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Identity & