2010 Sturgis Bike Week. The Best In Many Years.

I used to measure the success of any big rally by my level of exhaustion. And it must be 5 years that I have never been so much exhausted by all the action, things to do , friends to meet, motorcycle and parts to look at and contagious excitement of all those like me waking up with the sun to ride the gorgeous roads of the Black Hills, Badlands, Custer Park, Devil Tower, Bear Butte, etc. Arrived a couple of days before the official start of the largest mass dedicated to the motorcycle God, I was nicely surprised by the intense traffic still flowing freely at the time from east and west on the I90 towards Sturgis and surrounding hotels and campgrounds.

I don’t care about the different “official” numbers that different administrations are going to publish on Monday. I would just refer to unofficial rally evaluations like the city of Sturgis declaring that the amount of trash removed every day is 3 times last year, that the Mount Rushmore memorial had Tuesday the most ever visitors in a single day (17,600), that the traffic around Deadwood, Lead, Speafish, Sturgis and towards the campgrounds of Glencoe, Broken Spoke, Buffalo Chip is unbelievable. Rod Woodruff owner of the 30 years old Buffalo Chip told me that he had 3 times more campers last weekend than the year before and declared to the Rapid City Journal that his business still growing he may need to move it to another location! Although some trips are “painful” in terms of time spent idling in mid 90’s F temperatures, I kept a smile inside thinking about all what it means for “my” motorcycle industry….

Can it be, like many suggest, that the explanation is that we are celebrating the 70th anniversary and that all big numbers are successful years? I believe that it is a very small part of the reason why I predict 2010 will be the most successful rally since the beginning of our economic recession.  2005 was the high water mark for the motorcycle industry. Since then, wealth has eroded with tangible and intangible assets being eroded and unemployment rising to double digit . Because of the need to cut debt, consumer spending is still logically restrained with motorcycles and parts sales remaining way below what they were in the first half decade. Consumer confidence is far from repaired and I think it will take a long time before consumers decide to pull the trigger on big ticket pleasure items. I belong to those who think that the “consumer reset”  is for many years to last and that the motorcycle industry will recover, but very slowly.

So, what can be the explanation for so many more attending this year’s rally? First, what I call a “recession cabin fever” effect. Tired to hear the same bad economic news? To hear some politicians predicting the end of the world? Tired to worry about losing your job if you still have yours? Tired of no vacation? Of not enjoying your friends? Of not sharing camaraderie with those you love to meet even if only one week a year? Of not being alone with your special someone sharing what are the most important things in life, without worrying even  for a short a time about the kids, about the cost of college, about your mortgage payments and of the true market value of your real estate? Frustrated of not riding and not smelling what only the road on 2 wheels can offer?

Second, how much you spend during the rest of the year may have changed, even how much money you will have left to the merchants and vendors during your stay in South Dakota. Still, if you are a Biker, is your motorcycle a luxury vehicle or a luxury necessity? In addition, life is short, even shorter for all baby boomers… I suspect that the big number of participants now enjoying their time in the Black Hills is made of people that can be qualified as real bikers, whatever their social status, economic comfort zone and type of bikes they are riding…If you are a biker, you need a motorcycle, need to ride it, maintain it…and customize it.

As a participant/observer/reporter of the motorcycle industry I would also like to mention that the number of vendors of motorcycles, parts and everything associated with them seems also much bigger than it has been during these last 5 years (the number of city vendor permits is only a partial view). For having visited and talked to a lot of them, they are all less worried, more optimistic and very busy doing business, from changing oil to installing transmissions to tuning motorcycles, from pinstriping gas tanks and fenders to installing handlebars and windshields, from demonstrating new accessories to showing their custom motorcycles in bike competitions. Some even have shared with me some secret big new product launches for 2011 (You will have to wait a little bit more) The trick to be successful? Not giving away tons of catalogs and waiting for orders when returning home. Too costly and internet (and my Blog) is enough to show your products. But doing on location demonstrations and making money with installations.

With an added smile, to all those reading me and not belonging to the industry, I will add that this year there is also a larger number of very successful professional events and parties to benefit different charity causes (money raised is at an absolute record) or for promotional reasons and that it is also symptomatic of how resilient is our industry and it is for me a big hint that the motorcycle market has stabilized and may return to a (slow) growth in 2011.

Of course, I can’t conclude this post without mentioning the changes I observed in the type of motorcycles that people are riding and building. Almost all changes being more confirmations than revelations. The extremely long overdone chopper is riding into the sunset, but don’t forget that our planet is round and that it will come back during one of these sunrises. Parking lots and roads are dominated by the big black Harley touring bikes with something new and deserving mention.

