Last Saturday I donned my special pants, threw my lights on my bike and rode towards downtown Makuhari to try and find a group of people playing Bike Polo. I had heard about the Bike Polo group from Seiya at The Depot, and I was excited to give this intriguing sport a try.
I spent about an hour in what turned out to be a massive waterfront park looking for people on 2 wheels. I figured they couldn't be too hard to spot, but the park was a labyrinth of dark deserted lots and beach. I had all but given up and was on my way home (very disappointed I must confess), when I took a chance on a small side road and cleared the trees into a small paved court with perhaps a dozen people with bikes, beer and polo mallets lounging around.
I was immediately introduced to the group and Seiya had even e-mailed ahead warning them I might be coming by.
After a quick explanation of the rules (aided by another American) we were off!
Here's how it works:
-2 teams of 3
-If your foot touches the ground, you must leave play and touch a side post before reentering
-You can use any part of the mallet to move the ball, but can only shoot by striking with the end.
-If you decide to drag the ball by trapping it between the mallet and the ground, you must pass before it can be shot on goal.
-First team to 5 points wins!
Unfortunately is was dark and I was only able to snap a few poor photos and a few videos which you can see here on vimeo. (more on the way)
The game varies in tempo from slow delicate maneuvers to fast skidding dashes, as well as awkward entanglements and crashes. It was difficult at first to connect the mallet and the ball (I made many drive by's where the ball didn't move at all) but soon I started understanding how to pull the ball, push it, not block my own shots with my wheels, get the ball from my left side to my right, etc Interestingly enough, there is some semblance to polo played on horses, as you cannot easily turn on the spot, and you really end up dominant on one side.
The game left me excited to make my own mallet, play as much as I can and find people to play with when I get back to the US of A. (I know both Portland and Salt Lake City have people who play)
By the way, Mallets are often made from old ski poles and PVC heads attached to them.
The ball is a hard plastic, like a street hockey ball.
It was wonderful to connect with such great guys here in the Chiba area who cycle together. Many of their events are posted here.
If you're in a big city, chances are there are people who participate in the craziness that is Bike Polo, and if they're anything like the guys here, they'd love to teach you how to play. (check out more photos here)
Have fun riding this week!
(don't wimp out just because it's getting cold! Wear a hat!)