Next week, hundreds of thousands of bikers from around the world will converge upon Sturgis for the annual motorcycle rally.
Some of those bikers have already taken a spin through the Black Hills without ever hopping onto their Harleys because anew website called SouthDakotaRides.com provides a virtual tour of popular rally routes.
The wind-swept freedom of the open road is an alluring advantage of motorcycling in South Dakota. But if you can't capture the sensation from behind the handle bars, then just click on the space bar at your computer.
SouthDakotaRides.com gives users a virtual view of popular biking runs in western South Dakota.
"There's nothing better than on two wheels or a trike, going through the hills or going through anyplace in South Dakota," veteran biker Pat Mullen said.
Mullen used to live in Belle Fourche, so he's very familiar with the Black Hills back roads that unfold on the computer screen.
"When we were in Belle Fourche, we went to Sturgis all the time. That was back in the days when it was a little rougher that it is today," Mullen said.
The state of South Dakota launched the website back in April during an unveiling at J & L Harley Davidson in Sioux Falls. Since then, the site has had more than 7,000 hits.
"It gives a person an opportunity to kind of explore where you may want to ride. I think that's good," Mullen said.
Much of the website promotes motorcycle safety. Bikers can choose a virtual ride that fits their skill level.
"So, if you're new to riding, only have been riding for a short while, it allows you to kind of pick a route that maybe would be more suited to your riding ability," Joe Entenman of J & L Harley Davidson said.
But South Dakota Rides is a work in progress. Within the next couple of months, the website will add virtual biking tours of eastern South Dakota.
"It's surprising the number of people that don't get off the Interstate highways that haven't been up in Lemmon, South Dakota or haven't ridden down in southwestern South Dakota or the Glacial Lakes of eastern South Dakota." Entenman said. "There's some beautiful riding and some great roads throughout the whole state."
Flooding last summer kept a lot of bikers from venturing into South Dakota. But optimism is riding high this year for a big Sturgis turnout.
"The Interstate going south to Kansas City was blocked off which kept people from going up to this part, they were going through Nebraska instead. So we're anticipating more traffic this year than last year, and we're expecting bigger numbers at Sturgis," Entenman said.
"You have to stand on the Main Street of Sturgis and feel the rumble, feel the ground shake under you as the cycles are going by, it's an entirely new experience," Mullen said.
And South Dakota Rides will be at Sturgis as well. State officials will be promoting it at the rally as a website dedicated to get bikers off the beaten path and take a few laps from their laptop.
The website also features webcams posted at four locations in Sturgis. And still in the works are videos of motorcycle maintenance.
To visit the website, click here.