Motorcycles

Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame – a low-tech way to see two-wheeled history

Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and ...
Some of the different bikes from bygone eras on display at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame
Some of the different bikes from bygone eras on display at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame
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Several glass enclosed displays show some of the paraphernalia that pays tribute to bygone days 
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Several glass enclosed displays show some of the paraphernalia that pays tribute to bygone days 
A 1922 ACE Inline 4 is one of the rarer bikes on display at the museum
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A 1922 ACE Inline 4 is one of the rarer bikes on display at the museum
A bust of Clarence "Pappy Hoel" who started the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally 76 years ago
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A bust of Clarence "Pappy Hoel" who started the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally 76 years ago
Some of the different bikes from bygone eras on display at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame
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Some of the different bikes from bygone eras on display at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame
This wouldn't be a motorcycle museum without patches
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This wouldn't be a motorcycle museum without patches
This old Cushman shows that two wheels aren't necessarily confined to motorcycles at the museum
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This old Cushman shows that two wheels aren't necessarily confined to motorcycles at the museum
This is one of only a few custom bikes on display at the museum
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This is one of only a few custom bikes on display at the museum
This Vincent Black Shadow sits in its own hallowed spot at the museum
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This Vincent Black Shadow sits in its own hallowed spot at the museum
Here's a 1938 Indian sidecar rig
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Here's a 1938 Indian sidecar rig
An impressive lineup of old Indians
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An impressive lineup of old Indians
A rare Indian with an inline four
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A rare Indian with an inline four
Still images rather than flashy videos help tell the history of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
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Still images rather than flashy videos help tell the history of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
A look at how times have changed through the 76-year history of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
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A look at how times have changed through the 76-year history of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
The infamous Flying Merkel displayed under glass
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The infamous Flying Merkel displayed under glass
A couple of Ariels, a Triumph and a Norton
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A couple of Ariels, a Triumph and a Norton
Flat track race bikes from the past
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Flat track race bikes from the past
An assortment of Japanese and British bikes
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An assortment of Japanese and British bikes
History of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally racing in black and white
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History of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally racing in black and white
A rare Henderson Model D sidecar rig
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A rare Henderson Model D sidecar rig

Walk down Main Street or Lazelle Street during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and you'll see a plethora of bikes equipped with the latest technology. But step inside the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame located in the hub of rally activity, and you'll get a glimpse into a world where two-wheeled machines were far less complicated yet still advanced for their time.

Though not on the scale of the Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum or the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, the collection in an old brick building near the east end of Main Street in Sturgis is still impressive and worth a look, any time of year.

During the rally, the museum building is surrounded by an assortment of temporary vendors selling everything from sunglasses to Sturgis Rally apparel. Step inside the building and you're immediately transported into a cooler, older and quieter time.

An impressive lineup of old Indians
An impressive lineup of old Indians

The museum has two floors featuring an interesting menagerie of older American, European and Japanese bikes, with a couple of customs thrown in for good measure.

Go through the single door entrance, look to the left and you'll see a 1998 Excelsior Henderson still in its crate. Take a walk around the first floor and you'll find an assortment of old Harleys, Indians, a beautifully restored Flying Merkel, and a 1922 ACE Inline 4.

The infamous Flying Merkel displayed under glass
The infamous Flying Merkel displayed under glass

Assorted paraphernalia, photos, patches and other items from times gone by adorn the walls or are encased in various displays. Head down a small cubicle area and you'll see photos and related items that pay homage to the founder of the Sturgis Rally, Clarence "Pappy Hoel."

Along a back wall is a montage of photographs from different rallies that provide a sense of how the event has changed and the times with it – from old black-and-white images from the 60s, to the pierced, tattooed and bearded bikers of today.

A look at how times have changed through the 76-year history of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
A look at how times have changed through the 76-year history of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Head downstairs and you'll find bikes, scooters, flat trackers and history from across both ponds, such as old BSAs, Triumphs, Ariels, Nortons, and a couple of Hondas. A Vincent Black Shadow sits appropriately elevated off the ground and featured by itself.

This Vincent Black Shadow sits in its own hallowed spot at the museum
This Vincent Black Shadow sits in its own hallowed spot at the museum

But there's relatively little technology being used to convey the history of motorcycles or the rally, other than a few monitors playing The World's Fastest Indian or short bits of older interviews and documentaries. The bikes tell the story.

Myrick Robbins, the executive director of the museum, recognizes the need to eventually incorporate more technology to improve the museum experience, but he's got even bigger plans. Though only three months on the job, he already envisions a time when the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame will be something more.

"We want this to be a destination museum all year long, and we know we're going to have to be in a bigger building, incorporate more technology and have more local, national and international support to make that happen," he says. "Considering the worldwide brand awareness of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, we believe we have the opportunity to do that. In two years, I think you'll see we've moved closer to making that happen."

For now, the museum is one of those gems you wish you'd known about or taken the time to check out, after it's too late to do so. And for the time being, the low-tech approach is just fine.

Museum website: Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame

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