Perhaps the most notable boom in Arkansas outdoor recreation in the past several years has been in the realm of mountain bikes.
Spurred by investments from the Walton family, land donations and even downtown revival plans, the renovation and completion of area off-road trails has catapulted Arkansas into the national mountain biking spotlight.
The biggest addition in the past year has been the near-completion of the Coler Preserve, a sprawling patch of land just a couple miles from the heart of Bentonville, which features Northwest Arkansas’ largest obstacles and some of its tastiest jumps.
Coler is unique in its offerings, as are most of the trails in the area. But this one is special because it offers riders such a vast number of options.
Coler may be the most progressive piece of riding yet available to area mountain bikers — a place that it seems was built to accommodate the ever-expanding appetites of local riders.
Two major expansions hit the Slaughter Pen bike trails in the past few years, providing a stellar downhill and the all of Phase Three. Meanwhile, Rogers welcomed The Railyard—a bike park built to rival those in places like California and Colorado, even if in a more compact package.
There should be no doubt that the last few years have given locals much more than just a few fun trails. Things have gotten serious.
Area riders have no doubt noticed the progressively harder riding options being made available to them, and have expanded in skills as the trails have grown more technical and come to feature bigger jumps and drops.
I call Coler the ultimate test because it may be one of the most mentally challenging riding options in the area. It’s one of those places that has you thinking things like, “I probably can do that, but that doesn’t mean I should do that.”
The property is divided in such a way that it offers several options.
The flow tracks are my personal favorites and so will receive a bit more attention. But if you’re a single-track, technical, tires-tilling-rocks type rider, you too are in luck. There’s something for everyone here.
Intermediate and beginner riders should start by checking out “Fire Line.” You can climb Oscar’s Loop to “The Hub,” which is made even easier to find by the great trail marking (the guys at Progressive Trail Design are true masters of this craft, details and all).
So from The Hub, there are a few main options. Once The Hub is fully built, it’ll be even more obvious, but Fire Line is well marked on a nearby map, and looks the friendliest of the available runs.
It ends up being just that. Fire Line is one of the coolest, smoothest flow runs in Northwest Arkansas right now. It’s just plain fun, between long, stretched-out berms and a great variety of jumps, the run has everything.
New riders shouldn’t be worried — nothing on the Fire Line forces your hand. There are no drops, no gaps and no doubles; just some tabletops. Riders who are familiar with jumps and berms on any level can hit Fire Line and have fun. If you’re more advanced, my advice for you is simple: Find Fire Line. Go fast.
Intermediate to advanced riders should warm up on Fire Line, then move to Cease and Desist. It’s a more advanced line, featuring doubles, longer tabletops, steeper berms and a fair bit of gravel.
Cease and Desist has what is quickly becoming our area’s most notorious line. The thing you’ll most likely overhear eventually when a bunch of mountain bikers congregate is, “have you hit the Coler drop?”
That drop is of course referring to the first hit on the aptly-named line “Drop the Hammer.”
It’s a behemoth that gaps a road the crews use to move construction equipment. The gap itself measures 6 feet, while the lip of the drop hangs the rider out from 12 feet up. It is, in my opinion, very intimidating. I had to think about it for around seven months before I finally went for it, but the payoff is huge because the rest of the line is even more wonderful.
Drop the Hammer actually consists of three separate drops, though the first one has garnered the most fame because of its size. Interestingly, the first one is my least favorite, but that could be because my hardtail seems to almost bounce a bit upon landing. The other two are super smooth and tons of fun, and remember there’s no shame in hitting those two first if you’re worried.
Rock Solid is also accessible from The Hub and features one of Coler’s most social-media friendly berms. The final winding berm on the run is built totally out of rock, going high up a hillside and sweeping back down to the inside. The options for photography are endless. The run itself has a much more single-track feel, featuring rock gardens and even some rock jumps near the beginning.
The other direction from The Hub features several bound-to-be-beautiful single-track trails. I have yet to ride them, but that’s only because the things just discussed are worth days of your time.
If you make the trek to Coler, be prepared for some of the most challenging and dynamic lines in Northwest Arkansas. The thoughtfulness of the trails, the use of nature and the degree of “gnar” ultimately available to riders here is nearly unmatched in the area. Do yourself a favor and get out there.