How to Do Sturgis: A First-Timer’s Guide

Super User
Thursday, 15th Oct, 2020
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There’s no doubt that planning a trip to Sturgis is exciting. But when it’s your first time, the process can be a little daunting. There’s so much to learn and know that you might find yourself with more questions than answers.

What are the local motorcycle laws?

Do I need a helmet?


You could spend a ton of time scouring the Internet for the answers to all your questions. OR you could find them all in the Sturgis Rider News article series How to Do Sturgis, presented by the Sturgis Buffalo Chip.

Read on to see them tackle some broad questions about the greater Sturgis and Black Hills area. 

Are helmets required in South Dakota or neighboring states?

Unless you are under the age of 18, motorcycle helmets are not required in South Dakota. Wear one or don’t. You make the call.

Depending which direction you’re traveling from, state motorcycle helmet laws vary greatly. Here’s what to expect in South Dakota’s surrounding states.

Surrounding State Motorcycle Helmet Requirements

North Dakota

Under age 18 only


Under age 18 only




All Riders


Under age 18 only


Under age 18 only

If you’re traveling through several states on your way and aren’t sure of their laws, this handy map shows the motorcycle helmet laws for all 50 states. 

What will the cops ding me for?

If a run-in with Johnny Law ranks low on your list of experiences to check off during your time in Sturgis, using common sense can get you a long way. But when you get down to brass tacks, knowing the local laws is a must. 

Violations Police Watch For:

  • Drinking and Driving
  • Illegal Drug Use
  • Failure to Stop at Traffic Lights and Stop Signs
  • Passing on the Sidewalk or Shoulder
  • Removing the Baffles on Your Exhaust
  • Indecent Exposure
  • Parking Violations

For more details on local laws, check out the Sturgis Rider News article What Sturgis Police Will Be Watching For During This Year’s Motorcycle Rally

Where are the best places to ride while I’m there?

The Black Hills are home to so many beautiful roads and iconic bucket-list destinations, it can be hard to know where to start.

Sturgis Rider News selected a few favorites to highlight below. If you’ve got a little more time, you can learn about even more rides here.

Mt. Rushmore

A visit to America’s Shrine of Democracy is on most visitors’ bucket lists. If it’s not already on yours, it should be. 

You don’t have to go into Mt. Rushmore National Memorial to see the sculpture as it’s easily viewed from route 244 as you snake along the ridge. But it’s well worth the admission to experience the beautifully designed park and learn the history behind the monument.

Mt. Rushmore is also a great taking-off point for rides down Iron Mountain Road and Needles Highway.

Iron Mountain Road

Part of the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway, US 16A, also known as Iron Mountain Road, begins between Keystone and Mt Rushmore and ends just east of the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop.

It offers spectacular views of Mt Rushmore and includes three granite rock tunnels to pass through. You’ll also travel over three pigtail bridges, which are corkscrew structures engineered to curl and pass over themselves for a challenging ride and an upper body workout.

Spearfish Canyon

Alt. Route 14 through Spearfish Canyon, which can be accessed off I-90 exits 12 or 14, is without question one of the best 22 miles you can travel on two wheels. 

It’s the quintessential scenic road adorned with steep cliffs cut through the gorge, bubbling streams, waterfalls and striking vistas at every turn.

Vanocker Canyon

The 17-mile run down Vanocker Canyon Road (Forest Service Road 26) is arguably one of the most exhilarating Black Hills motorcycle rides, with pronounced twists and curves giving way to an exciting downhill plunge after about five miles. 


The Black Hills Motorcycle Map from the good folks at the Black Hills & Badlands Tourism Association is a great tool for planning which rides you’d like to take, as it highlights routes and denotes skill ratings.

View it online or pick one up at regional attractions, hotels and convenience stores.

Is there anywhere to go where we won’t fight a crowd?

A stop at Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Deadwood’s Historic Main Street, Cheyenne Crossing and many other Black Hills attractions should come with the expectation that lots of other bikers will be there when you arrive.

If you’re looking to have a quieter day and fight fewer crowds, the area is also full of amazing hidden gems you’ll want to discover.

Discover These Hidden Gems

Termesphere Gallery & Museum – Spearfish, SD

The Journey Museum & Learning Center – Rapid City, SD

Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center – Lead, SD

Rush Mountain Adventure Park – Keystone, SD

Find more attractions a little off the beaten path by checking out the Sturgis Rider News articles 10 Hidden Gems of the Black Hills and Digging Deeper – 7 More Hidden Gems of the Black Hills.

Where should I stay?

There are tons of places you could stay in the Black Hills, but if you want the authentic rally experience, there’s only one place to get it—The Legendary Sturgis Buffalo Chip®. 

The Chip is the original biker-dedicated destination that brought together music and motorcycling during the rally. Ever since its first party in 1982, riders from around the world have flocked to this mecca of motorcycles, music, freedom and friendship.

The reason folks keep coming back? It’s the Best Party Anywhere®!

The Buffalo Chip gives you more options than anybody else!

  • Multiple Stages of Entertainment
  • Dozens of World-Class Entertainers
  • Multiple Days and Disciplines of Racing
  • Daily Custom Bike Shows
  • World-Record Setting Stunts
  • World-Renowned Motorcycle As Art Exhibition
  • Shaded Campsites
  • 25+ Bars
  • Motorcycle Retail & Mechanical Service Outlet
  • Bikini Beach Swim Paradise with Rope Swings & Sun Decks
  • 24/7 Gas Station with 93-Octane Fuel Cheaper than In-Town Prices
  • Free Fuel Happy Hours
  • Free Pancake Breakfasts
  • Free Showers
  • Delicious Food Options
  • 24/7 General Store
  • Paved Roads
  • Quick access to I-90
  • Much, much more!

The fact is, there’s so much going on at the Buffalo Chip that there’s never a reason you’d have to leave!

Learn More About Staying at the Buffalo Chip!

Is it easy to get from campground to campground?

Got friends staying at a different campground? No sweat. Going to visit them or having them come visit you doesn’t have to be a hassle! 

Private bus services including DaBus and JoneZ Bus make regular stops at the Buffalo Chip and travel to most of the area’s campgrounds, as well as Sturgis, Deadwood, Whitewood and Spearfish.

Discounted wristbands are available in advance online or you can pay in person as needed.

Got more questions about the Sturgis Buffalo Chip?

There’s a ton of good information relating to the Buffalo Chip in the original How to Do Sturgis article. Click through to find answers to questions including:

  • How do I get to the Buffalo Chip?
  • Is there a shortcut?
  • How close is the Buffalo Chip to Downtown Sturgis, Deadwood, Mt. Rushmore and Spearfish Canyon?

What questions do you need answered? Ask in the comments below and they could be featured in a future article!  


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