There are dozens of good reasons for avoiding Sturgis. Nobody wants to ride with a bunch of geriatric, amateur alcoholics on Credit Glides who prance around in Official Apparel and drag their feet for blocks on the Main Street crawl. There are many ways to do Sturgis, and one great way to do it right. Here's how.
We asked Caleb Owens of Cro Customs to tell us about his Sturgis experience, and he shared these tips for first-time visitors. "I avoided Sturgis for years for all the reasons most of us have heard. A good friend talked me in to going one year and I realized that if you know what to avoid, the positives outweigh the negatives. It's pretty easy to skip the traffic and search out really nice, less traveled roads once you figure it out. For the first couple years, I only went into downtown Sturgis once. Besides watching the AMA races, I rode most of time and stayed away from the crowds. The Black Hills are big enough that if you learn the roads and where all the tourists go, you can avoid the mayhem and have some amazing rides. The last weekend of the event is generally the best time to ride the more popular roads, because most people are heading out of town by then."
And what does Caleb think of famous Sturgis destinations like the Broken Spoke? "The thing that makes the Broken Spoke good is the people. The location is good and bad—good because it is close to everything, but bad because it is literally in the middle of a field with zero shade. That being said, all the folks I know and like congregate at that place, which makes it a solid base for meeting up and hanging out most of the time."
Jay Allen, the owner of the Broken Spoke, appears to get it. His compound is the center of the Sturgis universe for funseekers who want to avoid the downtown scene. Every August, Jay turns his 600 acres into a biker's paradise, complete with every diversion you can imagine:
• hill climb
• 1/4-mile dirt track
• huge pool
• hot tubs
• enormous multi-level bar
• mini ramp
• bike show
• minibike races
• wall of death
• art gallery
• live music
Of course, there's camping for riders who like to rough it, and air-conditioned cabins for softer outlaws. Free beer happens 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. every day, and biker movies are screened nightly. With the Limpnickie Lot using the Broken Spoke Saloon as a base camp, you can have a good time without being smothered by the chaps and 'do rag crowd. Also, Cycle Source magazine is hosting a ride August 12 this year that is likely to attract a good number of regular guys who ride more and pose less.
All-around good guy Kevin "Teach" Baas is a regular at both the Limpnickie Lot and the Broken Spoke Saloon, and he gives both experiences the thumbs up. "Sturigis is and always will be the holy grail among American V-twin bike gatherings. Although the scene has been flooded with weekend warriors, Sturgis still offers areas that we can call home. The Broken Spoke county line is one of those places. This is my oasis for daily mayhem, crazy parties, hard riding and good times. The Broken Spoke campground has all you need on-site and is outside of town, away from the t-shirt vendors and other stuff. We have nightly races at the dirt track, hill climbs, and also race minibikes through the bar and around the parking lot. There's always good music blasting from the Limpnickie Lot, and the booze and fun never ends. I only go into downtown Sturgis maybe once all week; I spend the majority of my time at the Spoke or just riding around. If you hate crowds, traffic, and all the other bad stuff that comes with it, stay at The Spoke. You'll meet guys with plenty of good stories to tell, and these guys aren't afraid to get dirty and work on their bikes." Coming from a man who makes a living teaching kids how to build and work on motorcycles, that's some very high praise.
ChopCult member and fellow long-time Sturgis hellraiser Warren Jr. concurs. "The Broken Spoke is as close to lawlessness as you can get in this world. Jay Allen is a ruler. Every next generation biker who wants to enjoy himself in Sturgis should camp at the Spoke, or don’t bother coming. We are so isolated from everything out there that all the baggage that comes with going to Sturgis is drastically reduced. And there's a dirt track, for Christ’s sake! If you want to use it, it's yours."
Maybe it's time to quit hating and check it out. Enough people have told me how epic riding in the Black Hills is, I'm planning a trip for 2011. Looks like I'll be staying at the Broken Spoke.
photo Credit: Keith Deninno, Rick Hustead & Steve Kelly