2010 Sturgis Rally Report

We check out the legendary biker event to see the bikes, ride the roads and ogle the babes

The 70th-anniversary edition of the world-famous Sturgis Rally and Races in South Dakota counteracted the general malaise of the motorcycle industry, showing a strong uptick in attendance, perhaps as much as 20%.

The iconic rally was first held in 1938 when organized by the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club, booming in popularity in the 1990s and 2000s when attendance was estimated to exceed 500,000 and more. The small town of Sturgis is the epicenter of events, but activities stretch well into the neighboring towns of Deadwood, Lead and Rapid City. Nearby riding destinations include Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Devil’s Tower and Spearfish Canyon.

Preliminary data indicates the 70th-anniversary of the Sturgis bike rally enjoyed an increase in attendees over the previous two years.

With locations and activities spread out over a wide area, it’s difficult to get an accurate count of attendees. Sturgis city officials count the tons of trash hauled away to indicate the number of people in town, and the tonnage was up nearly 18% as of August 10, five days before the weeklong event officially ended. More than 750 vendor permits had been issued in Sturgis, the most since 2007.

According to local officials, 17,600 people visited Mount Rushmore on Aug. 10, the largest number of people to visit the national monument in a single day since the park began keeping track in 2000. Park rangers say traffic to the national monument was heavy all through the week as thousands of visitors made the 50-mile side trip to and from Sturgis.

Victory’s Cross Country is one of our favorite baggers, so we rode this Cory Ness 2011 version from Gateway, Colorado, through Wyoming and South Dakota in an attempt to uncover its flaws. Few were found. Stay tuned for a full report on Victory’s entire 2011 lineup this week, plus a full review of the Ness CC.

Motorcycle.com added to the attendance total by cruising into Sturgis for a brief visit. Harley-Davidsons, of course, are the dominant bike of choice at the rally, but you’ll see every cruiser brand you can think of, plus a healthy smattering of Gold Wings, BMWs and sportbikes. The thousands of motorcycles parked day and night on Main Street was like a bike show combined with a market-research clinic. Check out what we found in our Sturgis Bikes gallery.

Harleys make up about 90% of the bikes at Sturgis, but to stand out in a crowd, you can’t do much better than riding a Mowercycle.

Barmaids enhanced their tip opportunities by wearing ultra-casual attire. If there is a sight at Sturgis as prized as a well-executed custom, it is of a partially clothed female. Bikini bike washes dotted the countryside, and nearly every bar is staffed by lovely young women who aren’t afraid to have most of their epidermis exposed to their appreciative customers. Although we are mostly immune to their allure, MO’s HQ assured us that many of you aren’t. If you fall into that category, then you’ll want to go to our Sturgis Babes gallery.

Music and motorcycles go together like petrol and oxygen, and the Legendary Buffalo Chip campground was the place to see some big-time rock & roll acts. The Chip’s Lon Nordbye says the lineup (including Kid Rock, Bob Dylan, ZZ Top, Motley Crue, The Guess Who, The Scorpions, The Doobie Brothers and Ozzy Osbourne) is one of the top-10 entertainment buys in the country. We only wish we had time to see them all.

A bike rally with about a half-million attendees has so much going on that it’s impossible to cover it all. Below are a few snippets of news centered around the Sturgis rally.

AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building

The AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building returned to Sturgis for its sixth annual competition. This year’s Freestyle World Championship title went to Belgium’s Freddie “Krugger” Bertrand for the innovative Veon convertible motorcycle. The V-Rod powered Veon has an adjustable frame that transforms the bike’s riding geometry from a low-riding cruiser mode to a more aggressive sport mode.

Despite going by the name Freddie Krugger, Bertrand's Veon is more Transformers than Nightmare on Elm Street.

In cruiser mode, the Veon sits low to the ground with a 23.8 inch seat height with the front end out at a 30-degree rake for a 63.4 inch wheel base. At the flick of the switch, the bike transforms to sport mode. The front end moves inward for a 23 degree rake, the wheelbase shrinks to 60.4 inches, and the seat moves up to a height of 30.5 inches. Ground clearance also increases to 9.3 inches from 6.7 inches to allow for greater lean angles. The Veon uses two sets of footpegs to accommodate the different riding positions.

