How the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Works

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Culture

Tiny Carnajan of Minneapolis, Minn., takes a break on his bike at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D.
Tiny Carnajan of Minneapolis, Minn., takes a break on his bike at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D.
AP Photo/Morry Gash

Despite all the concerts, famous performers, bike shows and scenic rides, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is also well-known for its surrounding culture. Besides the bikes, the rally's party atmosphere is a huge part of the yearly gathering.

The rally has its fair share of contests and pageants for women, which are not to be confused with the pageants most people might think of. Some unofficial events at the rally consist of women riding around showing off their bikes and their bodies. Partial nudity at the rally events and particularly at the campgrounds is not uncommon. Although some of the campsites near Sturgis are quiet and secluded, most are known for their parties. Downtown Sturgis remains strict with its laws about indecent exposure, but many attendees push the limits of the law throughout the week.

Biker bars are also a big part of the rally culture. Most of them offer live music and a few even have burnout pits for some tire smoking fun. Some of the bars are large enough for bikers to ride their motorcycles into and most have various forms of entertainment, too. Almost all of the bars feature live music, and some, like the Full Throttle Saloon, have hosted professional performers like Lil Jon and Molly Hatchet, for instance [source: The Sturgis Rally Guide Book].

The rally boasts in its official guidebook a list of criminal statistics over the years: Emergency room visits, number of attendees put in jail, parking tickets and even calls to the local sheriff are among some the deviant behaviors listed. Each year, an average of $250,000 worth of bikes is stolen during the rally, and even though there are a fair number of misdemeanors, most of the arrests are for non-violent crimes.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally atmosphere is definitely not suitable for families, but there's a wide range of people who attend the event. Doctors, lawyers, hardcore bikers and those just looking for a good time are all drawn to the events and culture of Sturgis.

For more information about motorcycles and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, follow the links below.

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More Great Links


  • Buffalo Chip. (Oct. 29, 2009)
  • "Sturgis, South Dakota." (Oct. 29, 2009)
  • Hoel Motors. "Pappy, Pearl, and the History of Sturgis..." (Oct. 29, 2009)
  • Nasoj Publications. "The Sturgis Rally Guide Book." 2008. (Oct. 27, 2009)