How to Do Sturgis Vol. 2 – Answers to First-Timer Questions About Planning Their Trip

By Mary Panerio

Albert Einstein once said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” Although Einstein didn’t ride a motorcycle or ever attend the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, anyone who’s ever been a Sturgis first-timer probably relates to the sentiment.

Once you’ve made the commitment to come and have decided where you’re staying, you realize there’s still so much left to figure out.

What will the weather be like?

What should I pack?


If researching the answers to your questions sounds overwhelming, never fear. You can find them in this article series presented by the largest and longest-running rally venue in the Black Hills, the Legendary Sturgis Buffalo Chip®.

Ready to tackle some questions about planning and packing for your trip? Read on!

If you haven’t made it this far in your planning yet, jump back to How To Do Sturgis Vol. 1 – Answers To First-Timer Questions About Navigating Through The Black Hills.

When should I come, and how long should I stay?

The answer to this question truly depends on your schedule, your budget and what you want to get out of your trip. The first thing you need to know is the official rally dates:

Official Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Dates

2020 Aug. 7-16 80th Annual Sturgis Rally
2021 Aug. 6 – 15 81st Annual Sturgis Rally
2022 Aug. 5-14 82nd Annual Sturgis Rally
2023 Aug. 4-13 83rd Annual Sturgis Rally
2024 Aug. 2-11 84th Annual Sturgis Rally

The party at venues like the Buffalo Chip Campground start a little earlier and provide for an intimate early gathering and rally pre-funk:

Legendary Buffalo Chip Dates

2020 Aug. 3– Aug. 16 80th Annual Sturgis Rally
2021 Aug. 2 – Aug. 15 81st Annual Sturgis Rally
2022 Aug. 1 – Aug 14 82nd Annual Sturgis Rally
2023 July 31 – Aug. 12 83rd Annual Sturgis Rally
2024 July 29 – Aug. 10 84th Annual Sturgis Rally

The Black Hills starts filling up with bikes the week prior to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and the number of riders in the area usually peaks around Wednesday of rally week.

Longer Stays

The insane amount of activity, riding, attractions and entertainment available to you can easily fill up a couple week’s time. Longer stays at campgrounds like the Sturgis Buffalo Chip® allow you get more bang for your buck, bringing the per-person cost of a night’s stay way down.

Shorter Stays

If you can’t take as much time off work, don’t worry. You can still get a nice Sturgis and Black Hills experience with a shorter stay. Consider coming earlier if more riding and less partying is on your agenda. Make sure you’re around midweek to be a part of the bigger party days.

Options like the Buffalo Chip’s 3-day passes allow you catch a break on price, while giving you a chance to feel like you got a real taste of the event.

What do I need to pack?

Where you are staying and how long you are staying will play a key role in what you should pack. This goes without saying.

No matter your plans, there are a few things everyone MUST pack:

  • Sunscreen – Protecting your skin = protecting your fun.
  • Rain Gear – South Dakota weather is unpredictable. Want to guarantee a thunderstorm? Forget your rain gear.
  • Camera – You’ll want to remember all the spectacular scenery, beautiful bikes and wacky people you encounter.
  • Identification –Your good time can come to a halt in a hurry if you need it and you don’t have it. Don’t leave home without it. Stash a photocopy of it somewhere too.
  • Cash – Plastic is accepted in many places, but CASH is KING.

Staying at a campground?

Having an authentic rally experience by staying at a campground like the Sturgis Buffalo Chip will make your packing list different from someone staying in a hotel.

Make sure you’re prepared with all the necessities by checking out The Essential Packing List for The Best Party Anywhere.

Gotta pack it all in (and out) on your bike?

Rolling your clothes, stuffing small items in your boots and befriending bungee cords are all great ways to save space.

To make sure you’ll fit everything you need on your bike AND leave yourself room to bring home a few souvenirs, check out 8 Motorcycle Packing Tips To Help You Save Space.

How can I get my gear there?

You don’t have to sweat it if you’re unable to get all your gear packed or are flying in. You can have your gear waiting for you when you arrive!

Simply arrange with your local UPS to ship your gear and for a $15 fee, the Spearfish UPS Store will transport your package(s) directly to the Sturgis Buffalo Chip.

Note: You must contact the UPS Store at (605) 717-8771 prior to shipping to make payment arrangements. Be sure to ship in a timely manner so that you don’t arrive before your gear does! You should plan to have your package(s) arrive by July 31st at the latest. Shipped items must be picked up between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Buffalo Chip’s storage container.

