Motorcycle rally blues

I’m thinking about riding over to Sturgis. I know, I know. So smack me across the face and chastise me severely. (And note that the link points to the town’s rally web site, although there are more than a few other Sturgis rally sites with things to sell you, believe me.)

Harley’s remarkable recovery from the edge of bankruptcy to its return to dominance in the North American motorcycle market due to embracing modern manufacturing and advertising methods, just as much as brand recognition, has ensured that the Harley-dominated rally sites are filled to overflowing with strange people attempting to emulate the bikers. Fortunately, clothes don’t make the man in that endeavor, either.

Huge – and I do mean huge – crowds of people show up on too many motorcycles at these rallies. Endless lines of bikes running to and fro mean traffic jams and mile after mile of bikes all going to the same place.

The Sturgis rally is not reserved for Harleys only. Anyone can and does attend, on any brand. Some even show up sans motorcycle, satisfied to profile in their biker duds. And really, who’s to know whether they’re “real” bikers or not? Here’s a visual clue one of the vendor girls told me about quite a few years back: they check boots for the telltale shifter scuff.

Up to half a million people – in a good year – are wont to jam into Sturgis, a town of 6,500 people during the rest of the year. Police recruited from across the nation are invited to converge and issue tickets for the silliest things, just to show everyone who’s boss. In fact, those “ticket sales” generate the town’s major source of revenue for the entire year. Well, that, and vendor fees, but I’d suggest that tickets are the major source.

The Sturgis motorcycle rally – as opposed to “The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally” – has started to get smart and begins happening during the week before the “official” rally begins. That suits me just fine, since I got tired of the place in the late ’80s. It really began spiraling downwards full-speed during the ’90s and hasn’t piqued my curiosity since.


More and more riders are rolling into town during the week before. The pace is relaxed, the people are genuine and the atmosphere is entirely different. There are a few vendors who get it and are setting up during that prior week also.

I am sorely tempted.

The 67th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally runs from August 6 to August 12, 2007.

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