By L. Lamor Williams | Photography by Sarah Oden | Shot on location at Lost Forty Brewing
It’s such a common theme that you have to wonder if there’s a secret Cyclist’s Bible that every avid rider reads from before answering the question: What do you like about cycling? The answer generally speeds past the health benefits towards a finish line that focuses on enjoying the natural beauty surrounding a trail or roadway and a feeling of freedom that comes with being lost in thought and movement.
Jim Cargill, president and CEO of Arvest Northeast, Central and Southwest Arkansas, said his cycling journey started out a decade ago when he picked up a bike hoping to peddle away some pounds. Today, he’s happy to share the gospel of cycling. He even serves on the board of the Big Dam Bridge Foundation and Arvest is the presenting sponsor of the Big Dam Bridge 100 (BDB 100), one of the largest cycling events in Arkansas, as well as the Little Rock Gran Fondo.
“My interest in cycling started in the latter part of 2011. I kept hearing about the Arkansas River Trail from some of my coworkers. As I have been since probably my first moment on earth, I was interested in losing a little weight and had seen some pretty dramatic differences in the health of many of my friends, so I made a trip out to the River Trail,” Cargill said. “The River Trail. Pinnacle Mountain. The bridges. It was an incredible experience and it stuck. I continued to ride and still do today.”
The Arkansas River Trail is Central Arkansas’s premiere outdoor recreational trail. It is a 15.6-mile loop on both sides of the Arkansas River anchored by the Big Dam Bridge, the nation’s longest bridge built for bicyclists and pedestrians, and the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge, a railway span built in 1899 and recommissioned for bicyclists and pedestrians in 2011. The Two Rivers Bridge, completed in 2011, is the gateway to the 88-mile, on-street Arkansas River Trail Grand loop.
The Arvest Little Rock Gran Fondo (www.littlerockgranfondo.com) cycling event is also being sponsored by the bank. Italian for “big ride,” this event is set for October 16. According to organizers, the ride – note it’s not a race – is just under 70 miles for the full distance and participants are treated to “coffee and marvelous eats” on their route to a grand finish which includes food, beverages and fun.
Cargill said he knows the River Trail better than the less traveled roads that make up the Gran Fondo route. Regardless of where he’s riding, he enjoys the company of friends, but also places high value on solitude.
“Not only do I feel better physically, but it is my time. Time that I own for my own benefit,” he said. “I can decide what I need from my ride and make it happen. Of course, along the way, I get to enjoy Arkansas’s beautiful scenery.”
There will be plenty to see during the 100-mile Big Dam Bridge race (thebigdambridge100.com). set for September 25. The BDB 100 is expected to draw about 3,500 participants, said Bruce Dunn, executive director of the Big Dam Bridge 100. Dunn notes that just the one race has a significant economic impact on the area not to mention providing the quality of place that so many seek in an active cycling community. The race has an estimated $2.2 million economic impact on Central Arkansas as noted in a 2019 report from Metroplan, the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization for the area.
That impact includes philanthropy.
A portion of the proceeds from the Big Dam Bridge 100 will benefit Recycle Bikes for Kids, a Little Rock-based charity that has distributed more than 14,000 bikes in the community since its inception in 2008. Other proceeds are used by the Big Dam Bridge Foundation that partners with government and private stakeholders to leverage donations in order to make improvements at the Big Dam Bridge and along the River Trail.
“Trail improvement projects wouldn’t be possible without the support and cooperation of the private and public sectors,” Cargill said.
“Most people that know anything about Arvest know how seriously we take our role in developing the communities that we serve. We are dedicated to making all our communities better places to live, work and raise families. As I continue to learn more about the cycling world and enjoy events like the Big Dam Bridge 100, I am gaining a more complete understanding of how these important activities support a great quality of life which is key for a robust and healthy community. Lastly, I hope everyone will give cycling a try. I know it can open a new shared passion for the sport, limitless hours of happiness and a pathway to better health.”