Riding to Sturgis:
Do’s and Don’ts!
Article & Photos by Randy Twells
Riding to Sturgis for the first time or the 20th time, we all learn from experience- better if you can learn from someone else’s hard won knowledge! We’ve asked experienced riders what they’ve learned about what to do and not do, to make it the best road trip possible:
- Do: Make sure your bike is in as near perfect mechanical shape as possible – you don’t want to spend your Sturgis trip getting your bike fixed. Example: If a tire is approaching its max mileage, don’t fudge it.
- Do: Make sure you have all your documents in order: license, registration, proof of insurance and that everything is current. Leave extra copies of registration/ins docs at home.
- Do: Put ICE (In Case of Emergency) info (who to contact on your behalf) under ICE in your phone contacts. All medical personnel look for this if you are in need of assistance.
- Decide prior to departure what route you will take and check online for road conditions for any construction or other passage issues, and consider the possible weather typical for each area on the route. Hwy 70 through the Rockies – beautiful but also sometimes stormy – go with knowledge of what weather you could encounter, and bring your rain gear!
- Whether camping or hotel-ing it along the way, you need a plan:
- Decide how many miles a day you can realistically ride. Do Not overestimate your endurance in extreme heat conditions or unfamiliar territory. Plan to stop often to rehydrate in hot weather.
- Target your overnight stops before hitting the road if possible, or make reservations if campgrounds are likely to be full (state parks especially).
- Bring maps even if you have GPS, a smartphone or laptop; sometimes you just need an actual paper map.
- Use GPS on your full dresser to search accommodations or, for more basic riders, Auto club type tour books or hotel chain printed guides can help you plan stops ahead on the road.
- Do: Stick to daylight hours riding in remote areas. Deer or other animals come out at dusk and will jump into your headlight. Even more so in full darkness. Also, remote highways can lack directional signs that could be crucial at night on unfamiliar roads, such as, “There’s a cliff here, turn left NOW.” Road hazards are also hard to see at night. A lost dark blue duffel bag laying on the roadway will not have a reflector on it to warn you!
- Do: Ship your extra camping gear for Sturgis ahead so it’s less to deal with on the road. Travel with just the basics on the way; ship the extra stuff to your destination at Sturgis for the week-long stay. Campgrounds such as the Broken Spoke are all set up to help you with this idea. (The 12” tall air mattress I shipped 2 years ago, was wonderful!) Then return ship it back home!
- Do: If you have room on your tank, use a magnetic zippered tank bag. Map in the plastic window; inside – a bottle of water, snack bar, beef jerky, tissue, travel-pack of baby wipes (trust me), small flashlight, extra gloves, a kickstand coaster, other personal essentials, can all be right there when needed vs. digging in a bag.
- Do: Be Prepared – order an extra headlight BULB in time to bring with you in a saddlebag. It’s small, specific to your bike so not usually ‘in stock’, of key importance and the alternative is riding in the dark when you least expected it. Been there. Other suggestions: tire pressure gauge (the nice one with a braided stainless cable), small wallet-sized tool kit (you may not wrench, but someone who can wrench may need it in order to help you), extra quart of oil (depending on your bike’s needs for up to a 3,000+ mile trip.)
- Do: You will be crossing multiple state lines, DO know their laws ahead of time! Lane splitting? Right turn on red? Helmet required? And more.
- Do: Keep your phone charged. You might have to be creative. Look for food stops where you can plug in (Many Subway sandwich shops have plugs at the tables).
- Wherever you camp, you and those around you need sleep. DO NOT leave your cell ‘on’, without a charger attached, overnight! It will beep a charge alert every 20 minutes, all night long, ‘til it dies, and make everyone around you crazy, while you somehow sleep through it. But then in the morning you will wonder why you are still dead tired!
- Do Bring: an LED flashlight. I like the oval shaped orange & black battery-powered one with two light options- wide beam and direct narrow beam- with a hook and a magnet, that I got in a gas station convenience store for $10. Or you can get a wind-up one (works like a wind-up watch) that doesn’t need batteries for about $15.
- Do Bring: a long multi-plug extension cord. For hotels or camping. There is never a plug in proximity where you need it to charge your phone. It’s Murphy’s Law.
- Do Bring: a strong cable jacket lock, plus a strong cable bike lock, and small luggage locks like for suitcase zippers. Using these strategically can help add security and discourage snoopers on the road if you are alone and have to leave your bike unattended for a few minutes going in a restroom etc. I used airline TSA approved luggage locks or carabiner style combination locks on every zipper on every bag, on my solo trip to Sturgis. About 6 in all. Best investment ever!
- Do: Watch for that great photo opp. and stop safely to shoot it- !
- Do: Put both feet down at every stop sign. (You will get a ticket if you don’t!)
- Don’t: Park on the street in Sturgis after 2am, you will get towed.
- Do: HAVE A GREAT RIDE!