Recently named “Mountain Biking Capital of the World,” with more than 60 miles of networked trail systems, and options for both seasoned and novice riders, everyone can enjoy the ride. 21c Bentonville has everything you need for your cycling getaway including bike lockers, trail maps, and a bike wash station.
We love that our town embraces the bike community, so we caught up with Aimee Ross, Director of Bike Bentonville, to get her thoughts on the heightened impact of biking in the area.
You’ve lived in Northwest Arkansas for several years now. How have you seen the biking landscape, followers, and focus changed in the last few years?
AR: “Our community has continued to develop infrastructure, programs, and advocacy efforts to broaden the cycling experiences, share our story to the global cycling community, and gain momentum as an innovator within the cycling industry. We’ve seen an uptick in new cyclists or re-engaged cyclist staking an interest in our trails and helped educate city leaders from across the country on the importance of urban green spaces for the purposes of activating healthy communities and preserving natural spaces where people live.”
What is your favorite trail in Bentonville and why?
AR: “It’s hard to pick just one. I would say that Phase 1 in Slaughter Pen is my favorite network of trails. These are the original cut trails in Bentonville. This network never gets old, it has enough technical features to challenge me when I want, you can ride them even when it rains, and the singletrack trail that slices through the dense forest makes you feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere.”
Why should someone choose to plan a bike trip to Bentonville, over possibly more obvious destinations, such as Colorado?
AR: “Bentonville is making a name for itself among the list of must-ride destinations like Moab, Crested Butte, and Whistler. And the thing about it is that none of these experiences are the same, and Bentonville provides a new experience where connectivity to hundreds of miles of trail starts from the town square, arts and culture are everywhere, and that southern hospitality doesn’t disappoint. Cyclists come to Bentonville to experience what they have heard so much about.”
What other aspects of Bentonville have come alongside the biking focus to help elevate a visitor’s experience?
AR: “A local culture for the arts and the cuisine. We hear it from cyclists all the time after they have experienced our community. They are inspired by how so many facets of art have been woven through the experience both on and off the trail. And then they are equally as surprised when they discover the culinary scene. We have some amazing chef-driven restaurants and James Beard-nominated chefs that you’ll want to spend an extra day riding to ensure you enjoy all that Bentonville has to offer.”
If you had a two-day “agenda” for a group interested in visiting Bentonville for biking, what would you want to make sure they didn’t miss? Biking or otherwise?
AR: “Breakfast, lunch, and dinner in one of our many delicious culinary experiences. I would spend two days discovering Slaughter Pen and Coler MTB Preserve and if time permitted head to our neighbors to the north Bella Vista and check out Back 40 or Little Sugar. Make sure you plan nights out with a visit to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Momentary, 21c Museum/Hotel, Walmart Museum, and 8th Street Market. And top it off with a trip to Bike Rack Brewery or Bentonville Brewing (or both) and don’t miss the margaritas at The Hub Bike Lounge.”
As an avid biker yourself, how has this pastime helped you cope with the challenging, unprecedented times we’re all in right now?
AR: “Every ride I do I always come back feeling better. It doesn’t matter whether the ride was long and tough or a quick causal pace tour, I can guarantee there was something good that came from some part of the ride. I have a saying I tell myself on the days I’m not as motivated to go; “You don’t regret the ride you did, only the ride you didn’t do”. Being in nature is something I need more often than not and I’m glad to see so many have begun to experience the effects nature has on one’s health, whether it’s a ride, walk or hike spending some amount of time outdoors helps create a calm sense of mental health and I’m thankful we have the opportunity literally out our back door to explore those spaces in an urban setting.”
What would your advice be to someone new to biking – either road or mountain?
AR: “Don’t wait, get those wheels rolling. In fact, Bentonville offers great ride experiences and opportunities for beginners, as well as those who are advanced. I would recommend connecting with someone who has experience; ask them to be your mentor as you venture down this path on two wheels. So many cyclists are happy to take the time and answer any questions or concerns you have about getting into cycling. Here is a link to some of the resources available in our community: https://www.visitbentonville.com/bike/resources/advocacy/
Are there any bike events happening this fall we can’t miss?”
AR: “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of our favorite events such as Outerbike, Epic Rides Oz Trails Off-Road, and Big Sugar Gravel have had to cancel for 2020 and we look forward to having them return in 2021. In the meantime, our trails are open, and the fall is one of the best times to visit Bentonville. With mid-day temps in the low 70’s, and fall foliage pooping you’ll enjoy the abundance of cycling opportunities right from the heart of the Bentonville Square.”