Friday, 3 September 2010

Swing when you're winning

This week I finished writing a feature on hardcourt bike polo, an underground sport that touched down in London just three years ago. Here's a taster extracted from the story, with images courtesy of Chunk...
'With the sport still in its infancy, you won’t find a bike polo section in Foot Locker or Lillywhite's. As a result, borrowing and hacking are intrinsic features of the scene. Bikes are often cobbled together from spare parts, and Felix Cramer, a college student, illustrates how DIY skills have come in handy in fashioning his much-used mallet. 'It's a golf club and electrical tape,' he tells me. 'I played with it so much I broke the end off it so there was a massive hole. So what you do is put a penny on it or a cork and tape over it.'

Ski poles or bamboo are other common components used to serve as mallet shafts, while mallet heads are typically made from plastic piping requisitioned from building sites or roadworks. 'People find them, happily,' Felix divulges. 'The official rules say 12cm is the longest you can have. Drill holes take the weight out, or people will have one massive hole so they can scoop the ball with the side of the mallet.'

Wheel covers are another modification that calls upon a player’s upcycling savvy. These prevent damage to spokes, and also provide a tactical advantage. 'They’re quite handy,' Felix says. 'If you’ve got the ball on one side of you and the attacking or opposing player is on the other side of you, they can’t see the ball through the wheel.' In London, the ubiquitous signs of estate agents provide the perfect corrugated plastic medium for the job. One player’s wheels sport the unmistakable livery of one of the country’s most notoriously greedy agencies; 'I’m sponsored by Foxtons,' he grins."

For more information on rules and throw-ins (that's polo lingo for pickup games) check out the London Hardcourt Bike Polo Association site.

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