black Hills.
In 1929 a Lakota elder named Henry Standing Bear wrote a letter to a Polish-American sculptor (Korczak Ziolkowski) about creating a monument to honor Native American war hero Crazy Horse. Today, work on the “world’s largest mountain carving,” as the Crazy Horse Memorial is called, is still ongoing, about 17 miles from Mt. Rushmore. During bike week, 2 mountain blast-carvings will occur.
Pitch a tent at Broken Spoke, one of several campgrounds near Sturgis. The 600-acre grounds hold plenty of action during bike week: Activities include live musical performances (Uncle Kracker is among the headliners) and the first-ever Miss Broken Spoke Saloon beauty contest -- see contestants vie for a $5,000 cash prize … in bikinis.
Spanning 3,000 square feet, the Broken Spoke Saloon isn’t just made for walking. Here, bikers rev up for a ride-through the saloon. The enormous space features a tattoo shop, 2 retail shops, an art gallery, a VIP lounge, a mechanics shop, 5 bars and a huge performance stage.
You’ve got the chrome and the leather -- now what about the tattoo? Bikers swing by The Tattoo Cellar in Sturgis during bike week. Owner Richard Otten does everything from small color to Northwest tribal tattoos -- all with single-use needles only.
Another must-see attraction is Devils Tower, a rock formation that rises more than 1,200 feet above the surrounding terrain. From Sturgis, head west on 1-90 to cross the Wyoming border -- the scenic route includes views of rolling hills and rivers, pine forests, rock formations and bluffs, small towns, ranches and farmland.
This half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, was unveiled on Veteran’s Day in 1996. Since then, it has traveled to more than 350 towns and cities nationwide. Now comes Sturgis. For the third year in a row, the area’s Broken Spoke Campground will be home to The Wall That Heals during bike week.
You and 3 buddies can enjoy a bit more privacy in this 12-by-16-foot cabin. Located at Broken Spoke campground, the cabin comes furnished with an A/C, small fridge and microwave. Simply park your bike by the cabin and kick back.
A biker “pops a wheelie” at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. That’s just the beginning of the stunts on display. This year stunt rider Toby Baker will attempt to reclaim the Guinness World Record’s title of “Longest Motorcycle Ride Through a Tunnel of Fire.” The fiery tunnel will exceed a distance of 230 feet -- and temperatures of 2,900 degrees.
A professional biker performs a stunt jump. Among the venues to see the heart-stopping action is Buffalo Chip. The campground will host the stunt show “The Wall of Death,” in which bikers ride motorcycles on the wall of a large wooden barrel.
Hill City may be 55 miles from Sturgis but it still roars with motorcycles during bike week. Nearby attractions include Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park. The town is also near the center of the Black Hills, earning it the nickname “Heart of the Hills.”
Temperatures can soar into the 90s and beyond during bike week. Here, Sturgis fans enjoy a cooldown in the pool at Broken Spoke. Prefer to sun your buns? Recline near the pool area’s tiki bar -- a bikini-clad waitress will take your order.
A biker winds through the southern part of the Black Hills on Iron Mountain Road. The 16-mile stretch of road is part of US Route 16A, which is famous for its “pigtail” bridges and scenic 1-lane tunnels that align to frame the presidential faces on Mount Rushmore.
Buffalo roam free in Custer State Park, about 67 miles from Sturgis. The park is the largest in South Dakota, spanning 71,000 acres. Bikers visiting the park during the annual motorcycle rally can pay a flat fee of $10 for an extended pass to the park.
See the Old West come alive in one of America’s largest buffalo roundups -- more than 1,450 buffalo are rounded up in Custer State Park. They’re then sorted, branded and vaccinated for sale. This year’s roundup occurs Sept. 24.
There’s more than one way to get wild in Sturgis. This year also brought a regional rodeo event to the town. The June event attracted top cowboys and cowgirls on the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) circuit -- along with the fiercest bulls and broncs.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally isn’t the only time to rev it up in town. An annual Camaro Rally, now in its third year (the next event is scheduled for June 27-30, 2013), attracts Camaro lovers from all over the country. Activities include poker runs to Mount Rushmore.
Can’t get enough of Sturgis? Share the love at another big event coming to town: the fifth annual Sturgis Mustang Rally. The event bills itself as a tribute to first-generation Mustangs -- it runs Aug. 29-Sept. 2, 2012.
A fire-breather puts on a show at the Buffalo Chip. Additional campground shows during rally week include midget bowling (don’t ask), “lingerie for life” (see “one-of-a-kind” bras) and a skit by Cheryl the Hypnotist (audience members have imagined everything from being exotic dancers to, um, witnessing UFOs).
It’s just you, the blue skies and your motorbike at the Buffalo Chip campground. Well, maybe, you should bring just a little bit more -- don’t forget to look over your <a title=" motorcycle trip checklist" href="http://micapeak.com/checklists/mclist.html" target="_blank"><b> motorcycle trip checklist</b></a>.
Bad boys head for the Badlands. About 90 miles from Sturgis, Badlands National Park spans 242,756 acres of eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires; it’s also home to the largest protected mixed-grass prairie in America. The Badlands are easy to reach from I-90.
Another scenic ride is Vanocker Canyon Road. The road takes bikers to Nemo, a community in the heart of the Black Hills. You and your biker buds will find plenty of peace and quiet along the way.
Thought Sturgis was crazy? Explore the wild and crazy times of Wild Bill Hickok in the town of Deadwood. The folk hero of the American frontier met his end while playing poker in Deadwood back in August 1876; you’ll find his gravesite monument in town.
And when night falls, it’s time to … "rock and roll all nite"! Legendary acts like KISS have performed at the annual motorcycle rally. This year’s headliners include classic-rock favorites like Journey and Lynyrd Skynrd, as well as contemporary acts such as Zac Brown Band, Sugarland and Uncle Kracker.