2009 Sturgis Rally Debrief

sturgismainstreetAlthough the rally will officially end this Sunday evening, plenty of bikers had their fun and have already left Western South Dakota for the ride home. The number of participants seems to be about the same than in 2008. As of today Saturday, 6th official day of the event, one biker has died in a motorcycle accident (out of 66 accidents with injuries). Last year, 3 bikers were killed. This year, the city of Sturgis sold 696 vendor permits, 1 more than in 2008. This year, no matter the “recession prices” offered to bikers, people just were not buying accessories and merchandise or spending as much in bars and restaurants.

sturgis-1In Deadwood, merchants reported sales 50% down versus last year. Only vendors offering quality equipment making long rides more comfortable (seats, saddlebags, tour packs) seem to have done pretty good. Number of participants in the different bike shows were up from 5% to 20% with a lot of participants being new comers on the custom bike show tour. It was easy to see that if Harley continues to rule, foreign brands represented a higher percentage of the 2 wheelers visiting the rally. It is also evident that increasingly more baby boomers are retreating to their childhood riding style, putting back that extra wheel so they can continue to ride. I mean more and more trikes on the roads of South Dakota, and not only men and couples, but also quite a few women doing solo triking.

And for the show- biz part of the biker scene, it’s official: be ready for the release of Easy Rider # 2 called “The Ride Back” (how a film in which the 3 main protagonists are killed off by the end of the flick can have a sequel?!?). And fans of Steven Tyler, don’t worry. He is back in Boston recovering from his Buffalo Chip stage fall with a broken shoulder and a few stitches on his head. Looking forward to next year because it will be the 70th anniversary and it may have a lot of impact on attendance


17 Responses to “2009 Sturgis Rally Debrief”

  1. 1 BadMonkeyMW Aug 8th, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    It’s ‘Easy Rider’. Easyriders is a crappy bike magazine.

  2. 2 Chris Aug 9th, 2009 at 12:03 am

    Good debrief. Almost all what I need to know. But when will we see the wild customs of Sturgis? Where were the famous builders? Home?

  3. 3 Conrad Nicklus Aug 9th, 2009 at 12:09 am

    I call MAJOR bullshit on the 696 vendor permits. I am here, I have been here for 2 weeks and I will tell you that is a load of crap. I DROVE through Sturgis almost everyday in a matter of minutes. My father and I commented on how dead the town looked. Main street wasnt even closed until Sunday, usually on Thursday it is shut down. The bikers were here for sure, but not to spend money on most items which were for sale. Just because they “sold” 696, so they say, vendor permits damn sure doesnt mean they all showed. I can list a pack of vendors who said they would be here which in fact did not end up showing.


  4. 4 Steve Kelly Aug 9th, 2009 at 7:09 am

    I was very happy to see so many people turn out for this year’s Sturgis motorcycle rally, especially after witnessing a slow Daytona Bike Week, and a Laughlin River Run that never got off the ground. As for the vendors, the number peaked at 900+ a few years back, but numbers do not tell the whole story. If a guy selling rally pins and other such stuff does not bother any more, it is not the same as a major custom bike builder deciding that they will not make the trip. Exile Cycles for example went to the Bulldog Bash in England. Vendor space is very expensive, you can easily drop $4000 for a small 10×8 booth for an indoor space on Main Street, then there is the $600 for the Sturgis vendor permit, the gas money to get there and the high living costs while in town. That is a lot to claw back before you can even make a profit, which of course you will have to pay tax on before leaving town! Sturgis is a great place, and this year’s rally was a lot of fun. The weather was, well typical for South Dakota, rain, hail, and sun, sometimes within that matter of an hour! Best place to be this year? The Broken Spoke Campground. In fact, there were more campers this year than I’ve seen in the Black Hills in a long time, I’m guessing that, that has something to do with economics too. I will be posting Sturgis images on my Myspace page later today, check them out at myspace.com/stevekellyphotos

  5. 5 Woody Aug 9th, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Damn Conrad, pissy cornflakes? All Cyril did was report the number of permits sold, you saying he or the Sturgis officials are lying? Appreciate the “on the scene” report since I sure can’t afford to be there, but why the nasty attitude?

  6. 6 Jim C Aug 9th, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Thanks Steve for pointing out the obvious and the positive. You are a 1/2 glass full kind of guy and I appreciate that. We should be pointing out the things that are going right and learning from the things that are going wrong. I know that I am not able to pay those vendor fees at the present time and I am glad to see those with quality merchandise are the ones that have sales rather than the ones with the cheap crap from overseas. Maybe we are finally starting to learn the difference. Thanks Cyril for sharing the info as I was not able to go this year.

  7. 7 HJ Aug 9th, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    I sure hope we don’t hear from the “Biker Bars” about the lack of business. When you start refusing to allow a person entry into your establishment because of the patch on their back, maybe you should refer to your business as a bistro.
    Whatever happen to American Freedom?

  8. 8 Hick Aug 9th, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    It was easy to see there weren’t many people in Sturgis and especially the outlying areas and from the campground it looked like most were only staying a cpl days instead of the whole week like it used to be a few short years ago. As for me personally I still spent my money but paid attention to do it at the more appreciative places rather than spend $5.50 for a beer and $9 on a cheeseburger at MonkeyRock and a few others and I made damn sure anything I bought was void of the Made In China logo.

  9. 9 Conrad Nicklus Aug 10th, 2009 at 12:42 am


    Sorry for the confusion, damn sure am not blaming Cyril. He is reporting as he is told, which Sturgis wants the “media informants” to do. I am saying the City of Sturgis is a lying sack of shit….cough, sorry had to say it.


