The World Is Ours
A look back at the 2016 IMBA World Summit
By Michael Roberts
Photos courtesy of Novo Studio, the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Scott Schroen, and PHAT TIRE BIKE SHOP
After months of anticipation and build-up, the 2016 International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) World Summit has come and gone from the city of Bentonville—and according to the advocacy organization, the event garnered the highest attendance of any World Summit in history. Over 500 attendees filled the seminars and exhibitions, bringing together a worldwide community to the hills of northwest Arkansas. In addition, the 2016 World Summit featured a first-ever “VIP Experience” fundraising event which brought in more than $200,000 for the bicycling nonprofit’s yearly efforts.
For Aimee Ross, IMBA’s Director of Business Development, the event was a real coming-out party for a region of the country that has long been one of mountain biking’s unsung treasures. “I’d visited the area several times in the course of helping organize the event,” says Aimee. “But it was my husband’s first time [in Bentonville], and he came back calling it one of the best places he’s been in the world. That sentiment was the same for nearly everyone I spoke with.”
DAY 1: THE PREVIEW
The Summit’s first event was a pre-opening of the vendor expo at Compton Gardens in Bentonville, featuring some of the top names in bike gear and equipment—including bicycle brands like Trek, Giant, Orbea, Yeti, Salsa and more. “Our partners just loved the enthusiasm from the crowd,” says Aimee. The expo ran throughout the entire Summit, expanding into The Railyard Bike Park in Rogers and the Blowing Springs Trail in Bella Vista.
DAY 2: THE OFFICIAL LAUNCH
The official launch of the World Summit came with a keynote address by Mountain Bike Hall of Fame member Hans Rey, who discussed the rise of mountain biking from a niche sport into a juggernaut that is reshaping communities across the globe. After the address, attendees broke off into groups to discuss subjects like public-private land partnerships, building local chapters into strong brands and environmental research.
From this advocacy standpoint, Aimee Ross says the 2016 World Summit was a success. “Places like Bentonville show what communities can be. Like Moab, Utah, cycling has really changed the face of the city, and we hope that other places see that change and come away wanting to emulate it. We’ve had people specifically ask about best practices for their own areas based on Bentonville’s example.” Such practices include bike-oriented city planning, an emphasis on bike education for both cyclists and drivers and well-designed and maintained bike paths both on and off city streets.
“Creating great cycling communities starts with a vision,” says Aimee. “Then it takes a lot of hard work. Cyclists travel now for more than just the trails, and we want towns and cities to recognize that. We’re always looking for opportunities to help. And we love northwest Arkansas.”
DAY 3: RIDING THE RAILYARD
The breakout sessions continued on day 3 of the summit, covering topics like the emergence of “bikepacking,” the navigation of social media and strategies for funding local trail projects—something Bentonville area advocates have excelled at through partnerships with organizations like the Walton Family Foundation. The highlight of the day, however, was the afternoon trip to The Railyard Bike Park in Rogers, where famed riders Danny MacAskill, Hans Rey and Ryan Leech gave a riding demonstration that simply wowed attendees.
Another aspect of the showcase that impressed visitors? The Railyard Bike Park itself. This Progressive Trail Design-built Rogers park is one of the largest parks of its kind in the nation, proving once again that Arkansas is bike country. Riders of all ages have come to test their skills against the various curved wall rides, dirt rollers and berms, elevated bridges and jumps—and many attendees lamented they didn’t have time to make better use of the facility. “I heard so many people express disappointment that they couldn’t fit in everything there was to do in the time we had,” Aimee says.
DAY 4: BLOWING SPRINGS & BARBECUE
The final day of the summit saw a VIP ride of Bella Vista’s Blowing Springs Trail led by experts from northwest Arkansas’ Oz Trails and featuring riders like Danny MacAskill, Hans Rey and IMBA’s new executive director Dave Wiens. And afterward? Another Arkansas tradition: a post-ride grill-out and barbecue, sponsored by local favorites Pedelar’s Pub and Core Beer. This post-ride party was a preview of a larger reception and party held that night at the Meteor Theater in Bentonville which celebrated a fun and successful World Summit.
“[Bentonville] is home to incredible restaurants, modern coffee bars and some of the world’s best museums,” says Aimee Ross of the World Summit’s 2016 host city. “It also has some of the best singletrack in the country. People know about Bentonville now.” We couldn’t be more proud.