10 Interesting Facts About The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally


The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is the premier American motorcycle rally event for Harley Davidson motorcycle riders and enthusiasts, held every year in the first full week of August in the city of Sturgis, South Dakota, United States.

The following are the 10 interesting and historical information about the Sturgis motorcycle rally event and the most influential players in its 75-year history:

10. Sturgis Rally is the World’s Largest Motorcycle Rally

The city of Sturgis was founded in 1878 and has a population of 6,832 as of the 2016 census. However, during the month of August, many thousands of classic motorcycles and custom “choppers” riders from around the world flock to this small town to attend the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

The Sturgis Rally is the world’s largest motorcycle rally event, the bike week attendance has historically been around one half million people, reaching a high of over 700,000 in 2015.

9. Founder J.C. “Pappy” Hoel

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
J.C. Hoel, Founder of the Sturgis Black Hills Classic. Image credit: http://www.motorcyclemuseum.org

J.C. “Pappy” Hoel was a motorcycle racer, dealer, businessman, and founder of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. He purchased an Indian motorcycle franchise in Sturgis in 1936 and formed the Jackpine Gypsies that same year.

In 1983, he received the American Motorcyclist Association’s (AMA) Dud Perkins Award for outstanding contributions to motorcycling. Both J.C. “Pappy” Hoel and his wife Pearl Hoel were inducted to the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998.

8. JackPine Gypsies Motorcycle Club

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

The Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club is one of the oldest AMA-chartered off-road clubs. Founded in 1936 and chartered in 1937, the following year, the club joined with the City of Sturgis to hold a local rally over a three-day period in August, featuring a half-mile dirt-track race.

The first event was called the “Black Hills Classic” and consisted of a single race with nine participants and a small audience watching the races. The race includes 8 Indian bikes and 1 Harley.

Neither Pappy nor any of the club members could have imagined what would grow from that humble gathering. Following that race, the Sturgis rally continued to grow into one of the most popular destination events in the country, attracting tens of thousands of motorcyclists to the Black Hills, South Dakota area each year.

The Jackpine Gypsies half-mile also thrived, attracting numerous AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famers over the years, including Bill Tuman, Bobby Hill, Dick Mann and Dick Klamfoth, among others. The Jackpine Gypsies were inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1997.

7. Harleys & Indian Motorbikes

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Prior to club chartering, several Jackpine Gypsy club members had been participating in activities organized by the Rapid City Pioneer Motorcycle Club (RPMs).

In those days, the RPMs primarily rode Harleys, which helped to spur a friendly rivalry with the new Indian-loyal club. The competition between Harley and Indian brought about the very first dirt track races between the two clubs on an old Rapid City horse track.

6. Sturgis Rally Events and Tours

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

In the early days, the focus of a Sturgis motorcycle rally was originally racing and stunts. Nowadays, racing remains the focal point of the Sturgis experience, although several new guided tours have been added to an already extensive list of activities.

Some of these tours include The Wyoming Encounters Tour, The Jewel Cave Tour, the Dark of the Moon Tour that rumbles off to Mount Rushmore for the evening lighting ceremony and the annual Governor’s Tour that rides to both Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. Bikers can also compete in short-track races and hill climbs.

5. Food and Dining

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

An integral part of the Sturgis Rally is food and dining. All the local restaurants participate, and hundreds of food vendors appear. Fast food and traditional barbecue are the two favorites. Some of the famous restaurants include Roma’s, Porky’s, Town and Country Plumbing, and Sweet Burrito Food Truck.

4. Rally Impact on Community

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

The City of Sturgis has calculated that the Rally brings over $800 million to South Dakota annually. The City of Sturgis earned almost $270,000 in 2011 from selling event guides and sponsorships. The rally alone makes up 95% of the city’s annual revenue.

Many attendees of the Sturgis Rally have families, bring their children and drive campers towing motorcycle trailers to the rally and ride their motorcycles just the last few miles.

3. The Black Hills Runs

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

The Black Hills Run is a route favored by motorcycle riders, across the Black Hills from Deadwood to Custer State Park, South Dakota. It reached the height of its popularity between 1939 and 1941.

The popularity of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attracted additional attention to the route in recent years. The pine-forested mountains of the Black Hills make for a unique scenic motorcycle ride.

2. Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of motorcycling while honoring the heritage of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.

The museum’s doors officially opened in June 2001. The Motorcycle Museum offers informative and comprehensive exhibits, showcasing nearly 100 unique and historic motorcycles that date back to 1905.

The museum’s Hall of Fame recognizes individuals or groups who have made a long-term positive contribution to the motorcycle community. The Hall of Fame honors individuals who have contributed to the sport and the lifestyle.

1. Michael Ballard and Full Throttle Saloon

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

The World’s Largest Biker Bar, the Full Throttle Saloon, is the epicenter of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The bar has a great in-house brewery with several of their beers on tap.

To keep many of them coming through his doors, saloon owner Michael Ballard and his crew of 300 employees keep working on full throttle for 10 straight days, the only time of the year that they’re open.