Northwest Arkansas’ growing reputation as a hub for cycling and mountain biking is adding a feather in its cap.
London-based cycling company Rapha is moving its North American headquarters from Portland, Ore., to Bentonville. The move is expected to be completed by March 1 this year.
Rapha’s North American division has been based in Portland since 2008. Rapha is a global brand for cycling gear and apparel, founded in 2004 by Simon Mottram in the United Kingdom.
In a statement, the company said the following about its interest in Northwest Arkansas.
“Since our inception in 2004, we have pursued an innovative, direct to customer business model that’s fueled by our values, supports our mission to make cycling the most popular sport in the world. Portland was a natural home for Rapha as the brand started to expand across North America and the office and Portland-based staff have helped inform and define the brand over the last 10 years.
“Over the next few years the Rapha brand will evolve into new markets and we need to make sure that our office location supports our future strategic aims. After careful consideration, it’s clear that basing the Rapha North American office in Bentonville will serve these aims effectively.
The proximity to the emerging OzTrails [mountain biking] network, the incredibly fast-growing gravel landscape and the continuing emergence of Northwest Arkansas as a cradle for all kinds of cycling development will help to foster this direction and the impact that Rapha North America can have in the US and beyond.”
An email to a company spokesman asking about the number of employees in Rapha’s North American division was not immediately returned. It’s also unclear where the company’s Bentonville office will be. This story will be updated if that information is received.
Since 2017, RZC Investments has been Rapha’s majority stakeholder. RZC is a business partnership founded by Jared Faciszewski and Tom and Steuart Walton. The Walton brothers, who are biking enthusiasts, have directed heavy investments in a mountain bike trail system in Bentonville, which hosted the IMBA World Summit in 2016. They are grandsons of Walmart Inc. founders Sam and Helen Walton, and the sons of Jim Walton, chairman of Arvest Bank.
There are other connections surrounding Rapha’s move to Northwest Arkansas. Brendan Quirk, Rapha’s former North American president, left the company in 2018 to join the Runway Group as cycling program manager. Runway Group is an economic development group in Bentonville backed financially by members of the Walton family. Runway Group was co-founded by Tom and Steuart Walton.
Last month, after filling the role on an interim basis for several months, Quirk took over as CEO of high-end bicycle brand Allied Cycle Works. Allied’s parent company, HIA Velo, moved its headquarters from Little Rock to Bentonville last year. RZC also has an investment in Allied Cycle Works.
Rapha founded a cycling club in 2015 to bring cyclists together. It now has more than 12,000 members across the world. The company has 23 “clubhouses” across Europe, North America and Asia. They are retail stores, featuring coffee shops, but also hubs for Rapha cycling club members and local cyclists.
Rapha has North American clubhouses in Boulder, Colo., Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Rapha sells products only through its clubhouses, as well as its website.