Kulture Clash: Sugar Bear, Sturgis and looking down the road

By Bob Kay

I had the pleasure this year at Sturgis to spend a morning with Sugar Bear and our illustrious editor, Shadow. Sugar Bear has put together a non-profit organization to support the Sugar Bear Chopper Museum in Sturgis, actually close by in Belle Fourche. I spent four days in Sturgis this year before heading for the Rockies and let me tell you the Black Hills are as beautiful as ever. The vibe at this year’s rally was fantastic with most bikers being respectful of other bikers on the road. I have seen the rally change over the last 25 years to become a very important economic issue for individuals, businesses and municipalities. Beyond that Sturgis has become a place to honor the past, enjoy the present and plot the future of our motorcycle culture.

Sugar Bear asked me to check out the new site for his chopper museum and while I was there maybe I could do a presentation about Custom Kulture sprinkled with a few personal stories. I brought my nephew along; it was his first time to ride to Sturgis. Sugar Bear showed us a chopper he built in the ’70s and of course it had one of the longest Sugar Bear no-flop springers on it I have ever seen. It was still in great shape and I am sure with a little finessing would be ready to ride. After the presentation we sat with Shadow and talked about some of the stories the audience shared with us. There was actually one couple that rode in from Vegas on their bike with a new Sugar Bear springer; they said the ride was unbelievable and so much more comfortable than they ever expected. Chopperville, home of the museum, was a nice 100-acre plot with so much potential for the future. This year we had some tents, picnic tables and choppers. There was also the best hamburger I ever tasted available: got to have food and beverage. Needless to say Sugar Bear has great plans for the future. We must always remember our future is much more solid when it is based on the lessons of the past. Sugar Bear is just trying to create a place where we can hang out, meet friends, tell stories, laugh hard and plan adventures.

My nephew, my buddy Mike and I spent our first night in Interior, South Dakota, after riding through the grasslands, up 27 by Wounded Knee and entering the Badlands through the south entrance. We were up in the morning for a ride through the Badlands National Park, over to Wall for our traditional vanilla ice cream cone and then headed for Black Hills Harley-Davidson. That afternoon we visited Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse and went to meet our friends in Lead. Sunday morning was Chip time for the Flying Piston Builders Breakfast, back to house to install an ignition and regulator on one of the bikes then back to the Chip for Michael Lichter’s Passion display and the annual industry party. Monday was for the Needles Highway. It was a great ride as usual but on the way there we ran into a little hail and heavy rain. We stopped in Keystone for a little refreshment and headed back to Lead. Tuesday morning was put aside for Sugar Bear but we did Spearfish Canyon in the afternoon. Wednesday morning we were up early and on the road for the Rocky Mountain National Park, eventually spending the night in Grand Lake, Colorado. When my nephew asked to come along I did not hesitate but told him to plan on riding and he did, and we did. There are so many more stories I can share from this year’s ride but that will have to be for the next time we meet and I can tell you my nephews are already planning a bigger adventure for their next Sturgis.

Yes, Sturgis is changing along with the rest of the world. Sturgis has developed into a huge economic value for the area. Politics and police can get in the way of fun but they understand how important this rally is to the region. I know we can’t get away with some of the stuff we used to do at Sturgis but on the other hand there is still a lot of fun to be had. Take the Buffalo Chip, for example; the best concerts, races on sight, you can fire machine guns, the best party camping, bike shows every day and Woody is promising more for next year and many years to come. While the old Full Throttle was cool the new place is even better. Miss Brittney Olsen’s Spirit of Sturgis Vintage Motorcycle Festival is starting to shape up and the racing is always right on. The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum is growing as is that whole area around them and then there is Harley-Davidson Way, and the Harley displays are bigger than ever. Indian is out there kicking butt with their Scout stunt action. The attendance numbers might not be as high but I will tell you it is much more enjoyable for all when you can get around a little easier than those years of one million attendees.

The old saying is if you are not moving forward you are backing up. While some may want to keep things as they are it is just not realistic. Change is inevitable and should be embraced for nothing less than a wondrous future. I have always considered Sturgis the meeting of the tribes. As such we should pay homage to our history while making plans for the future. The best way to do that is to ride and tell stories, stories of the past, ideas for the future. Don’t forget to laugh from deep inside you and so much it hurts. The future is coming so we might as well as enjoy the ride rather than worry about the destination.

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