Every year hundreds of thousands of folks make their way out to the Black Hills of South Dakota for the biggest biker event on the planet, the Sturgis Rally. And every year there is a large portion of those folks who have never been there before, and that could be a bit problematic if you aren’t prepared. When people are thinking of coming out to the rally they generally are thinking about concerts, drinking beers with your friends, races and fun of all kinds. And that's perfectly normal and exactly what goes on at rally, but not having a few small things or the right bit of veteran knowledge can cause your rally to be soured by a lame fine, bad weather or God forbid an accident.

Proper Gear

The weather in the Black Hills is best described as schizophrenic, so your preparation has to be on-point to deal with Mother Nature's mood swings. I like to say pack for three seasons, you pick whatever three you want. To start with rain gear is a must. It can be bright sunshine on one side of a hill but cold and rainy five miles away on the other side of a hill. Keeping rain gear handy will keep you dry and in better spirits when the weather passes, and it will pass. Pack cold and warm weather gear. I don’t mean a parka and heated clothes, but layers are a great idea. You can leave in the morning down a canyon road in the low 60’s and by lunchtime it will be in the low 90’s, so being able to add and remove layers is key.

Make sure your ride is functioning perfectly before heading to the Black Hills 

Bike Maintenance

It never ceases to amaze me how much general maintenance work and breakdowns our lot mechanics do each year. Charging systems is one of the more expensive and labor intensive breakdowns I see each year. The summer heat and stop-and-go parade riding in town are torture on air-cooled bikes charging systems. One way to help combat that is to change fluids before you come out here, it will help deal with the heat and your bike will run a bit easier. Tires and brakes should be checked before heading out here. There are a ton of curvy, very technical roads out here, a fair amount with no guardrails, and missing a turn can turn catastrophic fast. Making sure your tires and brakes are up to par before heading to Iron Mountain Road or Vanocker Canyon could save your life. In the event something does break or need immediate attention our Sturgis J&P store on Lazelle Street is fully stocked with parts and mechanics that can fix what ails you.

Sharpening your riding skills for the twisty roads waiting for you in the Black Hills will make the ride that much more fun.

Riding Skills

As I mentioned before there are ALOT of curvy, technical roads out in the hills. If you aren’t used to this type of riding it could bite you in a serious way. Spend some time honing your riding skills before you get to the hills. Once you're here expect to see plenty of tight turns, blind corners, high roads with no shoulder and all kinds of awesome riding surrounded by beautiful scenery. It's easy to get distracted and make a mistake, take the time to find a spot to pull off the road and take your pictures. Don’t be the person holding up traffic while you’re rubbernecking. Another thing to consider if you aren't used to it is riding in large groups. During rally motorcycles are everywhere and it can be a little confusing. Bikers are free spirits and sometimes traffic doesn’t flow like it does in a car situation. Keep your head on a swivel and be safe.

Small Things

Sometimes it’s the easiest things that are most forgotten but if you have them can make all the difference in your day. Here are some small things you can keep on you to make things a bit more comfortable. Keep some cash on hand. Some of the small vendors or remote burger joints may not have WiFi and only accept cash. A local map can save you the time of wandering around looking for something that's easily found. Rally maps are free and available at local gas stations and the J&P Cycles store. Sunscreen is a must, especially if you're going to be on the bike for long periods of time. It will keep you from getting scorched and uncomfortable or at the very least from getting weird tan lines. Water may seem like a no brainer but is often forgotten, and if you hop off the bike for a quick photo op at the top of a hill you’ll be glad to have the water around after your hike.

Riding in the Black Hills is one of my favorite things to do and I encourage everyone to come out (rally or not) and experience the beauty of the hills and all there is to offer. Being prepared will make the experience all that more memorable. Now go ride your motorcycle.