I'd class Bike Polo as your classic Franken-Sport. You know, one of those sports that grabs some of the best bits from other sports and mashes them up into something completely new and wonderful!
Polo player on Bicycles [ED: Oxford kept it brief for this one!]
Rules & History
Modern Bike Polo is typically played on a hard court (e.g. an unused Basketball Court) and teams of 3 - 7 (depending on the rules of the Tournament) must hit the ball into the opposing teams goal with dabbing a foot. Dabbing a foot results in the player having to retreat to the sidelines and ring a bell before re-entering play. Other Tournaments make the player touch their mallet near the centre of the court for dabbing.
Rules for Bike Polo differ substantially Tournament to Tournament (However moustaches are ALWAYS encouraged!) with some Tournaments seeing teams play a 'First to 5 points' versus others which play timed halves. Even the North American Hardcourt Association lists 4 different Tournament formats to choose from based on the number of teams playing, number of playing courts available and daylight hours.
Bike selection and setup is just as important as the players co-ordination and team skills in Bike Polo. As the picture above demonstrates, players will often choose fixed or single gear bikes. Geared bikes will also often only have 1 brake (on the rear). Various other additions can be made to the bike including a disc wheel to stop mallets or stray balls from damaging the spokes. For gearing selection is mostly based on personal choice with somewhere between a 2:1 and 1:1 not looking out of place.
Half the fun of a Bike Polo Tournament is being able to compare setups with your team mates and rivals and seeing how seat height, handlebar width and other variations play into strategy on the court.
Competition in Bike Polo
Incredibly, Bike Polo was tested as a trial event at the 1908 London Olympics. Although WWI put a stop to further Olympic hopes for Bike Polo players, the sport has enjoyed regular World Events, especially since the resurgence of the sport in the early 2000's.
The Annual World Championships move around the world each year with, as the above image shows, the 2016 event being held in little old Timaru, New Zealand. With over 55 teams from around the World competing, it was great to see a Kiwi team come away with the win! It seems to usually be the Americans, Canadians or French walking away with the World Champions label and this was the first visit to the podium for a Kiwi team.
Overall, looking at Bike Polo from an outsiders persepctive, it has a truly cult following and an awesome community built around a grass roots 'go hard and have fun' kind of attitude! It's great to see that the UCI (International Cycling Union) haven't managed to dig their bureaucratic fingers into the Bike Polo community yet! Long may that remain.
Like alot of the sports we talk about on SYNHO, it's also one that can be picked up and player very easily. Heck, a cricket bat, tennis ball and an old Raeleigh would be enough to get yourself set up.
Water Cooler Facts;
- Ireland won the Gold medal, beating out Germany, at the 1908 Olympics for Bike Polo
- 'Like for Like' contact is allowed in Bike Polo. e.g. Body to Body or Bike to Bike.
- Bike Polo has it's fair share of injuries and players often wear additional safety equipment compared to usual commuter cyclists. This includes knee and elbow pads and a mouth guard. You've got to watch out for those flying mallets!
Fancy Playing? Find your local Club here