Yes, I’m proud to say that I haven’t yet missed a single GET ON Adventure Fest since it all started in July 2021, when fortuitously I managed to cross the US/Canada border during a pandemic. “Essential travel only” border closure directives didn’t prevent me from enjoying the surprisingly awesome off-road riding opportunities of the famous Black Hills of South Dakota.
Now I’m back home in Canada, fresh from the GOAF Sturgis sequel. If I can help it, the plan is for me to carry on this unbroken streak of attendance for many years to come.
What’s All the GOAF Sturgis Fuss About?
For anyone that is an introvert (like myself) the idea of attending the “Real Sturgis” is an awkward nightmare. Imagine a small town of 7000 people swelling to hold close to a million party-crazed bikers in the sweltering August heat and you can begin to understand why.
GOAF Sturgis is thoughtfully scheduled for mid-July and 4 weeks ahead of the big show, when almost all of the venues and attractions are set up and already running—thus allowing free access to attractions like Mount Rushmore, Deadwood, and Needles without the irritating crowds.
After riding 1300 km or 800 miles, I stood once again in front of the famous Sturgis welcome sign while eagerly anticipating reconnecting with the new riding friends I made last July. As a bonus, my wife Jenna (aka Curly) made the drive in a car, and my friend Lorne who rode with me at GOAF Mojave showed up ready to test his new Yamaha Tenere 700 in South Dakota dirt.
The Sturgis Buffalo Chip Campground
We made our way to the famous Buffalo Chip Campground and staked out a claim in the shade of some trees to pitch our tents.
It was great to meet up and camp with Oscar, David, and especially Brian who had broken his ankle on the Rapid City Loop ride during the first GOAF Sturgis. Brian was back and ready to go after having made a full recovery from the fall last year.
The Wind Strikes Again!
My tent was destroyed by 50mph winds in Mojave and just as my group of riding friends and I had settled down for the first evening an equally sudden and forceful wind and rainstorm flattened the new tent my wife and I had just pitched! I know history tends to repeat itself, but this was a bit eerie.
As a result, we spent an uncomfortable night sleeping in the back of our Mazda CX3 waiting out the storm. I’ve never heard anyone recommend a compact SUV as a good place for a couple to nap, and now I can confirm there are much better options to choose from.
The following morning, I managed to repair the broken poles and secure the tent to the surrounding trees with guylines strong enough to allow us to use the tent for the remainder of our stay.
Needless to say, we’ll be returning the tent to Costco for a full refund with some specific feedback for them on its durability (or lack thereof) when exposed to the violent Sturgis weather.
The center of this year’s festivities was around what is normally named Bikini Beach but had been appropriately renamed Adv Beach for GOAF 2022. No one is interested in seeing Spurg in a bikini…
Each evening there was a live band playing after supper and/or giveaways and draws for merch and swag from RevZilla and various vendors.
Many attendees cooled off in the pond after a long day of dusty rides in 90+-degree sunshine, but I’m certain no one used the waterslide or rope swing more effectively or enthusiastically than Brandon Wise. His aquatic-acrobatic show was a great source of entertainment for all of us seeking shade and food around the oasis.
Movie Time at GOAF Sturgis 2022
Most everyone gathered together on the third evening to view a couple of enjoyable motorcycle shows on an outdoor big screen.
“Where the Road Ends” in particular held my attention because there’s a part in it where the riders attempt to take three Kawasaki KLR650 bikes through the impassable Darien Gap. I won’t spoil it for you, but I found it captivating watching these determined and tough riders confirm what we already knew about riding through that part of the world.
The Riding Trails of the Black Hills
Each day, Rever provided maps to follow in their app with three degrees of difficulty assigned to them.
As at the previous two GOAF events, they provided technical assistance to ensure everyone had a working map to follow. No one got lost from what I heard and the RevZilla crew encouraged everyone to group up instead of riding solo to that end.
Team Brian: Easy Trail(?)
Brian, Brenda, and our new friend Jeff decided to stick to the easy trail option on the first day since Brenda wanted to keep things low-key.
Unfortunately, that plan went sideways, when instead, they unintentionally ended up on a moderately difficult trail.
Brian had downloaded the Rever maps three weeks in advance instead of on the first morning of GOAF like everyone else. Rever had changed up the rating on that particular trail after Brian had downloaded it. Luckily, his group overcame the unexpected level of difficulty and returned to the Chip in one piece.
Team Jim: Moderate
David, Oscar, Lorne, and I decided to tackle the moderate difficulty trail mainly because last year I had found that option to be fun while also presenting some challenging sections. You can watch my video from last year to see what part of The Rapid City Loop (labeled Moderate) looked like.
The trailhead came out swinging with an aggressively inclined section covered in a ton of medium-sized rocks ranging from 2 to 4” in diameter.
This section was littered with stalled motorcycles on the sides because I think most everyone’s hill climbing skills were a bit rusty at this early stage of the game. I include myself, since I managed to stall out after picking a bad line on one section, although I recovered and zipped up to the top, where I waited for the others to arrive.
Compared to last year, I would say the difficulty level of the trails labeled “moderate” had increased.
Deja Vu All Over Again
We went on like this for a good hour or more, having a great time before the trail emptied out on a larger gravel road. We paused there for a mandatory water break and to nibble on the bag lunch RevZilla provided everyone.
