• Home
  • Bicycling in Fresno - Ch. 9

Chapter 9: Bike Polo in Fresno

I was first introduced to the bike polo community when FCBC organized, CenCalVia, our first Open Streets event that took place on October 2 in 2016. One of the venues at the event was the Bike Polo. The group, known as Pedal Junkies and led by “T” and Sara Gonzalez, set up a court in the middle of the street on Kings Canyon Boulevard. They created the polo court using two by four boards that were screwed or bolted together to define the boundaries and to limit the travel of the polo balls. The wooden barrier also served to protect the spectators from stray balls. I was impressed at the great speed of the polo players and their accuracy in handling the ball while maneuvering their specially designed polo bicycles.

I was resolved to learn about how to play bike polo and decided to take a deep dive in the internet and Wikipedia. I learned that bike polo is a fun and fast-paced game that requires agility, strength, and endurance.  And as the name states, it is played on bicycles, and teams of three players attempt to score by shooting a ball with a mallet into the opposing team's net. 

According to Wikipedia, to score a goal, you must hit the ball with one of the ends of your mallet. You cannot score a goal using the side (This known as a shuffle). If you touch your foot to the ground (Known as a “foot-down”), you must touch your mallet near the center of the court (“tap in”) to be allowed back in play.

Cycle polo (or bicycle polo or bike polo, polo-vélo in French, Radpolo in German) is a team sport, and is similar to traditional polo, with the exception that bicycles are used instead of horses. The two versions of the sport are Grass Bike Polo and Hardcourt Bike Polo. The hardcourt game has significantly grown in interest in the first decade of the 21st century and organized play is happening across the world including China, Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, France, India, Germany, Pakistan, Ukraine, Russia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Hungary, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, England, Scotland, Argentina, Italy, Spain, USA, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Nepal, Brazil and Cuba. Sarah and T have told me of international trip that they have taken to participate in bike polo events and of the generous welcomes that they received.

The two versions of the grass games are the four-player game and the five-player game. In the four-player game, cycle polo is played in a rectangular grass field, 490 × 330 feet, or whatever field is big enough. The ball used is approximately 2.5 inches (64 mm) in diameter and made of hard plastic, and is usually a bright color to make it more visible. The mallet is approximately 3 ft 3 in long. The goals are approximately 12 feet wide and consist of two goal posts made of some relatively flexible material without any crossbar so that the riders aren’t whacked on the head.

International matches are 30 minutes long and divided into periods of 7.5 minutes known as chukkars. Extra time can be used to determine the winner in case the score ends up tied.

A player following the ball on its exact line and taking it on his off side will be entitled to the right of way over all other players. In the penalty area, he goalkeeper has the right of way.

If a deliberate severe foul is committed at the vicinity of the goal, the team that is fouled is automatically given a goal. Less severe fouls are awarded free hits. In the event of deliberate or dangerous fouls, the umpire can issue a yellow card (warning) and in case of repeated or severe fouls will issue a red card (ejection). Teams can replace the ejected player with a substitute after the end of the chukkar if the umpire allows it.

In order for a player to be able to  touch the ball or attack an opponent, the player must be holding the mallet in his right hand, the handlebar in his left hand, and must not be touching the ground with any part of his body.In order to attack an opponent who is playing the ball on their right side, a player shall attack the opponent on the right side of the opponent with the ball in the middle of both players (The ball shall be on the left side of the attacking player).

In order to attack an opponent who is playing the ball on their left side, a player shall attack the opponent on the left side of the opponent with the ball in the middle of both players (i.e. the ball shall be on the right side of the attacking player).

In order to score, the offensive player must hit the ball across the goal line using the narrow end of the mallet, called a "shot" or "hit." Hitting the ball across the goal line with the wide end of the mallet is called a "shuffle" and is not an acceptable score.

When a team scores a goal, the opposing team must retreat to their half and wait for the other team (player or ball, whichever comes first) to cross the halfway line before engaging in play again.

Polo bikes have changed over the years as well due to the changes in the game. Initially, people used fixed gear bikes, sometimes with a front brake and sometimes without. People soon found that a bike with a freewheel gave you more control when shooting and dribbling the ball, but then braking became an issue. Just having rear brake meant lots of skidding, so people started using both front and rear brakes operated with one brake lever.

We have “T” and Sara Gonzalez to thank for Bike Polo’s prominence in Fresno. Hopefully we will see more bike polo matches in town.

We hope you enjoyed this chapter from Juan Flores' Bicycling in Fresno.

Return to Table of Contents

Fresno County Bicycle Coalition

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software