What does a post-COVID Sturgis Rally Look Like?

The Sturgis Rally is going to happen. What it will look like? Well at this point we’re not sure, but I have a pretty good idea.

Yesterday I offered an inside look at what’s happening with the City of Sturgis and some of the nearby businesses, as we all prepare for the first post-COVID-19 lockdown rally, which is scheduled for August 7 to 16, 2020.

One thing we know, there will be bikes. Maybe lots of bikes. It’s likely that the pandemic will keep some people from making the trip in 2020, but nobody knows how many. Typically, the rally pulls in 400,000 to 500,000 attendees. A full fledged celebration of the 80th Sturgis could have added 200,000 more. With the pandemic scare just starting to move into our rear view mirrors, I’m guessing there will be about 250,000 to 300,000 on hand during rally week in 2020.

Local businesses in the Black Hills will be rolling out the red carpet for rally participants,  as they are to everyone this summer. With fewer flights available to distant destinations, families wanting to get out of the house and RV sales booming, it may be a good summer to be a business owner in western South Dakota.

During the Rally, the campgrounds, especially the big ones like the Buffalo Chip, Pappy Hoel and Glencoe, will be the hot spots. And I mean that in a good, non-coronavirus way.

With big name entertainment harder to get, there will be more focus on the daytime activities, like riding and bike shows. The Buffalo Chip has put a real emphasis on custom bikes and builders, with a different show almost every day of the rally. But there will be night time fun as well.

The communities will be a little quieter than normal. Places like Hill City, Custer, Keystone and Sturgis will still need to handle lots of motorcycle traffic, but expect fewer street side vendors and food sellers. But permanent businesses will be fully operational. Expect great crowds at places like J&P Cycles Store, Indian of Sturgis, Legend’s Suspension and Black Hills Harley-Davidson. 

The Rally at Exit 55 in Rapid City, which wraps around Black Hills H-D, may be the absolute best place to do your accessory shopping, as there may be fewer parts vendors in the City of Sturgis (pending the June 15 City Council decision). I hear that Black Hills Harley and their event will be business-as-usual this year. It’s always a must-see part of the rally, maybe even more so in 2020.

So what about the City of Sturgis? 

On the plus side, I expect that every permanent business will do very well, no matter what happens with the City Council’s decision. Places like the Knuckle Saloon, the Loud American Roadhouse, One-Eyed Jacks and the Iron Horse will struggle to accept all the patrons that want to get in.

Accessory companies which sell and install accessories are most likely to set up at their traditional spots in Sturgis, as these companies rely heavily on Sturgis revenue to make their bottom lines.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame is promoting a visit to the Museum and their annual Hall of Fame breakfast. If you’ve missed that stop on previous visits, this may be the year to go.

However, there will be fewer vendors in town and I expect some of the biggest names we’re used to seeing in Sturgis will not be there. Be prepared for parking challenges. Since nobody knows what size crowds to expect, Main Street may not be limited to motorcycles-only and that eliminates half of the motorcycle parking on the street.

And there will be LOTS of hand sanitizer. Sturgis sponsor Jack Daniels…They are making hand sanitizer. Sturgis sponsor Anheuser Busch…They are making hand sanitizer. I’m not sure about Sturgis sponsor Amzoil, but they may be making hand sanitizer, too.

So if you are thinking about going to Sturgis, and are comfortable going out in a post-COVID lockdown world, you should go.

You’ll be there with thousands of fun-loving, freedom-seeking motorcycle riders who are excited to get on their bikes and enjoy some social distancing at 55 mhp. Be aware that you’ll need to take responsibility for yourself and patronize places that offer the type of contact risk that you are comfortable with. Bring some of your own hand sanitizer.  And if you feel better wearing a mask, you should wear one (just get one with a skull on it).

Sturgis will be different in 2020, but it will still be the hot, sweaty, gritty motorcycle mecca that so many riders love.

The beautiful roads and vistas of the Black Hills are some of the best in North America. For Sturgis newbies, even a post-COVID rally will be overwhelming with more sights and sounds than you had imagined. For Sturgis veterans, being in the pine-scented forests, watching for buffalo or anticipating the next pig-tail bridge is a return to the normal we are all hoping for.  See you there.

Here’s a couple of great articles about the rally and a link to the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum:

How to do Sturgis during COVID-19 from the Sturgis Rider News

 Sturgis Businesses moving forward to host bikers during rally from the Black Hills Pioneer

Sturgis Museum and Hall of Fame

4 thoughts on “What does a post-COVID Sturgis Rally Look Like?

  1. Arden Clements says:

    From your article,the only safety measures being taken is availability of hand sanitizer and the hope that crowds will be reduced. Are crowds in bars , restaurants and shops being controlled? Is there any physical distancing barriers or signs being implented or any one way guidelines on the streets? I’ve been to every rally for the last 10 years. Main street is shoulder to shoulder as are the bars. Will the bar tenders and vendors be required to wear a mask to prevent the spread of virus droplets?


  2. Steve Piehl says:

    Thanks for your reply. South Dakota asks that residents and businesses follow CDC guidelines for social distancing, but they leave specific rules up to the communities. The City of Sturgis may implement some distancing rules or suggestions, but that remains to be seen. The campgrounds are outside the city limits, so each of them may take a different approach.


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