Derived from the traditional equestrian sport the English are so found of, bike polo started out as just another underground urban sport, but is now one of the most popular cycling sports in America.
Bicycle polo can be traced back to 1891, when Irish cyclist Richard J. Mecredy first came up with the crazy idea of riding the bike with one hand and holding a polo mallet in the other. Back then, it was played on grass, just like horse polo, and it wasn’t until the last decade that bike polo started being played on hard surfaces. Bikers first started competing in Bike Polo games in cities like New York, Chicago and Seattle, but thanks to the Internet, it quickly spread to other US cities, and is now a regimented sport, with a clear set of rules and its own championship – the North American Hardcourt Bicycle Polo Championships.
The game of Bike Polo basically features two teams of three members chasing a street hockey ball, trying to kick it through the opposition’s small goal. Their mallets are made from plastic tubes and old ski sticks, and their fixed gear bikes only have one handlebar, to allow better control of the hockey ball. As you can imagine, this is not the safest sport in the world, especially considering it’s played on hard surfaces and there are a lot of crashes involved. Players try to gracefully avoid bumping into one another, but that’s not very easy to do on a bicycle, and accidents do happen. But that’s precisely what makes bicycle polo an adrenaline filled sport, and that’s why so many people love it.
Bike polo is well on its way to becoming a mainstream sporting event, as authorities keep building more and more sanctioned places to practice the sport, all across the United States, and players hope they’ll soon be able to organize world class bike polo competitions.
Photos by Jay L. Clandenin via Los Angeles Times