Image vs Reality


I was watching a reality show about a homicide detective who is always ready to go to bed or relax when he gets a call to investigate a murder. Anyway, in one episode he mentioned Sturgis and how wild and dangerous it is there with all the drunken bikers basically looking for trouble. Apparently he has never been there because the image of Sturgis being some Hollister is basically “fake” news.


Sturgis today is anything but wild and dangerous. It’s as close to a family outing as you can get. Sure, there are guys who get drunk and do stupid things, but those incidents are relatively minor. The heavy handed cops are the biggest problem. But to be fair, my dealings with the police this past year were very good and pleasant. Then again, they were the local police, not the overly aggressive Keystone cops that are brought in from the surrounding area. In fact the largest and most popular destination is the Full Throttle, which has emerged as the epicenter of activities now, with the worlds largest bar, and problems are rare. Even at this hub of activity, conduct is not confrontational or violent. Attendees tend to be respectful and rarely cause problems. Certainly not on the scale that the TV show suggests.

On Youtube they have videos of Walmart shoppers dressed in the most bizarre outfits, as if it was ok to dress like you’re trying out for the Gong Show. Kind of reminds me of Daytona and Sturgis with more actors than bikers. In both Sturgis and Daytona, it’s not uncommon to see guys over reach their capabilities and experience making fools of themselves. I’ve seen many cases where a guy dressed like a David Mann character straddling his new dresser simply tips over at a stop light or trying to turn into a gas station. He has a bike way to big for him and very little experience. Both in Sturgis and Daytona it’s these guys on dressers that seem to have a Napoleon complex and feel the need to act like bad-asses never thinking that they may have to back it up, AND get off the dresser without tipping it over. Still, a calamity of goofballs not Hollister material.

You have to wonder where the media get their information from, if not totally fabricated? “Bikers falling down drunk in the streets; wild girls, two for every biker and fights non-stop in notorious biker bars…” They must be watching an old Peter Fonda movie where he plays an unlikely tough club leader. I know Hewlett, Wyoming used to be kind of wild years ago, but I haven’t heard anything like that over the past few years, but I may be wrong.

Daytona and Sturgis are the two biggest and longest lasting events in the country. Back in the 70’s things were a bit more wild and stereotypical of biased perception of bikers. Enter the 80’s and things started to calm down. By the 90’s Daytona was lame and Sturgis was just a destination. I go to both because each one has something to offer if you know where to look. Daytona, being spread all over and now vendors have been run off Beach Street, has pockets of good biker events, like The Last Resort, the Up Sweep Show, The Low Down, Billy’s Sons of Speed and Willies. With Rossmeyers successfully grabbing the Beach Street crowd and Main Street being just a walk down the mild side, Daytona is now relying on word of mouth to find the best places to go. And in my opinion, the cops in Daytona are unreasonably aggressive and overbearing. Given that the city wants to end Bike Week and Biketoberfest, it’s no wonder they charge the cops to discharge their duties with extreme prejudice. They want to run everyone off, not attract attendees.

Sturgis is a bit different. Unlike Daytona where the vast majority of attendees are from the greater Daytona area and Florida, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone from Sturgis at the rally. They all leave and make a small fortune renting out their homes and store fronts for venders and attendees. So no one really has the home court advantage; we’re all guests. And the cost to attend Sturgis is not cheap. Hotels jack their rates up unreasonably. The average working class stiff can’t afford to get a motel in Sturgis, not that there are many to chose from, but what’s there is outrageous. Jumping over to Rapid City is better, but since the event has spilled over to Rapid City like never before, hotel rates are climbing accordingly. All that’s left are the camp grounds. If you like camping, and spending a lot of money for a camping space, then knock yourself out. I don’t.

Similar to Daytona, the city is losing business to private entrepreneurs like The Full Throttle and the Buffalo Chips. The Full Throttle has log cabins and is expanding those units as well as camping. In the near future you will be able to shop, eat, sleep and party at The Full Throttle without fear of the police harassing you and an easy walk from the bar to your lodging. A very accommodating “city.” And just a couple of miles down the road is the new Sugar Bear Museum that is a must see if you’re into choppers and the history behind the chopper scene from a man who helped shape it.

The City of Sturgis has pretty much screwed themselves out of an event that bears their name. Greed once again forces people to adapt and move to where the money grabbers can’t touch them. I needed a 3/8’s bolt for the trailer hitch. Typically a .60 cent part at any hardware store. I went to a Harley repair shop near J&P, but not them. It was a small shop so I went into get a bolt. The lady handed me a box full of old, used parts. I had to sort through the mess to find a semi-stripped bolt and nut. They wanted $5.00 for it. I wish I had remembered their name so no one else would get ripped off by these jerks. But that’s how it is in the City of Sturgis; everyone is out to rip you off.

So instead of Sodom and Gomorra, with rowdy bikers, falling in a drunken state all over the streets and women running around naked dodging gunfire, Sturgis is just a crowded event where it’s more like amateur week at the old folks home with a few die hards who know where to go and what they are doing, and vendors trying to make a buck after paying a very high extortion fee to set up. If it weren’t for the surrounding sights and the gorgeous state, Sturgis would be just another Daytona,with city officials doing their best to harass bikers make it as unpleasant as possible for all who attend. The image of Sturgis as the danger zone is greatly exaggerated. Maybe the media needs to actually attend these events instead of creating hyperbole.

Founder of The Horse BackStreet Choppers Magazine

People: Hammer

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