HOW BENTONVILLE TURNED INTO “BENT TENT VILLE”

This was one bike show that the attendees will remember for the rest of their lives

By Nate Miller of TASCO

This year, our visit out east for the Bentonville Bike Festival started much the same as our trip last year. Our flight on Tuesday allowed us to get a couple of days of riding in before the festival began. Based on our experience last year, the only way to scratch the surface in a two-day window is with e-bikes and a midday charge to get a second session in before dark.

Wednesday morning, we woke up to dark skies and looming rain clouds overhead, but that wasn’t going to stop us. After picking up our Turbo Levos at the Specialized shop, we joined fellow TASCO riders Laura and Rick and jumped right into the trails. Despite a brief downpour mid-ride, we were stoked with how good the trails were and managed to get about 30 miles of riding in before depleting the batteries.

The riding continued for the next two days until we had to turn in the bikes and start setting up the TASCO booth, getting it ready for an early start on Friday morning. After setup, we grabbed a couple of demo REEB bikes and hopped in on a group ride with Jeff Lenosky, hosted by Vittoria Tires. With around 20 riders, this was a super fun way to share the stoke of the trails with others, some there for the first time!  We toured the Slaughterpen zone for a couple of hours before heading back to the Phat Tire bike shop for a couple of post-ride beers.

 

The next morning was go time! Day one of the festival started with a little test run of the whole “shelter in place” thing, something you don’t get to practice too often growing up in Southern California. Just as the festival was about to open, the skies opened up instead, and we were dumped on for about 45 minutes while sitting in our car waiting it out. Just as soon as it came, it seemed the storm cleared out, and we were back to setting up the tent. The next 36 hours were nothing short of epic.

This festival is really fun because it feels different from any other I’ve attended over the past dozen or so years. I think the main reason for it feeling special is the community at large embraces cycling more than life itself, and they are stoked to be on two wheels. Here in San Diego, we have so many other distractions, so many other things we can do with our time, but in Bentonville, Arkansas, you don’t have the ocean or skateparks on every corner, but you do have the most miles of singletrack per square mile that I’ve ever seen. As a mountain biker, this is our Disneyland; it’s a really fun place to ride!

Saturday night at around midnight, we were about to head to bed when a thunderstorm started up outside our VRBO (by the way, if you are staying in the area and want a great place to stay right by the Coler trail network, check this one out Darrin and Jesse are great hosts!)  We watched for a while, checked our weather app, and confirmed that nothing more than a 40% chance of rain at 1 AM was in the forecast. We all headed to bed to get sleep for our final day of the festival. We were awoken by 100 mph winds and rain crashing against the windows with lightning lighting up the whole house.  We knew our tent full of products was in trouble, but there was not much we could do but go back and try to get some sleep.  Little did we know how disastrous the storm was!

 

(Photo taken around 2AM)

Around 6 AM, our house filled with talk about the news that the final day of the festival had been canceled, and we started to wonder how bad it actually was during the night, so we all hopped in the car and started to drive to the festival.  We made it a couple hundred feet down the road before we saw the first significant damage. The road was blocked by two massive downed trees, and then it hit us how powerful the storm had been.

We turned around and after many detours found a new way to get to the festival site. The whole drive there, we were in awe of the destruction that occurred.  It was rare to see a house that didn’t have huge trees lying uprooted or fences laying flat.  We realized how lucky we were that our VRBO still had its trees standing and everything still intact.  Eventually, we made it to the venue and were one of the first vendors to arrive.  As we made our way, it was almost unrecognizable, with tents and products everywhere, no vendor in the expo was spared.  As we walked to where the TASCO tent had been, all we saw was a pile of products with a flattened tent about 30 feet from it’s original location.

It was an emotional moment, and we had an overwhelming feeling of not knowing where to start. Thankfully, we were allowed to pull our truck in and began throwing all the wet, muddy products into the bed.  With the products that were salvageable in the back of the truck, we wondered what our next step would be. With our flights leaving the following morning and a pile of wet, dirty products, we wondered what to do. To make things more difficult, the power was out and predicted to return just as we were scheduled to fly out.

 

Back at the house, it was all hands on deck to sort and figure out how to dry the wet mess. With some creative thinking, the front yard soon had DIY racks everywhere and stuff drying from the trees. We then took some time to sit back and really take in what a crazy morning we had had. A couple of hours later, around 2 PM, while sitting out in the garage, the power popped on.  We tossed all of the gloves in the washer and dryer.  With stuff getting dry, the question was what to do with the product. It was unsellable, but most were in useable condition after the wash. We decided to leave it in Arkansas and hand it over to Phat Tire bike shop to donate to Trailblazers who would reward volunteer trail workers who would be hard at work repairing the destroyed trails in the coming weeks.  So if you are in the area, sign up for a volunteer day and score some “limited edition” TASCO Tornado gear!

 

Overall, this trip was one none of us will forget. It’s a shame for it to end the way it did, but besides the last day, we had a blast ripping the trails and hanging out with like-minded people at the event.

(Mid Morning Cleanup)

(Bent Tent Ville on Sunday afternoon)

www.tascostoke.com

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