IMBA 2016 World Summit Preview
By Michael Roberts and Bruce Alt Photos Courtesy Of IMBA / Novo Studio / Teen Trail Corps and Nica
ON THE WORLD STAGE
Bentonville prepares to host the 2016 IMBA World Summit
It wasn’t all that long ago that Bentonville was considered just another sleepy Ozark town, famous for being the place where Sam Walton founded international retail chain Walmart, but otherwise unremarkable. My, how times have changed! These days, Bentonville is one of Arkansas’ most vibrant and dynamic cities, known for excelling in the arts, with great food—and, of course, mountain biking.
Outside of Bentonville, northwest Arkansas cities like Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bella Vista have all implemented plans and projects to make their mark on the cycling world. According to a study conducted by the Walton Family Foundation, the number of cyclists per capita using northwest Arkansas trails rivals that of major bike-friendly metropolitan areas like San Francisco.
The excellence of the region’s trails and amenities led to the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) declaring the entire northwest Arkansas area a “regional ride center,” the first—and to date only—time that has ever been done. Now, as an added feather in the area’s cap, IMBA is bringing the seventh edition of the World Summit to Bentonville on November 10-12.
The theme for this year’s conference and expo is “Building Tomorrow’s Mountain Biking Today,” and the nonprofit advocacy group has scheduled leading representatives from every aspect of the mountain bike world to participate. From the vendor expo at Compton Gardens and Conference Center to break-out sessions at locations like the Arvest Conference Center and 2lc Hotel, attendees are sure to learn all about the latest in community involvement, land management, tourism, communications and trails. In addition, the immediate area is home to more than 70 miles of award-winning singletrack—a fantastic reason to visit all its own!
Organizers are particularly excited for the Railyard Expo in Rogers on Friday, November 11, which will feature special guest appearances from international sensations Danny MacAskill and Hans Rey, who will be showcasing their world-class trials skills. And as an added bonus, the weekend wraps up on November 12 with an Epic Ride from Bentonville to Bella Vista, where cyclists will get to experience 40 miles of new singletrack with a variety of ride lengths offered, from a family friendly 10-miler to an epic 40-miler.
2016 IMBA World Summit Schedule of Events:
Wednesday (11/9): The festivities will kick off with a pre-opening of the expo from noon-5 p.m., along with a special opening ceremony in the evening. The expo will feature demo bikes and other gear from some of the top names in mountain biking. See our gear feature on page 24 for a sneak peek at what you might see.
Thursday (11/10): The summit launches with leaders in the world of advocacy and industry presenting dynamic topics and discussion panels throughout the day. To top off the day, there will be a ride to celebrate IMBA’s model trail awards at the breathtaking Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
Friday (11/11): The summit continues with cutting-edge industry discussions, then wraps up with an action-packed afternoon at world-class bike park: The Railyard in Rogers. This fun afternoon will include the expo being open from noon-6 p.m., special guest appearances from Danny MacAskill and Hans Rey, a night ride and family friendly movie night.
Saturday (11/12): On Saturday, it’s all about getting out for an epic ride—followed up by barbecue and beer. You can’t beat that!
Sunday (11/13): While not officially part of the World Summit, participants are encouraged to stick around one more day for the IMBA World Series NICA State Championships being held at Slaughter Pen trail. It’s a great reason to book one more night in town!
DIGGING IN FOR NEW TRAILS
Multi-million dollar program will help fund projects
IMBA is extremely excited to announce the public launch of its new campaign, “Dig In With IMBA,” at its first-ever Gala in Bentonville on Saturday, November 12. For the last 28 years, IMBA has worked to create great mountain biking experiences by enabling thousands of miles of trail to be built in the United States and around the globe. These trails are the end result of hundreds of thousands of hours of volunteer work performed by members of IMBA’s 200+ local chapters, who are tireless in their advocacy for increased land access and willingness to get dirty building and maintaining trail.
IMBA wants to recognize the hard work and dedication of its members and chapters. These volunteers have identified more than 200 new trail projects in their local communities that are ready to move forward, stalled only by the need for funding to get started. Over the next five years, IMBA will “dig in” to raise those funds and fast-track work on these projects. This campaign is IMBA’s way of helping activate local mountain bike communities and their committed volunteers to improve access for a brighter future of riding experiences. –B.A.
Former director talks IMBA history
"I’m only the second paid executive IMBA has ever had,” says former IMBA president Mike van Abel from Boulder, Colorado. He announced his resignation earlier this year after 12 years with the organization, and reflected on IMBA’s beginning and growth.
The International Mountain Bicycling Association was born in California back in 1988, a direct result of the growing popularity of the sport out on the West Coast. “There were tinkerers and quasi-engineers who figured out how to make bikes more durable while increasing speed,” says Mike. “It was a real grassroots, DIY culture in the late 70s and early 80s.”
Those earthy beginnings didn’t come without something of a downside, though. With mountain bikers appearing on trails in increasing numbers, local, state and federal organizations began banning cyclists from riding their bikes. “IMBA was born out of these trail access issues,” says Mike. “It was an all-volunteer organization, founded with an advocacy approach first and foremost.” After several years in California, the organization moved to Boulder in 1994, and grew from a strictly volunteer group into the nonprofit it is today.
