Thursday, August 21, 2008

Heads Up, Mallets Down

This is from, a wonderful webazine:

The Novice's Guide to Bike Polo
By BillDozer -

While the proper institution of Bicycle Polo was begun over a century ago in the wilds of Pakistan, and maintains much of the refinement and dignity of it equine forbearer, we of the city environment have mutated and bastardized this gentlemanly game into something that suits our more reckless and drunken lifestyles.

About five years ago in Portland, a few of us bike messengers, upon learning of this new pastime from some peers in Seattle, decided that we should establish standard rules for play. Although rules seemed counter-intuitive to the haphazard and utterly disorganized nature of the game, it was agreed that should disputes arise, there should be a standard against which they are judged, so as to keep the game going—the most important thing.
We arrived at the title: Little Beirut Style. Now, each city has a few of their own localized rules, in keeping with the DIY ethos, but these are the skeletal basic rules, to guide the novice into a simple understanding of that sport over which we are so fanatical:

Regulation court size is a single tennis court, fenced on all sides. Approximate dimensions are thirty five feet wide by seventy feet long. Basketball courts, handball courts, or any enclosed court will do in a pinch.
The court shall be set up with a goal on each end, marked by traffic cones or some other post visible from all points in the court. The goal does not need to have an upper limit, nor a net. The posts shall be set one bike length apart. The goals are placed approximately six feet in from the edge of the court, so that there is a playing area behind the goal.
The half-court line must be marked.

No time limit. First team to 5 wins. When the game is tied at 4, we call it “Beer Point.”
Each player must have a bike and a mallet. The Mallet may be held in either the right or left hand (generally right is easier), but must remain in the same hand for the entirety of the game: no switch hitters.
To start the game, the ball is centered. A count-off of “1, 2, 3, GO!” is given, and teams sprint like hell from their goal line to try to take control of the ball before the other team does.
Mallet-to-mallet contact is permitted, as is “hooking” another player’s mallet.

Body-to-body contact is permitted, but hands may NOT be used. Just like in football, you can use your elbows, arms or shoulders to push, shove or ride someone into a fence or bystander... but you may not grab or push with hands.

Players may handle the ball in any direction they wish, and are not subject to rules to establish “right of way.” Stealing is part of the game. What are we? Gentlemen?

A player may throw their mallet in order to try to block a goal. So far, this has resulted in some fairly memorable crashes, but no serious injuries. Just don’t kill anyone.

Teams consist of three players. Any more and too many people get hurt.

The ball used is a standard street hockey ball. It is suggested that you heed the weather recommendations on the packaging (red - above 80’, orange - 40’-60’, blue - below 40’) as getting hit with a red ball in 40’ weather is right painful.

The ball is ALWAYS IN PLAY unless a goal is scored. If a goal is scored, the scoring team must retreat to half court before the ball must be brought back into play. The ball may be brought back into play before the scoring team crosses the half court line. This is called “coming in hot.”

If a player touches the ground (“dabs”) then that player must complete a 360’ turn (“circle out”) before returning to play. The player may block the ball or other players with his/her bike before returning to play, but may NOT contact the ball or any other player with his/her body or mallet until returning to play.

A goal is scored ONLY if an attacking player strikes the balls with the end of his/her mallet, and the ball crosses the goal line between the goal posts. If the ball is hit with the flat side of the mallet and crosses the goal line, the shot will be called a “shuffle” and the play will continue. The goal is awarded to the last player to touch the ball. Assists may be awarded.

If a player is behind the goal, he/she cannot pass the ball through the goal to him/herself. You may pass it through the goal to another player, but you can not bring it through the goal and score yourself.

If you have a question about a play or rule, and it’s not listed here or under the court-specific rules, it’s legal. We generally don’t like rules.


No specific rules apply to the building of a polo bike, but we do have some strong recommendations.

The bicycle should be single-speed, either fixed- or free-wheel, with a single rear brake mounted on the left side (for right handed players)

We recommend that polo bikes be of the mountain bike variety, as they are more durable, and the parts are cheaper and more readily available from used bicycle stores.

Riser bars or BMX handlebars are recommended. For safety, it is also stressed that handlebars be cut down shorter than the length of an average arm. We would prefer that there be no more impaling on the polo court.


The standard bike polo mallet is constructed from an ordinary aluminum ski pole, and a short piece (about 5-7 inches) of high density PVC piping, which you can get from the hardware store or steal from the gas company. The pole should be cut down to a length of about 32 – 36 inches, with the point and grip removed. Match the diameter of the narrow end of the pole to a small wood-boring drill bit (usually 9/16”), and drill through the center of the PVC pipe. Press fit the pole into the PVC mallet head. Trim off any excess pole that peeks through the underside of the mallet head, and affix the mallet head to the pole with a long self tapping screw or a bolt and nut that passes through the pole and both sides of the mallet head. If using a self tapping screw, make sure to trim off any excess poking through the other side of the mallet head – for safety.


I have enough ski poles for nine mallets so you just need a bike.


Anonymous said...

... and electric.

I wanted to post a phone number just as an FYI to everyone.


This is a number for the Norfolk Southern engineer that takes care of the railroad tracks in Memphis, TN.

For those wondering these would be the tracks on Avery Ave where there are 4 or 5 tracks that a lot of people fall on.

There will be an engineer out there today or tomorrow to look at them and figure out how extensive of a repair is needed.

They seemed rather concerned when I said someone fell there so we'll see how quick the react.

jmgorman said...

RE the RR tracks:

Wow, great work. I've only fallen there once, but it was pretty rough. The problem is, there isn't too much to repair. They finally fixed that really, really rough crossing on Broad Street, but it still isn't great. It might just be the nature of the beast.