Sturgis Motorcycle Rally 2020: Your Guide to a Guaranteed Good Time

In case you haven’t heard the news, the 2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is a go! The Sturgis city council voted 8-1 to go ahead with a slightly modified version of the famed event to celebrate its 80th anniversary. 

The annual parade, opening ceremony and B-1 bomber flyover will not take place but don’t worry, there will still be plenty to do. When is the Sturgis rally you ask? This year’s event runs from August 7th to August 16th with more concerts, bike shows and yes, riding than you can cram into one week.

About the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Sturgis is a South Dakota biker rally that brings together riders from all over the country for some summer fun. The Black Hills boasts some of the best riding in the country, so it makes sense that everyone would want to get out and soak in the scenery. And, while everyone’s already out riding together, why not throw in some food, music, and awesome vendors to make it a true party!

What year did Sturgis start?

The first Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was held on August 14th, 1938. It was organized by the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club and led by a local motorcycle dealer named Clarence “Pappy” Hoel. The rally was originally centered around a series of motorcycle races and riding skills competitions. Racing remains a big part of the Sturgis biker rally with motocross, flat track and hill climb events scheduled throughout the week. The famous hill climb and motocross tracks can be seen just off the interstate on the West end of town.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of this big South Dakota motorcycle event. (Due to gas rationing in support of the war efforts, the Sturgis Rally did not take place from 1939-1941.) Throughout these 80 years, Sturgis bike week has certainly grown and evolved to become a can’t miss event for motorcycle enthusiasts.

Where is Sturgis located?

If you haven’t heard of the rally before, you may be wondering where is Sturgis at? The city of Sturgis is located in western South Dakota on I-90, just east of the Wyoming border. This small town lies in the heart of the Black Hills and offers some of the most unique and beautiful scenery in the country – including Mount Rushmore which is only about an hour away. If you’ve ever visited the area, it’s easy to see why the Black Hills motorcycle rally has become so popular with the riding community.

When is Sturgis 2020?

The Sturgis Bike Rally 2020 starts on August 7th and goes through August 16th – and there’s plenty to do within that time! Riding is, of course, at the forefront but there’s tons of other chances for fun. Make sure you have a place to stay close by so you’re never too far away from all the event has to offer.

Must do at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

This South Dakota motorcycle rally is all about having a good time. There are thousands of people who come through during the week, even more when it is a significant anniversary such as it is this year. Take it easy and don’t get in a hurry. Slow down and enjoy the sights. And be extra cautious as you ride! 

You’ll come across riders with different skill levels; some have been riding for years while others just got their endorsement so they could come to the rally. Be patient with novices, maybe even give them a little encouragement while welcoming them to the family. If you’re one of those new riders, go at your own pace, good friends won’t leave you behind.

Buffalo Chip

Buffalo Chip is one destination at the South Dakota bike rally you don’t want to miss! It not only offers campgrounds and cabins, but also hosts concerts, races, and lots of big parties. If you’re known as the life of the party, then Buffalo Chip is the spot for you.

Buffalo Chip is owned by Rod Woodruff and is almost like the biker version of Vegas – no rules, just a good time! You don’t have to stay at the campground to check out some of the concerts, rides, and parties hosted here. Pick up a day pass to join in on the fun.

Motorcycle Museum

If you’re looking to soak in a bit of Sturgis bike history, then you can’t miss the Motorcycle Museum! The museum was set up to preserve the history of motorcycling. From interactive displays to a lounge with famous motorcycle movies to a collection of vintage motorcycles, there’s plenty of chances to further your love and appreciation of motorcycles.

Concerts

Music lovers will appreciate all the concerts that happen at the Sturgis South Dakota bike rally! Every night of the week there’s a chance to appreciate live music from local, home-grown bands, up-and-coming regional acts and well-known and celebrated national artists. Check out a full line up here.

Rally Rides and Races

The rides and races are without a doubt the Sturgis events you don’t want to miss out on. I have been going to the rally since 2009 and still haven’t had time to ride all of the rides! The native prairies and wildlife of Custer National Park, the towering rock formations on Needles Highway, the pristine waterfalls in Spearfish Canyon, and the rugged beauty of the Badlands are each awe inspiring in their own way. Ask twenty people what their favorite ride is, you’ll most likely get as many answers.

There’s also some organized event rides like the Mayor’s Ride that brings together riders to benefit local emergency services. The Pappy Hoel Memorial Ride is another great way to honor the event founder and support local charities. Join Buffalo Chip’s Legends Ride and ride with celebrity riders. Afterwards, enjoy a riders’ reception with food, drinks and live music. 

