Kelly Williams is a familiar face around OZ Trails as he’s been riding in the area since 2005 (some will remember the days when Devils Den State Park had the best trails in the region). Williams is also the leader of the OZ MTB Patrol in Northwest Arkansas. If you’ve participated in
a local race or ridden with Friends of Arkansas Single Track (FAST) you may have seen these
riders flanked in red and white jerseys.
Five years ago, Kelly approached the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and rallied ten friends to start what was known as the National MTB Patrol. The unit was trained in first aid, CPR, and trailside bike repair. The patrol unit grew to provide trailside assistance to local riders. However, when IMBA decided to turn the National MTB Patrol over to the National Ski Patrol, local patrollers voted to go private and OZ MTB Patrol was born. “As we grew and as this area grew [OZ MTB Patrol] became something different,” says Williams. Originally, these medics and mechanics patrolled around town, but as the Bentonville racing scene grew, the OZ MTB Patrol saw an opportunity to serve this community by being present at scheduled races. Their presence was welcomed by race officials and riders. “We’re on the trails while they’re racing and we have a tent set up at the finish line,” says Williams.
Made up of 30 riders local in Benton CountyNorthwest Arkansas, this crew is trained in first aid, CPR, and trailside bike repair. According to Williams, a year and a half ago 10 riders joined the Bentonville Fire Department to complete Emergency Medical Response training. With that being said, the crew maintains that if they encounter a severe or life-threatening injury on the trails, they will stabilize the patient and call 911 to provide basic life support and transport the patient to the hospital.
The OZ MTB patrollers take their roles of helping with trailside bike assistance seriously as well. Assisting riders with mechanical issues is a big part of what the crew does when they are patrolling. They complete annual training with local bike shops on basic repairs including changing a tube and repairing broken chains. “Fortunately for us, the local bike shops are very generous and they donate the gear we need and we get a lot of tubes from the local bike shops,” says Williams.
Joining the OZ MTB Patrol requires commitment. Getting in contact with someone on the patrol is the first step that requires some determination. A rider’s best bet is to join FAST Wednesday night group rides when they start again and keep your eyes peeled for the iconic red and white jerseys. Then, there is a one-year required ambassadorship before candidates are officially members of the patrol. But don’t be intimidated or deterred. This group is comprised of people who have varying backgrounds related to the sport of mountain biking including both professional and recreational riders.
“We’re just a fun group of people that want to help people on our trails,” says Williams. Visit Friends of Arkansas Single Track (FAST) website for more information on the organization and upcoming events.