Bertrand, who finished third in the AMD Championship in 2004, 2005 and 2009, built the bike for Norwegian engineer Peer Toftner who designed the transforming technology. Mark van der Kwaak performed the CAD and engineering work while Bertrand did the actual construction.

Second place went to Mark Daley of Oregon’s Thunder Struck Inc. Daley’s Sniper chopper uses an Indian Motorcycles Powerplus motor with the inlet and outlet ports reversed. The heads were modified so that the correct sized valves could be operated by the reverse grind cam.

Oregon's Mark Daley finished second in the Freestyle category with his Indian Powerplus-powered custom called the Sniper.

Third place went to the Championship’s first-ever entrant from Belarus. Yuri Shif of Yuri Shif Customs brought his ’30s German race car inspired creation called The Machine. Shif started by joining two early BMW Boxer engines at the cranks and then reversed the rear cylinder heads so he could install a supercharger to feed all four inlet ports. Shif’s Machine also captured the World Championship title in the Metric class.

The U.K.’s Shaw Speed and Custom took home a Screamin’ Eagle motor for winning the Modified Harley-Davidson class with the Strike True II.

Check out our 2010 AMD Championship gallery for pictures of other custom builds.

Pee-wee Does Sturgis

Actor Paul Reubens, in the role of his ’80s cult character Pee-wee Herman, was a special guest of the Legendary Buffalo Chip. Pee-wee Herman arrived at Buffalo Chip Sunday in the sidecar of a 1938 Kiwi Indian Motorcycle, representing the year the first Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was held.

At Buffalo Chip, Pee-wee led the crowd in an attempt at setting a record for the largest performance of his famous “Tequila” dance from his 1985 film Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. Pee-wee also taped a segment for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno that aired Aug. 11.

I'm a loner, Dottie...a rebel. Photo courtesy of Pee-wee Herman's Facebook page.

Pee-wee also led this year’s Legends Ride, a fund-raising event benefiting the Black Hills Children’s Home and the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame. The ride has helped raise nearly $100,000 over the past two years, and this year’s ride looks to be the biggest yet. Unlike the nearly 300 riders that took part, Pee Wee rode a Schwinn bicycle dressed up like the “Easy Rider” Captain America Chopper at the head of the parade. Other celebrities that took part in the Legends Ride include actor Lorenzo Lamas of “Renegade” fame and a tie-dyed Rupert Boneham from the reality show “Survivor”.

2010 Sturgis Hall of Fame Class

The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum inducted six new members to its Hall of Fame. This year’s inductees include:

  • Nancy Davidson, wife of Willie G. Davidson and an advocate for motorcycling and women riders;
  • Betsy E. Lister, founder of GypsyPashn.com and BikerBits.info, two websites that provide information about rallies, rides and riders’ rights;
  • Ronald McKinley, a 20-year veteran of the South Dakota Highway Patrol. Since retiring in 1991, the former motorcycle trooper has become a dedicated safety advocate. McKinley is an instructor for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and the Harley-Davidson Rider’s Edge program and serves as safety officer for four Harley Owners Group chapters;
  • Roger Schieman, a founding partner of the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and an organizer for Sturgis races. Schieman was also recognized with the Founders Award;
  • Stan Simpson, chairman of the AMA Board and a former road and off-road racer
  • “Kiwi” Mike Tomas, founder of the Kiwi Indian Motorcycle Company and a leading expert on classic Indian Motorcycles.

Putting the Final Touches on a Restored Classic

Bill Rodencal, Harley-Davidson Museum restorer and conservator, and Ray Drea, Harley-Davidson vice president and director of styling, pinstriped a 1914 Harley Model 10-E. Ralph Gullickson of South Dakota, whose uncle bought the bike 1915, had the bike restored at the Harley-Davidson Museum, and Drea suggested they apply the final pinstriping at Sturgis. The vintage motorcycle will remain in the family, to be passed on to Ralph’s son, Greg Gullickson.

Ralph Gullickson poses proudly with his family's 1914 Harley Model 10-E. Photo courtesy of the Harley-Davidson Museum's Facebook page.

Get Motorcycle.com in your Inbox