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Give the folks at signature bank a call at 479684 4700. Or is it their website signature dot bank and let them know that you heard about them here. First on the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast, signature bank of Arkansas is a member of the F D I. C. And an equal housing lender. It's time for another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas, the podcast covering the intersection of business culture, entrepreneurship and life in general. Here in the Ozarks. Whether you are considering a move to this area or trying to learn more about the place you call home, We've got something special for you. Here's our host, Randy Wilbur. Hey folks, and welcome to another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. I'm your host, Randy will Burn and I'm excited to be with you today.
We've got another great episode and I'm recording this in the month of May of 2021 this is actually national bike month. And so I've had a chance to feature bike in W. A. We finally got together, connected with Bianca Montoya. She was kind enough to sit down with me and share her passion for biking and just the overall passion that biking has in this area of Northwest Arkansas. And so we wanted to kind of continue to move that theme forward. So I'm not exactly sure what week this was coming out, but when it does come out, I think you're going to enjoy it, but I'm sitting in front of Kenny Williams, who is the program director for pedal it forward here in Rogers Arkansas and pedal it forward. I'll let Kenny tell you more about that. But I just thought what these guys do and their mission is so perfect for this area. I mean it would be perfect for any area to be honest with you, but I really do believe that they are serving a need in the community that certainly exists when it comes to making biking available to everyone. So without further ado, Kenny Williams, I want to welcome you to the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast.
How are you? Great, randy. Thank you, excited to be here. Yeah, absolutely. So listen man, we always start off and people that listen to this on a regular basis, always know what my next question is going to be right. What is your superhero origin story? Oh, I don't know if it's a superhero, but I uh, you know, I have a long history of running recreation programs, you with a wide range of activities, all kinds of outdoor recreation, but something that I have done, you know, beginning in high school and up until today as I have always volunteered my time with bike advocacy efforts and you know, it was mountain biking, it was cycling advocacy, it was, you know, working with nonprofits such as pedal it forward. And a few months ago when I got the opportunity to move out of the recreation side of things and do something for the community related to bikes full time, I jumped at it. So this is really kind of a dream job for just a long time, a long time bike nerd like myself.
That's awesome. Did you ever work in a bike shop? Yes, I I ran a university bike shop down at the University of Arkansas. So I've, I've got a fair share wrenching in my background. Uh actually I specialize in in wrenching on bikes that are in really bad condition because that's what college students usually bring in. So absolutely pedaling forward is a great fit for me there. So are you you deep for mountain biking or road cycling? I am a longtime mountain biker, it was my first love riding my BMX biker on my neighborhood and it just grew from there. And so I absolutely was attracted to Northwest Arkansas and stayed here because of some of those amenities. No, I love that now, where you're from originally, I grew up in texas, Dallas texas. Okay, cool, cool, cool. The Great Republic. So yeah, you know, it's funny you say that because I grew up, we had a BMX track in my town and you know, I didn't really know what a mountain bike was until later, I mean, it wasn't like mountain biking wasn't a big thing back in the day. BMX was huge.
I mean, I had a red line, I had a mongoose. I mean, I had some some serious bikes and I could ride and you know, we used to I mean, it was a big deal. There were a couple of my neighbors that, you know, they traveled around for BMX and kind of like what a lot of the kids do for like soccer and travel, baseball and all that. They would go from one track to the other deride. I typically just wrote in my town. But I remember the track is no longer there, but you know, at the height of BMX in the eighties, it was you know, every kid had like it was a big deal to have a red line or a mongoose. I mean those were the top of the line bikes, they weren't cheap and I mean they rode like, I mean you did stuff on those things that you you could couldn't do on other bikes. Absolutely, absolutely. I had a red line myself at one point and it was my it was my pride and joy. Oh, I love that. Yeah, I saw not too long ago I saw a guy riding one, I was like, oh my God, it's a red line. So you actually get him through the shop every now and then his donations. Do you really? All the folks our age kind of kind of get all excited. Oh my gosh. Yeah, because I don't think the young kids know about not so much, because I mean it's funny because kids, I have a 16, a 14 and an 11 year old and they all want mountain bikes, but you know, and I keep telling him about BMX and I had, at one point in time, I did buy a really nice BMX bike for my oldest son and he wrote it for a while and it really has lasted.
