The guy at the beer tent at 3 p.m. during STAR 2013 was the loneliest guy in Lexington, Kentucky. People actually felt sorry for him. Not that he wasn’t busy in the evening, when the bikes were parked for the night and everyone was eager to share stories about the day’s rides. But the Crowne Plaza, the host hotel, may have slightly miscalculated the audience.
They were trying hard to put forth the best southern hospitality, and that included opening a beer and barbeque tent early in the afternoon. Unlike many rallies where that move would have been a crowd-pleaser, there’s an important fact to know about STAR (Sport Touring Association Rendezvous), the Motorcycle Sport Touring Association’s annual national rally: The parking lot’s a ghost town in the afternoon. Everyone’s out riding.
There’s a reason “Sport Touring” is the MSTA’s middle name. STAR isn’t about shopping. Vendors are few and they generally close-up shop in the afternoons, too. It’s not about a slow-moving parade ride in one big group. There are numerous self-guided rides available, some as long as 300 miles, but riders tend to leave in clumps of a few to half a dozen, organizing themselves by preferred pace. And it’s not a gathering of motorcyclists for whom this is a passing phase. Some MSTA members have been to STAR twenty or more times. A few stop in at the rally as part of a crosscontinent, multi-week tour.
In other words, these are serious riders.
“It’s just like our new tagline says: Great people. Great roads. Join us,” says Dennis Villarose, who became president in January 2013. “We just enjoy going out and riding and we also promote safety.”
“It’s all about the people,” adds former President Don “Moose” Parish, who has been to 25 of the 31 STARs. “The roads are great and the places are nice and all that, but once you get involved enough and get to know so many of the people, it’s just great fun seeing everybody again.”
The MSTA has evolved over the years in a way that has broadened its membership. The club dates to 1982, when founder Dana Sawyer—who was enamored with his new Honda Sabre—decided to start a club for owners of V-4 Hondas, and the Honda V-4 Sport Touring Association was born. A few years later, the V-4 part was dropped from the name, and although “Honda” remained, owners of other brands were welcome to join. In 2009, the name was changed to the Motorcycle Sport Touring Association. The new name reflects both the diversity of bikes you’ll see in the parking lot at STAR and the fact that the focus is on the spirit of the riders, not the make of the ride.
Current membership stands at 1,558 and about 400 of those members made the trip to Lexington for STAR. The rally takes place in the East on odd-numbered years and the West on even-numbered years. STAR 2014 is scheduled for Rapid City, South Dakota, in June.
Post-rally comments on the MSTA online forum (sporttouring.us) were full of praise for Lexington, from the exceptional hospitality to the scenery of Kentucky horse country.
“The roads here are not spectacular like the Smokies or awesome like the Rockies, but they’re beautiful,” adds Parish. “It’s horse country with gorgeous farms and all that goes with it. It’s pleasant sport-touring roads.”
Some of the self-guided tours laid out in advance by MSTA volunteers took riders as far afield as southern Indiana. Even the lunch ride route was pushing 200 miles. So it’s no surprise that quite a few MSTA members give their odometers a serious workout. One of those is Denise Dickenson of Oklahoma City, whose 2001 Yamaha FZ-1 showed 215,000 miles on the clock when she arrived at STAR. In many ways, her experience with the MSTA is a common one.
“The first STAR I went to was in 1998,” she says. She’d planned to go with two friends, but they backed out, so she went alone. “I didn’t know a soul that first year, and this guy took me in, and that couple took me in, and I know them still. There are a lot of good people. I go to STAR to see all the people I’ve met.”
Since that first STAR, she’s missed the annual rally just once, when she was short on vacation time and had to make the tough choice between a riding vacation in Europe or STAR.
Membership in the MSTA is $25 a year if you opt to receive the eight annual issues of STAReview, the organization’s magazine, electronically instead of getting a printed copy in the mail. Unless you’d rather spend your afternoons in the parking lot instead of going for a ride, check them out at ridemsta.org.
(This article was published in the April 2014 issue of Rider magazine.)