From the time both of us were young, bikes have been a large part of our cultural livelihood. Separately, we developed our lives and our career paths around cycling. Nat found his performance in racing and had an amazing 15-year professional career. Aimee found her niche developing her business acumen in sales, marketing and event management.
Saying that our lives are spent riding bikes, talking about bikes and promoting more people riding bikes is an understatement. We encompass all that there is to embrace in our cycling culture. We care about the future of this sport: The more people riding bikes, the more advocates cycling has, the healthier communities become and the appreciation for nature continues for generations to come. Because cycling gave so much to each of us individually, together as a couple we strive to continue to give back to the sport.
Some people chase storms; we chase trails. From the white pine forests of Michigan to the west coast of California to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, we love to explore new places together by bike and love that we have been given the opportunity to do that in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. We are excited to share our passion for cycling with the community here. The enthusiasm to build a cycling mecca in Northwest Arkansas has such a strong draw, and we are extremely appreciative to be welcomed and accepted by the greater community to bring our knowledge and our passion for cycling to bear on building upon the cycling experiences Arkansas has to offer the world.
Thank you, Bike Arkansas, for sharing our passion for cycling, allowing us to share our stories, and all that you do for cycling.
Aimee Ross, director of Bike Bentonville
Nat Ross, Mountain Bike Hall of Famer and legend
As the Bike Arkansas team wraps up work on the eighth issue, I am reflecting on all the individuals who give their time and resources to cycling in the Natural State. Many of the contributors for this issue not only shared stories but have also given their time in so many other ways, like building trails, trail maintenance, teaching, mentoring and creating opportunities for cycling in our state. We should never forget the hundreds of volunteers we never know or hear about who work in the rain, cold, heat and humidity, with their only goal being to give back and make a difference for others. Without the tireless work of great volunteers, cycling in Arkansas would not be where it is today.
Yes, cycling can do a lot for you. It will improve your physical and mental health; it can provide a great social network; it’s an activity that allows you to be surrounded by nature, and it can even be your personal therapist. The personal benefits are without dispute; but perhaps the greatest benefit is not, as they say, what cycling can do for you, but what you can do for cycling! After all, giving back is the greatest prize of all. That’s what many of the parents, coaches, writers and unknown volunteers believe. I’m fortunate to be around and work with many of these ordinary individuals doing extraordinary things.
Thank you, for all that you all do.
Arkansas NICA League Co-founder
International Triathlon Union Sport Development Coach
Bikes and universities have gone together for decades. Remember the movie Breaking Away and the Little 500? The 1970 yearbook at Arkansas State has a two-page spread about cycling on campus; how very LimeBikes--just a different color and way to share.
So what has changed? This is the first generation of students to have a lower percentage of driver’s licenses than its predecessor. They see a ride-share future ahead. Owning a vehicle doesn’t mean the same thing to them.
People say Millennial; I see multi-modal. College campuses are what our cities are trying to achieve – mixed-use living. When you sleep where you work and play, it is easy to choose to travel based on the need. Walk to the cafeteria. Ride a bike share to class. Hop a shuttle bus to the stadium. Use the car to drive across town to shop.
This is a lifestyle that our rising generation seeks. It is a critical reason why advocating for safe, efficient ways for people to bike a university campus becomes part of our leadership mission for our hometowns.
Think universities haven’t figured out that the future has two wheels? Watch college sports and check out what we in the business call “the institutional” – that standard 30-second commercial. Wait for it . . . and there goes the bicycle across campus. It’s a 21st century meme right along with the smiling professor, the cool science lab and the leafy, tree-lined quad.
When I roll into work most days, I get the usual list of questions: “Why do you ride your bike to work?,” “Don’t you get cold?,” “Aren’t you scared you’ll get run over?”
My question: why are you wasting your money driving fewer than two miles? For me, it’s simple math. I live downtown. I could drive my commute in about six or seven minutes. I can ride that at a modest pace in 10. Save money. Get exercise. Even with the angst that comes from what feels like a daily battle with drivers who are distracted or still refuse to recognize state traffic law, I value the time spent on my bike.
There is another important factor about riding to work, and it’s something I would recommend to everyone. Just one day a month: walk, ride or bus to work. Even if you live across town, drive halfway and peddle or hoof the rest. I promise you that your town looks different at three or ten miles an hour. You’ll see and hear things you miss wrapped in that metal cocoon. It might change the way you feel about local issues like infrastructure or quality of life.
Remember those university students? They're increasingly choosing their hometowns first, and their jobs second.
I love riding bikes fast. I have always been an athlete. When I was introduced to cycling by a good friend in college, I could not stop riding. It does not matter what kind of bike—road, mountain, cyclocross, time trial—I just want to go fast. My first pursuit was the Hawaii Ironman, but now I am pretty happy with a 50 minute cyclocross race. I just love riding my bike. When I am not riding I love to coach kids to ride mountain bikes safely through the National Interscholastic Cycling League (NICA) Arkansas League program. I coach at Catholic High School in Little Rock and contribute to the Central Arkansas Razorbacks composite team. I believe learning to ride mountain bikes gives kids the confidence and strength to have success on the team or club and in life. I am very excited about the stories in this issue, which is really about kids and the people who help make youth mountain biking great in Arkansas. We highlight NICA, which has helped strengthen the lives of so many Arkansas youth. I also share my favorite local-to-me ride at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock. And a huge thanks to Bike Arkansas magazine for the opportunity to spread the word about a subject I am very passionate about: kids on bikes! The NICA mission is to support every student-athlete in the development of strong body, strong mind and strong character through interscholastic cycling. I am really excited and honored to play a big part in this program.
The Thaden School Editors
As educators, we are always thinking about how best to equip our students with the skills, knowledge, and habits of mind necessary to lead happy, healthy lives. Of course, this leads us to teach the expected in our classrooms, like writing and critical thinking skills, but it also prompts us to think about how active our students are, the ways in which they engage with their community, and their willingness to take risks and try new things.
The state of Arkansas has seen a surge of recreational biking opportunities in recent years that are reaching young people and adults alike. Whether commuting to school, mountain biking on the soft trails, or honing your skills in one of the many parks popping up across the state, there are many ways to participate in the cycling scene. In this edition of Bike Arkansas magazine, we sought to explore a question that has been on our minds lately: How do we ensure that our youth are interested in and prepared to take advantage these unique cycling resources?
Too often biking is relegated to the after school hours, something to be done after homework is complete. But we at Thaden School believe that cycling can and should play an integral part in the school day as well.
We hope you will come away from this edition Bike Arkansas inspired by the role that bicycling can play in our youths’ lives. We believe it is the perfect vehicle through which to teach students, both in and outside of the classroom, and we are grateful for the opportunity to highlight some of the exciting work being down by schools and nonprofits in the state.