For the past seven years I’ve worked in one capacity or another in Sturgis, and each of those years I’ve thrown a leg over my bike in late July, pointed it west and pinned it for 800 miles. I do the ride in one day, simply because I just don’t have all that much time.
I get there three weeks before the start of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and when I arrive, I’ve got exactly one day to do whatever I want before I get down to work. Other than my short morning blasts through Vanocker Canyon, that’s the last riding I do for the next month. While most of you are out there hooting and hollering, I’m joined at the hip with my fellow J&P co-workers, putting in 14-hour days in the weeks prior to the rally, and then the event itself.
Oh, there are lots of people who make the run to Sturgis, and a fair amount of them ride 800-plus miles in one day to get there. But I’m pretty sure that I’m one of just a handful that does it on a sport bike. Over the years I’ve arrived on a Hayabusa motorcycle, ZX-14, multiple ZX-10Rs — once on a fiberglass race seat. This year I rode out on a ZX-10R that I transformed into a race bike a few years back, and then ended up putting it on the street. Not much of a paint job and the headlight sucks — but it rails! This year was not much different than any other: motorcycle gas tank bag packed to the brim, backpack stuffed and strapped to the tail and away we go.
My riding partner, Joe, and I headed out about 5:30 in the morning, but not before donning our raingear after spotting dark menacing clouds overhead. Sure enough, somewhere around Charles City, the rain hit and hit hard. It was a gusher, but we pushed on, passing a handful of bikers here and there who had sense enough to take cover under overpasses and shelters. The rain probably wouldn’t have bothered me except that I’d unzipped my rain suit earlier for some ventilation. When the rain hit, I couldn’t get the zipper back up because it was stuck in the Velcro, so I got soaked. One gas stop and another 150 miles later, my sports bike jacket was dry and we ditched the rain gear as we emerged into sunshine and blue skies.
We entered South Dakota on I-90 and I started thinking about the ride. People make such a big deal about riding to “trailer week,” but as I sat on my bike staring at endless interstate for the seventh consecutive year I thought, “This sucks.” The only reason I ride this stretch of highway every year for 10 to 12 hours one way is because I know that the next day I’m going to experience about 300 of the most incredible miles of the year. Needle’s Highway, Iron Mountain Road, Nemo Road, Vanocker Canyon, Spearfish Canyon. The list goes on. Yep, the boredom of the previous day’s ride is wiped out as I try to wheelie out of every corner, pausing briefly in the straights to wonder how I’d break the news to my wife if I wadded it up in the next corner.
The point is, are you willing to trade a boring ride for an exciting ride? Is 800 miles of straight-as-an-arrow, mind-numbing super slab for a day worth it if the next day includes tire-shredding corner carving with a perma smile? Easy answer — I’ll be back next year. Will you?