Sturgis has always been about fellowship between riders. Biker, motorcyclist, miscreant—it hardly matters how you identify. It’s a celebration of freedom, often in ways unprintable in Motorcyclist.
Opinions will vary as to the wisdom of holding the event these last few years. But two and half years after the pandemic began, risk resumed its rightful place on the surrounding roads and in the dozens of bars that make up this bucolic South Dakota hamlet.
By all accounts, the 2022 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally resumed its assault on tasteful behavior, restraint, and sobriety. That’s a compliment, thank you very much. Sometimes good taste just gets in the way of a good time.
The event was started by the Indian-riding enthusiasts of the Jackpine Gypsies motorcycle club in 1938. That first three-day Black Hills Motor Classic featured stunts and races, eventually including (reportedly) head-on collisions with cars and ramp jumps. Traditional hill climbs and motocross races were early staples of competition, as was the Gypsy Tour, a guided ride through the Black Hills’ breathtaking canyons.
1970 saw 3,000 riders attend Sturgis. By 1980, it was 40,000. In 1990, the official attendance figure hit 400,000. This year’s closely watched total is the subject of some debate, but most agree it was slightly smaller than last year’s. For example, total trash collection tonnage was down by 50 tons, despite Sunday’s rain.
Another interesting wrinkle? The average Sturgis attendee was 54 years old in 2019, but 46.5 in 2021. No word yet on 2022 figures, but it stands to reason the keys are getting passed to a younger generation. Younger limbs, reflexes, and appetites for risk are perfect for carving canyons and hills on Highway 14A, Camp 5 Road, or Vanocker Canyon Road. The lure of partying may be strong in Sturgis, but beer tastes better after riding through danger and sanding the squares off your tires.
Speaking of younger, Bad Beard creative director and photographer Sam Schneider went to Sturgis this year. Judging by his shots, he didn’t choose between partying and riding; he just did it all. Forget the FOMO. Just start making your own plans for Sturgis, 2023.