This Halloween, let’s celebrate with something new and exciting. A new and exciting sport, that is. Let us introduce you to bike polo. Also known as cycle polo or bicycle polo, this activity is ‘a team sport, similar to traditional polo, except that bicycles are used instead of horses.’
First played exactly 130 years ago in October 1891, bike polo became popular recently, and the sport in Scotland is growing with more and more cities having their own scenes. The Glasgow-based group is very active, organising events and pracises regularly and maintaining a social media presence to encourage more people to come along.
Today, they organised a special Halloween event and SWIS went along to find out more about bike polo.
One of the Glasgow players is Anna Tüdős, who started out four years ago in Budapest, where she used to live. After moving to Scotland, she decided to seek out the local bike polo scene, which sucked her in with fun, healthy competition and good friends. Now a key part of the community, she says bike polo has a few aspects which make it unique to other sports.
“Bike polo is a very unofficial sport. We are a registered association, but anybody can join, there is no league unless we organise it ourselves, there are no coaches unless we organise drill sessions. It’s very much partipipant-run but that’s also what’s good about it because everybody gets a say and the games are usually fun.
“There are tournaments, which are self-organised as well and there are a few different setups and formats. Usually, a city decides to arrange one and all the UK players – sometimes even international teams – come and sleep on each other’s couches. It’s like a big family.”
Because of the casual nature of the sport, finances are also mainly handled by players, which can make travel arrangements difficult but Anna says she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Another notable aspect is that bike polo is a co-ed sport. Any genders, ages and occupations are welcome to the scene, and this is a big selling point, according to Anna.
“I really love playing with other female players and there are tournaments specifically for the girls to celebrate us but I think every sport, where it’s possible, should have all genders play together. There is broad spectrum of genders and being welcoming of all is an important point of the bike polo manifesto. It makes me feel like I belong. Also, female players do play differently, but it’s great to learn from each other!”
To play, you need a polo ball, similar to a hockey ball, ‘about the size of a tennis ball, but harder’, then, a mallet, specifically made for this sport and only manufactured by a few companies worldwide, and finally, a bike, modified to be optimal to play.
All of this equpment can be provided by the teams, and they are usually generously allowing newbies to practice with their tools. Participant wise, the professional game is played with three people in each team, but in the USA, they are trialling five against five as a setup.
The game is played on a fenced, basketball-sized court and lasts for either 10 minutes or until a team scores five goals. Interestingly, there are no assigned roles within a team. According the rulebook, everyone can (and should) shoot, defend and be a goalie on occasion – and have fun with it. You are not allowed to touch the ground with your foot, and a small penalty, having to tap out, is given if a player does.
According to Anna, the rules are mostly there to keep everyone safe, given that a bike can cause serious injuries if not regulated what the players can do to each other.
“This is the kind of sport that when you Google it it looks like you’d never imagine yourself doing it. Not just because it seems dangerous but also because it looks complicated. I told my grandmother I play bike polo and when she searched it, she freaked out thinking I play a sport where we were face cages and padded gloves. It’s intense-looking online, but you don’t have to play in the level of the World Champions you find on the internet.”
Her love for bike polo stems from a lifelong interest in cycling, which Anna uses as her main mode of transportation locally. Everyone, who likes to ride a bike, she believes, would enjoy this sport and therefore should try it out!
Anna says: “We are pretty active on social media, we have Instagram and Facebook. We have two courses where we play, so if you feel like you want to have a look first, I suggest you come along. One of them is The Barn Youth Centre in the Gorbals and the other is Mansfield Park in Partick.”
You can learn more here.