Help! How do I Pack for Sturgis?

by on July 28, 2013
in Travel Tips

pack1Here’s a question I recently received via email:

“I’m riding pillion with my friend to Sturgis – I haven’t ridden for awhile or been to Sturgis for even longer. What can I expect, and what should I pack, to go to Sturgis?”

With the 2013 Sturgis Rally coming up August 5-11, I decided to write up a full post on the topic (rather than just reply privately to the email) and also posed the question over on the BCN Facebook page. On Facebook, the consensus on how to pack is sensible and three-fold: 


  • Take less than you think you need – you’re going to need less than you think.
  • Use space-saving containers and methods wherever possible. 
  • Take travel- or sample-sizes of bulky toiletries. 

I would also, of course, refer you to my helpful and amusing post from 2011, Load Your Bike with FLEAS, for more useful tips.

From my perspective, “what to expect” on your Sturgis trip and what to pack depends entirely on what you plan to do once you’re there. Are you going to ride? Or are you going to party?

Speaking personally, our trips in 2006 and 2009 were primarily about the scenic riding. The closest we came to a party was the wet t-shirt contest we happened upon when we strolled into the Sidehack during a downpour.

But I digress. :) Here’s a little more info that hopefully will be helpful without being preachy. I’m a mom, but you’re an adult. You don’t need me to tell you what to wear or how to have fun. :)

When you’re riding, the three primary things you can expect and pack for are wind, heat and rain.
Wind: Foam ear plugs really deaden the fatigue, noise and discomfort of heavy crosswind howling through your ears.
Heat: I found that a thin undershirt layer, with a white long-sleeve layer on top, is cooler than riding in a t-shirt. White, because it reflects rather than absorbs heat. Long-sleeve, to prevent windburn. You can always wet the long-sleeve layer if it’s unbearably hot.
Rain: It rains just about daily out there. Consider getting a rain suit if you don’t already have one. You might even consider wearing it.

The ear plugs, by the way, do double duty as post-partying equipment, because I suspect wearing them is the only way to get any sleep in the campgrounds. (It’s also been suggested to me that “drinking til you pass out” is the only way to get any sleep in the campgrounds. I haven’t tested that theory.)

Additional expectations:

  • Heavy traffic
  • Large crowds
  • South Dakota requires motorcycle helmets for riders under the age of 18. Not required for adults. 
  • South Dakota requires motorcycle handlebar handgrips to fall below shoulder height. Extreme ape-hanger bars don’t pass this test, JSYK. 

Additional packing tips:

  • You don’t need clean jeans every single day. Clean underwear every single day, yes. But a couple pairs of jeans should last you all week, which is a huge space-saver. Facebook fans agree on this point. One even posted a video about packing for a bike trip, so be sure to look for it!  
  • Take a heavy jacket. It’s less common, but still possible, that temperatures could drop. Our friends reported rain and temps in the 40’s the morning they planned to come home a few years ago.


Now it’s YOUR turn! If you have packing tips to add for our Sturgis-bound friends, share them in the comments!


Traveling? Load your bike with FLEAS!

by on May 20, 2011
in Riding Tips, Travel Tips

Whether you’re already an expert, or brand spankin’ new to traveling long distances on a motorcycle, it’s important to know how to properly pack and load your bike. Your goal, of course, is to maintain the bike’s overall balance and center of gravity so that maneuvering isn’t any more difficult with the added weight of luggage and stuff.

Like every good problem-solver these days, I’ve devised an acronym to help remember how to most effectively pack the bike for a trip. So get ready to pack your bike with FLEAS!!

Forward – Keep your load forward, meaning over or in front of the rear axle when possible. A load that is too far to the rear can affect turning or braking, or cause the bike to wobble. Use common sense,  of course: a tankbag, while certainly forward, should not interfere with your ability to manage steering or hand controls.

Low – Keep your load low, meaning inside saddle bags as much as possible. Of course, this isn’t always possible – just remember that a load carried on the passenger seat should not be stacked too high, and should not be allowed to shift when traveling. (When we traveled to Sturgis, I had to learn to swing my throw-over leg over the luggage bungeed to the sissy bar, but I didn’t feel like the bike was unbalanced. It felt like I had a lightweight passenger on the back.)

Even – Distribute weight evenly between saddlebags so the bike doesn’t want to list left or right.

Accessible – Keep important items accessible even when the bike is packed. Rain gear, cell phone, tool kit, camera… whatever is on your must-have list should be available easily when you stop for a break, so you don’t have to unpack the whole bike just to get to them.

Secure – Goes without saying you should batten down the hatches as completely as possible, especially if you have a T-bag, roll-bag, or other “loose luggage” to attach to the bike. I use multiple bungee cords, criss-crossing them over the bags and making sure they are super-snug. It’s also helpful to know your bungee plan when using multiple cords.

