As you may have heard, this years IMBA World Summit was held in Northwest Arkansas—which is a pretty big deal. This is, after all, one of the biggest events in terms of mountain biking advocacy, so the host community is always an exemplary location. Arkansas has been flying under the radar, quietly building and refining their mountain biking infrastructure. On their website: Mountain biking. In the airport: Mountain biking. It’s clear to see that they’re all-in.My trip was fully sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism. This could influence my review, but honestly I think it says something about their commitment to mountain biking. Instead of looking at mountain bike trails as fringe attractions, Bentonville has put them front and center. A network of paved paths, called the Razorback Regional Greenway, connect from Bentonville north to Fayetteville south. They’re easily accessible from almost any location in the city. A lot of the connected trails are part of Slaughter Pen, which is the first system I rode after landing in Bentonville.From the airport, I went straight to Phat Tire bike shop in. Only minutes after grabbing my rental bike, I was climbing a switchback in Slaughter Pen.My favorite parts of Slaughter pen have a lot of manmade features like jumps, berms, and flow tracks. Because the system features a network of short trails strung together, your ride can be as long or short as you want. One easily accessible spot starts with a mellow switchback climb leading to a sweet downhill flow track. At the bottom you can climb back up and hit it again.If you prefer a more natural setting, Blowing Springs loop gives you the best of both worlds. I met with some friends to ride here on Friday, and it was quite literally right outside their front door.If you’re like me, you’ll appreciate riding directly into downtown after your ride. Of course you don’t need to eat a hambuger placed between two grilled cheese sandwiches, but you can. Bentonville actually has a lot of other options though.On a trip to Northwest Arkansas, you could stay occupied for days without a rental car or shuttle. Staying in Bentonville puts you really close to the airport, and right in the middle of all this stuff. From the bike shop you can pedal just about anywhere. Travel into the adjacent town, and you’ll find a public free ride facility called Rail Yard. I wish I grew up with a playground like this.
While I do enjoy a more urban experience, the most memorable rides are the ones where you get lost in the woods. Venture into the Ozark Mountains and you’ll find 5 IMBA Epic rides.The trails out in Upper Buffalo provide a genuine backwoods experience. It’s best to come prepared, and bring a riding buddy along as Alex and I realized. A typical mishap like a flat tire or injury can become pretty serious when you’re isolated from civilization.Alex was really bummed about cutting his ride short, but insisted that I finish on both of our behalf’s. That said, in I went to Azalea falls alone with no cell reception. Despite this questionable decision, I ended up with some companions rather quickly. I would never consider a subscriber ride to be complete without a challenge.Bentonville is on my shortlist for a repeat visit. I absolutely need to go back for a longer trip, spend some more time with the locals, and ride all the downtown trails in their entirety. Of course I expected Arkansas to have great trails and a vibrant mountain biking scene, after all IMBA did choose them to host World Summit. What didn’t expect though was the infrastructure surrounding and connecting the trails. I didn’t expect the sheer amount of stuff to ride right off the main thoroughfare. As you may have heard over the past few weeks, Arkansas is the new hotspot. So until my next visit, thanks Arkansas for being a good host! To all the subscribers I ran into, thanks for riding with me, I will definitely see you next time.