A sport played around the world wherever folks don't have sufficient horsery. Bike Polo is fun, cheap and usually very civil.
However Those who live in the Northwest may have heard of the other kind of polo. The "don't you wish I didn't have this club in my hand" polo. The "no I don't think I've had enough to drink, I've barley drank enough to play" polo.
This is polo hosted by the Axles of Evil, Portland's premiere bike polo league. The AofE are reminiscent of a simpler time, when people played sport to test each others will to survive, and because they were tired of their good health. Today after a long hard day of work few activities are nearly as satisfying as drinking, driving your opponents into the ground, then drinking more.
"Originally, bike polo is believed to have been played by Imperialist British troops in India, attempting to hone their equestrian skills. Almost a century later, we in the colonies play bike polo to get drunk and beat the crap out of each other."
You really have no idea until you play. More like hockey then polo. The places we play are:
- Wednesday 6:30pm -> Colonel Summers Park : SE 20th & Belmont
- Sunday 2pm -> Alberta Park : NE 20th & Killingsworth
- Ladies Polo - Saturday ~4pm -> Alberta Park : NE 20th & Killingsworth. This session is organized by the women who have come to love this game! Even though the name says 'ladies', boys tend to show up as well.
The Axles of Evil owe a lot to C.A.o.S., The Courier Association of Seattle. They learned us the game in 2002. Since then we have worked to hone our skills and as the saying goes, the student has become the master.
If you are interested in playing I would suggest trying it out on one of the community beater bikes we have created specifically because we don't wanna ruin our good bikes (many of the Axles of Evil are Bike Messengers). It will be awkward and you will want to quit. Most do. Occasionally, folks try it and for some reason they come back.
Most find that drinking is more than an important aspect of socializing, it is imperative to game play. Like a pitcher in the bullpen, warming up is as essential to the game as dulling the pain you likely might inflict upon yourself or others. I can speak from experience and know that when properly topped off with liquid courage I am a much more capable and aggressive polo player.
There are a lot of bike polo clubs out there, and there are some generally agreed upon rules. We don't play by those. This is Little Beirut
. We play rough.
There are two versions we play: Grass
. Which one you play generally depends on the weather, as with an average of 8 months of rain, it gets pretty muddy. The rules are slightly different based upon the playing surface, but are generally the same. Here are the constants:
No time limit. First team to 5 wins. When the game is tied at 4, we call it Beer Point.
- Each player must have a bike and a mallet. The Mallet may be held in either the right or left hand (generally right is easier), but must remain in the same hand for the entirety of the game: no switch hitters.
- Goals, one at each end of the court or field, are one bike's length in width.
- To start the game, the ball is centered. A count-off is given, and teams sprint like hell from their goal line to try to take control of the ball before the other team does.
- If you "dab", i.e. touch your feet to the ground, you must either "circle out" (street), or "touch the base" (grass) with your mallet.
- Intentional mallet-to-bike, mallet-to-body, bike-to-bike, or bike-to-body contact is NOT permitted. Mallet-to-mallet contact is permitted, as is "hooking" another player's mallet.
- Body-to-body contact (blocking) is permitted, but hands may NOT be used. Just like in football, you can use your elbows, arms, shoulders to push, but may not grab or push with hands. NO STIFF ARMING
- Players may handle the ball in any direction they wish, and are not subject to rules to establish "right of way." Stealing is part of the game. What are we? Gentlemen?
- A player may throw their mallet in order to try to block a goal. So far, this has resulted in some fairly memorable crashes, but no serious injuries. Just don't kill anyone.
- If you have a question about a play or rule, and it's not listed here or under the court-specific rules, it's legal. We generally don't like rules.
For GRASS POLO( the more traditional style )...
- The field of play is generally 60 - 100 yds long, and 20 - 40 yds wide (field should be about 3 times as long as it is wide).
- Teams consist of no fewer than 3 players, and generally no more than 5 (depending on size of field and available players).
- The ball used may be either an offical (USBPA) polo ball or a size 1 soccer ball (although the soccer ball generally needs to be slightly deflated to reduce soaring distance).
- The goal line IS THE EDGE OF PLAY - only the defending team may bring the ball back into play. If a goal is scored, the attacking team must retreat to midfield before the ball has to be brought back into play. If a goal is not scored, the attacking team must retreat 10(ten) yards from the goal line before the ball is brought back into play.
- If a player touches the ground ("dabs") then (s)he must make contact with the predetermined "base" outside the field of play. The player may block the ball or other players with his/her bike before returning to play, but may not contact the ball or any other players with his/her body or mallet until returning to play.
- A goal is scored any time the ball crosses the goal line between the goal posts to exit play. The goal is awarded to the last player who touched the ball, even if that player is on the defending team. Assists may also be awarded.
For STREET POLO (aka Bike Hockey)...
The playing court is determined by an available playing surface. Generally this entails one regulation size tennis court. the court must be contained on all sides. The goals are placed approximately 6(six) feet in from the edge of the court, so that there is a playing area behind the goal.
- Teams consist of 3(three) players. Any more and too many people get hurt.
- The ball used is a standard street hockey balls. It is suggested that you heed the weather recommendations on the packaging (red - above 80', orange - 40'-60', blue - below 40') as getting hit with a red ball in 40' weather is right painful.
- The ball is ALWAYS IN PLAY unless a goal is scored. If a goal is scored, the defending team must retreat to half court before the ball must be brought back into play.
- If a player touches the ground ("dabs") then that player must complete a 360' turn ("circle out") before returning to play. The player may block the ball or other players with his/her bike before returning to play, but may NOT contact the ball or any other player with his/her body or mallet until returning to play.
- A goal is scored ONLY if an attacking player strikes the balls with the end of his/her mallet, and the ball crosses the goal line between the goal posts. If the ball is hit with the flat side of the mallet and crosses the goal line, the shot will be called a "shuffle" and the play will continue. The goal is awarded to the last player to touch the ball. Assists may be awarded.
- If a player is behind the goal, they can NOT pass the ball through the goal to themselves. You can pass it through to another player, but you can not bring it through the goal and score yourself.
This should go without mentioning. But just to make absofuckinglutely sure you understand: YOU MUST HAVE BEER.
There are companies out there who sell pre-fab polo bikes, but that's just a bunch of cash you don't need to spend on a bike that's gonna get beat to shit. All of us here in p-town build our own bikes out of beater parts. They vary from player to player, but there are some general themes:
- Easy single-speed or fixed-gear ratio - Acceleration, not top speed, is the key. Try and get your chainring and rear cog to approach the same size. You won't go very fast, but you'll start like a drag racer. And you don't need pesky things like derailleurs or shifters. just more stuff that's gonna break. Try an find yourself an old bike with horizontal rear dropouts - mountain bikes are generally better than road bikes, since they have more crotch clearance.
- one brake on the left-hand side - you'll be playing with your mallet in your right hand, so you don't need a brake on the right side. Some people prefer a front brake, which gives you more stopping power, but may toss you over the bars. A rear brake allows you to skid into a block and won't toss you, but you won't stop as fast from a sprint, either - this becomes an issue in rain.
- KNOBBY TIRES - as big as you can fit. Unless you can build both a street and a grass bike (some have), you'll want to be prepared for anything.
- Upright posture - don't position yourself like you would on a race bike. You need range of motion to be able to steal the ball and maintain control with others trying to steal it.
- LOC-TITE!!! loc-tite is your best friend when builiding a polo bike. bolts will come loose, and you don't want a chainring ripping off in the middle of play.
The best way to build a great mallet for yourself is to experiment. Go to the thrift store and get some old ski poles, golf clubs, croquet mallets, whatever. then go get some large dowels, 2x2 wood slabs, or some PVC pipe, and start a-cuttin' and a-drillin'. You want a good balance of lightness (your wrists will get tired after a few games) and swing weight (it feels SO GOOD to wallop a ball downcourt or through the goal). You also want to think about length and flex. Cork bar tape, old innertubes, and bmx grips work great for grip, and if you recycle stuff, it's cheap. keep in mind that like the bike, you don't want to spend too much cash on this stuff - it WILL break.