By Tamara Anne Fowler | CNA Media Team
“Beer is very important,” Maria said. “If you’re not drinking, you’re cheating,” Pete added with one of the rules from the early days of the game. And so began the Friday night Bike Polo Happy Hour rounds in Alberta Park.
Maria sat on the bench. She is officially retired after playing 1½ times in 1½ years. She was indoctrinated when she started hanging out at a community cycling center.
“Bike polo looks hard. It is way harder than it looks.”
Next to arrive was Robert – a “super star,” Maria claimed. Robert started playing about three years ago and is back after a long break.
Third and fourth, Jordan and Tim, have both been playing since 2007. Jordan started in Eugene. Tim competes in cyclo-cross. He has raced casually for the last couple of years.
Pete has been playing since 2009 and started in Columbia, Missouri. Brandon, Pete’s roommate, is from Tallahassee, Florida, and has been playing since 2016. His friends got him into bike polo when he worked at a bike shop. Stu has been playing for seven years. “Back in the day, when bike polo was just starting out, we used to play with ski poles or gas piping,” he said. “It was definitely DIY. Now bike polo companies are making fancier equipment.”
Black Star Bags, in southeast Portland, makes custom backpacks to hold bike polo gear. It is owned and operated by Dave Stoops, bike camper, bike polo enthusiast, ex-bike messenger and Concordia resident.
Drinking is no longer a requirement, so the current bike polo rules are:
- Don’t be a jerk.
- Only “shots” count (hit like hammer, don’t sweep like a broom).
- Corresponding contact – mallet to mallet, bike to bike, body to body – is the only contact allowed. “A lot of people’s teeth have been knocked out in bike polo,” Maria explained.
“Bike polo looks hard. It is way harder than it looks,” Pete admitted.
Games are typically 12 minutes long with teams of three taking on each other. There is no real set goalie position. Each player just takes up the spot as needed.
Portland Bike Polo has a newbie night once a month. The club brings equipment and rental bikes to instruct beginners. Once trained in the sport, one can become hooked.
If Bike Polo Happy Hour is too tame, the more hardcore games are Sunday mornings. Just check out the calendar at PortlandBikePolo.org and see how you can keep the sport going.
Tamara Anne Fawler is Edit Kitten, a writer with 20-plus years of experience offering a sof ter, gentler approach to editing and coaching. Her personal editors — Armani, Max Factor and Spicey’D — are also her cats. Visit her at EditKitten.com or contact her at Tamara@EditKitten. com.