One of IMBA’s main goals as advocates for mountain biking is to dispel the myths that still persist around how cyclists use trails. “So-called ‘extreme’ biking is not the mainstream,” Mike says. “A lot of people think mountain bikers are just running wild, but the sport has really grown up.”
Another aspect of IMBA’s mission is to coordinate with mountain bikers, community leaders and planning companies to develop world-class biking trails across the country. To that end, the nonprofit has recently completed a survey of its chapters to ascertain how many “shovel-ready” projects exist across the country. It’s all part of a new $20 million program called “Dig In.” Mike and the rest of the IMBA team hope that by helping provide “seed money” to local organizations, city and state governments will be more apt to dip into taxpayer funds to help build trails.
“There’s still so much work to be done,” says Mike van Abel. “We have too many unengaged mountain bikers. We can always use more volunteers—because our biggest enemy is apathy.” –M.R.
WHERE TO RIDE
Slaughter Pen: What sets this trail apart from others is location, diversity and multiple trail experiences. Start your ride from downtown Bentonville, frolicking through fast flow sections, challenging climbs, rocky technical sections, directional downhills, shallow creek crossings, a free ride park, numerous skills areas and views of the incredible Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, then end up back in downtown. Length: About 20 miles.
Blowing Springs: This trail features eight bridges and numerous natural rock features and jumps. It will challenge you, give you super fun speed sections—and is guaranteed to bring smiles all along the way. There is a Slaughter Pen to Blowing Springs connector trail which features steep cliffs, mellow waterfalls, technical climbs and switchbacks which should prove challenging even to expert riders. Length: About 9 miles.
Bella Vista: Bella Vista is a bedroom community near Bentonville and has the perfect terrain for trails just a pedal stroke away from downtown Bentonville. The village is nestled in a vast area of rolling hills and has 7 small lakes, numerous creeks and bluffs that have been hidden away from view until the trail is completed. The trail system will wind through residential areas but the rider will have the experience of a 40 mile back country trek, all the while just minutes from a rest stop, beer, pizza or burger. See our “My Trail, My Town” feature on page 44 for more details. Length: About 40 miles.
Lake Atalanta: Offers great single-track with shallow creek crossings, a dozen bridges, lakeside views, bluff-lines, demanding climbs—all technical enough to challenge all skill levels. Access is from The Railyard Bike Park, 2 blocks from Downtown Rogers, or just 5 miles from Bentonville. Length: 10 miles.
Razorback Greenway: This massive trail connects six northwest Arkansas cities, three hospitals, 23 schools, the University of Arkansas campus and numerous entertainment venues, historic sites and shopping areas. There’s no better way to experience everything the region has to offer! Length: 36 miles.
Devil’s Den State Park: While the park itself lies a ways south of Bentonville, near the small town of West Fork, it’s worth the drive for two reasons: It’s the birthplace of mountain biking in the state—and the trails are fantastic. Check out the 3-, 4- or 5-mile ride lengths on the Fossil Flats trail, or check out the 15-mile Butterfield Trail. Length: Various.
The Railyard: Experience a world-class, natural surface bike park in Rogers that offers something for every rider. From whale tales, to wall rides, to riding through an actual railyard caboose, the possibilities are sure to offer endless smiles whether you’re a professional on a dirt jumper or a youth on a strider.
For more information, including IMBA's registration page, visit imba.com. You can also follow IMBA on Facebook at facebook.com/IMBAonFB, on Instagram at instagram.com/imba_us or @IMBA_US on Twitter.
Teens learn to love mountain biking with NICA
One of the most exciting recent developments in our mountain biking scene was the 2015 announcement that Arkansas had been welcomed into the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). According to Arkansas league director Alan Ley, being part of NICA will provide “junior high and high school students with fun and enjoyable ways to develop physically and mentally.” Ley added that the group’s intent was to bring “mountain biking to every school, city and town in Arkansas.”
The addition of Arkansas to the NICA ranks is part of the organization’s mission to take interscholastic mountain biking “coast-to-coast” by the year 2020. The nonprofit was founded in 2009, and with the addition of Arkansas, there are now 19 leagues across the country with more than 3,000 coaches and 7,500 student-athletes.
According to Aimee Ross with the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), participation in NICA means more than just a chance to help kids develop a love of cycling. Ross is part of an IMBA program known as Teen Trail Corps, a partnership between the two organizations which seeks to incorporate youth into trail stewardship. Born from the ideas of students who attended the 2014 IMBA World Summit, Teen Trail Corps emphasizes respect, empathy and compassion, both for other trail users and for the trails themselves.
The Arkansas State Championships will be held in Bentonville November 13, the day after the 2016 IMBA World Summit ends. Show your support for the mountain bikers and advocates of tomorrow by attending. In addition, Arkansas’ NICA league is set to announce skills clinics this spring, so there’s never been a better time to get the kids involved in mountain biking. –M.R.