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  1. Default Travel from Denver or Salt Lake City to Sturgis Rally

    I'm the organiser and wife of one of a group of Aussie middle-aged bikers who are planning to attend the August 2009 Sturgis Rally. I have a dilemma. The lads will be visiting Las Vegas and flying to either Denver or Salt Lake City (SLC) to collect bikes and ride to Sturgis. Bikes will need to be returned from place hired so it has to be a return trip.
    From my reading, Denver is a shorter trip to Sturgis and could be done in a day, or at least overnight. I have the feeling that the ride is not very interesting, especially for the return.
    SLC is at least a 2 day ride to Sturgis but it seems that the ride is far more scenic and it is possible to go a different way back?
    The lads want to ride the Beartooth highway.
    Thank you very much for any advice.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default For an Extra 600 Miles

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    I tend to agree with you that the ride from/to Salt Lake City would be much more interesting. It would also, as you are aware, add another 600 miles (more or less) to your round trip. On the other hand, it is clearly the better positioned of your two possible gateway cities if you plan to include the Beartooth Highway. It also puts you in position to include Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. If you choose Salt Lake City, consider using US-89 as your highway of choice for at least part of the run to Sturgis. By the way, be sure to read Bob's Adventures on a similar trip.


  3. #3

    Default Bikers from Oz

    G'day mates,

    Whether starting from Denver or Salt Lake City (SLC) your have some options in terms of routing one way out and another way back. The way I see it, you can include the Beartooth Highway in either routing if you're prepared for the additional out-of-the way distance under the Denver option.

    From SLC, your inclusion of the Beartooth Highway also brings with it a trip through Yellowstone NP and the Grand Tetons, if you so choose. Doing this on the way to Sturgis, I'd look at getting to either West Yellowstone, MT or Jackson, WY on the first night out of SLC, thence through Yellowstone and out the Northeast Entrance at Cooke City, across the Beartooth Hwy, through Red Lodge, MT and on to Sturgis from there. It's around 350 mi from Red Lodge to Sturgis, so a late arrival or a stopover between Red Lodge and Sturgis are indicated. Red Lodge, by the way, is a very nice and very enjoyable town. The other way back involves passing by Devils Tower NM, running diagonal across central WY, and on out to SLC. A single night's stopover might be considered in the vicinity of Flaming Gorge Reservior (which would include a nice jaunt through the Unita Range through Vernal and Heber City, UT, on the way back to I-80 at Park City), or a stopover at Park City itself. Park City is but 30-40 minutes ride from SLC and is a fun town with lots of Main Street bars and restaurants.

    From Denver it's a bit more of an "understated beauty" ride to Sturgis, depending somewhat on the exact route chosen, but at 400 miles is probably a 1 day ride assuming a reasonably early start. If you did that, a long loop west to take in the Beartooth Highway but skipping the majority of Yellowstone and the Tetons would bring you out the east entrance of Yellowstone near Cody, WY, and a diagonal across central WY into CO to, say, Steamboat Springs for a second night overnight and a visit to the Strawberry Hot Springs outside of Steamboat. From there, I'd look at riding to Granby, CO, thence up and over Trail Ridge Rd in Rocky Mountain NP en route back to the Boulder-Denver metro area. In my opinion, Trail Ridge Rd rivals the Beartooth Highway in terms of alpine scenery. If you were to economize on time out of Denver, you could ride to, say, the Laramie, WY, thence south down the west side of the Front Range to Granby, thence up and over Trail Ridge Rd, thereby making it a 1 day out and 2 days back ride from Denver.

    I'll leave it to you and the lads to figure more specific distances and travel times, but will be happy to chime back in with specific questions about locales, as I've personally been everywhere I've just written about save for Sturgis itself and Steamboat Springs, CO.

    Best of luck, and enjoy the planning and the trip,


  4. Default Thanks from the aussie bikers

    And g'day to AZBuck & Foy, thank you both for your excellent replies. This is our first exposure to that part of the world and you can read and read about it but nothing beats first hand knowledge. It seems like SLC is the way to go as the lads want to see as much as possible while they have the bikes.
    I do have one further question at this stage, do either of you have a sense of what is a reasonable day's ride - I'm thinking about 450 miles (about 8 hours?) would be tops?

    Thanks from 'the wife'

  5. #5

    Default A day's ride?

    While I've racked up several hundred thousand miles over the last 37 years of driving, very few were logged astride a bike, and what few there were were on a dirt bike or a street-legal enduro. I have a close by neighbor who has been riding Harley's for around 10 years and he's taken 3 or 4 cross-country trips (Sturgis, Route 66, Milwaukee). He's a bit of an "iron butt", so I'd guess his reply would be well in excess of a reasonably recommended miles or hours in the saddle.

