Come Play in the Dirt

By Bob Robinson

Northwest Arkansas (NWA) is fast becoming recognized as the mountain bike mecca of the country. In 2016, Bentonville was chosen to host the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) World Summit. In 2017, NWA was selected as the test location for Bike magazine’s “Bible of Bike Test.” In October 2018, Bentonville will host the Outerbike expo.

With the explosion of newcomers attracted to the sport in recent years, the timing was perfect last Nov. 10–12 for Ozark Off Road Cyclists’ (OORC) “Playing in the Dirt,” a weekend celebration of the organization’s two decades of volunteer trail advocacy and an opportunity to tell the 30-year history of mountain biking in the Natural State, told by those who actually wrote it.

OORC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to creating and maintaining sustainable soft surface trails in the Arkansas Ozarks. Established in 1997, its founding members were pioneers of the sport, bouncing down abandoned logging roads on fully rigid bicycles when the sport first gained traction in the 1980s. And now, with the current membership logging over 4,000 volunteer hours of trail advocacy annually, no group is better equipped to tell the story of both the history and future of mountain biking in the Natural State.

The keynote speaker for the event was Dave Weins, executive director of the IMBA. As a two-time US National Mountain Bike Champion, a two-time World Cup race winner, Adventure Racing World Champion and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame inductee, his statements about how impressed he was with the corporate, community and state agency commitment he had witnessed in Arkansas spoke well for what is happening with mountain biking in the state.

However, it was a personal story he shared that I felt best demonstrated the state’s current status. Weins told how, when recently mountain biking in Crested Butte, Colorado, he overheard a nearby group of cyclists excitedly talking about a trip they had planned. That trip was to go mountain biking in Arkansas.