I was, I was kind of impressed, but you know, I mean it's, I'm going to geek out real quick and then we'll move on, but you know, there was a time back in the day, you might appreciate this where we would, but we would strip our bikes down to the bare metal and shine them up. So my red line, I took all the labels off, strip that thing down and then I put the red line wording back on it. Sweet and just imagine a highly polished BMX bike. I mean, we did everything, I dipped that thing and got all the paint off of it and Yeah, so, you know, anyway, so, well tell me, so, so how did, how did peddle it forward start? Yeah, you know, it started in 2014 just as a volunteer dream from a couple of folks here in town and, and really, uh, it was David Toby, Justin Tubb and Gary vernon are, are kind of the three guys that came together, one christmas and, and really had a passion to give some bikes away and it was really a garage effort startup that went so well that they decided to keep doing it.
And uh, the bikes impressively enough continued to come in and so they said, if, well if we're gonna, if we're going to be able to continue to get bikes donated from the community, then then we ought to continue to work on them and give them away. Did they have similar backgrounds like you did in terms of this love of cycling and everything? So just long time cyclists who looked around and saw that a lot of people didn't have an entry into the sport like they did and so that was where it started. Yeah. You know, it's funny because as I was, I went to and we got, we had a chance to actually physically meet the first time and we had already either scheduled or we're going to schedule our podcast, but we got a chance to catch up at the odds trail experience Fayetteville by Grace up at centennial Park in Fayetteville and it dawned on me as I was walking through there that you know mountain biking, it's not a cheap sport. I mean you, you, I mean you gotta pay to play and there is a holder, like I got a chance to meet with some of the bear racers, those kids that were here from all over the country, some of whom will eventually end up at the olympics.
I mean these kids can really ride, but it ain't cheap. So you guys are kind of bridging that gap and creating an opportunity for people that may be in marginalized communities, others that have just not been as fortunate enough to be able to get a bike where they, their parents are not gonna be able to afford to get them a bike. You guys have filled in that gap and are, are really providing a need that is huge in our community. I mean you've nailed the goal and that's, that's just it straight from our mission. Is is providing bikes to lower income or otherwise marginalized populations that may not feel like the bike industry has a place for them specifically, financially. So I love that. So tell me about some of the, what did, did you guys eventually become a five and one C three and, and and did you guys say, oh, we're gonna set this up and really make it official and then, and then how did things grow from there? Yeah. You know, the board, we became an official 501 C three nonprofit and had an extremely active board of made up of some of those folks and others that really just ran it as a volunteer passion project.
And, and then just in the last couple of years have had our first hired staff and we now have two full time employees myself and eric is our shop manager. And so we're very lucky that that we've been able to grow at this rate. You know, 2014 was, was not all that long ago. We're really lucky that Northwest Arkansas has kind of given us a chance to see how much good we can do. So we have, we have some wonderful support from the community and I am extremely grateful to be able to call this my full time job. And so I'm uh, I'm really excited to see how much we can grow in these coming years. Right. I mean you guys are like right on the green way you are, right behind the Rogers activity center. I mean it's perfectly located, it's actually right around the corner from where my new offices, so it was super convenient beyond that, but it's just the fact that you guys are right in the thick of it, you know, and this building is perfect. I mean, you know, for for for those of you that are that are watching that are listening to this.
Obviously I wish I had a video and I'll probably show some video on instagram. You can always follow us on instagram at I am Northwest Arkansas, but just imagine an oversized bike shop with racks and racks of bikes from small bikes, two large bikes and even some like old school bikes over here that I'm looking at just I mean there is, there is 12345 at least 56 benches where bikes can be repaired, broken down, built back up again. So, I mean, this is a serious operation and we're very and we're very lucky that, you know, the city of Rogers has worked with us so well in this and our original location up in in Bentonville on wishing Springs Road is similar to what you're looking at here. So, okay, that's right. You have another locations. We have. We have two shops like this where we are able to get to fill them with volunteers and and take all these bikes, you see behind you, rehabilitate them and give them out. So you get, so like, let's walk, let's walk through the process a bit. I have an older bike about to get a new one.
