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Bike Polo!

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

Hello!


It's been a hot minute since I wrote last but I promise it's for a good reason: I was waiting for a couple of interviews to come back. One has but the other hasn't, which is alright, everyone is busy. Matthew P. did such a great job of answering my questions that we're just going to go with his interview.


First, though, let's get some stuff out of the way.


  1. We are still backed up. We appreciate everyone's patience with us. We are getting there, especially since we now have help in the form of one part-time mechanic named Jason (more on him in a bit), an adult weekday volunteer named Ted, and one student volunteer looking to work off his hours (and hopefully stay on through the summer) named Nat. Together, we'll get back on track. We do ask that you please pick up your bikes as soon as possible after we call. That will allow us to have space to help more people.

  2. We find out on June 19th when my surgery will be. At that point, I'll have to find someone who can replace me at least part time for a little while. Answering phones, checking email, changing tubes, stuff like that. I am hoping they do the lateral surgery, then I won't be out too, too long.

  3. Let's talk about Jason! A lovely young man. He's exceptional at his job, comes to us after working for Brian (may he rest in peace) for ten years at Cyclepath. He's a hard worker, wonderful with customers, and we are lucky to have him.

  4. June is Bike Month in the Forest City. There are lots of bike forward events planned. Just follow this link for a calendar.

Now, on to bike polo!



bike polo, cycling, london ontario, forest city bike, bicycle polo,
Mike on his polo bike

This is Mike with his crazy polo bike, his armour (they call him Tinman), mallet and ball. He's just practicing some skills here. Ball handling and bike handling are the main two skills required. Both are definitely things you can learn.


For instance, as Matthew will point out in the interview, knowing how to track stand is helpful since you can't touch the ground with your feet, but you can "tripod" with your mallet. If you do touch the ground, it's called "dabbing" and you have to ride to the wall and tap your mallet at the center before you can rejoin the game.


Matthew can explain bike polo better than I so let's get on with the interview. (I did edit his responses a touch for grammar and spelling because I just can't help it. *laughs*)


______


Hello, Matt! You are one of the resident experts for the Forest City Bike Polo club (FCBP), and I really appreciate you being gracious enough to answer a few questions for the Spoke & Sprocket blog.

Mike just started playing with you lot this winter and it has led to some questions. It’s a very intriguing sport; everyone we talk to about it says a version of the same thing, “Bike what now?” So, when I was looking for a topic for this month’s blog, Mike suggested his new sport.

Let’s get started with the questions.


1. Who are you? What brought you to bike polo? How long have you been playing?


Matt: I am a bike enthusiast/ex-mechanic who had moved to Ottawa for school. I first saw bike polo while meeting a player to buy a stem off them. It was on their 'high octane' polo night and I had no interest at the time as it seemed really intimidating.


A couple years later, in 2018, a previous roommate had asked if I wanted to come try bike polo with him. He found an old mallet while dumpster diving and happened to know what it was, an old ski pole with a piece of abs pipe at the end. After that, he recruited several more of our friends before moving to Whitehorse to start a successful polo club there.


In 2020 I had moved to the Stratford area and knew that Sasha had moved to London from Toronto and was planning on starting a club. He found Wyatt at Squeaky wheel bike co-op and the rest is history. Forest City Bike Polo has grown to be an amazing club. I am extremely grateful for everyone who has been a part of Forest City Bike Polo


2. The biggest, most obvious question is: What is bike polo?


M: Bike polo really is whatever you make it. To some, it is a sport with the only goal of becoming a world champion. To others, it is a goofy game that you can go play with your friends and hangout in the park. To some people it is their Sunday church, with a cult-like following.


There are many players who only play regular pick up with their local club. I usually travel to 4-5 tournaments a year within our Northsides region. Mainly Ottawa, Montreal, Tournament, Kitchener-Waterloo. I have also been to tournaments in Boston and Vancouver. Every club brings [its] own unique style.


3. The one that always follows is why is bike polo?


M: Bike polo is a fairly young sport. It started in 2003 with some bike messengers and has since spread to almost every mid-sized city in the world. It's addicting and has attracted people from all walks of life.


4. What are the rules?


M: The only rules that most clubs follow are[:]


Don't be a d*ck. If you put your foot down ('a dab'), you need to tap out at the centre court before you can [come] back into play. You must also shoot with the round end of your mallet, otherwise it is a shuffle and doesn't count.


