Working with the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), we are pleased to introduce “The Spirit of Howdy,” a new trail etiquette initiative designed to illuminate and advance the NICA trail riding ethos, which we believe is key to the healthy growth of the national high school mountain biking movement.
The Spirit of Howdy website, SpiritOfHowdy.org, offers mountain-bike coaches tools for working with young athletes to engender responsible and respectful trail use practice and to help them develop as future trail stewards.
NICA’s Executive Director, Austin McInerny, said, “Teaching young student athletes that their behavior and riding style on the trail directly affects other trail users and the natural environment and, ultimately, the support from their schools, has always been central to our philosophy. Recently NICA student-athletes coined the phrase “Spirit of Howdy” to describe this ethos, and I’m thrilled to work with IMBA to launch the Spirit of Howdy website, since it effectively advances our community’s values.”
IMBA’s Executive Director, Mike van Abel, said, “The Spirit of Howdy campaign represents the values that both IMBA and NICA wish to teach our youth. The Spirit of Howdy is more than being friendly to other trail users — it’s also about caring for the trails and our environment, stewarding our parks and natural resources, and giving back to our communities.”
The idea behind Spirit of Howdy began back in the late 1990s when NICA founder, Matt Fritzinger, then a math teacher and coach, came up with a simple trail-use code for riders on his Berkeley High School team.
Fritzinger explained the rule as, “Slow down enough so you can say hello, AND they can say hello back. Work to have a friendly interaction. Add to their day with kindness, don’t take away from it.” The kids got it, and it became a League-wide rule in Northern California.”
Featured on SpiritOfHowdy.org are NICA’s code of conduct, IMBA’s trail maintenance and building information, and also a form for other trail users to give feedback on mountain bikers they encounter. NICA coaches, who have a good track record of working with hikers and equestrians, can now hand over a “how’s my riding?” card with the URL for the feedback page. The trail maintenance and building section of SpiritOfHowdy.org provides criteria to help coaches, student-athletes, and land managers help identify and work to construct new sustainable trails. Finally, the Racecourse section of the website offers tips and criteria for good course design and invites land managers and promoters to submit ideas for future race venues. NICA’s high school mountain bike races take place in state parks, county parks, city parks, recreation areas, federally managed lands, and privately owned land as well, on all of which, NICA’s racing and training programs depend crucially. More information: SpiritOfHowdy.org.