I'm not going to necessarily sell my bike. That's a perfect candidate to being donated to peddle it forward. Absolutely. And you know, it's really hard to throw away a bike. Everybody has that bike in the back of the garage where you're like, I just don't have the time of the money to fix it up. Think of us. Um, and so yes, you can drop it off at either of our shop. In fact, we have bike racks outside of both shops. You can lock your donation to. You don't have to wait on us. You don't even have to notify us. We will, we will get it pulled into the shop next time we see it. So I love that. So yeah, we'll make sure we put in the show notes to contact information. So you guys know where the address for both shops, in case you're not familiar with the Rogers area or the Bentonville area, in case you have a bike that's just catching dust in your garage and you, you know, you want to bring it back to life because these guys have all the tools and equipment. I'm looking at all of the, you know, try flow lubricant and WD 40 and chain lube. I mean they've got it all, I mean they've got every tool in the book for working on bikes.
And so if you, if you have something just sitting around taking up space, bring it up here to peddle it forward and let them rehabilitate and give it to somebody that really wants to get out there and ride. Not that you don't want to ride, but that maybe you've gotten a new bike and so, you know, sometimes, you know, we get new things and we forget about the old things that we have. So, I mean, I think that's important, so so talk to me a little bit about what you guys have seen over the past, it's what, almost seven years now, what have you witnessed in terms of the growth of the biking community here in Northwest Arkansas? Uh you know, we've been lucky, we're uh we're, our mission is riding the coattails of the, of the larger movement and and really we're doing is we're coming behind this this awesome bike movement and we're just staying extremely busy, making sure that everyone feels like they have an ability to get their hands on it. And so I, I think the reason that we've grown so quickly is because the larger movement is moving so quickly.
And so I have, I have never seen a lack of opportunity for us to give more bikes away. In fact, almost weekly I onboard a new partner. We, you know, our business model works mostly with other nonprofits. We give bikes away to other organizations. And almost weekly I, I'm find a new nonprofit in N. W. A. That serves people and I, and I am able to start getting them bikes. Okay. That can you give us an example of one or? Yeah, I mean, uh, somebody we, so I just got on board with Big brothers, Big sisters. Uh, N. W. A. And, and you know, there's, we had just not never met them. And I actually met her at the at the Oz trails races. Cool, cool. And uh and I said, you know, could your, could your big brothers and big sisters use bikes to use this as a way to go on outings with their littles. And and she said, absolutely, I can't believe we've never heard of you.
And so uh that happens all the time. Still, everybody, everybody wants to be able to offer cycling as part of whether it's recovery or whether it's getting healthier or whether it's just uh an outlet to have fun, it's an easy sell for us. And so I love that. Yeah, I mean, and it does make sense, right? Because I mean, it's just you connecting the dots right, in terms of where the need is and being able to fulfill. I mean, you've gotta, I mean, you could bring 30 kids in here right now, We get outfit them with bikes easily. Absolutely no, no questions asked and I'm sure. So all these bikes get tested and signed off kind of like your seal of approval before they go out the door. Absolutely. They all get repaired by a volunteer and then put through a six point inspection, uh, and essentially written twice. So once they are signed off, they get a, they get a nice little sticker and they go into our finished bike area and then they're ready to be assigned two to be given away.
Okay, cool. So I'm curious cause I'm looking at the smaller bikes over there, who do you, who do you do? What test do you bring into? Right though? It's a sight to see. Yeah, there are some bikes that are so small that they get a test in the bike stand, but yeah, I've been known to put a couple pedal strokes on one of those little pink bikes over there. Yeah, no, I love that. That's funny. So, what do you say about like, you know, I know, and you you can appreciate this because, you know, we're probably contemporaries and somewhat in age. But I mean, you know, they don't make bikes as well as they used to. That's unfortunately true. Yeah. And in fact, we we often appreciate sometimes the older the bike the better with the donation. Absolutely. Because there's some there's some good old department store bikes out there still run flawlessly. Are those old sh wins with the metal shifters and, you know, as long as they're not rusty, they will write again. Exactly. Exactly. So, and you mentioned volunteers. So you actually have opportunities.
