So, when will the media stop labeling this “urban”? That word sounds so bad and really doesn’t even describe the sport. The sport is played on a hard court so players call it hardcourt bike polo. It’s not that hard to do a little more research than googling “bike polo” and only looking at the first two listings. By the way, if any media people are to read this, Wiki has no idea what bike polo is because it sure as hell isn’t called “urban cycle polo”.

The Western Front

Under humming street lights

by Stephanie Castillo
Monday, July 14, 2008

They play late at night and into the early morning.

Players listen to loud, rhythmic music from an old portable stereo that serves as a backdrop against the rattle of bikes and the scraping of mallets against concrete.

Bikers turned the Bellingham High School parking lot, illuminated by overhead street lights, into a playing field for a rough and tumble game called bike polo.

Yells of “Get it! Get it!” and “On your left!” along with playful trash talking can be heard from the players, an assortment of Western and Whatcom Community College students, graduates and other Bellingham citizens.

Urban bike polo is a variation of bike polo, which is played with players mounted on bikes instead of horses like standard polo, Western junior Soren Dahlgren said.

Western junior Jordan Bright said anyone could play bike polo whichever way they want to.

“You can make the game as intense and as relaxed as you want it to be,” he said.

Bike polo may sound like a hobby or recreational activity, but the game has become an international movement with strict rules, tournaments and country-to-country bragging rights, said Bill Matheson, a bike polo veteran of 38 years and vice president of the American Bike Polo Association.

Bike polo, or “cycle polo” as it is internationally known, was created in Ireland by a former polo player more than a century ago, but the game didn’t become well-known until the last decade. Bike polo can now be accounted for in nine different countries, Matheson said.

In bike polo, four people play on each team. The teams play on a grass field with two goals on each end. Any bike can be used, and each player has a mallet to strike the ball, Matheson said.

A player can only touch the ball with the mallet and his or her body from the elbow to the hand. Players cannot dismount the bike or touch the ground with one of his or her feet for any reason. The team that scores five goals first wins the game. Referees and line judges call games in official leagues and tournaments, Matheson said.

Bike polo and urban bike polo have different sets of regulations. In urban bike polo, there are only three rules, Matheson said.

“You can’t touch your foot to the ground, you usually play to five goals and you can only score with striking the ball on the head of the mallet,” Matheson said.

Urban bike polo in Bellingham is not played in a league or tournament-style. It is casually played on concrete or another hard surface, as one would play pick-up basketball.

“I ride bikes and play polo because it’s always been the one thing that is constant,” Dahlgren said. “No matter what kind of a day I have had, or what kind of a mood I am in, getting on my bike has instantly made things better.”

Kulshan Cycles employee Patty McDermott said she hopes bike polo will continue to pick up in popularity.

“I hope bike polo will eventually become a spectator sport and not shunned upon like skateboarding frequently is,” McDermott said.

Dahlgren said he makes it a point to play urban bike polo at least two times a week.

“We play a lot because it’s fun, but our rules are loose,” Dahlgren said. “It’s more about playing than it is about playing by the rules.”

Bellingham urban bike polo players have truly developed their own style of play, said Paul Robbins, Whatcom Community College student.

Dahlgren said his group of bike polo friends play with hand-fashioned mallets made out of ski poles or hockey sticks and plastic tubing for the head.

There is no out of bounds, and the goal is one bike-length long on either end. The goals are marked with bags or other objects the players have with them.

The group plays 3-on-3 late at night in closed parking lots and tennis courts, Dahlgren said.

If anyone causes an accident or puts his or her foot on the ground, he or she immediately has to place his or her bike on the ground and run around it three times as punishment, Dahlgren said.

“It’s funny when you have multiple people randomly running around their bikes at the same time,” he said.

Dahlgren and Bright said one of their favorite bike polo games was played two months ago in Red Square.

By the time the group started playing, even the library was closed because it was so late, Bright said.

“It was a humid night and we couldn’t see much, but we played with more people on each team, and that’s what made it great,” Dahlgren said.