A Bicycle Built for . . . Polo? Bike Polo Comes to Washington

By: Emily Leaman

Bike polo is exactly what it sounds like: polo on a bike. A popular pastime for bicycle couriers and other enthusiasts in cities across the country, including Washington, the sport is anything but predictable.

To see bike polo in action, head to Watkins Elementary School (13th and D sts., SE) Thursday nights at 7. DC’s bike-polo contingent draws cyclists from as far away as Reston for three-on-three matches. Played to five points, the matches last 10 to 15 minutes each.

To play, all you need is a bike. Helmets and other padding are optional (though recommended), and regulars will gladly share their homemade mallets. Or, if you have a spare ski pole, five inches of PVC piping, and a cross-bracing bolt, they’ll help you make your own mallet on the spot.

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The rules are simple enough: Hit the ball through the cones to score, and don’t let your feet touch the ground. But getting the hang of riding a bike while carrying a mallet and hitting a ball can sometimes be a challenge for even the most experienced cyclists.

Scott Gibbons, a statistician at the Labor Department, started playing bike polo five months ago. A competitive cyclist for the past 15 years, Gibbons was surprised to find bike polo harder than he expected. “I quickly learned that being a really good biker is not an advantage, and being a bad biker is not a disadvantage,” he says. “There’s a whole different skill set involved.”

Comprising a core of about a dozen regular players, DC Bike Polo welcomes newcomers. With hopes of competing in East Coast tournaments, the group looks forward to expanding its ranks of consistent players over the next year, says Dave Tink, one of the founders.

“We just come out here to have fun,” says Mehgan Murphy, the only regular female player. “It’s competitive, but we have fun with it. I love this game.”

To learn more about DC Bike Polo, visit myspace.com/dcbikepolo. To see photos of the sport in action, check out our slide show above.