So people that are listening to this, if you say, man, this really sounds interesting Or I love bikes. Or, you know, back in the day, I used to work in a bike shop. I would love to do something like that again. You actually take on volunteers. Absolutely. And you can, uh, you can contact us through our website is a drop down that says volunteer. And you just send a little note into me. What's the website address? Pedal it forward dot org. Okay, pedal it forward dot org. And that will be on the show notes as well. But you guys have heard it here first. That Kenny said that you can come on down and go through their 10 point plan to become a volunteer to help out with the bikes. And, and, uh, then they'll they'll put you to work. Yes. If you've got a wrenching background, we we need your help right now. But even if you don't, we still need your help. We've got some events coming up. We've got, you know, lots to do around the shop. Sure. And what is. And we talked a little bit about national bike month, but talk more about what this month means. And I know september is also kind of like a bike awareness month to but but May is the national bike month. Yes.
And we are we're getting involved in that. We have, we have, you know, joined the challenge and our our staff and our board is is riding and tracking our miles. But really it's less about the competition than it is about kind of telling the community that you belong on a bike. And we are making some concerted efforts this month to get bikes out to new partners to do some fun little collaborations with local organizations like Latinos, NBC and Girl Gang, N W. A. To put new butts on bikes if you will. Uh and providing all those bikes for free. Of course. So we're just using this month to to do that. So when you do the program with Latinas in Bc and and also Girl Gang, you're going to physically bring bikes to them, or how is that going to work? So, Girl Gang nw will be here this weekend and we're providing 12 bikes to 12 women uh that applied through Girl Gang and they will go get to go home with those bikes for free.
Yeah. Oh, that's awesome. That's awesome. How many bikes are you guys giving away a month? On a monthly basis? We would love to give away 200 bikes a month. Uh We don't always get there just because that's a that's a large task, but we will. And uh our goal, you know, we've always averaged between 2000 and 1500 bikes a year. And I have a goal internally to push that towards 2000 bikes a year. It's a lot of bikes, that's a lot of like, can you imagine that, then you take that and then you look at the the amount of miles that will be put on those bikes once they get back out on the, on the greenway and on the track and other other places. So I mean, that's huge. Yeah, that's a great statistic that I hadn't thought to calculate, I would because I mean, it's almost like, man, you know, it's like, hey, you know, give everybody a benefit if they reach back out to you and then give you like, give me a rough figure of how much many miles you put on the bike over a period of time and then extrapolate the number out from there. So yeah, so there you go, that one's free.
So well, cool, so I I love this and you know like I said, I'm glad I got a chance to piggyback, I mean I just sat down with Bianca Montoya and now I'm sitting down with you kind of talking about it, you're not from here, you you originally from texas, you came here, I mean what is the bike culture like to you? Were you amazed by that when you got here? Because that's when I tell people all the time, like I have a friend that's a huge mountain biker in um in the Virginia area and he loves mountain bike and he was like, yeah, I've heard, I've heard about Northwest Arc and so I got to get out there, man and come see you and go ride, that's what he wants to do. And but but was it like that when you first got here to Northwest Arkansas? Well, it was 2010 when I first landed here. And absolutely, it was already getting started. You know that I think the greenway wasn't completely finished, but there was already the beginnings, the excitement was already growing. And I'll tell you, I, I can't think of another place in 10 years now.
