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Bike Polo Catching on Around Globe

July 8, 2014
bike polo atlx channel

bike polo atlx channel

 

This article originally appeared on The ATLX Channel

Upon hearing the word Polo, people typically generate thoughts of wealthy, East Coast, Ivy League men on horses. Either that, or 6-foot-5 ripped athletes treading water. What you probably don’t visualize is bike messengers on tennis courts with mallets, but perhaps you should. Bike Polo is the latest sport sweeping the nation.

Although at one point, the term sport may have been used loosely, it’s turned into quite the competitive play. According to League of Bike Polo, the sport actually has roots in the late 19th century in Ireland, but when bike riding waned, thanks in large part to the invention of the automobile and the first World War, bike polo nearly became extinct.

In the 1990s Bike Polo saw it’s rebirth in Seattle through a group of bike messengers casually hitting a ball with a mallet during their off hours. Soon the group was popularized outside of the bike messenger clique and has continued to grow into a global sport.

When Dustin Riggs got involved in Bike Polo in 2007, it was more of a hobby for everyone than true competitive play. After one of his coworkers convinced him to try it, it became a way for him to have a good time and let off some steam after a hard day’s work. But, as the sport has grown and become much more competitive, the training and dedication has increased as well.

“Back (in 2007) there were hardly rules at all, more like guidelines for people to follow. It was more like an after-work drinking activity than an organized sport,” Dustin told ATLX. “When we traveled to tournaments everyone would stay out late and party together.”

The Bike Polo players of today probably wouldn’t recognize those players, as the sport has become much more serious.

Fellow teammate and twin brother, Cody Riggs, who at the time lived in San Diego, got involved after visiting Dustin and eventually joined his brother in Seattle. Cody had a background in mountain biking so the skills necessary to play bike polo weren’t completely foreign; however, similar to his brother, the fitness aspect of the sport wasn’t on the top of his mind.

“Five years ago when I started playing, nobody paid any mind to physical fitness,” Cody told ATLX. “In competitive polo today, some people are taking physical fitness to a new level. People are changing their diets, getting in the gym, climbing, running, and all sorts of physical training activities to gain an edge. We play on bigger courts than we used to and tournaments last all weekend, so this definitely helps.

“Many people getting involved in the sport already have a background in cycling, so they have the stamina that comes with a heavy cardio based sport. Upper body strength is also important as you’re jockeying for position and coming into contact with other players a lot.”

The game typically consists of a 3-on-3 match, although the rules vary somewhat among different countries. Competitors can’t put their feet down, and contact is supposed to be limited, although this isn’t always possible given close quarters of competition. Although the rules took a while to be formalized, and still vary among clubs and country, the sport is becoming more organized.

“Now we’ve got an organizing body for North American players, a solid set of rules, better trained refs, and some sponsors thrown into the mix. It’s definitely more of a sport now than it was when I started,” said Cody.

This year the Riggs brothers will be competing in the North American Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship (NAHBPC) in Minneapolis. The top teams will qualify to compete in the World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championships (WHPBC) later this year in Montpellier, France.

With the widespread growth, Cody and Dustin have both traveled far and wide for competition. Not only have they competed all over the US, but also places such as Berlin, Munich, Paris, Brussels, Geneva, London, Amsterdam and beyond.

These travels have allowed them to see the world and to experience different styles of bike polo, which tend to change throughout different regions in the world.

“The (World Championships) are cool, because polo has evolved differently in different parts of the world. European players have different strategies and style than North American teams,” Cody said.

Although the game has the stigma that it’s just for hipsters or cyclists, the leagues see all different types of competitors. “The bike polo community is made up of people from all kinds of different backgrounds; teachers, social workers, food industry, doctors, and lawyers,” said Dustin.

Both brothers stress that it’s a very open and welcoming community for those who are interested in playing and for those who are just interested in watching. In fact, Dustin sees the fan base growing in the next few years.

“Sports in general are supposed to be an exciting form of entertainment. Bike polo has everything from big hits at high speeds to exciting ball handling to huge slap shots. Anyone that is interested in watching competitive sports would enjoy watching a high caliber game of bike polo,” said Dustin.

On it’s current trajectory Bike Polo should continue to grow throughout the United States and the rest of the world, though it has along road to the mainstream. Still, with the passion of the players, the sport continues to thrive.

“I think in years to come it’s going to get pretty big. There’s not a whole lot of money in the sport right now, so players are paying their own travel expenses and organizers are taking on quite a bit of financial burden on their own,” said Dustin. “More companies are sponsoring events and players with polo equipment and as much cash as they can afford, which is a great start.”

Culture, Media

Liam’s Amazing Qualifier Photos

June 30, 2014
hlrq2014 liam gilson 2

hlrq2014 liam gilson 2 Liam Gilson has been capturing true on court emotion since the Midwest Open 3 in Minneapolis in 2012. Since then he’s traveled all over the Midwest and even to North Americans and Worlds last year to bring us some amazing hardcourt photos. His photos, in my mind, have made him one of the top hardcourt photographers in American today. So far this year Liam has made it to the Heartland Regional Qualifier and the Great Lakes Regional Qualifier, and I’m sure he will be at North American’s snapping amazing photos. But until the time when all the regions once again converge at The Oval, here are Liam’s photos from the aforementioned qualifiers.

