Why Motorcycle Riders Should Retire in the Black Hills of South Dakota

Article written by Brian Bickett

You and I both know that South Dakota was ranked the best state for retirement in Bankrate’s 2018 “Best and worst states for retirement” study which is summarized here.  The study ranked South Dakota #1 overall based on rankings in the following categories:

  • #1 in Well-Being
  • #2 in Taxes
  • #10 in Culture
  • #12 in Health Care Quality
  • #19 in Cost of Living
  • #21 in Crime
  • #38 in Weather

Something not included in the Bankrate study is the fact that South Dakota also ranks #1 in the country for the number of motorcycles registered per person?

Now that you are considering retiring in the state of South Dakota, you’re looking at a map and realizing it’s a relatively large state (ranked 17th covering 77,117 square miles) with relatively few people (ranked 46th with a 2018 estimated population of 882,235).  How do you decide which part of South Dakota to retire? 

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Let me elaborate on the 5 reasons I believe motorcycle riders should retire in the Black Hills of South Dakota:

#5 – A.B.A.T.E. of South Dakota

When it comes to motorcycle rights, two active and very effective organizations come to mind:  the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) and A.B.A.T.E. 

While MRF is a national organization focused on national and international issues related to the freedom and safety of American motorcyclists, A.B.A.T.E. is a State Motorcyclists’ Rights Organization (SMRO) with a somewhat radical background that has, shall I say, softened from A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments formed to fight federal helmet laws in the 1970’s into A Brotherhood for Awareness, Training and Education. 

A.B.A.T.E. of South Dakota is one of the more active SMROs in the nation and has a long history of monitoring motorcycle related legislation and promoting political involvement by motorcyclists.  Legislation and programs supported by A.B.A.T.E. of South Dakota include: repealing the mandatory helmet law for riders 18 & older, supporting the annual Biker Legislative Day at the state capital, supporting the repeal of petty offense for motorcycle exhaust and motorcycle handlebar height restrictions to name just a few. 

Located on the eastern edge of the Black Hills, Rapid City is home to the Rushmore Chapter which is the largest chapter in the state with just over 400 members.  Rest assured, not much gets by this group of active motorcyclists.

#4 – Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

There is no denying the impact the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has on the Black Hills area nor the opportunities that come with it for motorcycle riders living here.  The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally consistently brings in over 400,000 motorcyclists every August and brings with them every manufacturer, builder, supplier and vendor of motorcycles and motorcycle related parts and supplies.  It’s an amazing opportunity for motorcyclists in the area to see the latest products, personalities and custom motorcycles; not to mention the national level performing artists who come to play for the rally attendees.

The benefits of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally extend beyond the rally week in August.  Many motorcycle-related businesses have grown in the Black Hills or relocated here to support the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which means year-round access to motorcycle riders in the area.  These include large local dealerships for Indian, Harley Davidson, Polaris/Victory, Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha and many parts suppliers such as Sampson Exhaust, J&P Cycles and Legend Air Suspension to name a few.

#3 – Black Hills “Banana Belt”

Wait a minute, the Bankrate study showed South Dakota was ranked #38 in Weather.  This is true, South Dakota absolutely experiences the four seasons in all their glory: often exceeding 100 degrees for short periods in July & August, commonly experiencing sub-zero temps in January & February.   I can understand where many would rank South Dakota lower because the annual temperature swings are much larger than in a coastal area.  This range of temperatures does bring with it the benefits of experiencing all four seasons as well as the amazing drive thru Spearfish Canyon to watch the colors change in the fall.

The Rapid City area unofficially resides in a “banana belt’ and experiences a less extreme version of the weather that the rest of the state experiences.  This is due to its location on the eastern edge of the Black Hills which provide a natural barrier from winter weather and summer heat.  The Black Hills also often help to create an air inversion which traps warm air over the Rapid City area.  The resulting climate in Rapid City is usually much milder than the surrounding area.

#2 – Black Hills National Forest

The Black Hills National Forest covers over 1.2 million acres of forested hills and mountains (an area approximately 110 miles in length and 70 miles in width) providing public access to seemingly endless opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, camping, hunting and fishing.  It also includes over 3,600 miles of roads and trails designated open for motorized travel with 21 designated motorized trailheads.  The over 700 miles of motorized trails in the Black Hills National Forest offer motorcycle riders the opportunity to go back to their childhood roots and explore the Black Hills National Forest on a dirt bike (Que The Dirt Bike Kid).

#1 –  Iron Mountain Road

The opportunity to ride Iron Mountain Road is, in my completely un-biased opinion, the number 1 reason to live in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Having had the opportunity to ride the infamous Tail of the Dragon, the Million Dollar Highway and the Beartooth Highway (Side Note: Red Lodge and Beartooth are only a day’s ride from the Black Hills), Iron Mountain Road rivals the technical skill and attention required of Tail of the Dragon with views that compete with the Beartooth Highway. 

Iron Mountain Road is a 17 mile stretch that includes 314 curves, split roadways, 3 wooden pig-tail bridges and 3 granite tunnels which each frame Mount Rushmore

How does riding get any cooler than that?  I’ll tell you how, what if we added all of the following scenic roads within an hour’s ride from Iron Mountain Road:  the Needles Highway, Custer Wildlife Loop, Nemo Road, Boulder Canyon, Spearfish Canyon, Vanocker Canyon, the Badlands, Old Hill City Road, Highway 244 past Mount Rushmore, Highway 385 past Crazy Horse and Highway 85 from I-90 to Deadwood.

So there you have it, the top 5 why I believe motorcycle riders should retire in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

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