The Four Corners Motorcycle Rally is a venerable motorcycle gathering dating back nearly 30 years. The rally’s location in Colorado is a magnet for motorcyclists of all varieties. With the quaint, historic town of Durango as its centerpiece and high-altitude stretches of serpentine tarmac fingering out in every direction, there is little doubt why the rally has been a late-summer staple for three decades.
However, only five years ago, the rally was on life support. Just before it flatlined, Trevor Bird rode in on his white horse – or more likely his black Harley – to save the day. Bird is the owner of Durango Harley-Davidson and co-promoter of the Four Corners Rally.
Bird bought the H-D dealership in 2017 and procured the nearly defunct rally soon after. According to Bird, the Four Corners Rally was in serious trouble at that time, with unpaid vendors and serious mismanagement by the prior promoters. Bird is a former boxing promoter, so event management is nothing new to him. Under his direction, the rally is resurging, and I was curious to check it out over Labor Day weekend.
I started my string of activities at the original site of the rally: Ignacio, Colorado. The main camping for the rally was at the Sky Ute Fairgrounds, and many of the rally vendors were planted at the Sky Ute Casino Resort.
The casino grounds were the staging point for “The Brawl,” a motorcycle stunt contest featuring an invitation-only cast of professional stunters competing in a raucous V-Twin extravaganza. The rear-fender-dragging, fuel-tank-denting, spark-inducing display of skill and disregard for bike and skin was a great kickoff for my rally experience.
The 24-mile ride from Ignacio to Durango was a relaxed roll through farmland and small hamlets. Southern Colorado is a peaceful, green, and bucolic setting – until a certain weekend in September when rumbling iron horses garner the attention of the flesh-and-blood ponies grazing in those fields.
As I approached the outskirts of Durango, a mass of gleaming chrome in the early afternoon sun caught my eye. It was the teeming moto-gathering at Durango Harley-Davidson. The beehive of activity on the grounds of the dealership included Harley test rides, vendors, food and drink, bike shows, and a mass of leather-clad humanity having a really good time.
After motoring into Durango, I was struck by the Old West feel of the town of around 20,000 residents. V-Twins lined the main drag, but it was not much of a stretch to imagine horses tethered in their place. Arguably the most iconic of the town’s historic buildings, the Strater Hotel, was my homebase for the rally. I parked in the motorcycle-only reserved parking behind the hotel and made my way to my room. The vintage ambiance of the hotel is wonderful, and my room, heavily adorned with antiques, looked out to a nearby mountain.
I walked the town’s main street, which was humming with activity and a soundtrack supplied by a slow-moving procession of V-Twins. In the middle of town, the rally central was humming with vendors and live music. That night, I headed to La Plata County Fairgrounds for the featured event of the day, the Slippin’ Sideways Flat Track races. A sell-out crowd was treated to a raucous but well-organized festival of speed, skills, and spills.
The attendees, both in town and at these races, appeared to be a great cross-section of motorcycle culture.
“We definitely noticed a younger demographic,” Bird said. “That is not to say that we did not have the traditional older rally demographic, but overall the crowd was younger than you might see at Daytona or Sturgis. We also had riders of many different brands represented. There were BMWs, Urals, Japanese bikes, and many others mixed in with the Harleys and Indians. It was a diverse group, for sure.”
The next day, the rally kicked off with a great downtown parade. Locals lined the street to experience the rumbling, shaking procession of chrome and steel. Harleys and Indians rolled in formation in the shadows of the historic buildings of Durango. It was a very cool scene.
After the parade, I returned to the Strater to pack my bags and head north. Hillclimb races are relatively common back east, but they are a rarity in the West. I was excited to attend my first such event live. When I arrived at the Purgatory Ski Resort at noon, the parking lots were already filling fast. I made the short walk to the base of one of the main ski runs where the races were being staged.
The event was a blast. Seeming out of their element, Harleys in various stages of modification roared up the steep, rough terrain. The crowd was thoroughly entertained by the roosting and wrecking and the displays of horsepower and abandon. It is hard to gauge how many people are at such a dispersed event, but Bird said attendance was greater than expected.
“The event manager at Purgatory came up to me at the venue and said that parking was filled to capacity, and they were finding other places to expand the parking,” he said. “For a promoter, that is fantastic news.”
In the end, the Four Corners Rally was an unqualified success. Bird said local and regional authorities estimated the total attendance at around 10,000, which was up more than 3,000 from 2021. Bird’s team is already working on the 30th iteration of the event, including national music acts brought in with cooperation from local tribes and casinos.
As to how the rally was received, Bird said feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
“We had events in Ignacio, Durango, and Purgatory,” he said. “While we had a few comments that it was too spread out, the vast majority of riders liked that there was so much spectacular riding between the venues and beyond. Our area has some of the best riding in the nation, like the Million Dollar Highway and so many other great stretches of road. Overall, I think our format is a big asset.”
The unique Four Corners Motorcycle Rally is an event with one boot firmly planted in the past and the other stepping into the future. We will be back.
For more information, visit FourCornersMotorcycleRally.com.