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Is The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Still Happening For 2020?

Cycle World logo Cycle World 7/24/2020 Andrew Cherney
a close up of a logo: The city of Sturgis has voted to support the Black Hills Rally for 2020. Plan your approach smartly and you can have a great time. © Provided by Cycle World The city of Sturgis has voted to support the Black Hills Rally for 2020. Plan your approach smartly and you can have a great time.

It’s been a downer of a year for recreational activities, and the motorcycle world has been hit especially hard by the global coronavirus pandemic. The Monster Energy Supercross Series canceled its season in March, the COTA Grand Prix race in Austin was yanked, and Americade, after seeing the writing on the wall, put the kibosh on its annual rally near Lake George, New York, just a few weeks ago.

But then we started to see glimmers of hope: Supercross restarted in May (without fans in attendance); MotoGP resumed its delayed 2020 season; and MotoAmerica pulled off its season opener on the original date, though no fans were allowed into the track.

And the city of Sturgis has added its support to the 2020 Sturgis Rally, which will go on as originally planned – sort of, anyway. There will be a few restrictions on the event, which is the single biggest driver of tourism in South Dakota, according to the Aberdeen News. After all, we’re not out of the woods yet. Not even close.

Related: Indian To Sponsor Veterans Charity Ride To Sturgis

a tall rocky mountain with trees in the background: The riding in the Black Hills is some of the finest you’ll find anywhere in the country. For us, it’s the best part of the rally. © Provided by Cycle World The riding in the Black Hills is some of the finest you’ll find anywhere in the country. For us, it’s the best part of the rally.

We mentioned earlier that plenty of rally-related events outside the city of Sturgis had already said they were all in. The Buffalo Chip and multiple other Black Hills-area venues and campgrounds told us they would be fully celebrating the 2020 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally even before the city made its decision. This year’s event runs from Aug. 7-16.

a close up of a logo: The city of Sturgis has voted to support the Black Hills Rally for 2020. Plan your approach smartly and you can have a great time. © Drew Ruiz The city of Sturgis has voted to support the Black Hills Rally for 2020. Plan your approach smartly and you can have a great time.

That means some of the Rally’s biggest draws - big name bands (though not as big as in previous years), at least half a dozen types of races, custom shows, and more - are all still happening. Surrounding towns and communities are also wide open for business, with most hotels and campgrounds we’ve checked out ready to accept the influx of visitors. And the awesome roads in and around the Black Hills remain ripe and ready for two-wheel exploration, which has always been our favorite part of the Sturgis experience.

a tall rocky mountain with trees in the background: The riding in the Black Hills is some of the finest you’ll find anywhere in the country. For us, it’s the best part of the rally. © South Dakota Tourism The riding in the Black Hills is some of the finest you’ll find anywhere in the country. For us, it’s the best part of the rally.

Related: 2020 Sturgis Rally Update And Show Info

But there are new realities to deal with. The pandemic ain’t going anywhere soon, so as with those other moto events, organizers have put new protocols in place to keep people safe. We’ll break those down here as well as offering up suggestions for getting the most out of Sturgis without spiking your anxiety levels. If you choose to go, there are ways to get out in the wind, see the sights, and have a ball. You just need to adapt to the situation; motorcyclists call it situational awareness, and there’s never been a better time to practice it.

a group of people riding a motorcycle on a city street: Needles Highway is an epic trip into hours of surreal scenery. © Provided by Cycle World Needles Highway is an epic trip into hours of surreal scenery.

The New Rules

The Sturgis City Council, after a vote back in June, agreed to support the 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally within city limits but with major modifications to safeguard the community. For one, the city will not hold its annual rally parade, and the opening ceremonies and the popular B-1 Flyover are also canceled. Entertainment and live music at the Harley-Davidson Rally Point have been scrapped, and photo towers will not be installed on Main Street to reduce large gatherings in the downtown core. Daily media briefings will be held in locations around the city.

a group of people riding a motorcycle on a city street: The city of Sturgis has offered its support for the Rally this year, but some activities have been cancelled or modified. © City of Sturgis The city of Sturgis has offered its support for the Rally this year, but some activities have been cancelled or modified.

