North Texas Daily

Bike, balls and sticks

Bike, balls and sticks

Bike, balls and sticks
September 17
09:52 2013

Christina Ulsh / Senior Staff Writer 

Celtic punk music blares into the enclosed hard court. Three men mounted on bikes stand against the north side of the court behind the goal. On the south end of the court, three more men on bikes face them.

“Three, two, one, polo!” one man shouts and two bikers race toward each other in the middle of the court to be the first one to hit the ball with a mallet.

After the initial joust to determine who has possession, bikers rush across the court. They swerve through one another and avoid what seems to be impending collision.

They sweep the ball with their mallets from one end to the other. They swat it between their own wheels to avoid interception. They whack it out of the opposing teams possession.

Five points or 12 minutes later the game ends, and the sweaty cyclists file out of the court and drink cans of High Life before the next game begins.

North Texas Bike Polo meets at 5 p.m. every Sunday at Mack Park at 2000 E. McKinney St. Games last well past sunset and the league offers loaner gear, including bikes, for anybody willing to play.

“[Bicycle polo is] a new thing. It’s a growing sport. It’s kind of cool to be a part of something that’s just taking off,” journalism senior Drew Gaines said.

While the sport was created in the early ‘90s, it has gotten more popular in Texas in the past couple of years, Jeff Boswell, 43, said.

North Texas Bike Polo was founded in February of 2010, according to the League of Bike Polo website.

Boswell said the North Texas branch used to play at Denia Park south of I-35, but the homeowner’s association in that area wouldn’t allow them to keep the floodlights on at night.

When the league went to the city government and asked for a space to play, the city installed a court as well as walls, which came from an old indoor hockey rink, at Mack Park. The city also brought over the floodlights from Denia Park.

There is also a bike polo branch in Fort Worth, where Boswell lives. Regardless, Boswell still drives to Denton to play.

“I play in Fort Worth because I live there, but I come out here on Sundays because everyone’s here,” he said. “This is the most consistent. Sunday afternoons out here are the best.

“The polo crowd ebbs and flows, but there are about 10 people who routinely come to play,” he said.

“We’ve got our hipsters. We’ve got our jocks. We’ve got our old guys playing at 40, 50. We’ve got our young dudes that are 18. It’s real diverse here in Denton,” Gaines said.

Anna McClure, 26, comes from Plano to watch her boyfriend play. The personalities that she has met since coming have encouraged her to bring her friend to watch too, she said.

Her boyfriend has been playing in Denton for two months. The two, now three, travel from Plano to Denton because it is the closest league, she said.

McClure has hopped on her boyfriend’s bike to play once before, but realized it was not the sport for her, she said.

“It takes a lot of skill. I don’t have very good hand-eye coordination. It’s harder than it looks,” she said.

Nathan Zuniga, 23, played a game for the first time this past Sunday.

“It’s very awkward to be riding around in a circle with just one hand. I thought that was very interesting,” Zuniga said.

Nevertheless, Zuniga said he will return and will bring friends he knows will enjoy it.

“Overcoming the initial learning curve and getting to the point where you can maneuver the bike [and] dribble the ball [is the biggest obstacle],” Gaines said. “Once you’re past that, you feel like you’re a part of the bike.”

To play, each player needs a bike and a mallet. The bike is not restricted to fixed gear bikes as is often assumed, Gaines said. They are usually durable and mostly mountain bikes.

While mallets are now available to buy, they are traditionally made by the players with ski poles and plastic PVC pipe, he said.

Players will take discarded yard signs, like those from city elections, and attach them to their wheels with zip ties to protect their spokes from being broken, he said.

Collisions and falls are typical. Two weeks ago, a player got smacked in the face with a mallet and busted his lip.

“There’s been a broken collarbone before, a guy going over his bars,” Gaines said.

There are various leagues in Texas located in Corpus Christi, San Marcos, College Station, Fort Worth, Dallas and Austin, he said.

“It’s kind of cool to see it from the very start how it’s evolved,” Boswell said. “We’ve had a couple tournaments up here, successful tournaments with teams from around the state and bordering states.”

Nathan Penning takes control of the ball during a pick-up game on Sunday. Feature photo by Aidan Barrett / Senior Staff Photographer 

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