The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is one of the world’s top destinations for motorcycle enthusiasts.
In fact, The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has been named the ‘World’s Largest Biker Rally’ by the Guinness Book of World Records and will host thousands of bikers when the 83rd rally takes place August 4 – 13, 2023.
While the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is only around for a couple of weeks every year in August, there is so much more to do and see than just attending the rally - even if you don't have a motorcycle!
After more than 80 years, organizers have attendance down to a science, and the 10-day event’s reputation provides a road map to having the best time while you’re in town. Bikers can participate in competitions, buy, and sell their favorite machines, attend hundreds of music concerts, watch thrilling stunt shows, and play games with their clan.
Here is everything you need to know about the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Clarence "Pappy" Hoel bought an Indian motorcycle franchise in 1936 and formed the Jackpine Gypsies MotorCycle Club soon after. The club had the first Sturgis Rally two years later, on August 14, 1938. The club still owns and maintains the tracks, hillclimb, and fields where Sturgis is held.
The rally's first-ever event was a single race called the "Black Hills Classic." Just nine riders participated in front of a small audience. Originally a platform for racing and stunts, by 1961, Sturgis included Hillclimb and Motocross races. That's when intentional board wall crashes, ramp jumps, and head on collisions with cars came into the mix.
In 1982, Jerry Lee Lewis became the first musician to perform at Sturgis. Since then, concerts have become a Sturgis staple.
Sturgis will officially start on August 4th - August 13th, 2023.
However, the dates are predictable every year. In 2015, the city of Sturgis proclaimed that the Rally's start date will be Friday before the first full week of August and end on the second Sunday.
In 2016, the city council even passed a resolution that said the Rally would start the first Friday of August!
With the dates set in stone, the city and all the participants can gear up for an annual event that usually attracts 500,000 people yearly while generating $800 million in revenue!
Sturgis is a small town in Meade County, South Dakota. Its population was 7,088 in 2022, making it the 15th largest city in South Dakota1 and it accounts for 23% of Meade County’s overall population.
Although Sturgis is the epicenter of the Rally, the entire state of South Dakota experiences an economic boost thanks to the hundreds of thousands of attendees and all the businesses that come to service the Rally.
Harley-Davidson recommends that you always wear a helmet, but in South Dakota, motorcycle helmets are required only for riders under the age of 182 . After that, all helmets are off! Or on, it's up to you.
Meanwhile, neighboring states have different laws.
>> Learn more about motorcycle laws by state
There are over 82,000 miles of road in South Dakota. The interstate speed limit is 80 MPH, and the minimum is 40 MPH. On secondary highways, the speed limit is 65 MPH.
Scenic highways, meanwhile, have reduced speeds because of all the bridges, curves, and at times limited visibility. In urban areas, speed limits are lower. For example, the speed limit is 25 MPH if you're driving through city streets. School zones and obstructed intersections, meanwhile, are 15 MPH3.
When you come and for how long depends on how long you can put your life on hold, how long you can afford to attend, and what you want from your trip.
There’s so much to do, and fear of missing out may compel you to stay the whole time, but don’t forget to leave room for some of the rides you can take far beyond Sturgis.
The rally is free to attend. The city charges vendors a fee for their booths and activities, but there are no entrance fees. Nearly all the events are free to attend, including some of the largest concerts of the year. Even the parking lots that charge a fee only cost $5 per car daily.
However, there are costs associated with attending the rally. You will need to pay for food, drinks, and a place to stay if you want to camp or rent out a room or bed.
If you're going to be at the Buffalo Chip. then a full festival pass ranges from $305.00 to $365.00 depending on when you buy your pass and how much of the rally you want to attend.
Sturgis hotels charge double or triple their normal rates during the motorcycle rally, so it's best to find an RV or camper van to save money on accommodations at Sturgis. Week of, hotel rooms can range from $300 to $400 a night or more.
If you're camping, you may want to reserve upwards of 15 days to enjoy the rally and have some buffer space for extra fun. That can run you $100 to $175 per camper.
If you have an RV, you may end up paying up to $650 for 50 Amp service. Some campgrounds add an additional camper fee of $100 to $175 per camper.
Renting a house for $2,500 for a group may be your best bet.
Bikers also need to pay for gas to get to and from Sturgis. Most bikes get about 45 miles per gallon, so to make the gas math easier, assume you'll be paying $7 for 100 miles.
Add up your ride to and from Sturgis and add how much you'll ride while you're there too. Touring around the area may run you 300 miles a day. So, if you ride 1,200 to and from the rally and 900 while there, that will be $147 on gas alone ([2,100 miles ÷ 100 miles] x $7 = $147).
Expect to pay at least $15 to $30 daily for food since it will mostly be from diners, bars, or stands.
Sturgis isn't kid-friendly, but it can be if you want it to be.
For a family-friendly version of the Rally, you'll want to avoid nighttime activities when things tend to get wild. You'll also want to avoid hotels that host many attendees because rally-goers frequently like to party late into the night.
Even a campground with many motorcycles can keep you and your kids up if there's revving late into the night.
Make sure you bring appropriate riding gear. Otherwise, what you wear will depend on the weather, and you won't know that until the rally approaches.
Either way, don’t forget the sunscreen!
