Right On! Ride On! Bentonville beckons to bicycling enthusiasts

“One of the biggest festivals in the world, when it comes to bicycles,” Kenny Belaey says without hesitation of his vision for the Bentonville Bike Fest. “I’m a trials rider, so I’m very calculated, and I know it’s not going to happen overnight. But I see this on the long term. And we’re going to keep growing it and really establish it to something really sustainable and that we can always guarantee quality for the participants, the visitors and everybody involved.” (Courtesy Photo/Cycle OG)

The name "Mountain Bike Capital of the World" isn't stolen, assures Belgian Trial Bike World Champion and professional mountain biker Kenny Belaey.

"I have definitely ridden my bike in more, like, epic places. If you talk about landscapes, or maybe gnarly terrain, yes. But what makes Bentonville the MTB capital is that they have created a formula that everybody can ride the trails and have fun on it," he explains. The trails and the resources offer an absolute beginner just as enjoyable an experience as a pro like Belaey.

"And then not to speak of the amount of money that has been spent on building" the infrastructure, he continues. "That's unique. There's no place on Earth, like no city in the world, would spend that amount of money on trails. So all these little things and factors make this really a place that stands out from the rest."

That culture is further compounded by all the businesses and restaurants supporting that groundwork, Belaey illustrates. "There's bike racks everywhere, and then you've got a Greenway where you can fix your bike with tools hanging there. I mean, that's crazy. If you explained this to a European, they wouldn't believe it."

It was all these factors combined with the city's growing reputation in the international biking industry that led Belaey to establish his U.S. "base camp" -- he wouldn't call it home, as he's still traveling to, on average, some 20 countries a year. He also founded the Bentonville Bike Fest as an event for all bike enthusiasts, but also as a way to champion Bentonville itself.

"It's like everybody wants to do an event here, because there's just so many bikers that are asking for it," he shares. "But what we tried to do is we want to be different from all the other events here. We want to include, especially, all the locals, whether it's bikers or non bikers."

The festival's first iteration was a women-centric shred fest in partnership with the Bentonville Film Festival. But after such positive reception from the community and broad interest, Belaey changed the name to Bentonville Bike Fest and expanded the three-day festival to riders of all levels and skills, as well as to the wider community.

"I would just say come to the festival area and be amazed," he insists. "Because there's going to be little kids, like 3-year-old toddlers, racing on Strider bikes. Who doesn't enjoy that? And then all the shows that are happening.

"I get booked a lot for NBA halftime shows," Belaey points out. "What do I have to do with basketball? Nothing. But it's just the entertainment factor is so high that everybody can really enjoy it."

Registration for the races and workshops has closed, but any and all visitors can watch the excitement from the sidelines of the different races. And an abundance of free activities beckons bikers and walkers alike to downtown Bentonville today through Sunday: demonstrations, live music, prize giveaways, celebrity and pro biker shows and hangouts, competitions, more than 70 vendors and sponsors, an official after-party and more.

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Bentonville Bike Fest

WHEN — Today through Sunday

WHERE — Main festival area is 1019 S.E. 8th Street, near 8th Street Market in Bentonville

COST — Free

INFO — bentonvillebikefest…