The next section of the trail was similar to the first with rocky climbs being the norm. I was starting to better harness my hill-climbing chi by this point and as a result, urged my Husqvarna Norden 901 to higher speeds as I led the group up another hill with a collection of loose 4 to 6” diameter rocks strewn across it.
Oscar was hot on my six aboard his larger Harley Davidson Pan America. The four of us were connected via Dynamic Mesh thanks to our Cardo Packtalk Edge and Packtalk Bold communicators, and there was laughter at puns and groans at tone deaf jokes being exchanged constantly. The playful banter enjoyed up to that point suddenly changed its tone as Lorne and Dave yelped and exclaimed, “Oscar is down! Oscar is down hard!”
Oscar figures that at about 40mph, his front tire washed out on the rocks, causing him and the bike to go down. He planted his right shoulder hard into the ground and came away certain the shoulder joint was either broken or severely dislocated. His pain and discomfort were obvious and I worried about how to get him out of further harm’s way.
It was stunning to realize that once again, one of my friends was seriously injured on the first day of the Rally! After finally convincing Oscar he wasn’t fit to continue, we looked for the quickest way back to civilization so we could get him medical help. In hindsight, it would have been wiser to call 911 as Brian did last year, but we didn’t have cell service at that exact location, and stubborn Oscar insisted he was going to ride his bike back to camp anyway.
I hadn’t brought my InReach Mini emergency beacon on this trip either, so that option was out.
Things Go from Bad to Worse
Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies, eh?
I was keen to head back the way we had come to this point, because I knew we weren’t far from the larger main gravel road we had eaten lunch at, but Lorne’s GPS showed a shorter path was right nearby. After discussing it, we felt it made sense to try the unknown route in the name of getting Oscar some help sooner rather than later.
A word to the wise for anyone finding themselves in this situation: go with what you know instead.
The shorter trail was covered in large rocks measuring 6 to 10” in diameter. That, combined with the 100F heat, caused Oscar’s strength to fade fast and he toppled over at slow speeds twice more.
After taking a few more water breaks and having Lorne ride the Pan America down the hill to give Oscar a break, we made it out to the main road and then back to The Chip. It was a gutsy effort to ride back on his bike, but perhaps not the smartest.
I drove Oscar to the hospital where it was confirmed his shoulder was badly separated and his riding time was over for at least 12 weeks!
Day Two Ride: Easy Trails & Demo Rides
With Oscar stuck on the sidelines, Dave, Lorne, and I decided to take it easy on Day 2 and opt for the easy trail. Jeff joined us on his beautiful BMW 1200GSA because Brenda decided to visit Mount Rushmore and Deadwood with my wife Jenna instead of riding.
Brian chose to spend his second day riding demos instead of the trails. He couldn’t stop gushing about how awesome the Aprilia Tuareg 660 and new Triumph Tiger 1200 GT were after sampling all the available models from BMW, Harley Davidson, Aprilia, Triumph, and Moto Guzzi.
The Tuareg impressed me as well when I rode it at GOAF Mojave, and I agree with Brian’s enthusiasm about it.
A Legit Easy Ride Near Sturgis
The easy trail consisted of gravel roads that twisted and turned through the Black Hills in a perfect display of the forests and hills. It was a relaxing and scenic ride we all wanted.
It did get very dusty at points—as you can see in the photo below—but no one was complaining about it. That’s part of the fun, right?!
While stopped for lunch along the side of the road a lone rider appeared on a KTM 390 Adventure with an overheating engine.
Lorne (being an excellent mechanic) offered to help see what was wrong and quickly diagnosed a failed right-side cooling fan. He was able to replace the blown fuse and left the faulty fan unplugged so the new rider could continue back to The Chip without having any more overheating events.
The Final Day of GOAF Sturgis 2022
Sunday morning arrived all too quickly for my liking. Once again it felt bittersweet heading back home, leaving my riding pals and the celebration of adventure motorcycling that GOAF has become.
The Pan America Sturgis Experience
I spent the final day of the rally doing the most Sturgis-appropriate adventure activity I can think of: riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Oscar loaned me his beautiful Pan for a few hours so I could fully experience the thrill of the first modern Harley adventure bike.
The 150 hp and 94lbs of torque didn’t disappoint me, either on or off-road. It’s not a perfect motorcycle and it certainly has a few quirks about it, but there’s no denying the MoCo has created something worthy of praise and competitive against any other manufacturer’s full-sized adventure bike.
I’ll be watching closely the continued evolution of the Revolution Max engine and HD Pan America from here.
GOAF Sturgis Highlight: The People
It’s beginning to sound repetitive saying it, but the highlights at all three of these RevZilla events I’ve attended—even more so than the riding—have been the excellent people I’ve had the opportunity to ride and associate with.
There were several other groups of riders reuniting from the first GOAF Sturgis at this event. I’m sure the friendships built as a result will be lasting ones. One of these groups, in particular, showed up with custom-made t-shirts jokingly declaring themselves the “RZA HOA” for GOAF.
That’s the magic of motorcycle rallies and so great to see!
If you’ve never been to one, please find a way to make it to the next incarnation—whether it be in Mojave or Sturgis (or somewhere else)—and you’ll see what I mean. If I’m there, please come over and say hello. Better still, if you haven’t anyone with you to camp or ride with, you’re most welcome to join our group.