Stick and Ball

July 5, 2013

With summer in full swing, Bike Polo offers Boise cyclists a fresh take on a classic sport


By Kirk Walton
Photography by Copper Chadwick

On a summer evening, you might be surprised to see a pack of cyclists swinging mallets as they advance a ball up and down a green field or a vacant parking lot somewhere in the wilds of Boise. Bike polo, a fun interpretation of an old sport, is taking root across the world and not surprisingly, Boise is no exception.

Andrew Little, owner of the local bike repair business Got Fix’d, has been involved with the bike polo scene for a few years now and recommends it to anyone looking for a fun, inexpensive way to stay active. “The transition from high school or collegiate level sports to a life without them can be hard for many youths. Bike polo can help fill that gap,” Little explains.

Unlike many sports, bike polo doesn’t require a large investment in specialized sporting goods. All you need is a bike and a mallet. Though specialized mallets and other materials for bike polo do exist, Little says the majority of materials he plays with are recycled. “Players make mallets out of old ski poles and pipe, use common street hockey balls, and make basic do-it-yourself modifications to their bikes,” he explains.

While any bike is acceptable, many polo players prefer a bike with lower gears for superior acceleration. Other than that, the only other common bike modification is wheel covers. These covers prevent mallets from being lodged in tires and are often colored or painted to represent the individual or team. Whenever they want to play, a few calls are made and a small group of polo players gather at a park, parking lot, or any open space they can find. In the future, Little says it would be ideal to have a dedicated hard surface polo court, but for now they make do with what they have.

Bike polo is similar to traditional polo, but instead of riding horses, players balance on bicycles. As a sport, bike polo is a very organic experience and still something that is maturing. Rules vary by city, and games are often played with homemade materials.

Essentially though, bike polo consists of two teams of three, a field or hard surface “court,” mallets, bikes, makeshift goals, and a ball. To score, one team must strike the ball through the opposing team’s goal using their mallets. While the rules are pretty relaxed, there’s a general understanding among players about contact and fouls. Generally, mallet on mallet hits and light body contacts are acceptable, but the rules can change with the consensus of the group. One rule is constant, however: your feet can never touch the ground.

For anyone looking for a great summer activity, the bike polo community is always looking for new members to share the sport. There aren’t really many set times yet, so Little suggests posting to the Facebook page “Boise Bike Polo” to be cut into the loop of when games are being played. When asked why someone should consider taking up bike polo, Little grins, “It’s just good fun.”