There are many sports that are iconic around the world, such as football and basketball. Then there are the sports played mostly in certain countries such as American football and ice hockey. And then there are the underrated sports that deserve a bit more of a spotlight and attention. One of these sports is bike polo, a fun, inventive sport that not many have heard of but is played by thousands around the world every day.
Read on for a beginner’s guide to bike polo, taking you through the rules, regulations and any other relevant information.
Bike polo, also known as cycle polo, is a team sport that is quite similar to traditional polo, except instead of horses, bicycles are used. It saw a sharp increase in popularity during the 21st century, but its origins actually trace back to 1981, when the first game was played in County Wicklow between Rathclaren Rovers vs Ohne Hast Cycling Club.
It was invented by retired champion cyclist Richard J. Mecredy, who was the editor of The Irish Cyclist magazine at the time. The sport reached its peak of popularity in Great Britain during the 1930s, with the introduction of regional leagues. It also began spreading worldwide, with France being one of the biggest advocates of the sport. Unfortunately due to World War 2, it began to fade in popularity in Great Britain. It began rising once again in the 1980s when both India and the United States took it up. Since then The Bicycle Polo Association of America and the Cycle Polo Association of India were created and the first world championship was organised in 1996.
Since then there is organised cycle polo played in numerous countries around the world, and it became an officially recognised sport by the Union Cycliste Internationale in 2001. Thousands play street games, attracted by only needing to know a few rules and basic equipment to enjoy. A game can be played with as little as a bike, mallet, hockey ball and a makeshift goal.
The concept of bike polo is very similar to normal polo, working with your team to score goals against the other team.
One of the key rules is that you must not touch the ground. Putting your foot on the ground or using something other than your mallet or bike to balance yourself is known as dabbing. Leaning on the goal with your body also counts as dabbing. If you have dabbed, you can no longer touch the ball or play in the game until you tap the boards with your mallet at half-court. You should try not to disrupt gameplay while you do this, and can then rejoin the game immediately once you have tapped.
There are two ways to hit the ball, a shot and a shuffle. A shot is from the mallet head whereas a shuffle is from the side.
Your aim is to hit the ball through the goalposts, but there are a few rules to this. You can only score a goal if you have hit the ball with a shot from the capped or open end of the mallet. Hitting it with a shuffle won’t count. You also can’t scoop or throw the ball with the mallet’s open end, it must be hit.
You can’t run into other people as it could injure them and affect their ability to play the game. It’s considered a foul if you hit someone with momentum from your bike. It is accepted that some bike-on-bike action will occur such as bumping into someone lightly, but as long as it doesn’t interfere with their ability to play the game it is allowed.
In these grass bike games, for a player to touch the ball or attack an opponent, they must be holding the mallet in their right hand and the handlebar in the left. The right of way is given to the player who possesses the ball, but this is lost in favour of the goalkeeper when in the penalty area.
There are two versions of the sport, played on grass and hardcourt. They have slightly different rules of play because of this.
The grass version of bike polo is further divided into two forms, one played with four-player teams and one with five-player teams. In the four-player game, it is played on a 150 by 100-metre rectangular grass field. On this pitch, the goals are four metres wide and consist of two-goal posts without a crossbar. The ball is about 2.5 inches in diameter and the mallet used is of a maximum length of 1 metre.
There are six members in each team, with only four on the field at one time and the other two as substitutes. The time of play is divided into 4 chukkars, which are periods of 7.5 minutes for a 30-minute total time. There is also extra time if the score is tied at the end of normal time.
The five-player game is mostly played in Europe and has slightly different rules. The field is 100 by 60 metres instead, which is the size of a football or rugby field. The ball is between 32-38 centimetres in circumference and the mallet remains at a maximum length of 1 metre. The goals stay 4 metres wide but in this version have a 3-yard high crossbar.
Five team members remain on the field at one time, including a goalkeeper, with 3 players off the field as substitutes. It is a 60-minute game, with 4 periods of fifteen minutes each.
This variation has grown in popularity in recent years and is usually seen as a smaller, faster version of the sport. Teams of three players compete on tennis courts or anywhere where a surface is available. A hardcourt pitch is typically no larger than 47.25m x 25m. There are no substitutions and everyone remains on the pitch at the same time. These matches are usually played until one team scores five points. Tournament play sometimes includes a time limit to maximise the number of rounds played during a day.
The rules can differ slightly depending on where you are, but the three core rules of hardcourt bike polo are:
- In the case of a dab, a player must ride to mid-court and tap out.
- The goal must be scored with a strike using the narrow end of the mallet.
- When a team scores a goal, the opposing team must retreat to their half and wait until the other team crosses the halfway line before beginning to play.
To help regulate play, the North American Hardcourt Bike Polo Association compiled a ruleset to use. Despite this, you will often find different rules in different cities, as the sport grew organically over time and still remains unregulated for most street games.
There is also a squad version of the game, where teams of 4-6 play for longer and allow for substitution. The ball used in hardcourt bike polo is identical to a street hockey ball, and before balls for the sports were officially made, all hardcourt bike polo would use street hockey balls.
Whether you’re a budding bike polo enthusiast or part of an existing club, shop with Sportsmark today for high-quality sports equipment for bike polo. Our Bike Polo Mallet is designed for use when playing traditional bike polo and is available in 3 shaft lengths, 32, 33 and 34 inches.
We can also provide sports construction services to clients, using our decades of experience to install sports grounds fit for purpose. This includes artificial grass installation, artificial sports surface construction and a range of groundsman equipment so you can maintain your area with ease.
Call now on 08000 187 733 if you have any questions about any of the products we have on offer and shop with Sportsmark today.