I hope FLEAS can help you remember how to pack for a trip… oh, I crack me up!

Know Your Bungee Plan

by on August 2, 2007
in Travel Tips

One of the challenges with traveling on my bike this year was that I had removed my saddlebags once we got home from last year’s Sturgis trip. The particular combination of shocks and lowering blocks now on the bike would have made re-installing the bag supports a challenge, so for the Estrogen Ride I just decided I would fit everything into my T-bag and strap that to the backrest of the seat, then bungee the bag to various points on the bike for stability. Problem was, without those bag supports I had fewer places on which to hook the cords so figuring out a secure bungee plan was a challenge.

When I arrived at the motel in McGregor on the first night of the ride, I quickly realized I’d never be able to remember the pattern so I got smart: before I unhooked my bag, I wrote down the colors, hook points and installation order of all the cords I’d used so I could re-do it the next day. This worked flawlessly for reloading the bike on Day Two. On Day Three, though, I’d bought enough t-shirts and other new stuff that my bag was actually bigger than it had been, so the old bungee pattern no longer worked. I had to figure out a new pattern for the ride home, but I was still pretty proud of myself for having thought to write it down. Lesson: be prepared, but be flexible – and know your bungee plan!

How to pick a destination

by on November 2, 2006
in Travel Tips

by Janet Green, Editor, Biker Chick News
copyright 2006

When I first started riding my own bike, I was happy just to get out and practice. This usually meant a ride “up around the lake,” which gave me a variety of things to encounter: curves, tight turns, road surfaces, etc. This was fine when I was very new to riding, and still thinking purposefully about the mechanical operation of the bike, when to do what as far as shifting, leaning, and that sort of thing. But there came a point where I wanted to GO somewhere… since the day I’d started, I’d had a vision of packing up the bike and taking a trip, and I finally I felt that I was done practicing, and ready to “really ride.” But where to go, and what to do? As it turned out, an invitation from some online riding sisters determined my destination and, ultimately, the route for my first overnight/longer distance ride. But in finally settling on that particular ride, I hit upon a few other ways for generating ideas about “where to go and what to do,” so for what they’re worth, I’ll share them here.

1. Draw circles on your atlas. One day I was bored and wanted to generate ideas for future road trips. I wanted to know what I could explore in my immediate region, say, no more than 2 hours away by car. So, by using the scale of miles on my atlas and some drawing tools, I was able to put some circles around my home city that showed where I could go if I wanted to go 60, 90 or 120 miles out before heading back. The map gave me cities and towns, some points of interest, scenic roads and state parks. I was able to come up with quite a list of things to see just from this one exercise.

2. I found more ideas in my state’s tourism guide. I’m sure every state has these, and many of them are online. (Here is the one for Iowa, in case you’re interested.) It was easier to browse the print guide than the online version, but by leafing through it I was able to find attractions, events and places in my state that I had never heard of. Those that interested me went on the list of “rides to ride,” no matter how far away they are from my home city.

3. Pick a theme. At one point I was getting quite elaborate with my trip planning. I dreamed up a theme and would come up with three or four rides that suited that theme, and called it a “Tour.” For example, the Shop til you Drop Tour included day-rides to J&P Cycles in Anamosa, Iowa (to shop for chrome), Jordan Creek Town Centre in West Des Moines to shop for shoes and cheesecake, and a couple others. A day-ride by itself could also be centered around a theme; I planned a “four corners” tour where I would hit the town in the four corner-most locations of my state (this would have actually taken two days), and a “World Tour” where I planned a route that went through towns named after famous places (Jamaica, Orient, Peru, Nevada, Paris, etc. – all towns in Iowa). Another “tour” just had me riding all of my state’s designated scenic highways over a period of several weeks.

4. Pick up a “roadside oddities” book for your state. My book on “roadside Iowa” includes all kinds of fascinating locations, from the Villisca Murder House and the Grotto of the Redemption, to the giant Strawberry of Strawberry Point and the giant bull in Audobon.

5. Tune in when you hear people talking, and be ready to recognize possible destination ideas wherever they may come from. I work for our local chamber of commerce, and one of my jobs is to answer the emails that come into the “info@” email address on our website. One day I received an email from someone asking about where they could find a roadside attraction that was rumored to be a “painted rock with a military theme.” A couple minutes’ internet research revealed the “Painted Rock” over by Greenfield, Iowa, painted with a veterans’ mural prior to each Memorial Day by a young man who had recently graduated from Iowa State University. A new destination was added to my own list!

Thanks to these ideas, I have somewhere around 50 planned rides that I can take when the mood strikes. I’m sure there are other ways to generate ideas, but when you get stuck wondering “Where can we go,” just try one of the above and you’ll find yourself out on the road!