The City Council also says it will request that rally-goers be respectful by practicing social distancing and taking personal responsibility by following CDC guidelines. Enhanced safety and sanitization protocols will be carried out for rally-goers in the downtown area.

Great riding opportunities are bursting in the Black Hills, and it should be the No. 1 priority on your list. © Buffalo Chip Great riding opportunities are bursting in the Black Hills, and it should be the No. 1 priority on your list.

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Vendors will be required to wear personal protective equipment (the city will provide it if they don’t have any) and asked to abide by state and federal protocols related to COVID-19. Parking will still happen on Main Street, but plaza seating and open-container alcohol won’t be allowed. The city has also said that If COVID-19 numbers spike at any time before or during the rally, the mayor can cancel all events immediately.

Related: 15 Essentials For The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Great riding opportunities are bursting in the Black Hills, and it should be the No. 1 priority on your list. © Provided by Cycle World Great riding opportunities are bursting in the Black Hills, and it should be the No. 1 priority on your list.

Harley offered this statement on this year’s event:

Research

“We’ll dedicate our space along the famous Lazelle Street to provide appropriately spaced free H-D bike parking only, and the H.O.G. Check-in will be available at the Pappy Hoel Campground from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Riders can experience test rides at Harley-Davidson dealerships in accordance with their local health and safety guidelines. And our billboards will encourage safe, socially distant riding as well as QR codes that when scanned will share some of favorite Black Hills rides so riders can experience riding epic roads on two wheels,” Harley added.

Indian Motorcycle is also continuing its outsize presence at the rally this year, though it’s reducing the scope of some of its activities. For instance, there will be no official owners ride or event, but there is now a new invite-only VIP demo experience available for Indian owners at the Sturgis dealership. Otherwise, regular demos will continue at the dealership and on Lazelle Street as well.

a man is racing on a track: As always, the Buffalo Chip has a full slate of activities planned, with lots of wild new racing events on the schedule. © Provided by Cycle World As always, the Buffalo Chip has a full slate of activities planned, with lots of wild new racing events on the schedule.

There’s plenty of good stuff to see at the rally, but we’ve come up with a shortlist of our faves.

a man is racing on a track: As always, the Buffalo Chip has a full slate of activities planned, with lots of wild new racing events on the schedule. © Buffalo Chip As always, the Buffalo Chip has a full slate of activities planned, with lots of wild new racing events on the schedule.

The Buffalo Chip

The Buffalo Chip is bringing its usual high level of energy to the rally with a wild combo of campgrounds, concerts, custom shows, and all kinds of racing. It’s kind of like the biker Vegas of the Black Hills. Even if you don’t stay there, you can pick up a day pass to the events - check them out here.

One of the newer events for 2020 is the Buffalo Chip Super TT Xtreem Flat Track.

Admission passes for this separately ticketed event are available at https://bit.ly/2OIcqfV

Also new this year are the Gambler 500 Mini Bike Ovals Races. The races are

open to all, and anyone with the desire to race can show up with their mini, sign a waiver, and start turning left - over and over.

We’d also recommend the 2020 Motorcycles As Art exhibition. This year’s edition is called “Heavy Mettle: Motorcycles and Art With Moxie,” and it’s curated by the celebrated Michael Lichter.

a close up of a logo: Michael Lichter’s Motorcycles As Art shows are always a highlight as well. © Provided by Cycle World Michael Lichter’s Motorcycles As Art shows are always a highlight as well.

Discover The Small Towns

South Dakota’s full of cool little towns that’ll really exude that Old West vibe and give you a chance to slow your pace.

