Cool Bike Rides

Sturgis - Day 1 - A Little Riding and Some Partying

A multi-part series chronicling our Sturgis Bike Week experience! 

By: Ian Creswell

We just dismounted from the bike for the first time in downtown Sturgis! 

This is the second part of a multi-part series on Sturgis Bike Week. If you’ve not done it, feel free to live vicariously through us, but add this one to your bucket list!


After we got camp set up and settled into the area, we jumped on our bikes and decided to make a run back to Black Hills Harley Davidson in Rapid City. What a crazy setup they had. Live music, food and drink vendors all around and merchandise as far as the eye could see! It was organized chaos. They really did a nice job of getting everyone in and out of the place when you consider how many bikes and cars were coming and going. We spent a couple of hours here just seeing what there was to see and picking up some new stuff to wear while we were in town. We may have grabbed a few things for folks back home while we were here too. Honestly, probably the best way to do this! Get it done while you still have money to do it…

From here we headed back out on 90 West and rode right into downtown Sturgis. Riding into downtown for the first time, though slow, made me feel like a kid all over again. There were bikes everywhere. I’m talking city block after city block of bikes parked side by side, up the middle of the streets and down both sides. You name the bike and it was there; Harley’s, Yamaha’s (I was representing), Hondas, Suzuki’s, cruisers, baggers, street racers, rat rods, you name it! Finding a spot to park was a trick but find one we did and off we went to explore.

If you visit Sturgis outside of bike week, it’s a sleepy little town of around 7,000 people. During bike week, these numbers can swell to 500,000 or more. We were there for the 75th and helped to set a new record, nearly 775K! During the rally, there are bars, restaurants, shops, tattoo parlors and everything else you can imagine open along the two main strips in downtown. Outside of Bike Week, just a fraction of these will be open. It’s a non-stop bustle of people coming and going and almost all of them on two wheels.

There were people EVERYWHERE and every one of them seemed to be having a blast. We saw no fighting, nobody giving anyone else grief, just a bunch of bikers from different backgrounds in to have a good time.

If you follow my writing, you know I don’t drink and ride, it’s just my thing. So we stayed out of the bars and just walked the strip checking out all there was to see. There were bike shows, vendors EVERYWHERE, the major bike manufacturers were represented and had all they had to offer on display. We wandered and decided to come back after dark.

Later that evening, we jumped aboard Da Bus at our campground and paid for wrist bands for the week. If you’ve not been before, this is a shuttle service that uses older school buses to pick folks up at the major campgrounds and brings them into downtown Sturgis. From there, you can either wander around downtown or jump on another one to run out to some of the other, remote venues like Full Throttle Saloon.

That first evening there, we opted to run into town and then hopped a bus over to Full Throttle. Bret Michaels was on the main stage that night and The Full Throttle Saloon was on the must see list. We weren’t disappointed! Now this was shortly before the original venue was consumed by a fire. The place was big, and was it’s own little world tucked away in a field outside of downtown. If you’ve seen the show, it’s all there, the dancers, amazing bartenders, shops, home made booze, smaller acts on the bar stage, entertainers, and then the main stage out in the open.

After wandering around for a while and grabbing a drink or three, we headed out to find our place in front of the main stage. It was packed! We were a ways back but honestly, the venue is only so big so you had a good spot regardless (unless you had a taller person in front of you of course). Right about the time Bret hit the stage, I felt the first rain drop of the night. It wouldn’t be Sturgis if there weren’t a few thunder storms. That first drop was roughly one pint of water. I’m not joking, these were the largest rain drops I’ve ever seen!

The rain was sporadic at first but picked up as the show went on. Yes, the show did indeed go on. Bret and his band were spot on and hammering out some awesome 80’s rock and roll! They did some of his solo stuff and mixed in some Poison as well. As the rain picked up, the crowd pushed back under the bar. We kept moving forward as the crowd thinned out. Denise grabbed an umbrella from one of the tables by the bar and brought it out for a bit. We stayed kind of dry for a while but eventually it didn’t matter, we were going to get soaked.

By the time management had begged Bret to get off of the stage due to lightning, we had our hands on the stage! He played a couple of more songs but was finally shut down due to safety concerns. To his credit, he stayed out on the stage for a but high fiving everyone still standing there, soaking wet and in three inches of mud. What an experience and I mean that in a good way.

We caught Da Bus and headed back to town before they stopped running so we could get back to the campground. The funny thing is we lost one of our own along the way! He was waiting around for us to come out. We thought he’d already left so he ended up having to take a cab back! Man, what a first day in Sturgis!

To be continued: Click here for the next article in this series...