    That said, surely the group's experience level dictates travel times and distances to a degree, as does the type of highway being traversed. Interstates in the Western US are designed with wide-radius curves and limited grade hills, so long distances and times of sustained high speed are possible. Older two lane highways are generally not "limited access" so driveways, cross streets, businesses, and all sorts of other vehicles (school busses, log trucks, farm equipment) can and will be encountered. About the only thing I can do, given zero Harley riding experience, is to guess average overall speeds in the 60 mph range for Interstates and 50 mph speeds on non-Interstates. The average speed estimates take into account "start to finish" travel days where nature stops, fuel stops, and meal stops are part of the day's average. That is to say Interstate travel speeds are in the 80 mph range, sustained, and non-Interstate speeds would average 65 mph or so, sustained.

    I suppose a particular level of caution is in order even for experienced riders where traffic congestion in US cities can be significant, and there's always the issue of driving on the wrong side of the road as we do here. About 5 years ago I accompanied a group of about a dozen friends who rented Harleys in a community just north of SLC. Several of the guys had ridden a lot, but not in recent years. I rode in the Jeep back in the sweeper position, and it was pretty hairy as we left the bike shop and started immediately negotiating SLC area traffic. We rode around 200 miles over the course of the day and had to take on SLC rush-hour traffic south-to-north to get the bikes back on time. A couple of the guys just couldn't handle the Interstate traffic and chose to exit and finish the trip on less intense boulevards (and miss the return time incurring additional charges).

    Anyway, I'll check with my neighbor and will report back, and hopefully with some more on-point Harley Road Tripping words of wisdom.


  6. Default Most grateful for any info

    Thanks again Foy. I should probably be doing this through a bikers forum somewhere but as you have kindly offered to check it out for me, I'll take you up on it.

    The wife

  7. #7

    Default My pleasure, Ma'am

    It does seem wise to establish communications with some rider's forums, as well, as surely there is a wealth of information on the more bike-specific aspects of your plans.

    I happened to schedule a Road Trip to Southwestern Montana in late July/early August 2002. We drove my pickup truck from North Carolina to Philipsburg, MT and our weekend of arrival coincided with the arrival weekend to Sturgis. As we crossed the Great Plains, we encountered a steadily increasing number of bikes, both ridden and towed (and we figured towed vs. ridden was something like 5 to 1). The point is once we got to within 600-700 miles of Sturgis, the rest areas, restaurants, and campgrounds were jammed with those headed for Sturgis. Our last overnight outbound was Hardin, MT, on the Saturday night before the rally's Sunday or Monday official start. We couldn't find as much as a single tent site, but were allowed to set up adjacent to the driveway accessing one of the commercial campgrounds. It made for a miserable night with traffic on the nearby road and vehicles rolling by our tent in and out of the campground at all hours of the night. We finally arose at 0430, showered, and hit the highway. The point of all of that being the closer you get to Sturgis, the bigger the crowds at all public and private facilities. There appeared to be slightly less of a crowd eastbound across I-90 in MT than there were westbound and northbound from the Great Plains.

    I'll be back after a consult with "Iron Tail Steve".


  8. #8


    Quote Originally Posted by aussiebikers View Post
    I do have one further question at this stage, do either of you have a sense of what is a reasonable day's ride - I'm thinking about 450 miles (about 8 hours?) would be tops?

    Thanks from 'the wife'
    If you are riding Harleys it will depend on the bike. 450 miles on a Sportster or a hardtail chopper is rough on the butt. A Road King or one of the Softtails have a much smoother ride.

    Have you made reservations anywhere around Sturgis for your stay? If you haven't yet you should. My step son goes every year with his mc and they stay in a campground about 30 miles from Sturgis. Hotels, motels and campsites tend to get full far in advance of the actual rally. I have never been to the Sturgis rally but I have been to Daytona during bike week. You'll never forget it.

  9. #9

    Default Iron Tail Steve's advice

    Well, my buddy Steve says 400-450 miles a day is all he really enjoys on his Harley. After that, it starts to become a chore, says he.

    He also pointed out something rather obvious when you think about it: It's a challenge to remain well-hydrated in the Western US while running 60-70mph on a bike in the direct sunlight in the July & August heat. Even though the elevations across Wyoming are high, it's likely to be quite warm and the humidity quite low. Be sure to suggest the lads drink quite a bit--of water, that is. His observation reminded me of the return trip in 2002, as our drive back from Montana to NC took us back by Sturgis on the Sunday of the Rally's close. I have never seen a more parched, scorched looking group of people in my life, riding two-by-two east along I-90. It was grasshopper season, too, and the #*!+*!! bugs were so thick I had to stop and flush them out of my truck's radiator at a car wash. The bikers just took them on the chin, literally, as few wore helmets. I thought they were all crazy.


  10. Default

    Thanks for the info re the bikes. The lads are definitely looking for comfort so Road King or Softtail it is then, and one that comes with a screen for the bugs!

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