Northwest Arkansas, a Mountain Biking Gem
I’ve always known that the trails in Northwest Arkansas (NWA) are top notch. I’ve met people who have come from places like Colorado, Wyoming and California—places with “good” mountain biking, and rave about the trails here. Sometimes in conversation, I’ll have to try to convince people that NWA actually is a world class outdoorsy place. But it was the events that happened over the past couple weeks that solidified my knowledge that Northwest Arkansas is a major contender in the outdoor world.
For one, a couple weeks ago at the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) World Summit, Bentonville Arkansas was announced as the home to a Silver Ride Center. The trails in Fayetteville Arkansas were announced as a Bronze Ride Center. For reference—there are only ten Silver Ride Centers in the world and Bentonville now ranks with the likes of Bike Taupo, Taupo, New Zealand, Livigno, Italy and Jackson Hole Wyoming. Of the ten new towns added to the Silver and Bronze list, two were from Arkansas. 20 percent of the new award winning ride centers come from Arkansas? We’ll take it.
Then this weekend, I was invited on a press trip to ride in a cross country race in Bentonville called Slaughter Pen Jam. This race took me all over the top cross country trails, which, being a downhill rider, wasn’t exactly my cup of tea but I just kept reminding myself that what goes up must come down.
The race itself was full of crashes, gumbo and fatbikes; which was also a new experience for me. I decided the day before the race that I was going to race a Salsa Mukluk, which if you don’t know what that is, it’s basically the tank of the mountain biking world. It’s definitely not the most practical bike I’ve ever ridden but it’s definitely one of the most fun.
Perhaps the best part of the trip was hanging out with fellow bike journalists Frank Maguire of Dirt Rag Magazine and Cameron Martindell, of Blue Ridge Outdoors (who were both invited to the press trip). Having grown up in Bentonville, it was nice to know that we were respectable enough to bring in solid publications who were also impressed by the local trail infrastructure.
I write this from a hotel room at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas at Interbike. We just spent the day at the Outdoor Demo bombing single track up the reknown Boulder Canyon trail system. And yeah, it was rad—something Bentonville will never have. But there wasn’t a pub, restaurant or even, bathroom in sight. Just a bunch of sweet trails out in the middle of the desert with no hint of civilization anywhere. It’ll be nice to get back home and ride the mountains that have recently become noteworthy.
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