Wed. Aug 21st, 2019

Singletrack Thoughts: Bentonville Shares Its Secret Sauce for MTB Tourism Gold

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There’s a mannequin for constructing a mountain bike neighborhood out of nothing however earth, sweat, and neighborhood assist: Bentonville, Arkansas. And now the mountain bike boomtown is sharing a decade’s value of information so others can replicate it.

Earlier than it grew to become one of many nation’s hottest mountain bike hubs, outsiders knew Bentonville, Arkansas, for one factor: the Walmart headquarters. An organization of that measurement and affect drew a few of the high enterprise abilities to the neighborhood. Many put down roots. Not surprisingly, the Bentonville inhabitants has quadrupled since 1990.


However apart from Walmart, the land has at all times been Bentonville’s boon. There’s a whole lot of it. Previous mountains pockmark your complete northwest nook of Arkansas. And due to the efforts of a devoted neighborhood, mountain bike trails now criss-cross the floor.

By the top of 2020, bike vacationers can have entry to just about 300 miles of singletrack proper from once-sleepy downtown Bentonville.

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Bentonville Constructed It, Vacationers Got here

But it surely didn’t occur in a single day. The path infrastructure in Bentonville comes largely from impartial Walton Household Basis funding. The Walmart household has lengthy pursued outside actions.

“They’re mountain bike advocates,” mentioned Aimee Ross, who heads Bike Bentonville. “The grandfather was an enormous hunter. They have been at all times outside, experiencing nature for what it’s.” She mentioned many from the household’s subsequent technology are highway cyclists who took up mountain biking in faculty.

“Then they introduced it again to their hometown,” Ross mentioned.


At this time, individuals go to Bentonville for greater than weekday enterprise. Spring Break is among the greatest visitation weeks of the 12 months. Households, people, and teams come particularly to trip rocky, undulating MTB diamonds within the literal tough. In holding, breweries, bike retailers, and biker-friendly Airbnbs constructed up across the inflow of cyclists.

Not not like the notion of Walmart, Bike Bentonville is “going for world domination,” Ross teased. Biking there’s simply that good.

“What makes us an anomaly is that individuals suppose it’s not potential to have good mountain biking in Arkansas,” Ross, a transplant herself, mentioned. “However individuals, particularly from the West, underestimate it. They usually get their rear-ends handed to them out right here.”


Ross seems to be at Bentonville like some other outside sport-focused city.

“We’re a mountain bike city, identical to Breckenridge and Whistler are ski cities. Downtown Bentonville is sort of a lodge at a ski resort,” she mentioned. “The path entry is true there, and the neighborhood constructed up round, attracting each households and super-shreddy MTB varieties.”

IMBA Path Lab Begins Subsequent Month

And as Bentonville’s status has grown, so have the requests for info. Different cities throughout the nation ask how they, too, can revenue from mountain biking’s attract.

Now, after greater than a decade constructing a dream out of dust, Bentonville is sharing its commerce secrets and techniques. Subsequent month, the city will host a working lab for folk who need to begin one thing related in their very own cities. Johnson Metropolis, Tennessee; Roanoke, Virginia; and Bend, Oregon, are a number of within the working to develop into the subsequent massive mountain bike breakout.


Formally, the IMBA Path Lab is a partnership between the Worldwide Mountain Biking Affiliation and Bentonville. It began the biannual conferences final 12 months and is now in its fourth session. After the June workshop, a fall lab will coincide with Bentonville’s first probability to host the nationwide occasion Outerbike in October, which is primo using season in Arkansas.

IMBA employees, path trade specialists, and Bike Bentonville stakeholders will lead the intensive, 2-day, 40-spot workshop.


The working laboratory lays out all the things a neighborhood may have to plan, design, construct, activate, promote, and measure mountain biking tourism. The purpose? For land managers, neighborhood officers, recreation professionals, and tourism/financial growth employees to go away Bentonville with the subsequent steps to convey extra trails to their very own backyards.

Marc Upton, SORBA Tri-Cities Board member, referred to as IMBA Path Labs among the best workshops for creating or advancing your hometown path neighborhood. “They actually have the content material dialed,” he mentioned. “Oh, and the paths aren’t too shabby both!”

Bentonville a Mannequin for Mountain Biking Tourism

IMBA’s native consultant Jessica Rockson defined why Bentonville is the perfect mannequin MTB path neighborhood. First, “all of the city stakeholders [local officials, parks department, visitors, local businesses, and funders] got here collectively to work as a workforce,” she mentioned. So it wasn’t only a Walton household factor.

Second, planners methodically built-in trails proper into downtown and native neighborhoods. “That makes it straightforward to hit the paths from your private home or lodging and likewise to seize a pre- or post-ride meal,” she mentioned.


Final however actually not least is Bentonville’s sheer amount and variety of trails. Routes vary from rocky to clean, steep to rolling. You’ll be able to trip a 30-minute loop from city or pack a lunch for a Three-hour grind within the woods.  “By having one thing for each talent stage, it permits all varieties of riders to get pleasure from themselves in the identical location,” Rockson mentioned. And that’s the important thing to constructing higher bike tourism.

She describes using in Bentonville like doing intervals all day lengthy. “You’re at all times getting rewarded with a pleasant descent. You don’t should trip for an hour to have enjoyable.”

Of us who need to construct extra of that may now discover some solutions in Bentonville, the last word proving floor for constructing a MTB neighborhood from scratch. The following IMBA Path Lab runs June 10-12. A $600 entry payment contains classroom work, meals, shuttles for area workshops, and night festivities.

This text is sponsored by Hydro Flask. Take a look at the brand new Journey Collection Packs, made for holding water chilled for Four-plus hours.

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