For more information, contact The UPS Store at (605) 717-8771 or email [email protected]

If you are staying at the Buffalo Chip, you can also have your campsite set up and waiting for you if you reserve an EZ Camp Package.

How can I get my bike there?

If you’re unable to ride or trailer your bike to Sturgis, you can ship it from anywhere in the country!

JM Logistics and HaulBikes are two trusted motorcycle companies that can have you bike waiting when you arrive. Both are fully ensured and trusted with shipping the bikes on display in the Buffalo Chip’s annual Motorcycles As Art™ Exhibition.

Where can I rent a bike?

Don’t have a bike or not able to bring yours? Whether you’re coming for a day or staying for the entire Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, you can be up on two wheels in no time with a rental from EagleRider Motorcycles. Pick out a ride at your convenience from EagleRider’s online showroom and pick it up at the EagleRider location on Lazelle Street in Sturgis.

What will the weather be like?

We mentioned it before, but it’s worth saying twice:

The wind may blow 100 MPH. It may rain 2 inches. Both might happen in the same two minutes. If you’re not ready for them, it’ll screw up the rest of your vacation. If you are, it’ll be a breeze.

Prepare for whatever Mother Nature sends your way:

  • Pack a full set of rain gear. When you’re out riding, keep an eye on the radar and look out for possible cover in the event of hail or heavy rains.
  • Prepare your campsite for the possibility of rain and high winds before leaving it for the day. Secure items that could easily blow away, and put personal items under cover.
  • If you are tent camping, bring a tarp and extra stakes to put over your tent to keep valuables dry. Consider collapsing it if high winds are projected.
  • Pay attention to the sky. Ugly looking clouds could mean large hail that could be extremely dangerous.

In 2009, a one-hour storm struck Sturgis. The wall of white was already in site only half a mile away from the Buffalo Chip by the time sirens went off. As the storm approached, campers could see hailstones hitting the ground with such force they bounced three feet back in the air. By the time the storm reached the campground, the hail had grown to golf ball size. This is an extreme example, but it’s always better to be over prepared.

What is there to do besides riding?

The Black Hills are full of amazing activities, unique attractions and world-class entertainment that will make time fly while you’re off your bike. Below are a handful of places you’ll want to be sure to spend some time:

Dive into Black Hills History

Hot Springs, SD – $10.14 Admission (Senior and Military Discounts)

Long before motorcycles became the area’s most abundant beasts, the Black Hills were home to a group of remarkable creatures you won’t see unless you visit this Sturgis Rider Friendly Establishment. This National Natural Landmark allows you to travel back to the late Ice Age and walk the edges of a sinkhole where Columbian and wooly mammoths, camels, wolves and giant short-faced bears became trapped 26,000 years ago.

  • Mount Moriah Cemetery
    Deadwood, SD – $1 admission feeOld West legends like Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Preacher Smith and Potato Creek Johnny all lived and died in Deadwood. The real stories are stranger than fiction, and you can walk among them at Mt. Moriah.

Dedicated to the rich mining history of the Black Hills, the Mining Museum lets you explore the Homestake Mine underground with its simulated tours and guarantees you’ll find gold with actual gold panning!

Check Out Cool Bikes

  • Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame
    Downtown Sturgis, SD – $10 admission (price break with more people)Get an up close look at rare and unusual motorcycles significant to the both the history and sport of motorcycling. The world-class exhibits interpret the history of motorcycling, honor those who have made a positive and significant impact on the sport and lifestyle, and pay tribute to Sturgis Rally heritage.
  • Daily Custom Bike Shows
    CrossRoads at the Buffalo Chip® – Free AccessWhether you like ’em chopped, bobbed, stretched or souped up, this is the place to see the rally’s raddest and baddest bikes. Ride into this two (and sometimes three) wheeled wonderland to display your custom creation, or walk through and ogle some of the world’s most magnificent machines during the distinctive daily custom bike shows.
  • Motorcycles As Art™ Exhibit
    Buffalo Chip Event Center – Free and Open to the PublicThis internationally renowned exhibit allows you to explore dozens of unique custom bikes paired with corresponding 2-dimensional artwork. Get an up-close look at the work of some of the industry’s most influential master builders and artists during this annual display curated by celebrated moto photographer Michael Lichter.

People Watch

During the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, there’s solid people-watching around most any corner, but to see the most off-the-wall folks, you’ll need to go to the places where the most people hang out.