5. Are there different types? We have learned that there is hardcourt polo, but do they play anywhere else, like grass? Are there different rules for different surfaces?


M: Some places play grass polo with a small soccer ball. It's very different and I don't know a lot about it.


Different clubs use different variations of the rules for tournaments. Recently Montreal added a rule for overtime, that is called "you dab, you die" which has players go out of play if they [put] their foot down. This has been a lot of fun.


6. What skills should a new player have right at the outset? Track standing, for instance.


M: None. A hockey or cycling background can certainly help but neither of them are necessary. Track standing helps but it's easy enough to 'tripod' with your mallet.

7. Is there any equipment someone who wants to try it should bring with them? Do they need a polo bike the first time out?


M: Just a helmet and gloves are recommended. We have loaner bikes and mallets people can use.


8. What is a polo bike? What differentiates it from other bikes? Do you graduate from a beginner bike to more “pro” type ones? What makes the handling from bike to bike different?


M: Typically, single-speed bikes with a very tight turning radius, steep angles and front disc brake only. There are brands such as Enforcer, Koncept and Lightfoot that make polo specific bikes. Otherwise, people start on old mountain bikes or cheap fixies. A proper polo bike can make a huge difference in someone's confidence on the court.


9. What is player etiquette like on and off the court?


M: Everyone is extremely nice compared to other sports that I've seen. The main rule is 'don't be a d*ck'. Everyone is friends, lots of hugs both on and off the court at tournaments.


10. What is a game like to play? Do you have halves, quarters? Is it set up like a hockey game for timing? How alike is it to, well, horse polo? Do you have subs on the sidelines?


M: It's usually 3v3 tossed randomly, [they toss the mallets into the middle and pick three players per team randomly] 15 minute games or first to 5. Some tournaments are a squad or bench with 30 minute games, this format is used at the North American Championships. [Which is] Closer to hockey than bike polo.

11. Honestly, what kind of person does it take to play this game? Mike looked up at one of his last games to see a very large player bearing down on him. He ducked his head, braced himself and took the impact (surprising everyone, apparently). I’ll tell you a secret, if I were watching, I’d be screaming like a rabid hockey fan – not, you understand, that I was ever a rapid hockey girlfriend or wife ;) – and I can tell you, that impact would have had me shouting invectives for sure. Mike tells me that everyone was flabbergasted to see him continue playing without any apparent issues. (He was, he says, cursing a blue streak in his head. *laughs*)


M: People without a lot of fear tend to excel. Anyone is capable of playing but the learning curve really varies. There are clubs with active players from ages 12 to 70+. The club in Kitchener has a lot of players that are retirement age. Anyone is more than capable of playing. Mike is definitely excelling compared to where I was when I first started.


Mike was really pleased to hear that. *laughs*


12. I know there is the FCBP but how organized is bike polo, overall? You had a tournament in February, where did other teams come from? It looked like chaos when we dropped in. Could the organization be better?


M: Anyone can register for most tournaments if you have a team. Some offer individual registration. I am sure Jordan touched more on this as he organized the tournament and is a member of NAHBPC. Some people travel for tournaments every weekend. I've gone as far as Vancouver for a tournament but many people will travel worldwide.


Our tournament could [have] been better organized but it was hard as we only had one day and this was the majority of players 1st tournament. Most tournaments are over two days.

13. How are teams ranked? Is there a standings system like hockey (can you tell I’m a former hockey mom?) or baseball?


M: There is usually round Robin's Saturday, sometimes swiss rounds to rank the teams. Sunday usually is a single or double elimination format based on the rankings from Saturday.


Thank you, Matt, for taking the time to answer my many, many questions.


________


If you are interested in watching, they play at the old outdoor hockey rink at King's College, every Sunday from 2pm until 6pm. (And if you want to ingratiate yourself, bring ice cream ;) ) Make sure you bring a helmet and some gloves if you want to try. They do have a bike and mallet or two you can borrow and someone is usually willing to lend you their bike for a few minutes.



bike polo, forest city, King's college, cycling, london ontario

Thanks for reading!


Quote of the month: "I am so glad I found this disco club!"

-a new customer

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