New game in town: Bike polo starts up
By Teri Vance
Article as originally printed in the Nevada Appeal:
For weeks, Eric Butterworth has been hearing about the bike polo games being played in Carson City. One day last week, he finally showed up to try it for himself.
“It looks like fun,” he said Thursday.
Dan Turner, owner of The Bicycle Authority who initiated the matches, offered up some advice to get the new player started.
“Just hit the ball, Butter,” he encouraged. “You’re a newbie. We’re trying to help you out.”
The rules are pretty simple: Get the ball through the goal, which is the width of one bicycle length.
There are three cyclists on a team. The players use mallets (in this case, they’re fashioned from old ski poles and plastic tubing) to corral the ball into the goal.
If a player’s foot touches the ground, that player has to touch a cone set up on the side of the court before resuming play. During that time, the team has only two players, creating a situation similar to a power play in hockey.
Turner initially sent out a query on Facebook a couple of months ago asking if anyone would be interested in trying out the somewhat obscure sport. A few Carson City friends responded, and they organized the first match during the last week of Bike Month in May.
“It was ugly that first night,” recalled Jason Gardner. “There was definite carnage. I had bruises everywhere.”
However, the game has continued to grow from that first match, collecting more players each time.
And they’ve figured things out along the way.
Gardner is on his third bike, finding the one that worked the best for playing the game. After breaking a front rim, he’s also started using spoke protectors.
Turner says it’s up to each player to choose the right bike.
“Any bike works,” he explained. “Like left-footed Lucas here — he picked up a $5 special at a thrift store. He didn’t want to bring a nice bike. You can ride literally anything.”
Some players wear helmets or shin guards; some just play in shorts.
“Bike polo is really done on the cheap,” said Turner, 46.
Although the typical hard-court bike polo is played on a court with walls, the local group makes do in the parking lot of an abandoned bank building.
And it’s not only the players who have a good time.
“Oh my gosh, it’s great. It’s so fun,” said Butterworth’s girlfriend, Kelly Graver, who went to watch Thursday’s game.
The games are held every other week and are open to new players and spectators. Games are played three-on-three and go for three periods of 3 1/2 minutes per period.
Traditionally, players head out for drinks once all the games are over. But there is no set time when that will be.
“’Til your mom says it’s time to come eat,” Gardner said.