Outerbike Bentonville is set to be a special event, because Bentonville and bikes have a history. It’s a town where a love of nature is common, and one of the best ways to experience it is on two wheels.
But all the extraordinary options do create one question: Where should someone ride who only has three days in town?
The Venue as a Trailhead
Though there are myriad things making Outerbike Bentonville a special event, near the top of that list lies the venue. Buckyball Field is at the entrance to the nation’s premier American art museum, and it also happens to be near the entrances to several of the nation’s premier mountain bike parks.
Those parks are each extraordinary in their own right, and we here at Outerbike want you to take full advantage of what Northwest Arkansas has to offer, while also maximizing the time you need to try the bikes you want.
So, Where to Start?
Slaughter Pen Trail System: The Slaughter Pen Trail System is a Bentonville legend. It’s where many of the town’s greatest rippers hit their first jump or drop, and it stands today as a proud testament to a town turning toward cycling as an engine of economic growth and a cultivator of work-life balance. In simpler terms, it’s totally sweet, and quite well loved.
Slaughter Pen has it all, and we suggest you start there. The benefit of hitting Slaughter Pen first is twofold:
1. There is a huge variety of trails.
2. It’s close enough that if you take a bike out, then decide pretty quickly it’s not the one for you, it’ll be easy to return it and grab another.
Fan favorites at Slaughter Pen include the All American Trail, a beginner-friendly piece of riding that winds its way beside the Razorback Greenway, intermingling with some of Crystal Bridges’ artistic attractions, and ultimately providing a perfect proving ground for any rider trying to test out a new machine. It’s a fun one, trust us.
If you find joy in flow, Slaughter Pen is a place you’ll never want to leave. Trails like Angus Chute, Ozone, Choo-Choo and Schroen Train are making flow an art form, where beautiful berms meet tech turns, and mellow fast jump lines.
These are the trails that’ll take your test to a new level. Once you’ve assessed whether or not a bike meets your minimum standards, take it up a notch and try one of these bad boys out.
(As a comforting aside, there are no trails in Slaughter Pen that are necessarily going to “force your hand.” In Oz, trail building is taken seriously, as a function of safety for the community. If you don’t want to hit a drop, there will be a way around it, and all features are marked.)
Coler Mountain Bike Preserve: Built on land specially designated as a mountain bike preserve, Coler is a testament to the craft of trail building and the act of riding a bike. It is a beautiful, extraordinarily well-built park that can be reached from Buckyball Field with a bit of pedaling.
Coler is in one way similar to Slaughter Pen in that it contains riding sure to satisfy almost anyone. The trails there can take you from tech to flow, and the overall feel of the preserve is that it was built with a single purpose in mind: the pursuit of stellar shred.
Coler is anchored at the top of the mountain by “The Hub,” a huge wooden structure that acts both as a central point and a takeoff for the lines that leave from it.
If you’re looking for something truly fun and hugely flowy, try Fire Line. If you want more tech, testing that demo on some real rocky goodness, don’t miss Rock Solid. And for the truly brave, there is Cease and Desist—a line that features some great jumps, and an optional line aptly named Drop the Hammer, which is comprised of three big drops, each with corresponding step-ups. It’s a darn good time.
Blowing Springs and The Back 40: These two trail systems are for those who call themselves singletrack minded. If you want a way to test your next bike on a trail that mirrors mountain options all over the world, these are your tickets to that test.
Blowing Springs is a beautiful, meandering sort of trail system that runs through the Bella-Vista countryside, offering short but often punishing climbs, which have a way of being so rewarding.
The Back 40 is backcountry. These 40 miles of singletrack are as pure as it gets. Fun, fast and mind-blowingly dynamic, The Back 40 is for the explorer in each of us. If you’re in the market for a cross country bike that can handle your steeze, look no further than The Back 40 as a true proving ground.
Back 40 is most famous for its long climbs, and the massive descents that so often follow. Also an option is a trail called “Ledges,” which take its name from the fact that it is, as it would happen, cut into a cliff side and spanning a series of ledges.
Shuttles will run to take riders to Blowing Springs, and they can reach The Back 40 with ease via bike.
That said, we ask that all riders at Outerbike be conscious of the fact that everyone wants to try bikes, and taking one machine on the entire Back 40 loop for example would be a bit of a party foul—keep your other riders in mind when you take a bike out.
How to Get a Guide
Outerbike will have several NWA organizations leading guided rides. We recommend a guided ride if you want to get a taste for what the area has to offer, or enjoy the camaraderie of being in a group.
Progressive Trail Design: Mountain biking in Arkansas may not be national news without the talent and determination of the riders over at Progressive Trail Design. The NWA-based trail builders are the mavericks partially responsible for the area’s trail explosion, and PTD staff are all able riders who know these trails so well it’s almost as if they built them… You’ll be in good hands.
Friends of Arkansas Singletrack: The folks at FAST are committed to cycling in Arkansas, and their advocacy and outreach bring people together under a common cause: keeping the trails awesome. FAST representatives will be leading rides throughout Outerbike on the trails they work to upkeep.
Ozark Off Road Cyclists: OORC is another Arkansas group of riders united the banner of riding bikes. With a big network, and a strong knowledge of the area’s trails, this is another group that can serve your need for speed. Or a gentle jaunt if that’s more your style.