And ladies, you don’t miss the Biker Belles morning ride! Space is limited on these scheduled rides, so if you’re interested, be sure to register ahead of time!

If you’re new to the Sturgis South Dakota bike week, try to book a “Ride with a Local” tour. These organized rides pair you with friendly guides who have been in the Black Hills for years and know their way around. It’s the perfect way to see everything the area has to offer and chat with experienced riders who can share helpful information and fun facts about Sturgis.

The races are another part of the event you don’t want to miss out on. Check out what’s happening at the Sturgis Dragway and then make your way over to the historic Jackpine Gypsies Rally Race where it all began. 

Vendors

While in town, check out the vendors and score some great deals on the obligatory t-shirts, patches and pins. The rally is also a great place to find sales on gear, accessories and bike upgrades directly from the dealers. You can talk to folks from many of the major manufacturers who are a wealth of information and are more than willing to share their expertise. Pretty much all of the bike makers have giant displays showcasing their newest bikes. Just be careful, or you just might end up going home with one!

How to prepare for a trip to Sturgis

If you’ve never been to Sturgis before, do a bit of homework to plan your stay. All the rides and events can be overwhelming and you may miss out if you don’t have a plan of attack. Look online and chat with fellow riders about their favorite moments throughout the week. You don’t have to have a detailed itinerary, just an idea about what you want to do once you roll into town.

How much does it cost to go to Sturgis?

Registering for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is actually free and will score you a rally pin, patch, and welcome packet. You can also upgrade your registration for $15 to get a t-shirt, sticker, microfiber map, coupons, sponsor gifts and more. The bulk of your expenses to attend Sturgis week will come from your lodging and travel expenses. Plan ahead and, if possible, try to divide up the cost for a cabin or campground to save some dough. 

Once you’re at the Sturgis biker festival, you also want to save some spending cash for event entrance, ride registration, food, and beverages (adult beverages, as well as soda and water). Don’t forget to also plan for any souvenirs you plan on bringing home.

All in all, the cost to go to the Sturgis bike rally greatly depends on how you plan to spend your time there. Try to plan ahead as much as possible and ask fellow riders who have gone before where you should spend and where you can save.

Where to stay at Sturgis 2020

Staying in Sturgis can be as economical or luxurious as you like. Campgrounds are like barbeque sauces, some wild, some mild and every flavor in between. Over the years I have stayed in quite a few of them. I like to sleep at night, resting up for the next day’s ride so I pick ones a little more on the mild side. Friends have stayed where the party goes on all night long. If that’s your thing, ask around and you’ll find it in Sturgis.

I have tent camped, hauled my camper up, and even stayed in a rental home on a golf course. Each campground has the normal amenities like shower houses and restrooms while some have little bars and places to get something to eat after a long day on the road. A couple of them even have swimming pools which are great for cooling off after a long day in the saddle. Your best bet is to find some folks who have been to the rally and chat with them about their experiences before making your choice, maybe they’ll even let you tag along with them!

There is something for everyone at Sturgis. In town, and at some of the bigger campgrounds there are a great lineup of shows. You can pony up for a VIP camping spot by the stage and be smack in the middle of all the excitement or find a quiet campground, cruising Lazelle Street at your leisure. Pop into one of the many venues in town and enjoy free concerts held almost nightly. Some famous national acts, as well as some lesser known but very talented artists, put on shows that will leave your ears ringing the whole way back to camp.

What to wear to Sturgis bike rally

While the rally is held during the height of summer, the weather can take a hard turn in a very short period of time in the hills. Always have your rain gear packed as well as a jacket or long sleeve shirt, you will be amazed at how much the temperature can change once the sun goes down. It has been known to hail to beat of the band during a summer squall. If that happens, find shelter quickly.

Keep tabs on the weather with a reliable weather app on your phone. As always, carry some water with you as the higher altitude and sun beating down on you will dry you out in a hurry. Sunscreen and lip balm should always be in your gear bag when you ride as well.

Want to go to Sturgis this year? 

This year, more so than in any years past, people really need to feel the freedom the rally provides. Freedom is what riding is all about. We need to get out and see what this great land has to offer. We need to take advantage of this opportunity to talk with others who may be different from us, yet, are part of the family that comes with being a rider. Start making plans now to visit Sturgis. Use it as a figurative reset button to get your head right during these trying times. 

If you decide to go to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, do it in style! Enter to win our Stylin’ in Sturgis contest featuring $40,000 worth of prizes including travel credit, a cabin & VIP package at Glencoe Camp, bike upgrades, meet & greets, and more!

Enter the contest for free here.