The townspeople hear them coming and know they only have so much time to prepare for another horde of two-wheeled travelers clogging the streets with their bikes heavily decorated in chrome, leather, and tassles. Fortunately, the folks of Sturgis, South Dakota, have plenty of experience with motorcyclists converging on their town, so they should be able to handle the wild times promised by the Cushman Club of America’s meet there next month.
“You just say Sturgis, and that says everything you need to know,” said Brent Landry, the president of the club. “Of course, we’re not doing it when the big guys are there; 750,000 people in town is a bit too much for us.”
One of the longest-lived and most prolific American-built scooters, the Cushman arose in the mid-1930s out of engine builder Cushman Motor Works’s need to diversify to survive the Depression as well as the company’s need to sell more of its Husky single-cylinder engines. The company’s step-through scooters proved successful, particularly among commuters looking for inexpensive transportation, but its introduction of the Eagle “motorcycle in miniature” in 1949 kept the company in the scooter business until the mid-1960s, when Vespas and later Hondas came to dominate the U.S. scooter market.
So, yeah, “wild times” may be a bit of a stretch. Landry said the meet, which takes place in a different location every summer, is “more like a big family get-together. These were the bikes we all rode when we were younger.”
In fact, when the club visited Sturgis for its 2010 meet, local police officers said they’d welcome the club back anytime.
“The chief there, he said ‘Y’all are so nice, we didn’t have to put anybody in jail,'” Landry said. “I told him yeah, because we’re all in bed by 10.”
Then again, the last time the club visited Sturgis, they didn’t go drag racing at the Buffalo Chip’s 1/8-mile dragstrip, as the club’s members have planned this year. Drag racing in general is fairly new to the club; its members only tried it once before at Charlotte Motor Speedway, though it proved popular, Landry said.
“We do the lights and the burnouts like the big boys,” he said. “Some scooters they’ll run over 100 MPH and have 40 horsepower engines, which is plenty wild for these 75-year-old guys.”
In addition to the drag racing, the club has a number of other activities scheduled, including a group photo shoot on Sturgis’s Main Street, group trips to Mount Rushmore and Devil’s Tower, and a group ride to Spearfish and Rapid City. Landry said he expects about 450 people to show up for the meet.