Unless you live under a rock (with current home prices, this might be us soon, so maybe we should find a different expression), you probably have heard people referring to Bentonville as “The MTB Capital of the World”. Bold statement, right? Now after hearing this there are normally 2 common reactions. One is high praise for a little town doing big things (the town being little, not the corporations backing it). The second common reaction is a laugh, followed by “No they aren't.”.
The “MTB Capital of the World” is a serious title and people feel very passionately about their hometown trails, leading to a discussion of who on earth is the deciding factor of where “The Mtb capital of the World” is? And is it Bentonville, a town whose elevation profile doesn’t look like anything you would expect from “The Mtb Capital of the World”.
So is it weird that this prestigious title landed on Bentonville? Well, before we get into where I think the title should go, let's make 2 things very clear. One is that Bentonville is not the real “MTB Capital of the World”, well technically it is, but it's not. Any small town looking to do big things needs a good marketing program, and what better way to create a future vision of a bike centric city than trademarking yourself as “The MTB Capital of the World”?
Yup, Bentonville really trademarked themselves "MTB Capital of the World".
You have to admit, it's pretty catchy. And that leads me to point number 2 here, and that is, this isn't something new. Cities have been trademarking themselves as “the number one destination of a sport” for years. Huntington Beach does it with “Surf City USA” and I think a lot of people would argue that the "Huntington Hop" and a lineup that looks like an amusement park entrance might not deserve that title. And don't get me wrong, I really enjoy Bentonville, especially the people that live there. And I can appreciate a good attempt at marketing. I think where people get so riled up is when it's forced in your face, but what do you expect from a town backed by Walmart, the biggest retail store in America? I think they know a few things about marketing (also thanks for letting us park in your store parking lots, #vanlife).
So now that we have got that out of the way, where is the real “MTB Capital of the World”? A lot of people would probably say Whistler, Canada. With the best bike parks in the world, world class valley trails, and Pemberton as well as squamish sandwiching it, this would be a pretty valid argument. But I would have to disagree here. As much as I love BC and I really do think the best riding in the world exists up there, to me you can't win the title of “MTB Capital of the World” if you can not comfortably ride year round. Now sure, some hardcore locals might tell you with the proper gear you can ride year round and that is true. But with the proper gear I can also jump off a cliff and make it down safely, but I won't be doing that any time soon. In my eyes if you want that title, you need to be able to ride year round, or at least be able to escape it with a 1 hour drive.
Now the next place people would say is somewhere in Colorado, like Crested Butte. Well after my previous argument, obviously this is eliminated. Also, I have never been the biggest fan of Colorado mountain bike trails. Don’t get me wrong, I love the nature aspect, and some of the most natural trails I have ridden are out there, but it's never wow’d me to the point of being “this is the best riding in the world”. Most scenic trails I have ever ridden? That I will give to Colorado.
Okay so how about somewhere in Utah? Moab, St George, Park City. Now all of these are amazing in their own right, but “The MTB Capital of the World”? Utah is a driving state and each of these destinations are at least a 5 hour drive from each other. I love Utah, but I don't think it wins the title. I will give it the “most epic rides” award. So many awesome zones and if I could only permanently ride in one state, it would be Utah. So where in the world do I think the title of “MTB Capital of the World” should go? Well, in my honest opinion, I think it goes to Phoenix.
Now hear me out, I'm already hearing the gasping and people shutting their laptops closed, but I have an argument and also you are probably trying to kill time at work so stick around for a bit. South Mountain in Phoenix is an amazing trail system, filled with so many technical trails and endless amounts of miles of smiles. And close by to South Mountain you have the new Hawes trail system, filled with flowy tech and endless singletrack. Within a short radius you also have a few other notable trail systems, all of which can be ridden year round (sure it gets hot in the summer, but if you wake up early you can do this and I would rather be hot than cold). Now say you want some variety, a very short drive north gets you to Sedona, one of the most beautiful places in the world. Thirty minutes from there is Flagstaff, another insanely fun riding zone that is perfect for summer heat. The other best part about phoenix? You also have fun in the south! Tucson, Arizona might be one of the most slept-on mtb destinations, filled with tech climbs and big downhill descents. And within the zones I have mentioned you have everything, from bike parks, shuttles, xc trails, enduro trails, ebike zones, non-ebike zones, etc. There is an amazing airport as well as an insane amount of bike shops including one of our favorites, Action Ride Shop!
So that's my case for Phoenix becoming the rightfull "MTB Capital of the World". Does my opinion mean anything? Of course it does, case is closed, see you in Phoenix!
Where do you think is the "MTB Capital of the World"?