Do Before You Die: Sturgis Rally



Beards, boobs, bikes, beer and perfect weather: What more could one ask for? The Sturgis Rally 2013 is the largest motorcycle rally in the world. It's estimated that at the highest point this week upwards of 600,000 bikes, not people, will line the streets of Sturgis, S.D. It's an annual, week-long event, and it ain't for the faint of heart. (Thus far, there have been six rally-related deaths in South Dakota, not to mention recent arrests in an underage sex sting.) That being said, this event is definitely something to check out once in your lifetime.

Upon entering the city, some of the most epic beards this side of the Mississippi start showing up alongside middle-aged women dressed in pasties and chaps, the uniform.

There are no shits given at Sturgis. In fact, you might get your ass kicked if you do give any. Or, at least, that's how it appears on the surface. 

I happened to be entering with a Colorado State Fugitive Recovery Agent, also known as a bounty hunter. Had he not been there, I'm not sure anyone in the group would've gone (or thought we would survive.) Hell's Angels, Sons of Anarchy, and others are all present in full force. The No. 1 characters to avoid according to our guide: Anyone with " enforcer"  or "1%" on their vest. This is their position within the MC (aka the Motorcycle Club) and those are the guys who will rough you up just because they can if you look at them wrong. Which is ironic considering the social context the term 1 percent has outside of this sub-culture. It's best to avoid them on all fronts, it seems.

As it turns out though, most people there are just fun-loving bikers who aren't there to fight. They're there to ride up to one of the most beautiful areas of America, from all over the world, and camp outdoors, get wild and drink for a week with folks who like to do the same. The ticket to the main event, where most people reside all week, Buffalo Chip at Sturgis, includes one week of camping and the facilities to do so.

Everyone seems like they want to be left alone to do their biker thing, so they largely leave everyone else alone who is there doing and wanting the same. The owner of the bad-ass rat bike seen below, Dave Gross, aka "Rat Man," rode his rat bike 31 hours straight from Indiana, only stopping "to take pisses and eat food," he says.

There are all types of fancy bikes ranging from built from scratch to those laced with after-market neon like this one:

Even Sturgis P.D. rides through on Harley Davidsons. They're very visible here and their biggest tool for keeping people in line, allegedly, is their power to have a bike impounded if the owner is up to no good. All confiscated bikes are available in the days immediately following the rally. This is smart because really, what's a motorcycle rally with no motorcycle?:

The double decker corndogs are good, the bikes are impressive, and at the end of the day, despite the rough facade, the people who make the motorcycle-bound annual pilgrimage to Sturgis, S.D., are nice. I wouldn't bring your kids, but it's an experience not to be missed. See this at least once before you croak. Festivities end Aug. 11, 2013.

For more commentary, follow me on Twitter @dbirdy, for more photos peep my Flickr and to see videos from all over the world, subscribe to my YouTube channel here!

All images are mine unless otherwise noted.

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