03 August 2009

Will Bike Polo make a mint?

I dropped in to the European Hard Core - er, Court - Bike Polo Championships on Saturday. All through the weekend, on a south London sports pitch not far from Tate Modern, dozens of teams of three from all over Europe twirled mallets, manoeuvred bikes with improbably narrow handlebars, and occasionally fell off and leg-surfed the asphalt apparently impervious to pain.

It's fast-moving and lively spectator sport, but the players are fun to watch too. Lots had come from France, so you could pick up all sorts of French slang, such as 'great shot', or 'dirty bastard', or 'we got a government subsidy to do this, actually'.

There are quite a few alternative-passions types, so there's a range of intriguing body modifications on show, from swirly calf tattooes to eye-wateringly stretched earlobes and nasal perforations.

Strangest of all though is the apparent renaissance of sweeping Edwardian moustaches: some of the chaps wouldn't have looked out of place on a 1900s black and white sports-team photo, except perhaps for the lip-ring.

Many bike-polo players seem to be couriers, computer or IT bods, or designers - as demonstrated by the outraged comment from one: 'What font did you use for the numbers on the scoreboard? It's not Comic Sans is it??'

And you bump into a few of the sort of bike people you bump into at bike-related events. I was pleased to see Booksnake, as ever snapping some excellent pictures, and even more pleased when he magicked me a beer from his shoulder bag. Beats rabbits and hats.

Bike Polo has come from out of nowhere in the last few years. When I wrote a chapter on it in my book in 2006, there were only a couple of teams in London. Now there's a regular league, and a growing number of profile events like this. Given that horse polo requires thirty grand a year to maintain a string of polo ponies and keep up your club membership, you can see which version is more likely to take off in south London comps.


  1. A fascinating review (well done, you've got the event review up before it even appears on the official association's blog) of something I thought only toffs did whilst their string of polo ponies was being re-shoed ;0).

  2. Beer magician: I think I've found my vocation!