  10. 10 Mike Aug 10th, 2009 at 9:04 am

    I too have been there for many years. I am a vendor and I think the numbers were up this year, while buyers were down.

  11. 11 1550tc Aug 10th, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Well lots of empty places/lots like the whole rally park that Jesse had the last 3 years, plus a lot down Lazalle had 3 vendors on it plus out in front of the CC lots of empty space.

    One vendor told me people were buying stuff they needed rains suits, bag type accessories ect

    It was a real quite rally, to me the 600 ?? permits who knows and this spread out theory who knows on it also…..on Thursday you could see people leaving in droves. The numbers they give out can be so ?? at times…..you could have the same number people in hotels but if it rains the counts will be down at the pay to get in parks or it might be a year that lots of people dint ride the park……….its like sales tax, with so many cash deals& vendors how to you track sales tax?? DUH?? Everybody gets f—ked on sales tax!

    Conrad since your dad pointed out the obvious gouging and BS for vendors back when 06 its been a down hill slide in Sturgis for vendors especially the guys who jump around like Eddie T, Edddie stay in one place dude!! man its hard to hunt you and see your cool bikes, luved you at the car store in Tona……….vendors are saying no way and screw you for some of those shot lots in sturgis…….at the good venues like the chip and the HD dealer I think the right vendors are still a getting a great bang for their bucks as the crowds are still there and will continue to be at these HUBS/VENUES

  12. 12 Mike Aug 10th, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Jesse sold the Legend Top 50 park a couple months ago, that’s why it was empty.

  13. 13 1550tc Aug 10th, 2009 at 7:33 pm


    Does he even own it? Funny i heard it was emoty cause he couldn’t have the UTV rally in the fall?????? Mike if you live out there check who really owns it you might be suprized from i heard in Rapid city.

    lots of people bought all kinds of properties and campground s, hotels & businesses all based on 600k rally goers and guess what?? with 250k real rally goers, well guess what they cant carry the debt……..look at the guys in whitewold?? or jays places or his new one out of town??nice place even glencoe after the kiss concert changed hands? Woddy for what 300 a week gives you the best bang for your buck out there, the CHIP is not for evryone but its a great deal and line up of entertainment every year is great !

    .place i stayed is in real trouble and guessed what they did like most out there did they jacked theri prices up to try and make up for declining sales in a tough economy……….good luck with that business plan…..one group of 50 where i stayed a few nites said they’d not coming back…….like $20 a nite to pitch a tent is a lil ??? to me………for $5 a day u can shower and crp in a real bathroom plus use the atheletic facilties at the CC…….some business people out there have no clue what a market value for a service or product is in tought economy….. thnak good for the grocery stores and national chains except hotels in sturgis who dont f–k with prices!

  14. 14 Smooth Aug 10th, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    If the total numbers are the same, then their stays were brief. It was nice to ride around without as many rookies to lookout for though.

    Personally, the vacant seats at restaurants made the service better. Everyone over built when times were good. Now the fun and amenities are spread out throughout the whole Black Hills.

    Take notice of the change in the surrounding towns as well. Years ago, places like Hill City made it clear the bikers weren’t really welcome; they even did the bypass. Now, it is a mini Sturgis. Many of the really cool vendors have moved there to save a ton of money. Their profit margin is higher overall because the up-costs are not so crazy.

    As far as the Top 50’s deal of Jesse’s… good sale. Nice idea, bad timing.

    Vendors over all: Same, same, same, same, same, same, same, same, same, same, same, same, same, foreign made crap. Sturgis’ prices have pushed out all the cool vendors who actually make (or sell) something unique.

    We make our own fun. We don’t really need the event to make the Black Hills… it is the Black Hills, and her people, who make this event a true pleasure. I have been going every year since 1991. Stayed all over, including Sturgis. Now, some years I never even go into town.

    – Smooth

  15. 15 CoppellDarryl Aug 11th, 2009 at 12:53 am

    I made the comment to friend that I thought the number of motorcycles there may have been up from last year, but that is just eyeballing it. I don’t think there were any less this year than last, that is for sure, but again, I’m just eyeballing it.

    The campground I stayed at, Shade Valley, was far more crowded this year than last. Both in tent campers and in the RV’s. However, I think this was their 4th year so maybe the increase number at their site can be attributed to growth of their site, not an overall increaese in rally attendance from last year.

    And in a completely shameless plug…. You can check out my Sturgis pics at either my blog, http://www.briggsbikerblog.com or on my myspace page, http://www.myspace.com/dallasphotog

    Ride Safe…..

  16. 16 Rodent Aug 11th, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    Crowds were up at campgrounds, BUT the VACANCY sign was lite in Deadwood on the last Friday night and Hill City had lots of action on Saturday especially at a joint called the Mangy Moose on the main drag blocked of for bikes. Didn’t see cop one while I was there.

  17. 17 Badge Aug 14th, 2009 at 8:44 am

    To HJ:
    American Freedom? What about the patch holders who threaten Patriot Guard Riders for wearing a simple, round patch on their jackets or displaying same on their flags/bike windshields – All while helping quell the outrageous protesters at hero funerals or escorting troops to and from deployment? What about the COC run by patch holders who tell PGR they cannot recruit or hold organized meetings because they are acting like an “MC” club? Seems to me American Freedom is a two-way street. When I see patch holders back off the tyranny related to other MC Clubs, maybe I will be a bit more sympathetic to their call for “American Freedom.” What goes around – comes around.

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