Mountain Biking is relatively new on the high school scene. The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) was founded just five short years ago in 2009. My home state of Utah formed its league in 2012 and with over 600 riders, has quickly become the largest league in the nation.
Not surprising, with the abundance of trails within minutes of the most densely populated cities in the state. In fact, many Utah riders compete nationally and internationally, though we haven’t made it to that level.
While riders wait for their age group to race, they build camaraderie with their team members and those of other schools while they hang out in the “Pit Zone” where team tents stand side by side. It’s also a place to fuel and recover from races and parents gladly volunteer behind camp stoves to feed the riders and their families.
The “Pit Zone” is also a great place to meet the awesome companies who sponsor the races and to find out about new gear. A ton of new sponsors came on board this year. I e got to hob nob with the guys at Backcountry.com, one of the places I shop for outdoor gear. They were nice enough to let my family load up on their famous goat stickers and even provided cow bells for us to clang at the finish line.
Riders can head to the Specialized sponsor tent to have their bikes checked and adjusted before the race.
If the race isn’t fun enough, the Utah National Guard provides a climbing wall to keep bored siblings occupied.
While high schools usually don’t approve mountain biking as an official sanctioned sport, they do recognize it as a club sport. At our high school just being on the mountain bike team elevates you to the status of “cool.” And if you do happen to get injured while riding, the broken wrist or leg gash serves as a “badge of honor.”