Deadwood’s a perfect example of the Old West in the Black Hills, but it’s not exactly sleepy, what with its Main Street gunfights and Wild West attractions. The town has only 1,300 or so residents, but it’s full of historic charm

a close up of a logo: Michael Lichter’s Motorcycles As Art shows are always a highlight as well. © Buffalo Chip Michael Lichter’s Motorcycles As Art shows are always a highlight as well.

Hill City is really small; fewer than 1,000 people live in this gorgeous Black Hills town. It hosts the 1880 Train, and is just packed with scenic beauty year-round.

Spearfish isn’t all that small, but because Spearfish Canyon is packed with hiking trails, and some beautiful waterfalls to boot, you’ll find plenty of stuff to do here.

Keystone has fewer than 400 full-time residents but it’s the gateway to Mount Rushmore, so it sees thousands of visitors come summer. It’s got a great Old West vibe, with plenty of natural beauty to boot.

a view of the side of a river: Needles Highway is an epic trip into hours of surreal scenery. © Provided by Cycle World Needles Highway is an epic trip into hours of surreal scenery.

The Rides

For us, the best part of Sturgis is the incredible riding opportunities in the Black Hills. Just realize that many of these roads will be far more congested than usual, so take your time and plan to have kickstands up early in the day to get a jump on the crowds.

The Canyon Ride

a view of the side of a river: Needles Highway is an epic trip into hours of surreal scenery. © South Dakota Tourism Needles Highway is an epic trip into hours of surreal scenery.

Get a taste of the spectacular roads around the Black Hills with this 100-mile loop. One of the coolest rides around Sturgis, the Canyon Ride (also known as the Northern Hills Ride) begins right on West Main Street in downtown Sturgis, winds through Boulder Canyon to Deadwood, spins over to Spearfish Canyon and gives you the option of doing Vanocker Canyon back downtown, for some welcome relief from the crowds. Spearfish Canyon serves up about 20 miles of shady serenity, while Boulder Canyon gives you a scenic option to go from Sturgis to Deadwood. We recommend hitting up Vanocker Canyon, which snakes through the heart of Nemo and back to Deadwood.

a group of people sitting on a motorcycle in a field: The Custer State Park Wildlife Loop is usually good for a photo op or two. Be prepared for crowds and slow speeds. © Sturgis Motorcycle Rally The Custer State Park Wildlife Loop is usually good for a photo op or two. Be prepared for crowds and slow speeds.

The Needles Highway / Custer State Park Wildlife loop

Many consider this famous National Scenic Highway the crown jewel of the Black Hills, with more than 14 miles of spectacular roadway snaking around staggering granite towers, through looming tunnels, and into winding turns. Needles Highway (or South Dakota Highway 87) twists through the heart of the Black Hills and on through Custer State Park, where you can do the Wildlife Loop and check out the nation’s largest free-range bison herds, as well as pronghorn, elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and eagles.

See a more comprehensive list here.

Iron Mountain Road

The second must-do ride? That would be the incredibly scenic Iron Mountain Road, a short but sweet 17-miler that serves up 314 turns with 14 switchbacks, three tunnels and three pigtail sections within its stretch of pavement. The road is known for its views and horseshoe curves. As a bonus, Mount Rushmore is framed in one of the tunnels.

a group of people sitting on a motorcycle in a field: The Custer State Park Wildlife Loop is usually good for a photo op or two. Be prepared for crowds and slow speeds. © Provided by Cycle World The Custer State Park Wildlife Loop is usually good for a photo op or two. Be prepared for crowds and slow speeds.

Ride Far, Stay Safe

Bottom line is, there’s plenty of fun to be had at the 80th edition of the Sturgis Rally if you choose to go. Just consider that you will be in the midst of a lot of people - unless you actively choose not to be. And if you’re gonna be in crowds, it’s simple: Wear a mask and balance the risks to yourself as well as others. If you have a health condition, you might want to avoid large groups altogether. Do your part to protect yourself but also those around you. We’re all in this together.

For up-to-date info, check into the official website, www.SturgisMotorcycleRally.com

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