Enjoy! And if you see Liam around in Minneapolis next month, be sure to buy him a drink and thank him for documenting this sport that we all love.

Culture, Media

How Bike Polo is Making Portland Better

June 26, 2014
portland bike polo

portland bike poloThis article originally appeared on Bike Portland

Part of our new series of guest posts: America’s Next Bicycle Capital. This week’s guest writer is Pete Abram of Portland Bike Polo.

I have been a bike commuter since I was able to pedal. But I didn’t really understand how you can connect yourself to a bike, how it can be an extension of your will, and how tasks that seem difficult or dangerous on a bicycle to some can be exhilarating and easy to an experienced rider, until I found bike polo, in 2009, in Columbia, Mo.

This realization really hit me in 2010, on a summer ride on the Katy Trail to a winery when a fellow rider fell and said “my front wheel hit some loose gravel on the turn” and my immediate and confused response was “why didn’t you just pop a wheelie and re-center your wheel in the air?”

Ever since this incident, I always need to remind myself that not everybody plays bike polo when I hear a description of a solo cycling accident. This fellow rider was not a bike polo player and was covered in road rash. They laughed at what they thought was a joke. But it was no joke.

The handling skills and safety expectations that you get from playing bike polo are also no joke. Bike polo players become intensely aware of their surroundings, both in front and behind. They learn to use their hearing to detect incoming threats. They gain a new and deeper understanding of right-of-way for cyclists. They become intimately familiar with the requisite braking distances on various kinds of surfaces at various speeds.

Bike polo players can perform these feats because hardcourt bike polo parades itself around like a sport, but is also the best training available for becoming a safe and capable commuter. If you can do all of these things with one hand on the handlebars while swinging a mallet and trying to put a ball in the goal, it should be a piece of cake with two hands on the bars, no ball to chase, and no goal to guard!

A year after we both graduated from grad school in Missouri, my then-girlfriend-now-fiancée (and bike polo player!) and I decided to find a fresh start and moved to Portland. We moved here for many reasons: the mild climate, the cycling culture, and the general progressiveness of the city.

What we did not expect was the friendship and community that we would find in Portland Bike Polo. We were welcomed with open arms and instantly had a rich social network upon arrival. The fork on my polo bike? It’s hand-made by a member of the club. My team’s polo bikes were painted by another member. My top tube pad and polo bag were crafted with love by Black Star Bags which is owned by and employs (you guessed it) more members of Portland Bike Polo.

Our club has photographers, graphic designers, bike mechanics, engineers, welders, fabricators, sewers, bike trail diggers, bartenders, teachers. One of us even works for ODOT!

What makes Portland Bike Polo exceptional is that we are a remarkably diverse group of people in age, profession, and worldview, brought together every weekend by a love for the game that we play. We are excited to see it grow as a sport and grow along with it.

In July, we are sending 3 teams to the North American championships in Minneapolis. In August, several of us will travel to Montpelier, France for the only sixth-ever World Championships to occur in the sport’s history.

The game is still very young and is changing very quickly. As a club, we’ve been adapting not to survive, but to prosper. We’ve had our own brand of custom machined mallet heads for over two years. More recently, a new member of our club who (no joke) builds race cars for a living has designed and constructed steel guards for the disk brakes we run.

And that’s why I love Portland Bike Polo: because as a club we are always learning, innovating, and looking for new members and new projects. Maybe you’re next.

Pete Abram is a member of Portland Bike Polo. You can follow the club on Facebook, too.

If you’d like to add your voice to this series, get in touch via email: michael@bikeportland.org.

m4s0n501
Media, Video

Seattle Bike Polo In The News

June 13, 2014
seattle bike polo king 5 news

With Jagwolves Media building a huge name for themselves in the bike polo video world, I feel like all of the videos that I post these days are coming from Seattle, and this one follows suit! Unlike yesterdays post, this video comes from a local news station out of Seattle called King 5. It highlights the sport the we all love so much, while showing off some of the Seattle Bike Polo flavor.

Check out The Assassins face-off against The Guardians (minus Cody and plus J.T.) for Seattleites watching the evening news. Enjoy!

Media, Video

Louis CK visits NYC Bike Polo

May 14, 2014

bike polo louis

 

Bike Polo made it’s way to prime time TV again! A few years back the CSI: NY film crew visited New York Bike Polo (check that footage out HERE) and now Louis CK did a little bike polo filming for his amazing show Louie. Thank you New York Bike Polo for getting this sport on the boob-tube!

You can watch the short clip here thanks to The Means:

To watch the full episode, follow this link HERE! This link may not work in all countries. To find the episode yourself, look up Louis Season 4 Episode 3 on your favorite TV show streaming website.