I saw not only more solo women riders but an unusual number of ladies riding their own dresser bike. More  women straddle a motorcycle for the 1st time but more are also “graduating” by handling bigger and bigger motorcycles from Softails to Baggers. It’s all good. I also decided to stop by the new Official Harley-Davidson display on Lazelle Street to try to evaluate the interest that each model has with the crowd of bikers present in Sturgis. To my satisfaction, and I am sure to yours, and although that it has no statistic value, 50% of the crowd is checking out the Harley Dark Series and 48 models. I would say that about 30 to 35% of people who sat on them were women! Whatever the controversy that is all over my Blog when I talk about these Harley models I am personally convinced that the Milwaukee factory is doing the right thing to refresh its line up and attract new younger riders…and women.

On the custom motorcycle scene, 2 schools of thoughts live side by side with multiple friendly and inspirational interferences,  then compete in 2 different type of bike shows. On one side the new old school style (built today with the look of the past) and the restored “real” school bikes (vintage pre and post WWII models) and on the other camp new built high end custom motorcycles ($50K to 150K) where the merit is not only in aesthetics but in engineering ingenuity. For example new ways to steer, brake, or in 5 seconds at a push of a button, go smoothly from a cruiser to a sport bike (ref. Krugger’s Vion motorcycle winner of 2010 AMD World Championship Of Bike Building) Innovation is no more outside, visible to the judges, but hidden “inside”, requiring that all judges get a briefing on each custom…

Too much to see, too many roads to ride, too many friends to visit, too much to tell you…and although the 70th Black Hills Rally is still going on for a couple of days, I judge it as a big success. If you were in Sturgis, your turn to write below in comments all your thoughts about this 70th edition.

Picture 1, Bear Butte. Picture 2, Legendary Buffalo Chip road sign. Picture 3, Deadwood main street. Picture 4, Best Auto Mechanic sign in Lead. Picture 5, Deadwood city sign. Picture 6, a restored Sears by Carl’s Cycles Supply , Picture 7, custom bike by ? (help me I don’t remember). Picture 8, Tex Mc Dorman from Texefx pinstripping a seat at his display at Monkey Rock. Picture 9, James Ramsey From Zippers Thundermax map tuning a dresser. Picture 10- Harley-Davidson 2011 models display in Sturgis. Picture 11, Bert Baker from Baker Drivetrain. Picture 12, 13, 14: new generation of Bike Builders showing their work at the Broken Spoke Saloon. Picture 15, Ron Finch & Cyril Huze at Michael Lichter’s exhibition.

23 Responses to “2010 Sturgis Bike Week. The Best In Many Years.”

  1. 1 Curt Lanzi Aug 13th, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Great report. I am staying in Spearfish and made a lot of the same observations. What I noticed the most is how happy seem to be all those participating to the rally. More than in previous years. Consequence of the recession? Appreciating more? You forgot to mention how friendly with bikers are all people from SD. SD was elected a short time ago the State with the most friendly tourist industry, and it shows.

  2. 2 James Brandt Aug 13th, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Love the Bear Butte picture. Passed by it several times a day because I stayed 3 days at the Broken Spoke campground. Had a great time.

  3. 3 golfish Aug 13th, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Have not rode there but I have spent time there……….the firework show at Mt Rushmore is second to none. I wont go any further then to say visiting the area is a must for all. I hope someday I can do it on a scooter.

    I envy all that have rode aroud there…

    god bless

  4. 4 Dar - Brass Balls Bobbers & Choppers Aug 14th, 2010 at 1:05 am

    Right on point Cyril. I concur and I’m exhausted… in a good way. Great job rally organizers. More vendors & visitors in attendance and with great attitudes. It was good to see you pal, and all our other friends and fans. Keep looking up kids… cause that’s were we’er headed.

  5. 5 Brett Aug 14th, 2010 at 1:40 am

    Cyril. Was not in Sturgis, but thank you for sharing. It sounds like good news for the motorcycle industry.

  6. 6 Cadillac Joe D Aug 14th, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Cyril: I totally agree………it was the best in a very long time. We were jammed big time at ACCEL….AMD Show, IMBBA Events at the Broken Spoke, J&P Cycles Booth, charity events at the Chip, the Sturgis Museum Hall of Fame Breakfast………..it was great and very good to see you sir.
    Joe D.
    ACCEL MC Products

  7. 7 BikerMarc Aug 14th, 2010 at 7:09 am

    Bonjour Cyril,

    Good reporting. Thanks for sharing. We are all very blessed that such an event as Sturgis is part of our lives. Good job.


  8. 8 LeftTenant Aug 14th, 2010 at 8:32 am

    I agree w Cyril’s assessment–the Rally is BACK! we employed all our traffic and route secrets to avoid the burnt leg duck-walk, but that meant missing Michael’s show at The Chip. Bummer. The weather was great, especially high in the Hills where we retreated to Pactola Rsvr.

