Monthly Archives: August 2023

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

This is not the rally that I remember

As a frequent visitor to the Tetons and Yellowstone, I often travel along Interstate 90 through Wyoming and South Dakota to reach these national parks. More than a few times I’ve passed through western South Dakota near the small town of Sturgis. Coincidentally the iconic Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that takes place each year in early August.

Leaving the national parks we passed and were passed by dozens (maybe hundreds) of motorcycle riders, pickup trucks and motorhomes towing trailers of motorcycles of all types and styles.

Here’s what I learned about the rally after talking to some of this year’s attendees.

One motorcyclist told me: “Attendance is way down”. This gentlemen, a senior about my age, tells me he’s been to the rally many time since the 1980s. The Dakota News Now (television station) said that attendance has been dropping steadily since 2015 when it was a record 740,000.

This year estimated attendance to be about 500,000 according to rally organizers. They attribute the drop to inflation, fuel cost, weather and aging demographic.

A group of motorcyclists were at the same hotel as we were staying. I mentioned to one of them that in the 1980s I used to see tents on the hills of Sturgis where motorcyclists would camp. He said that since then, so many attendees have become financially well off. His days of camping were long past and he pointed out his motor home saying that he drags his bike behind in a trailer from North Carolina and then drives his bike from the nearby RV park into Sturgis.

One of Sturgis’ nearby attractions is Mt. Rushmore National Monument. During our visit there we couldn’t help but notice the hundreds of rally attendees also at Mt. Rushmore. Here they were having an impromptu meeting to show their support and loyalty to our country’s veterans.
The city of Sturgis have been targeting younger attendees. They say that its efforts are paying off. A survey last year showed the average age of attendees was 50.8 years old compared with 53.5 years old in 2017. Most of the motorcyclists that I talked to were older than this 50.8 year average.

This same survey noted that 40% of rally goers in 2022 had household incomes of more than $100,000 a year. With the price of a road motorcycle hovering at the $20,000 mark, motorcycling most likely requires a decent income.

Written by:

Arnie Lee