Biker polo is a rough and tumble sport

Biker polo is a rough and tumble sport

March 24th, 2011 by Clint Cooper in Life Entertainment


Jon Wareham, unofficial organizer of Chattanooga Bike Polo, said the six or seven regular participants in the 5-7 p.m. Monday games at First Tennessee Pavilion welcome other players and hope other games will get started in the area.

Wareham said he has extra bikes, mallets and balls to supply other players in their game at First Tennessee Pavilion or to help a game get started elsewhere.

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The horses have two wheels and the surface is gray concrete rather than a verdant field, but polo has come to downtown Chattanooga.

Every Monday afternoon, an organized game of bike polo (also known as bicycle polo or cycle polo) takes place on one end of First Tennessee Pavilion.

Orange cones mark the goals, and plastic garbage cans, concrete blocks and other containers are put down temporarily to block the end of the court.

"It's a team sport on a bike," said participant Anderson Bailey, 29. "That's an exciting thing. It's all fun."

It's been compared to street hockey and has been called hardcourt bike polo or urban bike polo.

Unofficial organizer Jon Wareham, 28, said Outdoor Chattanooga may have gotten together a grass bike polo game in the past, but he is not aware of any other hardcourt games.

He said Seattle residents claim to have started the game in the United States, but online sources variously trace it internationally to Ireland and India.

The hardcourt game is "ideally three on three," according to participant Andrew Gage, 26, owner of Velo Coffee Roasters.

The winner is the first team to score three goals between the orange cones (or be ahead) after 10 minutes. A mallet similar to that in traditional polo - but often cobbled together - is used, and the ball resembles one used in street hockey. A helmet is mandatory.

Rules vary from city to city in a hardcourt game, according to online sources, but a universal one used in the First Tennessee Pavilion contest requires players who touch the ground with their foot to cycle to a designated point on the court and tap a specific item with their mallet before they return to play.

Bailey said players probably should be 18 years or older and be comfortable on a bike. The bike, he said, should be "one you don't care about - not a high-end road bike."

Participants say learning the game requires more than basic bike-riding skills.

"It takes a different skills set - riding with one hand, maneuvering," said Wareham, a graduate student at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

"It's totally awkward, unorthodox, steering and braking with one hand," said Shane Darwent, 27, a photographer and sculptor.

"It's challenging and difficult," said Bailey, a potter. "We all fall down. At least, most of us do."

It's not a game for the thin-skinned, either.

"It's kind of like playing hockey," said Wareham, whose legs bare the marks of collisions. "There's an opportunity to crash. Anything you do [against another player] can come back to get you."

That said, according to Bailey, "we're not very aggressive."

The sport offers a good cardio-vascular workout, though, according to players.

"We were whupped after two hours last week," said Darwent.