Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

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Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
Main Street Sturgis South Dakota Bike Week.jpg
Motorcycles lined up on Main Street during the Sturgis motorcycle rally.
Genre Motorcycle rally
Dates First week in August
Location(s) Sturgis, South Dakota, United States
Founded August 14, 1938 (1938-08-14)
Most recent August 4–10, 2014
Next event August 3–9, 2015
Attendance 600,000 (2000)[1]
400,000 (2008)[2]

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is an American motorcycle rally held annually in Sturgis, South Dakota usually during the first full week of August. It began in 1938 and was originally held for stunts and races, but has evolved into being a meeting for motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world. It brings significant income to the citizens of Sturgis, a town of only 6,627 people. It is one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the world.


The first rally was held on August 14, 1938, by the "Jackpine Gypsies" motorcycle club,[3] who still own and operate the tracks, hillclimb, and field areas where the rally is centered. The first event was called the "Black Hills Classic" and consisted of a single race with nine participants and a small audience. The founder is generally considered to be Clarence "Pappy" Hoel. He purchased an Indian Motorcycle franchise in Sturgis in 1936 and formed the "Jackpine Gypsies" that same year.[3] The Jackpine Gypsies were inducted to the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1997.[4] Hoel was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame the following year, in 1998.[5]

The focus of a motorcycle rally was originally racing and stunts. In 1961, the rally was expanded to include the Hillclimb and Motocross races.[3] This could include half-mile track racing (the first year in Sturgis, there were 19 participants), intentional board wall crashes, ramp jumps and head-on collisions with automobiles.

The Sturgis Rally has been held every year, with exceptions during World War II. For instance, in 1942, the event was not held due to gasoline rationing.[3]

Rally impact on community[edit]

The City of Sturgis has calculated that the Rally brings over $800 million to South Dakota annually.[6] The City of Sturgis earned almost $270,000 in 2011 from selling event guides and sponsorships. In an unusual licensing arrangement criticized by Jack Hoel, son of rally creator Pappy Hoel, the city had to buy rights to its own name from the corporation that owns the trademark rights for terms such as "Sturgis Motorcycle Rally".[7]

There were 405 individuals jailed at the 2004 rally, and approximately $250,000 worth of motorcycles stolen annually.[8] Rally-goers are a mix of white-collar and blue-collar workers and are generally welcomed as an important source of income for Sturgis and surrounding areas.[9] The rally turns local roads into "parking lots",[9] and draws local law enforcement away from routine patrols.[10]

The Lakota Indian tribe in coalition with other tribes has protested the large amount of alcohol distributed at the event so close to the sacred Bear Butte, but also acknowledged that income from the event was important to the region and also benefits some members of the tribes.[11]

Transportation to Sturgis[edit]

Many attendees of the Sturgis Rally have families, bring their children and drive trailers and campers to the rally, and ride their motorcycles just the last few miles. The director of the rally estimated in 2005 that less than half the attendees actually rode there.[12] Shipping companies transport thousands of motorcycles to Sturgis for attendees who arrive via airline.[12]

Black Hills Run[edit]

The Black Hills Run is a route favored by motorcycle riders, across the Black Hills from Deadwood to Custer State Park, South Dakota. It reached the height of its popularity between 1939 and 1941. The popularity of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attracted additional attention to the route in recent years. The pine forested mountains of the Black Hills make for a unique scenic motorcycle ride.[13]

Media coverage[edit]

Print and online[edit]

The Rapid City Journal features daily coverage of the Sturgis Rally.[14]


In 1997, the crew from the COPS television series attended the rally, as well as Dennis Rodman.[15] From 1996 to 1999, World Championship Wrestling held a pay-per-view event called Road Wild (Hog Wild for the 1996 event).[16]

Annual television coverage of the festival by the VH1 Classic network includes interviews and performances as well as rock music videos. The rally was featured in 2005 as part of the ESPN SportsCenter promotion 50 States in 50 Days.[17]

Starting in 2009 an American reality television series began airing on the truTV network: Full Throttle Saloon, showing the inner operations at the world's largest biker bar just prior to the rally opening and for the duration of the rally each year.

Sturgis was also featured on "American Pickers" Season 4, Episode 6, "What Happens In Sturgis...". Originally aired January 2, 2012 on the History Channel. ". . .When Mike tells Frank let's pack up for a trip to South Dakota, Frank says he can't. He's secretly going to his 30th annual trip to the legendary Sturgis motorcycle rally, but says he'll cover the shop. . ."[18]


The Travel Channel has aired two one-hour (43 minutes runtime) documentaries about Sturgis:

  • Daniel Cesareo, Doug DePriest (executive producers) (2010). Sturgis: The Wild Ride (Television broadcast). Travel Channel. [19]
  • Daniel Cesareo, Doug DePriest (executive producers) (2010). Sturgis Cops (Television broadcast). Travel Channel. [20]



  1. ^ Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, South Dakota Office of Tourism, retrieved 2010-01-07 
  2. ^ Rally statistics, Sturgis City Rally Department, retrieved 2010-01-07 
  3. ^ a b c d Official Site: Rally History
  4. ^ Jackpine Gypsies at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame
  5. ^ J.C. Hoel at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame
  6. ^ 70th Sturgis motorcycle rally statistics compiled by the city of Sturgis and the rally department, Black Hills State University, February 8, 2011, retrieved 2013-01-25 
  7. ^ Deb Holland (January 9, 2013), "City will continue to pay to use Sturgis name", Rapid City Journal, retrieved 2013-01-25 
  8. ^ Dalton, Aaron (August 1, 2005), "Biggest thing on two wheels.(TECHWATCH: This Month)", Popular Mechanics (Hearst Magazines via HighBeam Research.), retrieved 2013-01-25 
  9. ^ a b "Profile: Thousands of Harley riders converge on small South Dakota town every year for a rally", Morning Edition (National Public Radio via HighBeam Research.), August 9, 2000, retrieved 2013-01-25 
  10. ^ Vellani, Karim (May 1, 2000), "Security + Service = Satisfaction.", Journal of Property Management (via HighBeam Research), retrieved 2013-01-25 
  11. ^ "In Sturgis, a Clash Over Motorcycle Rally", All Things Considered (National Public Radio via HighBeam Research.), August 2, 2006, retrieved 2013-01-25 
  12. ^ a b Higgins, Michelle (August 5, 2005). "The Really Easy Rider". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
  13. ^ McKechnie, Gary. Great American Motorcycle Tours Avalon Travel Publishing, 2002. (ISBN 1-56691-448-5)
  14. ^ "Sturgis Rally Daily", Rapid City Journal, retrieved 2013-01-25 
  15. ^ Cops Episode 147: Sturgis Bike Rally in South Dakota,, retrieved 2012-01-28 
  16. ^ "2007 Wrestling Almanac & Book of Facts". Wrestling's Historical Cards (Kappa Publishing). 2007. p. 144. 
  17. ^ "50 States in 50 Days". ESPN>com. August 10, 2005. Archived from the original on August 10, 2005. Retrieved August 16, 2010. 
  18. ^ List of American Pickers episodes
  19. ^ Sturgis: The Wild Ride at the Internet Movie Database
  20. ^ Sturgis Cops at the Internet Movie Database

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°24′52″N 103°30′32″W / 44.41444°N 103.50889°W / 44.41444; -103.50889