Cycle Ball is a niche sport that combines football and cycling in a unique way. It’s been around for over a century, but it’s still regarded as an unusual sport, especially in America.
Also known as “radball”, Cycle Ball was invented in 1893, by a German-American named Nicholas Edward Kaufmann, and steadily gained popularity around Europe. The first Cycle Ball championship was held in 1929, and the sport even reached far lands like Japan, but it never really caught on in the US. You’d think Yanks don’t fancy weird sports played on a bike, but how do you explain the increasing popularity of Bike Polo, or Unicycle Basketball?
Cycle Ball is played by two teams made up of two players riding around a basketball field and trying to shoot a ball through their opponents’ goal, using their heads, or the front wheels of the bikes. It may sound strange, but it’s a pretty simple and fun game to play. A match consists of two seven-minute halves, in which players must keep their feet off the ground to avoid a free-kick, and try to score more goals than their adversaries. While defending the goal, one of the players is allowed to use hands, but you’d be surprised how hard the ball is usually struck in one of these games, so using hands doesn’t help much if the ball is well directed.
The playing area measure 36 feet by 46 feet and the bikes used are optimized for Cycling Ball: the seat is positioned over the back tire, they have a single gear so there’s no breaking and players can easily move backwards, and the handlebars point straight up. Each bike costs around 2,000 euros and weighs a lot more than an ordinary bicycle. Still, players require quite a lot of riding skill to keep their balance and possession of the ball, at the same time.
As their is no money to be made in Cycle Ball, professional players usually hold down full time jobs, while rigorously training in the gym, to keep in shape for competitions. These must pay a lot of money on bike wheels, because players run into each other all the time on the court. Still, the game is pretty spectacular and they spare no expense when it comes to getting the best gear possible.