Riding bikes instead of horses, a growing Columbus bike polo group is hoping the city will pony up a place for them to call their own.
Every Tuesday and Thursday night at the outdoor roller rink on the corner of Lane Avenue and High Street, a group of about 20 Ohio State students and alumni gather to play bike polo, a three-on-three competition that follows many of the same rules as equestrian polo. Each player is equipped with a bike and a homemade mallet and must try to score a goal versus their opponent.
Peter Brown, a fourth-year in geography and film studies, who helped organize the group in Columbus, said he began playing almost four years ago with a group of four or five players each week. As the years went on, the sport began to gain popularity
Brown said the increasing popularity came from word of mouth.
“I just started sending out texts,” he said. “We used to not have enough people to even play a game, now you have to wait to play.”
Brown and David Frankhouser, a fifth-year in physics and math, now have bigger plans for the sport here in Columbus.
“We’re looking for our own location,” Frankhouser said. “We’d like to be able to host teams from other cities for an event.”
The two have been in talks with the city of Columbus Parks and Recreation Department for several months hoping to find a place to call home.
“We don’t have our own place yet, but the city seems positive about it and (bike polo) is definitely generating excitement,” Frankhouser said.
Unlike the equestrian polo, this modified version is known for being “cost-efficient” said Frankhouser.
“All you need is a crappy bike,” Frankhouser said. “And you can make your own mallet from a ski pole you buy at the thrift store and PVC pipe.”
The teams start on opposite sides of the court while the ball rests in the middle; this formation is called a “joust.”
When the side judge calls out to start, the players begin pedaling toward the ball and the game is under way.
Bike polo is accompanied with a set of only a few rules. For instance, during play, if a player puts his foot on the ground for any reason, he must get on his bike immediately and ride to the side and center of the court and “tap out” by hitting the side wall with his mallet. Once the player has tapped out, he may return to play. Also, a goal will only be counted if the player hits the ball with the end of the mallet head. Any goal scored with the middle of the mallet head will not be counted.
But Frankhouser said the most important rule is to have fun.
“It’s just fun,” Frankhouser said. “It’s competitive, but it’s about having fun.”
Brett Freeman, who graduated Winter Quarter with a bachelor’s degree in communication technology, said bike polo can be intimidating at first.
“I wasn’t sure if I’d really fit in,” Freeman said. “But everyone is just willing to help you get better.”
For some students, the best part of their bike polo experience has been meeting new people.
“This is a really accepting community,” Brown said. “It’s a place that I’ve formed great friendships.”