Be minimalist in your packing. That way, you have room for souvenirs! You can even buy items of clothing at the rally that you wear during the rally, saving further space. Prioritize rain gear and shower supplies.
And don’t forget your motorcycle insurance information!
Check the weather regularly as your trip date approaches. Some years the rally has been hot, while others, it was cold.
Come for the rally but stay for the rides. Sturgis wouldn’t be Sturgis if legendary roadways didn’t surround it to satisfy your lust for life!
It’s only an hour to Mt. Rushmore from Sturgis, so make time to go! What you’ve seen in films and photos pales in comparison to seeing the monument in real life.
As you approach it during your ride, you’ll see the mountain in bits and pieces, excitement building the closer you get. But even that won’t adequately prepare you for what it’s like to see Mt. Rushmore in person. It truly is awe-inspiring!
Iron Mountain Road is part of the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway, US 16A. The ride begins between Keystone and Mt Rushmore and ends just east of Custer State Park Wildlife Loop.
You’ll also want to make the time for this ride because nothing compares to seeing America’s natural beauty in person.
Accessed off I-90 exits 12 or 14, Spearfish Canyon is 22 miles of scenic curves sure to leave a lasting impression!
The 17-mile-long Vanocker Canyon has the reputation as one of the most exciting rides to take in the Black Hills. Twists, turns, and a downhill plunge five miles in.
While the main event is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally itself, there's no shortage of other awesome things to do during the rally.
But if you're going to one of the biggest motorcycle rallies in the world, why not take advantage of all that's offered? Here are some of the additional highlights:
Check out the Pappy Hoel campground. Open daily from 9 am to 7 pm. Pappy Hoel will also be offering pinstriping, and tattoos, and selling commemorative merch.
Live music is an integral part of each day’s events at the Rally and can be heard throughout the Black Hills area. Concerts are also scheduled most nights in conjunction with vendor promotions and parties. Several charity fundraisers are also held during the week, which raises money for many local non-profit organizations.
Some of this year’s highlights include:
Past artists have included:
Jack Daniels and the city of Sturgis present their Annual Sturgis Mayor's Ride. You'll go on a ride through the Black Hills led by Sturgis Mayor Carstensen along with the Rally’s Grand Marshal. You'll swing by Mount Rushmore and then have lunch with and enjoy a presentation from Mayor Carstensen.
You'll receive a special souvenir pack with a limited-edition decanter signed by the Mayor, a Challenge Coin, and other goodies from the Rally's Sponsors. All proceeds will benefit local emergency services.
Act quickly because this is a good time for a good cause, and spaces are limited to 150 participants!
Sturgis has plenty of places to stay, but The Legendary Sturgis Buffalo Chip® arguably offers the most authentic rally experience. The venue held its first party in 1982 and, 40 years later, continues attracting riders worldwide.
At the Buffalo Chip, you get everything from 5 performance stages and free pancake breakfasts to a 24/7 gas station and an actual zipline over the amphitheater.
It's like someone decided to go all out TWICE!
Private bus services will transport you from most of the campgrounds in the area. You can even buy discounted wristbands or pay in person as needed.
If you're staying at Buffalo Chip, you can reserve an EZ Camp Package (with or without electricity). That way your campsite will be ready to go as soon as you arrive!
Don't want to ride with all your gear? Don't!
Send it using UPS, and for a $15 fee, the Spearfish UPS Store will bring your gear to Sturgis Buffalo Chip! Just make sure to call the UPS store in advance. Call (605) 717-8771 or email email@example.com to make arrangements.
Pro Tip: Make sure to time things right to get to the Rally just as your gear does. It's recommended that your packages arrive by July 31st at the latest. You can collect your gear between 8 AM and 5 PM.
If you don't want to ride to Sturgis, there are many ways to ship your bike and gear in enclosed transport to the Sturgis Rally ahead of time.
Do your research in advance because some services only ship from particular regions.
There's free parking on the East end of the Buffalo Chip.
During the rally, parking will be limited. As a result, parking violations will be strictly enforced. Also, there's no parking on Main Street or its side streets between 2 AM and 6 AM due to street cleaning.
The internet is full of lists of the top biker food spots in Sturgis. And Yelp and TripAdvisor both offer plenty of reviews.
The Full Throttle Saloon has a reputation as being a must-see for any rally attendee. The Dungeon Bar and Loud American Roadhouse also get their fair share of visitors, while The Knuckle Saloon, Jambonz Grill & Pub, the Loud American RoadHouse, and One-Eyed Jack's Saloon have all earned high marks from top review sites.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – also known by fans as “The Rally” – is a must-visit destination for motorcycle enthusiasts. Even passionate riders who have experienced the legendary event first-hand would agree that there’s nothing else like it.
The rally will continue to be an event that is talked about for years to come, and with so many incredible things to see and do around Sturgis, there’s not even a close second.
The Sturgis Rally is a must-do if you’re a fan of the open road and motorcycles.
Data accuracy is subject to this article’s publication date.
2 https://www.travelsouthdakota.com/trip-ideas/article/motorcycling-laws, March 22, 2023
3 https://dps.sd.gov/safety-enforcement/highway-patrol/faqs, March 22, 2023