I guess that has it doubled down more. And so they really have. Right. I mean, when you think of it, I mean, they they have like, I mean organizations, entities, you name it. Everybody wants to be involved with getting out and getting some exercise, especially on a bike here. You know, we just had the square to square. So we do that twice a year in Northwest Arkansas. If you're not from here and you're thinking about moving here, we do so many different bike races and activities where everybody like mom, dad, the kids can all come together and do that. And I know the square to square in the spring was from Fayetteville to Bentonville. So it goes from one square to the other and in the fall they'll go from Bentonville to fade ville. So did you, did you write this? I I wrote, I didn't write this weekend, but I wrote in some of the original, some of the first years of square to square and and to see that event grow and thrive is a great example of just how but how healthy the culture is here. It's a huge event and to see organizations like bike N W A.
I mean I volunteered for them a little bit in grad school in 2010 and 2011. And it was the bicycle coalition of the Ozarks and it was small and scrappy and down in Fayetteville and to see the remarkable regional resource that organization has become is also notable. Yeah, no, they are the real deal, which is why I wanted to have them on the podcast to talk about that because I mean, I just think people need to, you know, part of the goal of this podcast is to highlight the things that even us that live here don't always know about right, because like you guys are one of the best kept secrets and we're going to change that and that's the goal is to get it out there to get you to that 2000 on bike number for the year. But I mean there's just so many different things happening here and you know, it's we're trying to just connect the dots with people and then for those of you that are on the outside looking in saying, I may come here and work for walmart or J. B. Hunt or Tyson or I might go to the U. Of A. Or I might just relocate here and start a business.
Well, you know, this is fertile ground to do that for sure. Would you agree? Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. So, I mean, there's just a lot, there's a lot to be said for this area. So, you know, I have become more and more each day as I do this podcast, I become a fan boy. Each, I mean it gets becomes more right. So like I'm a I'm an Apple fan boy. I'm certain fanboys, but I'm an N. W. A. Fan boy. I love this area. There's so much to do here. It's not perfect because I always tell people that it's just like any place, it's not perfect. But you know what if there's more good than there is bad that's for sure. And uh and I got to tell you there's nothing like being within a mile or two to just about most of the major arteries that will attach you to the greenway that will then transport you. You I can go I can do a half century and that's 50 miles for those of you that don't realize I can do a half century without blinking. And I hear I mean easily and when that thing connects all the way up to Bella vista and goes to southwest Missouri Line, you'll easily be able to do a century and never have to get on a road.
Yeah. Right. I mean, you know, let alone all the gravel riding that you can do here and that's just a whole different ballgame, right? So you've got the gravel, you've got mountain biking and then you've got road riding and then you've got of course the greenway and so what I've called an embarrassment of riches from a cycling perspective, when you think about all the different things that you can do the same day? Yes, I agree. There's so much to do and, and really we're going to have this amazing infrastructure and so all there is left referencing our organization is to make sure that everybody can do it. Yeah, so what do you do? How do you kind of keep the momentum going on those off months? Where, because like everybody is talking about biking right now, because it's national bike month, but you know, on those off months, when things aren't moving as fast, how do you guys keep the momentum going? What can we do here at the podcast to create more awareness for what you're doing? Yeah, you know, we don't have many off months and and that's because in the colder months or on the holidays we actually give lots of bikes away and and we do that usually in conjunction with other with cities, you know, like a good example is last year around christmas, we gave a large amount of bikes away through the city of Fayetteville Police Department, uh just, we like to, you know, if it's not writing season then it's giving season and so we like to celebrate the holidays by by giving away lots of bikes even if they have to sit inside while it warms up, you know, But you you can I mean I wrote all winter you except for that, that that abomination in february when it was like sub zero weather for a week.
And I thought I was back in boston. I ride for the most part. And the funny thing about that weather event that we had because it was an event like the week before, it was like 65 or something and I was out on the trail doing like 30 miles and then a week later it was like 75 but in between there was horrific. So, you know, and that's the one thing, I mean, I've laid my bike down a couple of times down by like Mount Kessler and it wasn't pretty and I thought I have the, I have the bruises to prove it. But you want a real writer if you haven't laid your bike down yet. So am I right though? It happens to the best it happens to the best of us. So yeah, no, I mean that's I love that. So, so yeah, we, we will certainly then continue to promote, But if I'm a, like a mom or dad and I'm trying to get my kids involved is can they literally just call you guys up and say, hey, we can't afford bikes. We would love it. Is something that we could do. Is there like a volunteer match where they put some time in and they get a bike out of it? I mean, what are the different options that are available to people? Yeah, we're not a one of the bike shops that does work so many volunteer hours and get a bike per se, but that's not to say that anyone should hesitate in reaching out to us.
