Sturgis Rally — to trailer or not to trailer, 2 tips.

Yeah, it’s a motorcycle rally.  And so most of the photos of the rally are of motorcycles. What you don’t see though is that in some places it looks like a trailer rally.  People who don’t ride to the rally cheat by trailering their bikes. Yeah, the destination is the rally, but the journey is  as much a part of the experience as the rally itself.

Trailers separate the vacationers from the riders. People who ride to the rally are there for the ride, the community of bikers. People who trailer are there for some other reason, a vacation, a party, to be voyeurs of those of us who ride.

Still I have to admit, there are advantages to trailering to the rally and here’s one — inexperience.

In 2006, about a month before the rally, Red bought a Harley-Davidson low rider – and that’s about all the longer she had ridden.  In fact, she hadn’t even been on a motorcycle until that spring when she rode behind me on a long Sunday afternoon ride. That ride hooked her. She wasted no time to dive in to the lifestyle.   She took the rider safety course and bought her first motorcycle.  Today she’s galaxies beyond the world of a new rider. She’s the most accomplished rider I’ve ever ridden with – but it didn’t start that way.  It’s likely she would not be riding today if we had rocketed her in to the Milky Way cluster of motorcycles at the Sturgis Rally. It would have been an unpleasant experience at best and likely would have ruined it for her in later years.

First exposure to Sturgis

That first year of her riding was also her first year at the Sturgis Rally.  She wisely trailered her low rider to Glencoe Campground, about 2 miles east of the city of Sturgis.

Tip: New riders should not attempt to negotiate and navigate the crowd of bikers.

She pulled her Explorer in to the campground pulling an open flatbed trailer with her low rider and camping gear.  She was a jumble of excitement. All her senses were stimulated with the sights, the sounds, the smells of motorcycles everywhere.  Like a pre-schooler at Lego-land she was wound up and ready to handle it all – except the crowd of bikes.

I had gotten to the campground a couple of days earlier and had set up my tent in a shady area of the motorcycle-only area.  It’s fenced off with a gate so narrow that only a motorcycle can ride through.

When she arrived, I directed her to the nearest point where she could drive up with the trailer of camping gear. We tossed it over the fence and packed it to the cottonwood shade where my tent was set up.  Then, we unloaded her bike and she maneuvered it in to the campsite.

For the next week, nearly all the riding we did was on my bike with her as a passenger. Wisely she declined to immerse herself in the flood of bikes.  She was unwilling to be a statistic.  Many years, bike wrecks and fatalities are caused by under-skilled riders.  Red was not about to be one of those stats.

  However, to get her initiated in to the Sturgis Rally riding experience, we took a short ride on our two bikes north past Bear Butte the back road to Belle Fourche and then west to Wyoming toward Devils Tower.

Bear Butte

Again, mindful of her fresh entry in to motorcycle riding, we didn’t go in to the curve near Alladin and beyond, but turned around and hung out at Belle Fourche for a couple hours before heading back to Glencoe where we parked her bike again.

The short ride on her own bike did not overwhelm her, but instead gave her incentive to improve her riding skills so that the next year, she could dive in to the ocean of bikes.  As a passenger on my bike she was still was able to enjoy Wedensday’s Ham Jam at Hulett, cooling off in the misting showers along Main Street.

Tip:  Do not ride more than you can handle. New riders should experience a small nibble of the gourmet of riding, but not overindulge. There’s always next year.

Hauling in the extra camping gear made the week at the campground an easy, well-stocked camping-resort. We had food, stoves, gear, chairs, two tents and even a table at our site.

The week was safely enjoyed from the confines of the campground with only a couple of forays in to the sea of bikes.   Without risking the chance of a crash, we were still able to enjoy the regular routine of the Sturgis Rally such as shopping.

Shopping for Chaps

We enjoyed good viewing of the concerts held that year at Rockin’ the Rally such as the Fabulous Thunderbirds.  (Rockin the Rally was an event never to be repeated at Glencoe. For such entertainment in following years, the Buffalo Chip remains the place to go.)

Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds

So while I’ve never trailed my bike anywhere unless it’s because it broke down along the highway, I can understand the creature comfort and safety reasons for trailering to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.  To ride to the rally like the scooter trash I am is a stretching and growing adventure that trailer trash will never experience.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me what other reasons there are to trailer your bike, other than to protect the innocent?

13 Responses to “Sturgis Rally — to trailer or not to trailer, 2 tips.”

  1. I rode the first time I went. The negatives with riding are: Time in Sturgis is limited, unless you and some friends can take extra time off, or you live a day or less from Sturgis. Limited room for extra things. Most likely have to sleep in a tent and it gets cold in the black hills at night, and the area is prone to hail storms.

    Bottom line: If you live east of the Mississippi River, I would suggest trailering your bike, the ride to sturgis sucks and you will get there and wonder why you wasted your ride time through busy cities and corn fields. I don’t really care if somebody cant understand common sense thats their deal. Most of the idiots who think they are bad ass for riding live less than a day away. Riding 400 miles from Denver doesn’t make you a bad ass, If you want to run your mouth at least back it up with, I rode 1500 mi plus to get here, otherwise keep your mouth shut.

    • Yes indeed, there is the convenience factor. However for some, it’s the ride as much as it’s the destination.

      You’re right about the need for a tent. Even camping is expensive. It’s why so many long time rally-goers no longer attend. A person can figure on spending $1,000 to $1,500 for the week.

  2. We trailered bikes on a vacation to Arkansas this spring… The primary reason was that we were taking the wives and it was our first trip of any distance, and we knew they would not endure the cool spring air very well for a full 8 hour trip… It was also April 14th so we were kind of unsure of the weather we might face, be it severe thunderstorms, or a spring blizzard. It turns out it was a good choice since it snowed at home while we were gone. So, in addition to a lot of other reasons, I think the season you’re traveling in has a lot to do with the acceptability of using a trailer.

  3. Myrle Hartman Says:

    Maybe some of us have to trailer, because of health reasons. I for one can not do long rides,as I have heart problems and lukemia. So before anyone jumps on someone for trailering the bikes. GET THE FACTS OR SHUT UP

  4. I want to haul my bike to Sturgis in my pickup. Are there ramps available for unloading there?

  5. Best thing to do is not judge people. It is their choice. I have ridden to Sturgis for many years. We know a man who was killed riding in a rain storm. If you can’t wait out a storm you are better off trailering.

  6. I would like to find someone from California Area to meet up with and help trailer my bike up to Sturgis. Will help pay for Gas. Thanks Chris 661 435 3090

  7. Axel Swanson Says:

    Some of us choose to trailer to Sturgis because it’s only the first stop on a 2 month vacation. I’m no genius but i don’t know any of the “so called bad asses” that could live out of a bike with a wife in tow for 2 months. Leaving Phoenix with stops in Milwaukee, Chicago, St Louis, Kansas City, Topeka and Denver are all planned, and it will sure be nice to have a few amenities along the way. Some people are so judgmental and stupid, it astounds me how they have lived as long as they have. Look for my truck and trailer at Glencoe, I’ll be the one wearing clean clothes and not smelling of puke and urine!!!

  8. Suzanne Halter Says:

    My husband & I rode our bikes from Arizona to Sturgis in 2013. It was amazing, and we were able to see so many places along the way we have never been to. We took 3 days to ride there, 3 days to get back, which only left 3 days to see Sturgis and the Black Hills area. This year we are trailering our bike, along with our son’s bike so we can get there in 1 day and have 5 days to check it all out. So unless we can get more vacation time for next year, we may make trailering a tradition!

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