Now that the burning question of whether there’s going to be a 2020 Sturgis Rally or not has apparently been cleared up, the conversation turns to “How can I do Sturgis safely?” According to Sturgis Chief of Police Geody VanDewater, the theme of this year’s rally is “personal responsibility.”

“I would highly encourage people to take personal responsibility for yourself. If you feel concerned you may catch this virus, then stay home because there’s a good probability it will be here. To what degree, we don’t know, but if you’re concerned with catching it and you’re elderly and more susceptible to catching this virus as far as having a weaker immune system, take the year off. We’re working with businesses for social distancing in their bars but at the end of the day we won’t be enforcing that, it’s just a guideline,” VanDewater said.

“We’re going to encourage social distancing, encourage people to wear their masks, but if they have concerns, then don’t come. If they do come, if you have concerns about going into an establishment to have a drink or supper, try the next place. Or if you go into a vendor that has t-shirts and it’s too crowded, then go to the next one. There’ll be other places you can go and still practice social distancing and either get your food or your drink or t-shirt or whatever.”

When asked if there were going to be any major changes on Main Street, VanDewater said it’s going to be pretty much the same.

“It will be motorcycle parking only. They talked about not shutting Main Street down but I said no, it’s a safety hazard. You’re going to have people parking their motorcycles in the middle of the street and they’re going to try and do that thinking that it’s the same as years past, so we asked to keep it the same. There will probably be a little less parking for motorcycles on our side streets, First Street, Second Street, Third, as it’s opened up to car parking.”

The Sturgis City Council did include stipulations regarding Main Street when it voted 8-1 in favor of holding this year’s motorcycle rally. The concessions include the cancellation of crowd-drawing events like the opening ceremonies, the annual B-1 flyover, closure of the Main Street photo towers and cancelling of the famous noon and 5 o’clock Main Street photos. Big rides or events scheduled within city limits that could potentially attract large crowds will not be allowed, either.

Personal responsibility also includes all current COVID-19 safeguards, in particular washing your hands frequently, carrying hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol, keeping disinfectant wipes handy and wearing a mask if you’re in a big crowd, particular in a closed environment. Do your best to maintain proper social distancing. When I was in Daytona Beach Bike Week during the onset of the pandemic, elbow bumps with close friends replaced handshakes and hugs. Keeping a close inner circle is sage advice.

Another way to reduce risk at Sturgis is to use your credit card. While cash generally rules the rally, it’s called dirty money for a reason. Many businesses have converted to cashless transactions and nowadays you don’t even have to swipe your card. Expect many vendors to be switching to card-only transactions at the rally this year. Credit and debit cards are quick and easy to clean with a few swipes from a disinfectant wipe.

A great way to socially isolate is to simply ride and enjoy the boundless beauty of the Black Hills. 

Part of the beauty of the Sturgis Rally is it’s spread out through the beautiful Black Hills, a major reason it’s still possible to pull off the 80th anniversary rally. There’s no shortage of small, intimate campgrounds within a 50-mile radius, and the major campgrounds have hundreds of acres of property for rally-goers to spread out on. Then there’s the good ol’ fashioned tradition of tramping it in the woods, too.

A great way to socially distance yourself at the 2020 Sturgis Rally is to ride more. There’s a treasure trove of incredible roads and destinations in these parts. Get up early if you’re planning on visiting one of the more popular destinations like Mount Rushmore and try to beat the crowds. You can also avoid these places altogether and visit one of numerous hidden gems off the beaten path. In fact, we just put together a cool little video called Sturgis Dirt: Off the Beaten Path Places to Visit in the Black Hills.” Ride hard all day and by the time you get back to camp you’ll be ready to crack open a cold one and chill.

The biggest challenge to social distancing is going to be maintaining proper distancing at concerts.  Sturgis could potentially be the only major music festival this summer, and people haven’t seen live music in so long that by the time Lita Ford hits those first chords Friday night at the Buffalo Chip, protocols will be the last thing on their minds. The Chip has a plan, though. Got wind that they’re re-configuring the amphitheater to allow motorcycle parking in rows along the front of the stage and people can get their party on next to their bike. A ride-in concert, just like the old days!

Bottom line, if you plan on coming to the Sturgis Rally this year, you’re already aware of the risks that come with being in a crowded environment and are exercising your right to peacefully assemble. We ride motorcycles, after all, so we’re already keenly aware of risks. Be smart, be safe, and see you on the open road.