It’s easy to spend thousands of dollars at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and with inflation the highest it’s been since AMF owned Harley-Davidson, a lot of folks may be reconsidering their summer trip plans. Does that mean Sturgis is not in the budget?

With some smart rally-going tips, we may be able to make that big rally trip happen this year for less than you think. Everyone will be coming from different locations, so the travel costs are up to you to figure out. But if you normally trailer your bike or drag an RV out to the Black Hills, you can save a significant amount of cash by loading yourself on your bike with a tent and heading out to the rally on your motorcycle. Once you arrive, I can show you how to spend just $500 over five days of Sturgis Rally-going bliss.

We show you how you can come out to the Black Hills and have the time of you life for less than $500.


Hotel rooms, house rentals and even camp spots are extremely expensive during the rally. Typical housing costs can be marked up by four or five times during rally week. Hotel rooms routinely go for $400 a night, so for a five-day stay you are pushing a $2,000 bill just for a place to sleep.

Never fear, I have you covered on how to avoid insane lodging costs. In fact you can avoid them completely with dispersed camping. Dispersed camping means you can camp anywhere in the Black Hills National Forest outside of designated campgrounds for up to five days for free. But there are a few rules. You can not be within a half mile of a designated camping area like a campground (lucky for you the Black Hills National Forest has 1.2 million acres for you to grab a sweet spot), you have to be 100 feet back from a stream, you can't have your vehicle more than 300 feet from the road (or you have to buy a trail permit) and you are not allowed to have a fire. Which really only leaves one question… where do you take a shower? It’s a pretty easy problem to solve, really. The Sturgis Community Center has showers available to the public for the $5 day pass fee and other campgrounds offer showers for $8 a shower.

Camping and showers for five days $40

                                                            - $500 starting cash

                                                            = $460


Finding a place to eat at the rally can also dig pretty deep into your wallet but I have a plan to keep your food bill from going into orbit. First of all, stay away from eating at the food vendors downtown, because that is basically the most expensive food you can eat during the rally. In fact, I’d steer clear of eating at restaurants all together.

My advice is to go to the local grocery store and buy a loaf of bread, some cold cuts and cheese, peanut butter and jelly and a big bag of potato chips. Pick up a flat of water (you can get 40 bottles for $4) and some granola bars for a dollar a piece and you're going to be in good shape. You’ll have to trust my math on this, but I’ve calculated that you can eat three sandwiches a day, chips, one granola bar and even spend five bucks a day on coffee or gas station snacks and still keep your food cost to a $125.

Five days food   $125

                         - $460 cash after lodging costs

                        = $ 335


Entertainment is basically the reason you go to a rally, so let’s break down what I see as the three major entertainment costs. Concerts are plentiful at the rally, and the good news is that there are plenty of free ones. There are two major bars downtown, The Loud American and The Iron Horse, that have free concerts every night. Save your cash on concert tickets and take in the free shows.

I also included booze into the entertainment category. Unless you just have to have the latest hipster IPA brew, you can pick up a twelve pack for about $13. If you need to drink more than a twelve pack a day, maybe take a look at your life choices.

My favorite entertainment at the rally is riding my motorcycle. The Black Hills region has some of the best riding in the country and I highly recommend you take advantage of the opportunity to ride places like Iron Mountain Road and Spearfish Canyon. But I do realize that you have to put fuel in the bike and that costs money. At $5 a gallon, you can use four gallons a day that should pretty easily get you 160 or so miles a day if your bike gets relatively decent gas mileage. (Note: If you watch the video and you’re thinking the numbers don’t match, it’s because the video was made back when gas prices were in the $3 range.)

Gas: four gallons at $5/gal x 5 days = $125

Booze $13/day x five days                     $65

                                                                 -$335 cash after lodging and food

                                                               = $145

Even after we have covered all the major categories, you should still have about 30 bucks left over each day to spend on whatever you like. So if you want to grab a burger, maybe do a little extra riding or grab that rally T-shirt you’ve been eyeing, you have some flexibility in your budget. So don’t scratch that Sturgis rally trip just yet. Instead, strap your tent and rain gear to your bike and head out to the hills. You can still have a great time at the Black Hills classic for less than $500.