What brings Dentonites out into the blazing sun, once or twice per week, to ride in circles and chase a ball for 4 hours? Bike polo. I tried it, and I can’t help but continue playing. You’re hearing this from a skeptic, now fully converted. It’s so fun I didn’t stop to take pictures or footage till my third trip.
This hard court variant of bike polo originated in Seattle in the early 2000′s and has since spread to cities all over America, and espouses a serious DIY ethos. You don’t buy a polo bike, you build it. You don’t buy a polo mallet, you build it. The funky looking solid disc front wheel? Yep, that has a purpose. The plastic shield keeps the ball from passing through the spokes, and it could keep a mallet from lodging in the wheel and interfering. Gears? You only need one. Bike-handling skills like track standing are put to good use in bike polo. There are basic rules, though, which you should read before coming out to play. Notice, there’s a helmet rule. There’s good reason for that, as I’ve seen almost every single participant take a tumble. It happens, so be prepared.
I love that bike polo takes place in the hearts of cities. It’s totally DIY, improv, organic, and makes it own home wherever players can find. There are no televised matches, big prizes, or sponsor banners. This game is purely from the heart. In most cities, polo games happen in parking lots/garages, tennis courts, etc. We’re very fortunate to have an actual street hockey court in Denton, over in Denia park on the West side of town. Denton Parks and Rec has approved the use, and we don’t play at night since the city won’t turn the lights on. Lately NTXBP has been holding court from 5-9PM on Sundays, and some Thursday evenings as well. Check the Facebook page for discussion of games.
Nate Lightfoot explains that he and Eric Uphoff first started trying to bring bike polo to Denton around Christmas of 2009.
Eric Uphoff and I knew a bunch of people who were interested in bike polo, but nobody took the initiative to get anything going. We assumed people wouldn’t want to play if they had to make their own mallets, either due to lack of resources or skill. Eric picked up a graphite golf club, some thick ABS plastic pipe, and he came over and we started making mallets.
Working at the Friends of the Family thrift store, Nate started collecting golf clubs on the cheap and made rudimentary mallets. Within two months, he refined the design by using durable HDPE pipe scoured from a dumpster. At the same time, their polo bikes started to take shape, and soon enough they had extras to loan to out-of-towners.
By the summer, NTX Bike Polo was drawing players and spectators from the DFW region, including some very welcome involvement from Dylan Holt of Lonestar Goldsprints. This led to talks of hosting a polo tournament at the eminent Cyclesomatic festival in October.
On the future of NTX Bike Polo, Nate offers:
I would like to get a team together and travel to some of the tournaments around the US. We are talking with BFOC about having a big bike polo tournament during the Cyclesomatic event, and if everything goes according to plan, we could have players coming from all over the US and maybe even some of the canadian teams. There is a world polo championship tournament every year and I would really love to make it out there someday, even if just to watch.
NTXBP Facebook page here.