There's something for just about everyone in Bentonville, but you won't find any high alpine singletrack.
There are numerous locales and regions in the world that have, arguably, some of the best mountain biking that is to be found. I've heard Moab, Durango, The Northeast Kingdom in Vermont, Pisgah, Bellingham, Squamish, and even Santa Cruz called or named a mountain biking capital at some point. Head overseas and Finale Ligure, Les Gets, Andorra, Champery, Perth, Girona, and Pietermaritzburg are just a few of many places with great trails.
Many would argue that the Pacific Northwest in North America offers up some of the best and most diverse riding that is to be found, anywhere. Squamish, the 'Outdoor Recreation Capital of the World' sits between Whistler and the storied North Shore of Vancouver, BC. It's also the home of Pinkbike's headquarters. The number of trails, diversity, and accessibility to trails, along with the constant progression in that region has pushed the sport of mountain biking substantially in the last two decades. As with countries, capitals can move and evolve over time.
So, how did Bentonville, a town in Arkansas (that's in the US, bordered by Missouri, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Texas, and western Tennessee) stake its claim by trademarking the title of 'Mountain Bike Capital of the World' this week?
Bentonville, AR, is home to the headquarters of Walmart. Steuart and Tom Walton are avid mountain bikers. With that, they've invested heavily in the sport, and in the trail network and infrastructure surrounding their local region and beyond. In the last several years, Bentonville has gone from a nearly unheard of place in mountain biking to a destination offering a trail network with hundreds of miles of trail, accessible from town.
Several years back, I heard one of the Waltons quoted as saying that they wanted to make Bentonville the Mountain Bike Capital of the World... Soon after, I visited the town itself and it was quickly apparent that they were on a mission to make riding bikes in the woods a priority.
This incredible distinction has come after years of intentional work from Bentonville’s city leaders, trail builders, maintenance teams, new and experienced riders, and countless others in our great community. From the outset of our shared vision to transform our city as a mountain biking paradise unique from other destinations, the city government and community leaders provided the support and balanced leadership we needed to help make the dream become a reality.—Tom Walton
There are a lot of incredible places to ride and there is plenty of riding in the world that is more epic, scenic, challenging, what have you, than Bentonville. But as an all-encompassing destination, I've not visited anywhere more pleasant to ride, because there's more to bikes than simply terrain. The town is bike-friendly, there are phenomenal restaurants, entertainment, a badass museum, incredible coffee, top-notch bars, and a smorgasbord of other businesses that I actually want to visit. Take me to a resort with really great riding and I'm not really going to do anything else.
Bentonville? I'm going to go explore the town too. Not only that but the town has brought in the IMBA summit, trail-building workshops, retreats, and more. There are weeks of riding right from town and then plenty more within a short drive. Pump tracks, jumps, features, you name it. And it's all integrated into the town without the feel of a resort. It's Pleasantville for a mountain biker and it's a region with people behind it that are willing to do whatever it takes to grow the sport.
The entire town seems built for mountain biking and the infrastructure seems to be there for them to keep expanding that. So, does that make Bentonville the actual Mountain Bike Capital of the World? I'm not sure... it's hard for me to say so having spent time in other great riding destinations all over the world. It's definitely an example of how great a place can be for riding given a deep pool of resources and the correct people in place to make it happen. What's the 'Capital' in my mind? Mix the infrastructure, town, and feel of Bentonville, AR with the trails and terrain of the Pacific Northwest. Throw in a dash of Western NC and I'll call that place home...but a 'Capital' is still a little different.
If you had to choose a Mountain Bike Capital of the World, where would it be for you? What's important to you for that designation... is it just the trails? Or are there other factors at play? Let us know from the list below and if we happened to miss a spot (we really tried not to), select other, and drop it in the comments.