New sport is proving wheely popular
IT’S the new sport where no holds are handle-barred, bike polo is taking off in Scotland.
With growing numbers taking up the informal sport, and a national tournament next month (August), Scottish players hope they can give their well-drilled English rivals a run for their money.
Rather than trotting on the back of well-bred horses, bike polo players tear around concrete courts on stripped-down BMXs.
Using makeshift mallets they hammer hockey balls past each other at high speeds.
Around 15 players now turn out for weekly practice sessions in Edinburgh, with another group on the go in Glasgow.
The players are gearing up for the London Bike Polo Open, where teams from across the country will be competeing.
The rules of this rough-and-ready sport are fairly simple, and when it comes to contact the only regulation is “don’t be a d***”.
There are three players to each side who try to knock the ball through a goal roughly the length of a bike, the first to five points wins, with a 10 minute deadline.
Games begin with a cry of “Three, two, one.. POLO!”
Jonas Hickson, a 23-year-old science festival worker, explains the sport can trace its roots back more than a century.
He said: “It was in the Olympics in the 1800s. It was organised on grass courts
“About 30 years ago some of the bike couriers started messing around on their own time
“It spread out from London about 10 years ago.
“In Edinburgh people have been playing for about three years, and going to the British championships for two years.”
He and two friends make up Team Sensible, who are hoping for glory at the London Open, which will be held in Bethnal Greens Gardens on August 25 and 26.
The team previously came out on top in the Scottish Hardcourt Intercity Tournament in England, nicknamed SHITE.
While bike polo is popular among bicycle couriers, a wide variety of people play.
Jonas said: “There’s only a couple of students that play. We’re really friendly and anyone is welcome.”
A common modification to the bikes is to put a shield over the front spokes.
This helps to block incoming balls as well as hampering devious spanner-in-the-works tactics.
A good bike polo bike needs to have a very tight turning circle.
One hand has to be free to hold the mallet, which is a piece of tubing at the end of a long handle.
“Any old BMX will do. You have to modify it so both brakes are working off the same handle,” explains Jonas.
The sport is pretty full-contact.
Jonas picked up a mean V-shaped scar after taking a tumble from his mount recently.
Hannah Ward, who works as a bike mechanic in an Edinburgh shop, sometimes helps out with modifications.
Along with two women from Glasgow, she forms the Smutty Tatties bike polo team.
At the upcoming bike polo open in London in August, Hannah will be competing in the Helles Belles women-only tournament.
Hannah Ward said: “The London teams take it too seriously. They’ve got sponsors who give them kit for advertising and they play together all the time.
“Whereas we just rock up with a few beers and old bikes.”
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