Gravel cycling in Northwest Arkansas brings a new wave of cyclists and tourists to the area—the likes of whom seek mileage in the double and triple digits. Whether it’s 15- or 150-miles, OZ has seemingly endless miles of gravel. Ranging from steep grades and technical descents in the Ozark National Forest, to hero dirt that will take you all the way into southern Missouri, our terrain provides “groadies” a chance to until their hearts are content, and then ride some more.
As the region grows into a destination for another cycling discipline, it’s important that OZ Trails facilitates a conversation around safety on the local gravel roads.
Riders may observe that agriculture is an industry and a livelihood for many Arkansans. Our network of gravel roads, especially roads north of Bentonville and Bella Vista are heavily trafficked by farmers and ranchers doing business.
We spoke with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service about what we can do to begin building trust and mutual respect between the gravel cyclists and the local farming community. This is what they advised:
- Know when the busy seasons for crop harvesting are and be aware that farm equipment and trucks are traveling quickly down gravel roads.
- Hay harvesting takes place from the month of May to late summer and early fall in Arkansas.
- Rice crops are harvested after August 15 and into early fall.
- Soybean harvests begin in mid-September and can go through the end of November or even December.
- Slow down and wave!
Please share the roads with farm equipment, residents traveling by vehicle, and big rigs hauling crops and livestock. It is courteous to the farmers to slow down when you see animals, trucks, and tractors on the road. Slowing down helps and promotes a positive image for the cycling community. Additionally, feel free to give those folks a friendly wave!
- Use a route planning service (like Strava or Ride with GPS) to map your ride.
There are many waypoints, including fresh water and retail farms, along our gravel roads. Information about these is publicly available on these route planning apps. If you find an amazing strawberry farm on your route, don’t keep it a secret! Share with other cyclists so they can support the locals too.
One of our most notable points of interest, accessible via gravel roads north of Bentonville, is Whistling Springs Brewing Co. This farm brews craft beers and delicious homemade Root Beer! They have indoor seating and a spectacular patio to rest your legs. Don’t be surprised when a farm animal walks right up to your table looking for pets.
OZ Trails along with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service are committed to raising awareness around safety on the gravel roads of Northwest Arkansas. Please help us do so by sharing this blog post with friends and fellow cyclists. If you have additional safety tips or concerns, comment below and help us continue this conversation.