SO! for the uninitiated masses I shall introduce you all to Bike Polo!
Bike Polo is a fairly simple game, it is un-gentrified polo which is played upon bicycles, there are few rules such as the way it was intended centuries ago.
1. Your foot may not touch the ground at any time, doing so will put you out of play and you have to quickly remove yourself from the play and tag back in at a common point which is usually a land mark on the sideline at the center of the court, your mallet may be used at any time to ‘tripod’, which means using your mallet to help balance yourself on your bike.
2. In order to score you must hit the ball off the round end of your mallet.
Those are really the only rules.
‘like contact’ is allowed, examples ‘bike on bike’ , ‘mallet on mallet’ and ‘body on body’. The caveat to the ‘like contact’ is that you will have to expect the same level of aggression to be returned upon you from the other player or one of their teammates in retaliation to your initial aggression. You can intentionally knock another players mallet, hit their bike with yours, put your shoulder into theirs, you can even stop and back up into their way or path causing them to have to divert their line of attack or otherwise collide with you. You can even run them into a fence or goal if your court has such amenities.
Mallets are commonly made out of ski poles and plastic pipe, the ski pole is obviously used as the pole for the mallet. The plastic pipe is used for the mallet head, the plastics used are usually HDPE (high density polyethylene such as your cutting boards are made of, also knows as gas pipe) or Acetal (polyacetal). These two plastics are the best materials for polo mallet heads, plastics such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is too weak and brittle to be used, these mallet heads quickly shatter, fracture and become dangerous at times. Other materials such as wood from croquet mallet heads is also used at times but is heavier.
Bikes used for bike polo can very widely, fixed gear or freewheeled bikes can be used. Although many veteran players will swear that a fixed gear bike is the best tool for the job, i agree. It allows you to track stand, slow down without having to use your brake (brakes are still highly recommended for maximum effectiveness on the field), fixed gear bikes can also back up, go in backward circles and have a much more simple and robust drive-train. You can use a nice bike if you want(not recommended though), more regular players will tend to build up polo bikes specifically for bike polo, these bikes usually have very low gearing which allows them to accelerate and decelerate very quickly, the large amount of torque these bikes have make them great for muscling through other bikes and also makes them very maneuverable in tight situations, which are very very common. Some players will run a front brake some a rear brake, it’s a matter of preference on which one they run. Suffice to say, a polo bike is one that you are not worried about messing up, because it will happen at some point.
Goals can be made of just about anything, road cones, boxes, street hockey goals, etc. the common theme is that the opening width is approximately the length of the bike, this may very city to city though.
To score your must hit the ball on the circular end of your mallet, shuffling is allowed during play, which consists of using the wider side of your mallet to essentially dribble the ball around the court. A move called ‘ball jointing’ is allowed in some cities, it consists of seating the ball into the hollow end of the mallet and the ground, this allows you to drag the ball around at a very high rate of speed and maneuverability, but you must release the ball and then hit it again in order to score a goal, otherwise this is considered shuffling. At any time if your team puts the ball into your own goal it is considered a goal for the opposing team, no question about it. You can play the ball off other bikes, players and obstacles to score goals.
Cities all have their home court rules, but generally they are just small rules that do not effect the general game play. Some cities play more physically aggressively, some with more finesse and so on and so forth. Who really wants to jack up their buddy then have to play with them the next week? That just tends to put a big target on your back in the general scheme of things.
There is no sanctioning organization or official rule setting party in regards to bike polo. Although the commonly referred and referenced set of rules are the ones used for Cycle Messenger World Championships or the World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championships. These rules are the ones used at these events, i could link to them but i’m sure your are web savy enough to use google.
For Ann Arbors bike polo events our twitter is the most effective way to stay up to date on whats going on! SO if you have yet not been frightened away or think people that play such a game are seriously nuts come on out for our Sunday games that start at 4-4:30pm at the Palmer Field in Ann Arbor, google it. We have extra mallets and are always glade to have friendly new faces to come to play, and yes we obviously are much more gentle with new players than the veterans.