    As always, the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame Induction Breakfast was a personal highlight. I’d beg those who were unable to attend yet critical of one nominee to read the bios and actual nominations. Each and everyone here makes a stellar contribution to motorcycling. As we say in the Fire Service–they make everyone’s badge shine a bit brighter.

    The 70th was a great Rally–Bravo Sturgis.

  9. 9 Darin Maltsberger - Instructor@ MTI Aug 14th, 2010 at 9:11 am

    It was good to visit with you Cyril. I always enjoy casual conversations that allow some insight on how industry leaders percieve the trends in the motorcycle business. I agree with what you wrote above. I saw more optomism, more interest in the future of motorcycling and more young people getting involved. I took 9 of my college students and 4 bikes to Sturgis for 5 days. The boys enjoyed the shows, visited with living legends and rode with new friends. I see this generation driving the next set of trends in our industry…..and they are an impatient, yet determined lot. I enjoyed this Rally more than any in the last four or five years. Maybe because I took the students out, maybe because I spent more time with old friends, and maybe because I went to have fun and ignore all of the negative economic propoganda for a week. It’s hard to say, but it was a great week. Thanks.

  10. 10 Steve Kelly Aug 14th, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Having the time of my life at my 21st trip to Sturgis, just wish there were more hours in the day!

  11. 11 Mike Tomas Kiwi Indian MotorCycle Co Aug 14th, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Sturgis is THE motorcycle rally in my books. I believe most rallys or things we do are what we make of it. I’ve been to quite a few and when the economy was in the tank it was still a great rally. One can’t help but enjoy what there is here. Whether it be participating in charity events, researching/buying products, riding in the hills, camping, socializing, partying or whatever, one can’t help but have fun.

  12. 12 Brian Bonde, Children's Care Hospital & School Aug 14th, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Great job covering the rally, Cyril! Your analysis above is the best I’ve read anywhere. South Dakota and the Black Hills are so blessed to have the bikers here and their charitable support is amazing. We’re heading home today from our place in Rochford; it’s hard to leave after a rally like this one. Thanks again…

  13. 13 HIck Aug 15th, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Just an observation but I noticed a big drop in the number of bikes on I-90 and a big increase in the number of people trailering up and cars trying to negotiate the downtown traffic. The weather was perfect and the riding couldn’t have been better. Only downsides were the cops stopping everyone for stupid reasons ( sunglasses at night etc.. ) and places like the Chip being overcrowded with few accomodations.

  14. 14 Tex_Bagger Aug 15th, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    It was an amazing first time for me. Camped in a tent at the Chip and had an great time. The music, people, food, sights, and rides were fantastic compared to ANY rally anywhere and the crowds seemed huge.

  15. 15 1550tc Aug 15th, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Awesome week in Sturgis, and the Chip is still the place to be for shows and all round fun, Jay if your reading this, on a hot day you have the place to be and thanks for building that pool area, i hope u make millions and buy some trees or get some elevation on that property.

    I have mixed feeling of the pros and cons of having the TV?media builders around , miss them in some ways BUT dont miss their attittudes…..i hope some of them know how to say, “would u like that super sized or as a value meal” LOL

    Woody good luck in getting that hwy built out there :)……….its nuts trying to get to your place when guys like the FTS and Monkety bulll shit have a show.

    Woody at least your bands start on time, that was just BS down the street with GnR, glad i dint go……great way to sell more beer and piss peole off starting a 2 hours late at show at 1 am??

  16. 16 Genevieve Schmitt Aug 15th, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    I observed much of the same things Cyril… as a reporter and observer of the industry myself.. and Sturgis rally goer for the last 15 years. Definite uptick over last year… and yes, you’re right on with your observation of women riders… me being one of the bagger-riding chicks. Great to see you there and spend some time with you.. but I forget to get a picture with you. Darn!

  17. 17 hddave Aug 16th, 2010 at 11:07 am

    My 3rd Sturgis and my wife’s 1st, We had the time of our life!

  18. 18 Julie Aug 16th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Hi Cyril,

    Picture #7 was built by Gary Maurer at Kustoms, Inc.

  19. 19 Richard Aug 18th, 2010 at 11:19 am

    I spent the week at Sturgis. Four of us had a great time. It looked to me to be “down” somewhat early in the week but I thought it recovered well by Wednesday or so. Once outside of Sturgis/ Deadwood area the riding improved…went to Hewlette and Sundance on Tuesday to avoid the crowds and enjoy the ride a little more. The loop down to NewCastle and back up to Spearfish was fantastic. Only complaint….motel room in Spearfish was over $300./night. I’m guessing it would be around $100./ night normally. I think they are taking “big time” advantage of us….

  20. 20 Sherry May 29th, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    Planning a trip to Sturgis for next year and would like to take our teenagers and parents. Which campgrounds would be the most family oriented or calmest I might say? Thanks

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