The Sturgis Rally is a strange beast, especially if you have never attended the rally in the Black Hills. Erratic weather conditions, technical riding roads, motorcycle traffic and sensory overload can lead to a bad experience if you aren’t prepared. I have plenty of experience navigating these potentially troubled biker waters and have compiled a top 10 list of things to do to make your rally-going experience a success.

Hydration

This one should be a no-brainer: Carry water on your bike with you. The temps in the Black Hills during late July and early August routinely bump the 100-degree mark, and elevation will be north of a mile high in most of the scenic riding areas. All of this adds up to dehydration, which is not only dangerous but also uncomfortable. And if you are tossing back a few adult beverages at your campsite at the end of the ride, your risk for dehydration is increased. Make sure you carry a water bottle or two with you or maybe a hydration pack, if you don’t mind the back pack. The extra storage in the pack is also handy.

Cash

If you are coming from a highly populated area, you may not be in the habit of using cash on a day-to-day basis. But the cell service and wifi access throughout the Black Hills can be spotty, which means a fair amount of businesses operate on a cash-only basis. Best to be prepared by having some cash on hand to be able to grab a bite to eat at a roadside stand or to pick up that T-shirt you’re eyeballing.  

Rain gear

Weather in the Black Hills changes very quickly and the forecast in the summertime is a best-guess scenario. You can be riding through sunny Spearfish Canyon and encounter a rainstorm before you get to the end at Cheyenne Crossing. Weather in Sturgis, S.D. is routinely different from the weather in Rapid City, making for interesting riding, to say the least.  The likelihood of getting rained on during a five-day stay in the hills is about 99 percent, so it’s better to be prepared with some rain gear instead of miserable and soaking wet when you get to camp.

Rok Straps

Rok Straps are my go-to solution for securing unexpected cargo or fixing my lackluster luggage mounting. They work with almost any type of motorcycle, luggage or cargo that you need to secure to a motorcycle. They also take up almost no space. You could put two Rok Straps in your pocket and it could mean the difference between getting your favorite cold beverage safely back to the campground or picking them up one by one off the side of the highway.

A Small Bag

If you have a bagger this may not apply to you, but having a small bag or backpack is also super handy off the bike. If you are riding in the Black Hills, it's easy to be gone for most of the day, so having a place to stash an extra sweatshirt, rain gear or just have room to put the T-shirt you picked up on Main Street is very handy.

Jacket

As I mentioned before, the weather in the hills can vary from location to location but it also can change quickly throughout the day. It's very common to be mid-40 degrees in the morning, get all the way into the 90-degree range by mid afternoon, then fall back into the cooler temps again in the evening. Packing a jacket will keep you from freezing and being uncomfortable during those temperature swings.

Wind Protection

A long day of riding on even a mildly windy day can take a toll similar to a sunburn. It will chap lips and dry out eyes and generally not be a welcome addition to your ride. If you normally ride with an open face helmet, consider a full face or adding a detachable fairing or windscreen. Keeping the wind off your body during your ride will result in a more pleasurable experience.

Bike Maintenance

Make sure your bike is in good working condition before you come out to the rally. If your tire tread is looking suspect, then put on a fresh set of tires before you come out to the Black Hills. Fresh oil and a clean and well lubed chain are also must-do tasks before setting out to explore the rally. Although the J&P Cycles store has all you need for tires and oil changes, you will be subject to the rally lines and wait for service. It's best to make sure all your maintenance is done prior to coming to the rally.

Lighting

Riding at the Sturgis rally is congested and can be a bit frantic. Being able to see and be seen is paramount. Most of the good riding roads are a bit remote and are not lit up at night. Combine that with a ton of wildlife roaming through the Black Hills National Forest and you can see why you need good lighting. The addition of something like an LED headlight will come in very useful riding through the twisty canyon roads in the late evenings.

Charging Systems and Battery

Make sure your battery and charging system are in good working order before coming out to the Black Hills. Heat is one of the top killers of an air-cooled motorcycle’s charging system. The congested parade-style riding downtown and hot summer temps have claimed many suspect charging systems at the rally. Test your charging system and battery before you leave home and it could save you an unexpected expense.

Being prepared for the Sturgis Rally can be the difference between a great trip and one spent incurring unexpected repair costs and being rain soaked and wind burnt in your tent. Make sure you plan ahead and don’t let a small thing like a rainstorm or old battery be the downfall of a potentially fun rally experience. Hopefully these tips come in handy and your Black Hills visit is worry free and full of miles of smiles.