An Interview and Bike Fest Preview with Kenny Belaey
About Kenny Belaey
Kenny grew up in Belgium. When he was 9 years old, he got into trials. His father's passion was motorcycles and motorcycle trials, but he gave up all his passion and his gear to commit to the sport for Kenny. Kenny went international within three years, with his first overseas trip at 14.
He is a Trial Bike World Champion, a mountain biker, and now also a father. He runs Bike Fest in Bentonville and one overseas in the Middle East.
Trials are obstacle courses designed to be complicated and require the utmost athleticism from the biking athletes. It’s an extreme sport all about technical abilities and creativity to overcome and use physics and geometry to pass through the obstacles.
Kenny knew someone that performed with him, that walked on a slack line. "I thought, 'It would be so cool to ride a bike across one of these.'" It took so many years after his idea and a pitch to Red Bull and Adidas, but they loved the idea. He sold it. So he had to do it. He trained for almost a year.
He remembers when he had a forklift and a van, and it was only three feet tall. His dad said, "I bet it's impossible. At that height and at that altitude, you can't do it."
Kenny said, "Watch me."
It seemed impossible. He trained in his backyard for a while. They scouted the location, and once he found it, it was a 300-foot drop under where they wanted to put the slack line. So he called a scaffolding company and set up 60 feet of scaffolding to practice.
When the day finally came, it was brutal. Every time he fell off, it took 45 minutes to reset and get back on the side to start over. But he did it. He overcame and made it happen.
This is a testament to his mindset that he can accomplish anything he sets his mind to.
Being a Dad
It didn’t settle him down. While loving his “little creature” has changed his life and his mindset, he still gets to travel and do everything he wants. He does have a better appreciation for his parents and how much they probably worried about him when he was gone for months at a time. He shifted his mindset into a protection mechanism to provide for his kid.
He thought he would have to give it all up. But the whole bond of his family has grown stronger as they get to do all those wonderful things together. Coming to Bentonville and to his Bike Fest and enjoying it as a family is sweet for him.
“It changes you as a person,” Kenny admits to being a bit of a bulldozer before, but now he understands and feels more of the range of emotions, “all because of becoming a father.”
He came to Bentonville early on in their bike days and returned a few years later, and it had exploded with 100 miles of trails. While the initial boom has fizzled, they've established sustainable growth to keep building and cutting trails.
"There are still thousands of people that need to come to see this, and Bike Fest is a conduit to get them here."
Bike Fest is in its third edition. They are at a new venue this year, at Ole Applegate, south of the Coler trail. There is even more Bike Fest has to offer this year, with better experience for riders, racers, and vendors. It's gotten bigger every year, but this year they wanted to pay closer detail to the racing and competing.
"It's never been so detailed."
There will be a more exclusive rider experience with closed parking for racers, better goody bags, and a bigger prize purse. Some of the details are small but they matter and make the experience that much better for the racers.
For exhibitors and sponsors, we are hosting VIP parties just for them. They can connect to each other, connect with bikers, and network. This is a vendor experience that is unrivaled.
We are connecting the niche of trials, BMX jumping, and dirt jumping, and connecting them with the world and helping to make them mainstream. Red Bull's model is to get the attention of the consumer. People want to see cool stuff- the vendors want people to buy great equipment to do some cool stuff.
Our festival covers the whole range of cyclists and potential bike enthusiasts. We want to connect them to the industry and help the vendors with a sustainable business model.
The festival runs from May 25-28. You can sign up to race until May 23. Otherwise, it's free admission for the general public, go to the website and grab your general admission ticket from Event Bright.
They'll have kids' races, trials, and different races for adults. There will be tons of workshops with pro riders and 150 vendors joining us this year. It will be big. It's a fun way to get outdoors and enjoy Bentonville with your family.
“My standard is always what seemed impossible yesterday, is my standard today.” He said that he Kenny now rides different styles of trials, more freestyle oriented and tries to keep it interesting for himself since he stopped competing.
"Whatever you do – CrossFit or biking, whatever it is, do it with passion.” Kenny still gets as excited as he did when he was 9 years old. He believes that success will come. IF you do it against your will or are pushed, what you do won’t be sustainable, “You won’t improve if you aren’t passionate and motivated. The rest will follow.”