You’re sure to see some interesting characters by visiting these locations:

  • Sturgis Buffalo Chip
  • Sturgis Main Street
  • Hulett Ham ‘n’ Jam

Bands, bartenders, builders, dancers, daredevils, music lovers, mischief makers and some downright weirdos all converge at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip, making it the most concentrated collection of crazy, cool folks you’d be proud to call friends. Here are 22 of them you could have befriended at The Best Party Anywhere®.

Get Your Adrenaline Pumping

  • Rush Mountain Coaster
    Rush Mountain Adventure Park – Keystone, SD – $15 per person per rideExhilarating twists and turns through stunning scenery are what makes the Black Hills so fantastic for riders; these characteristics are also what makes Rush Mountain Adventure Park’s Mountain Coaster a must-do for thrill seekers of all kinds. Fly solo or hold your honey tight as you zoom over 3,400 feet of rails that descend Rush Mountain through a series of whoops and pigtail bridges that give Needles Highway a run for its money.
  • Moto Stampede® Races
    Sturgis Buffalo Chip – Requires campground admission passThis annual race series at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip couples multiple days and disciplines of races with world-class concerts in the Legendary Buffalo Chip amphitheater. Show up and be part of the nationally televised Buffalo Chip TT American Flat Track races, Street Drag Invitational races, Sturgis MX, Gambler 500 Events, RSD Super Hooligan races, Dirt Riot Off-Road Races, and more!
  • Zip the Chip! Zipline
    Sturgis Buffalo Chip – Requires campground admission pass – $17.50 for first ride/$10 for any additional rides.Fly over a world-class concert or action-packed motorcycle race on South Dakota’s longest zip line! Jump from a seven-story platform to sail over the Sturgis Buffalo Chip’s amphitheater with your friends, you’ll blast over happy concert and race fans at speeds of 30 miles per hour while traveling 840 feet in just a few seconds!

Experience World-Class Concerts

No matter if you’re 21 or 81, or whether you’re into classic rock, country, metal, blues, rockabilly, you name it, the variety of acts that perform at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip each year ensure that there’s going to be something to suit your musical tastes.

Over the venue’s nearly 40 year history, guests have had the opportunity to see performances from legendary acts including: Aerosmith, Tim McGraw, Ozzy Osbourne, Kid Rock, Snoop Dogg, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow, Rob Zombie, Toby Keith, “Weird Al” Yankovic, and the list goes on and on! This year’s line up continues that tradition.

In addition to major acts on the main stage, the Chip has four showcase stages. Each has its own distinctive theme and atmosphere, offering endless entertainment and activities to keep your party going around the clock.

Cross Something Big Off The Bucket List

It goes without saying, but stops at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, Crazy Horse National Monument and Devils Tower are must for everyone. Make sure these places are on your to do list.


The South Dakota Vacation Guide is a 265-page, full-color traveler’s guide to South Dakota that features tons of information on attractions all corners of the state.

The guide includes over 140 pages on the popular Black Hills and Badlands region of western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming.


To find EVEN MORE great places to stop in Black Hills and throughout the country, be sure to download the Sturgis Rider Friendly Establishments mobile app.

This app’s interactive map contains thousands of rider-recommended businesses ready to roll out the red carpet for bikers like you. It’ll show you which ones are on your route and let you know why they’re worth a stop.

This handy tool is a FREE DOWNLOAD on any Apple or Android device, so revolutionize your ride by downloading the app now!

Where can I get the most bang for my buck?

There are plenty of activities and attractions in the Black Hills that won’t cost you a dime to visit. Here’s a short list of them broken down by town.

If you’re staying at the Buffalo Chip Campground, check out How To Get The Most Bang For Your Buck – Secret Money-Saving Deals Of The Chip Revealed to discover secret tips that’ll allow you to take in more of the experience

Have more questions?

Check out How To Do Sturgis Vol. 1 – Answers To First-Timer Questions About Navigating Through The Black Hills!

Sturgis Rider News will be continuing this series, covering a variety of topics helpful to first timers and rally veterans alike. Be sure to subscribe to the Sturgis Rider News Blog to see what’s next!

What questions do you need answered? Ask in the comments below and they could be featured in a future article!


Presented by the Sturgis Buffalo Chip®

Known as The Best Party Anywhere®, the Legendary Buffalo Chip believes festivals should be fun like a high five, reenergize you like a broken rule, and romance you like someone you just met and have to take home.

This nine-day festival remains one of the most televised festivals in the world and has been featured on the Travel Channel, the Discovery Channel, CMT Bike Week, HISTORY, TLC, National Geographic and more.