Mallets of fury: Boulder Hardcourt Polo makes its debut
by Jenn Fields

Boulder may feel like the spiritual home of all sorts of cycling, but when Nicholas Applegate moved here from New York last year, he took a whack but couldn’t find a single hardcourt bike polo game in town.

He’d stumbled into what was perhaps the only cycling void in Boulder — playing polo from a bicycle on a hard surface, like a roller-hockey rink. He started playing elsewhere, with leagues in Denver and Colorado Springs, but this spring, he decided to try to get a hardcourt league rolling here.
The second game for Boulder Hardcourt Polo will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday on the roller-hockey rinks at Foothills Community Park. Just bring your bike, Applegate said, and he’ll take care of the rest.

At the first game, last Sunday, Applegate showed up with extra mallets, prepared to teach people how to play. (He’ll do the same this weekend.) But a few players showed up with their own — the void was in regular games, not players.

“I want to get a regular club going if I can,” Applegate said.

Adam Sampson, who founded Denver’s Mallet Mafia hardcourt bike polo league, played in Boulder on Sunday to help Applegate get a league going here. The Mallet Mafia just started last year.

“I was visiting some friends in Los Angeles, and that’s where I found out about bike polo,” Sampson said. “I came back to Denver and really wanted to play.”

He made some mallets to share and started advertising.

“The first game I had, there were only four people,” Sampson said. “Now we get about 15 a week.”

Boulder has a bike-polo tradition, it’s just been (mostly) on grass. Doug Render started Boulder Bike Polo, a group that plays on fields, about 11 years ago. He said there’s been bike polo in Boulder for 15 years, maybe more, but as far as he knew, they were the only game in town for the last decade.

“These hardcourt players are like the next generation,” he said.

Render played with the group last weekend and plans to play again this Sunday.

“I’d never even seen it before,” he said, but added it was different than playing on grass and a lot of fun.

Applegate said they’re playing three-on-three on the roller-hockey courts at Foothills.

“The game starts with a joust, so there’s a little charge in the beginning,” he said. “It’s a way to settle out possession. Then it’s first to five, or highest score after 10 minutes, is the way we typically play.”

Sampson said people of all ages play bike polo, and on all types of bikes. But people who get into it often build bikes specifically for polo, he said. For example, he uses wheels with a lot of spokes, since even though he uses wheel covers, “you break a lot of spokes.”

“I like a single-speed freewheel with a pretty low gear ratio, because on a hardcourt surface, you want to be quick,” Sampson said. “It’s all about sprinting and being able to get to the ball first.”

Everyone the Mallet Mafia plays with has become a small family, he said, because the polo community is tight-knit.

“The core of bike polo is just about people getting together.”

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