WELCOME TO BIRMINGHAM BIKE POLO
We play bike polo in Birmingham, UK. It’s an inclusive, fast-paced sport and new players are always welcome to the court at Joseph Chamberlain College.
WHERE WE PLAY
Joseph Chamberlain College
1 Belgrave Road
Birmingham B12 9FF
The court is booked every Wednesday, 7–10pm. We play outdoors, so games are weather dependent. Parking is available, as are toilets, a water fountain and vending machines.
WHAT IS BIKE POLO?
You only need to know a few basic rules to start playing bike polo:
1. It’s a team sport, with three players on a team
2. You can only score with a ‘shot’ – a shot is defined by hitting the ball with the round end of your mallet rather than pushing it like a broom. This is known as a shuffle and won’t count as a goal.
3. Don’t put your foot on the floor – if you do, you must take yourself out of the game momentarily by riding to one of the centre points of the court and ‘tapping in’ by touching the wall with your mallet.
4. Games last 10 minutes – Because bike polo is so fast-paced, games are usually quite short.
New players are always welcome, and we have bikes and spare mallets you can borrow. Some people prefer playing on their own bikes to begin with – whatever you feel most comfortable on is best!
To play polo, all you need is a bike and a mallet. In tournaments there are some safety specifications that need to be met, but you can get started on pretty much any bike you want.
The best bikes for beginners are usually mountain bikes (because they are strong and sturdy) or a single speed road or commuter bike. Flat handle bars or risers are much easier to play with and you need to ensure you have a working brake on the opposite hand to the one you’ll hold your mallet in.
Mallets are made from aluminium shafts (like ski poles) and plastic heads usually made from UHMWPE. We have a stock of shafts and you can buy heads from companies listed below.
The archetypal polo bike should cover the following:
Short wheel base – this can make turning quicker and sturdier than on a longer bike.
One gear – in tournaments you are not allowed to have any exposed or unused chain rings or sprockets, plus in polo you only need one gear. People usually use a low gear ratio for quick acceleration.
High bottom bracket – this is beneficial when turning whilst pedaling; if your cranks are long and/or your frame has a low bottom bracket then you’re likely to catch your pedal on the floor as you corner – which isn’t fun.
Good brakes – being able to out-sprint a player is a real skill, but as polo changes direction so rapidly it’s the ability to out-brake a player that can really give you an edge. Using disc brakes can make a big difference.
Strong wheels – people play polo on both 26” or 700c size wheels. Either way they must be strong. Wheels take the biggest beating on the court, from powerful shots, other bikes or even a stray mallet. You can strengthen your wheels through more spokes or use plastic wheel covers to shield your spokes.
Polo is less dangerous than people first think! The most common injuries are avoided by simple steps:
Wear gloves – when you fall off you’ll put your hands out, so gloves! Lacrosse or street hockey gloves are popular for their extra padding.
Wear a helmet – this isn’t a necessity for practise games, but required at most tournaments.
Look up – if you ride around with your head down you’re likely to crash into another player.
Keep your mallet down – wild swings might cause injury, so keep your mallet low when in proximity of other players.
Pads – lots of people wear elbow or knee pads for extra protection.
FURTHER READING (RULES)
When it comes to competitive play, the ruleset gets a lot more detailed. The organising body of bike polo in North America have been producing detailed rulesets for the past few years and in the UK we adhere to the same set. You can view the current ruleset here.
Visit the Brum Bike Polo shop to pick up some souvenirs.
A number of companies around the world are making bike polo gear, including: Bike Polo Balls (UK), Perro del Mallet (ES), Milk (CH), Lightfoot (AU), Roger (FR); Ben’s Cycles and Heckler’s Alley (both US) stock various bits.