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New Laws Let Sturgis Bound Riders Keep Their Hands and Speeds Higher

Posted on 26 Jun 2015 in Powersports | 5 comments

For all of you riders who have put thousands of miles on your bike with your arms up behind a set of ape hanger bars there’s some good news.  You will now be able to legally ride through South Dakota on your way to Sturgis without swapping or modifying your bars.

Green Chopper w/ Ape Hangers

South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard signed a state senate bill earlier this year that will effectively abolish the law that prohibits any motorcycles from having handlebars that are at or above shoulder height.  The new law will go into effect July 1st, just in time for riders to gear up for the historic 75th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which begins the first week of August.

This is great news for the many riders who have ridden to the rally from out of state who were not aware of the height restriction that was in effect in South Dakota.  While the law was considered a “petty” law with a fine of $20 (which when all fees are totaled could reach up to $120), it was certainly an annoyance especially if you were not aware of it.  Those who were aware of the law either had to swap out their bars or tilt them so that the grips would be below the rider’s shoulder height.  Or just completely ignore it and hope not to encounter the law enforcement.

The law also led to some risky maneuvers by riders to get around it.  One practice was to leave the bars loose in the riser clamps so the rider could keep the bars in the desired position until they saw an officer at which point they would then drop the bars down to a legal height.  As you can imagine, that’s probably not the safest practice.

The bar height restriction, however, was not unique to South Dakota.  There are a few other states that restrict how high your grips can be.  The South Dakota law has been highlighted and moaned about the most because of the huge amount of bikes that come together in one area for the Sturgis Rally, where many visitors are unaware of the law.  If you are looking to install apes on your bike, you should check to see if your state has the height restriction to avoid a ticket.

With the height restriction now being removed in time for Sturgis, be prepared to see a lot more hands hanging high in the breeze.  With so many custom bikes at the rally, many riders are sure to take advantage and finish their bike with the bars that they really want.

Another recent law change may help you get to the rally faster.  The two major interstates that many people travel on to get to Sturgis now have higher speed limits.  I-90 and I-29 both have been bumped up to 80 mph in the state of South Dakota.  Of course, you don’t have to ride that fast, but it should help some riders who feel confident enough to ride at that speed to shave some time off of their travel to spend more time in the Sturgis area.

Whether you’re planning on heading out to the rally this summer or are just planning a trip through South Dakota, these laws should come as good news for many riders.  There’s a lot of great roads just waiting to be ridden and now more than in years past, you can do it your way.

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Ryan is one of the lucky ones who gets to combine their passion with work. He has enjoyed powersports his whole life and now gets to write about it. Ryan has been around the industry since High School and continues to enjoy learning and sharing about powersports with others in his role at DK.


  1. frempath / June 28th, 2015 15:39

    Be aware though that with the 80 mph speed limit, the 5 mph cushion that was given by the troopers was eliminated. So be aware that yes you can get a ticket for 81. Last week I was on I-90 and I-29 for over 500 miles. The only people pushing the speed limit were the out of staters.

  2. Matt W / June 29th, 2015 19:13

    As a resident of Rapid City (a few miles east of Sturgis), I want to suggest a correction: While the speed limit at this time is indeed 80mph with a couple of 65mph city zones, the powers that be have announced that the speed limit from the Wyoming border to Rapid City will drop back down to 75mph. Also, every year the speed limit for the couple miles surrounding Sturgis are dropped to 65mph. In short, don’t count on the speed limits being what you’re used to! Stay alert, as traffic control during the rally is always different during the rally than it is for the other 51 weeks of the year.

  3. Bob Hadden / June 29th, 2015 20:16

    This article needs a little revision and an addition to the info. As of today, June 29, South Dakota lowered the speed limit on I-90 from the Wyoming border to Rapid City back down to 75. Usually, during the rally, they also lower the limit (on I-90 through Sturgis) to 65. As far as ape hangers are concerned..the law may have been changed in South Dakota, but as far as I know, it is still in effect in Wyoming which many riders ride through on their way to Sturgis. Thousands ride into Wyoming (Devil’s Tower, Sundance, and Beulah) during the rally. Wyoming cops WILL pull you over for high handlebars.

  4. Bob Cordell / June 29th, 2015 21:29

    How are motorcycles different from automobles in that a car registered legally in its home state that is ridden to another state that may have different rules is suddenly illegal? No one has to stop and change parts on their car to be able to drive it to or thru another state.

    • Blake / July 1st, 2015 20:43

      Not necessarily so… Some states allow your Windows to be tinted, but if you drive your car into another state that restricts that you can be ticketed.


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