“2019 will be remembered as the year women’s mountain biking exploded in Arkansas!”
Gary Vernon, Program Director at Walton Family Foundation
Northwest Arkansas’s mountain biking scene has been growing rapidly in recent years, ever since the development of the natural-surface trail system thanks to the Walton Family Foundation and non-profit organizations like Ozark Off Road Cyclists (OORC) and folks like Oz Trails, who have laid the foundations for the cycling boom in the region. In 2017 alone, cycling offered the region $137 million in economic benefits, a headline that has captured the attention of cyclists in communities across the globe.
Mountain biking has started to become increasingly popular among women thanks to the many events that have been organized in Northwest Arkansas in recent years. “2019 will be remembered as the year women’s mountain biking exploded in Arkansas!” believes Gary Vernon, Program Director of cycling initiatives at the Walton Family Foundation, and with good reason: this year, female-led associations will host a series of events to engage women of all ages in mountain biking. Vernon has witnessed the pace at which things are changing: “As the region’s network of natural-surface trails has grown—from a few short single-track loops into a world-class system that covers more than 200 miles—, so too has the number of women participating in the sport.” Check out some of the events and workshops focusing on women in the mountain biking community in the coming months!
If you’ve always wanted to try your hand out at mountain biking but didn’t know where to start, Women of Oz have got you covered. A new mountain biking organization, Women of Oz is a group of inspirational women promoting the sport among women through the cultivation of fellowship, inclusivity, organization, education, and encouragement, which they see as their core values. Women of Oz will be hosting events of all types for women throughout the year, including group rides from beginner to the advanced level, free monthly beginner rides, and skill classes. Women of Oz will host group rides the first Saturday of every month leaving from the Bentonville square at 3 pm. The next ride will be on April 6. As the organization grows, the opportunity to add more rides will grow as well.
What if you could pick up tips from professional mountain bikers as you ride alongside them? You’re in luck because from May 8 through May 11 the first annual women shred mountain biking festival will be held in Bentonville, where people will be able to “shred” with professional female mountain bikers from all over the world for free. These professional bikers will share their passion for biking and experiences with participants, who will get to ask questions and ride along with them.
Liv Ladies AllRide
“These events bring women together in a welcoming environment to enhance their lives on and off the bikes.”
Liv Ladies AllRide, a “women’s mountain bike skills camps dedicated to inspiring women to […] believe in themselves and get RAD on mountain bikes,” will be coming to Bentonville for the third year now on May 18 to run energizing mountain biking skill development camps for women. The goal of this movement is to grow the female mountain biker community across the world. Professional women coaches—including professional biker Lindsey Richter (Voreis)—will be teaching diverse skills to approximately 60 women over the age of 18 during a three-day weekend. This event will take place at Slaughter Pen recreation area, where participants will get to use natural terrain and obstacles to practice their mountain biking skills. The event is currently full, but you can add your name to the waitlist below.
“By providing skills development, promoting positive physical health, confidence and self-esteem and providing coach training, NICA’s goal is to provide a fun, safe and competitive environment for young women to excel.”
The mountain biking scene in Bentonville has captured the attention of many enthusiasts of the sport, including local high school kids, who are joining the Arkansas Interscholastic Cycling League (Arkansas NICA). Arkansas NICA serves students athletes 6th through 12th grade and coaches as well; in 2018, they estimate having worked with 388 students and 181 athletes. According to the league’s director Kyla Templeton, the mission of Arkansas NICA is to “build strong minds, bodies, character, and communities through cycling.” The idea is to get more kids on bikes to develop youth through cycling and empower them to be part of a thriving and engaged cycling community.
With the addition of the NICA GRiT program, the group will aim at increasing the involvement of girls in mountain biking. This program will focus primarily on recruiting girls from high school and junior high. “Our girls participation has grown from 12% in 2016, our first season, to 20% in 2018,” says Templeton. “We aim to be at 1/3 female student athletes by 2025. Our focus in Arkansas Grit is to empower teams to recruit girls and continue to create an environment where girls can build their confidence through participation in a mountain biking team.” This program will also attempt to recruit and retain female coaches in NICA leagues.
“This program is based around having fun and creates an environment where each girl can make new friends, ride trails, and play games, all while learning the skills for mountain biking.”
Little Bellas, a mountain bike organization whose goal is to help young women realize their potential through cycling, will be hosting a spring camp program in Blowing Springs Park on March 31, April 7, 14, 28, May 5, 12, 19, and June 2 at 4 pm. Open to all abilities, this program is based around having fun and creates an environment where each girl can make new friends, ride trails, and play games, all while learning the skills for mountain biking. The curriculum is designed to promote camaraderie among the girls, progressive skill learning, and perpetuate the love of mountain biking. This program is for riding and fun and is not focused on competition— and is aimed at engaging girls ages 7 to 13 in the sport. You can register for the program HERE.
Little Bellas is also offering scholarships for the Bentonville AR Kids MTB bike camp. Online registration ends on March 29, 2019.
OORC Women Give Back Series
Although the next event hasn’t been announced yet, OORC is currently hosting a Women Give Back series of volunteering opportunities. For this initiative of trail stewardship, the OORC will present the seasonal women-only volunteer program to build or maintain your favorite trails. Female trail stewards of the OORC will lead this initiative, so this is a great way to meet other women trail advocates and users. These opportunities will be open to members and non-members alike, and will benefit all trail user groups including cyclists, hikers, runners, and dog walkers. You don’t need to have any prior experience to help out; the only requirement is that participants wear sturdy shoes, gloves, and bring their own hydration. The organizers will provide the tools and instructions on how to build the trails.
Mountain biking has taken the Northwest Arkansas region by storm and it’s here to stay. Women and girls are starting to become more and more involved in this sport thanks to the positive impact of mountain biking associations and initiatives that aim to promote the sport to women and girls throughout the region. Whether you’re a novice or already a seasoned mountain biker, you’ll find a great way to connect with other women who are enthusiasts of the sport through each of these organizations.