If they, if they need bikes, what will most likely do is we'll connect you with one of our partners who we often give bikes to such as boys and Girls Club. Any one of these larger community nonprofits gotta love the Rogers train so I want to acknowledge it. So people don't think that I put some sound effects in here. This is, we're right near the train tracks here in Rogers and this is podcasting the way it happens sometimes. So we're not in a fancy studio at K U A F or anything like that. I'm not, you know, this is not Ozarks at large. This is I am Northwest Arkansas, We are out here meeting the people and sometimes the sights and sounds are what they are. So anyway, yeah, it's all good. But go ahead and finish your thought on that anyways. Don't, don't hesitate to reach out. You will hear back from us and we will find a way to get you rolling. Okay. Okay. So anybody listening to this, that's like, man, I'm not part of an organization, but I also can't afford to go to the bike route or too fat tire or gearhead or Lewis and clark and lay down several $100 or $1000 or more for a bike.
But I really do want to ride, you'll help them out, we'll help you out. And it may not be immediately, here's your bike, but I will put you in touch with someone who can get you one of our bikes. Okay, good. I love that. I love that. Well, man, Kenny, this has been a, this has been a real treat. I, I appreciate it because again, like I said, we got to geek out a little bit about BMX and you know, some of my, you know, the old bike culture that I was used to growing up and now that I've gotten here to Northwest Arkansas and I've introduced my kids to it and people that listen to this podcast have introduced themselves and their families to the bike culture in w and it's only, you're right, you're right, it's only going to grow and it's only going to continue to expand and get better. And I would, I would venture to say that you guys will probably end up maybe with a a warehouse down in Fayetteville, maybe one in Springdale. You'll have one in every major city here in Northwest Arkansas. It's a goal to have a location south of here. I'll tell you that much. Absolutely not set yet, but because there's bike riders down there too. So yeah, there's a lot of people that need, yeah, we're headed that way eventually.
Okay. And will you guys, because like I said, you guys had a booth at the Ozark Trail Experience Fayetteville booth, what can we expect to see you at pretty much any major bike event that happens for the most part. You'll see us more often than not and you'll see some unique things coming out from us. We're gonna, we're gonna start hosting some pedal it forward events. You heard it here first. In fact, this summer we're going to have a bicycle film fest in downtown Rogers. That sounds nice. You can buy tickets and come watch and, you know, buy a raffle ticket and see some unique bicycle films and at the same time you can support our mission. So new ones are old ones, new ones, These are, uh, we're going to know if you're going to show breaking away or something like that's a classic. So we're working with a festival called Films by bike out of Portland Oregon. Nice. Okay. Uh, they will bring a whole movie festival around by the bikes. It will be a one night event. Okay. A compilation of kind of the best films from their festival.
Really? It'll be nice. Hopefully downtown Rogers at the victory Theater. That'll be good. That'll be good. All right, well, you heard it here first. Well, good. So will that information be on your website? It will be out soon. Okay, remind us of the website address again, pedal it forward dot org. Okay, pedal forward dot org. And is there a phone number that people can reach us on the website? It's on the website. Okay. We're also on social media pedal forward N W A and that's on instagram, instagram and facebook and facebook. Okay, Perfect, Perfect. Yeah. Well, and I'll have all of that information in the show notes. I will make sure that I send Kenny some information to fill out, but we'll make sure we share all of that with our audience. But Kenny, thank you so much man for spending some time with me today. I really appreciate you guys have a class operation here and I can't wait to tell more people about it. Thanks so much for Andy. Yeah, absolutely. Here comes another train. That's right there it is. So we're gonna close this out. Well folks, that's another episode of the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast to learn more about us or to read or download the show notes from today's episode visit I am Northwest Arkansas dot com.
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