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story.lead_photo.caption Young riders take off during a bike race on Sunday at Slaughter Pen Mountain Bike Park in Bentonville. There are several mountain biking events that are scheduled to come to Bentonville next year after organizers attended the IMBA World Summit last year.

BENTONVILLE -- The owners of Western Spirit Cycling knew they wanted to come back and host an event in Bentonville shortly after arriving for a mountain biking event last fall.

Photo by NWA Democrat-Gazette/CHARLIE KAIJO
Young riders wait at the starting line during a bike race Sunday at Slaughter Pen Mountain Bike Park in Bentonville. There are several mountain biking events that are scheduled to come to Bentonville next year after organizers attended the IMBA World Summit last year.

"I was really blown away," Mark Sevenoff, co-owner of the bicycle tour company based in Moab, Utah, said about riding single-track trails in Northwest Arkansas.

2018 events

New mountain biking events added to 2018 include:

• International Mountain Bicycling Association Uprising, March

• National Interscholastic Cycling Association, June

• Oz Trail Off-Road, Oct. 5-7

• Outerbike, Oct. 26-28

Source: Staff report

Sevenoff said he grew up riding trails along the east coast and has been spoiled with trails now living on the west coast, but that the trails in and around Bentonville were the most fun to ride east of the Rocky Mountains, making it a great location for one of Western Spirit's Outerbike events.

He was in Bentonville in November 2016 for the International Mountain Bicycling Association's World Summit. The event brought in 550 mountain bike industry companies and leaders.

"Before the weekend was even over we were like we need to do an Outerbike here," Sevenoff said.

The Outerbike three-day event is slated for late October 2018. It is one of four cycling events coming to Bentonville next year as an after-effect of hosting last year's world summit.

Outerbike is a consumer demonstration event where riders can test ride the latest mountain bike models.

It's becoming more common for companies to sell bikes directly to consumers, eliminating the third-party retailer, so this event allows riders to compare bikes prior to investing in one, Sevenoff said, adding bikes can range from $3,000 to $10,000.

Western Cycling will hold two Outerbike events in Moab next year as well as one in Crested Butte, Colo. There's been a lot of interest from a few other well-known mountain biking cities, but Sevenoff said Western Spirit wants to keep the locations limited.

"To add Bentonville to that list makes it kind of an exclusive club," he said.

The trails are well built, and there's something for every rider with the varying degrees of difficulty, he said of why Bentonville made the cut. The variety of riding is also centrally located, not far from one another.

It doesn't hurt that Bentonville is a fun town, with friendly people and great hospitality, he added, mentioning Visit Bentonville and Oz Trails, an organization that builds and promotes area trails, have been great to work with.

Epic Rides will host the Oz Trails Off-Road festival also planned for next October. It'll be the fourth event in the 2018 Epic Rides Off-Road Series that stretches from Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.

There will be men's and women's pro events with cash purses as well as three different length courses for riders of varying skill levels, from beginners to professionals, according to Epic Rides, the host company based in Tucson, Ariz.

The three-day festival will include live music, beer gardens and Bike and Gear Expo. Registration opens Jan. 1.

Epic Rides is excited about adding an event in Bentonville because it expands the series east and because of the support of its partners in Northwest Arkansas, Todd Sadow, Epic Rides president, said in a statement.

"They share our vision of providing premier mountain bike events across the country, promoting community-focused family-friendly aspects of mountain biking while unifying the sport," he said.

The International Mountain Bicycling Association is also coming back next spring to host its first IMBA Uprising, a mountain biking conference for women. The National Interscholastic Cycling Association will hold its national directors conference in Bentonville in June.

The number of biking events increased from the first Slaughter Pen Jam Festival in 2008 to seven events in 2017. And that's just those Visit Bentonville financially supports, according to Kalene Griffith, Visit Bentonville president and CEO.

The 10th annual Slaughter Pen Jam took place this weekend.

Visit Bentonville, city leaders and local cyclists have been talking up the region's trail for the last several years, but it was the International Mountain Bicycling Association World Summit last year where exposure exploded as attendees got to experience the trails firsthand and began to also spread the word when they left, Griffith said.

The region's single-track trails have been gaining a reputation as one of the country's best with accolades in several magazines and blogs over the year, including Bike magazine, National Geographic and Outside magazine, comparing Northwest Arkansas trails to other mountain biking meccas such as Moab and Crested Butte, Colo.

Bentonville is unique in that a variety of single-track trails are available close to restaurants, breweries and hotels, she said. Riders don't have to drive to get to a trail.

"It's that urban feel that not everyone has," she said. "They want to have the full experience. Where are they staying, where are they eating. They're not just going to ride the trails."

NW News on 10/09/2017

Print Headline: Cycling events coming to Bentonville

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