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Motorcycle rally survival tips

Thousands of motorcycles parked in downtown Sturgis

This year I traveled to Sturgis, South Dakota to experience my first motorcycle rally. I was excited to attend, but also nervous. I'm new to the world of motorcycles, and I had no idea what to expect.

Long story short, I enjoyed every minute of my time in the Black Hills. The rides were exhilarating, the food was delicious and the bikers I met were friendly, kind people. I learned a lot by jumping out of my comfort zone and onto a motorcycle. It was a wild, wonderful adventure!

For riders both new and experienced, here are a few tips for not only “surviving” a motorcycle rally, but making the most of it.

  • Look early for a place to stay. To make the most of your time at the rally, you need a home base where you can rest and recharge. Look into hotel, rental house and camping options. And be proactive—start your search at least three months early because the best places go quick.
Man with red bandana on motorcycle with black hills in background
  • Get a pre-rally tune-up. Inflate the tires, change the oil, check the air filters…you know, the works! You're going to be putting a lot of miles on that beautiful bike of yours, so show it a little love beforehand.
  • Prepare for the weather. It's basic, but did you check the forecast? And better yet—are you prepared with the right clothes and gear for whatever the weather may bring? In some parts of the U.S., temperatures drop fast at night. Put warm clothes in your saddle bag even if the day is scorching—you could still have a cold ride home in the evening.
  • Practice parking. Most rallies have a bustling Main Street scene. There's no doubt you'll want to join the action, but to find a place to park, you'll have to venture through a sea of motorcycles. To ensure you don't cause an embarrassing traffic jam, practice backing up into small spaces—especially if you're using a rental that you're somewhat unfamiliar with.
  • Don the finest leathers. You'll notice that most bikers have awesome leather vests that sport a plenitude of patches. They're more than just an article of biker style—they illustrate your personality and adventures you've had. And leather vests and jackets are great protection for when you ride. Take part in this tradition and add a patch representing that year's rally to your collection!
Parked motorcycles lined up with the Black Hills and blue sky in the background Crowd cheering motorcycle jumper
  • Ride with a plan. Most rallies are all about going with the flow, meeting new friends and enjoying spectacular rides…so you don't need to over-plan! But you should at least make a list of concerts, stunt shows and other events you don't want to miss.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. We all know that water is important. But it's especially important to stay hydrated at rallies. You'll spend long hours riding and walking under the sun, and you'll sweat more because you're wearing leather. The odds aren't in your favor. Start drinking water early in the day and don’t stop!
  • Be strategic with food and fuel. Before diving head first into adventure, think ahead. Do you have enough fuel to complete your next ride? And when was the last time you ate? I may sound like your parents, but maybe you should grab some food and stop at the gas station before you go.
  • Carry a spare key. In all of the excitement and craziness, you might misplace your keys. You don't want to be marooned at the rally—bring a second set!
Old and new friends
  • Remember a map. It's always a good idea to carry a map of the area. Nowadays, most people navigate with smartphones, but sometimes those steer you wrong or run out of battery. Actually, now that I think of it, remember to bring a phone charger, too!
  • Bring cash. Some vendors don’t take cards, so bring paper bills just in case.
  • Score the best deals on the last day. As the rally draws to a close, some vendors will lower their prices significantly to get rid of as much merchandise as they can. Take advantage of this!
  • Be friendly and start conversations. One of the best parts of a motorcycle rally is the people you meet. The love of riding brings people together! Don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with someone you've never met before—you'll end up hearing some interesting stories and walk away feeling fulfilled.

If you're a rally-goer, comment with tips that you'd like to share with new riders. I'd love to read them! And in the meantime, I look forward to my next motorcycle rally…here's to many more!

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