Skip to main content

NICA and IMBA launch "Spirit of Howdy" trail etiquette initiative

NICA and IMBA recently launched a joint "Spirit of Howdy" initiative

NICA and IMBA recently launched a joint "Spirit of Howdy" initiative (Image credit: Karl Nielsen Photography)

The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) and International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) introduced "The Spirit of Howdy", a new trail etiquette initiative designed to illuminate and advance a trail riding ethos key to the national high school mountain biking movement.

A website,, offers mountain bike coaches tools for working with young athletes to engender responsible and respectful trail use practice and develop them as future trail stewards.

The initiative will be officially launched at the screening of Singletrack High at the Golden State Theater in Monterey, California at 7:30 pm on April 20th. Board and staff members of both IMBA and NICA will be on hand to talk about the success of the program in its pilot phase.

"Teaching young student-athletes that their behavior and riding style on the trail directly affects other trail user and the natural environment and, ultimately, the support from their schools, has always been central in our philosophy," said NICA's executive director, Austin McInerny. "Recently NICA student-athletes coined the phrase 'Spirit of Howdy', and I'm thrilled to work with IMBA to launch the Spirit of Howdy website as the site effectively advances what our community stands for."

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 that became a league-wide rule in Northern California."

Featured on 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 provides criteria to help coaches, student-athletes and land managers help identify and work to construct new sustainably constructed trails.

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. Without these race sites NICA's racing and training programs would not exist.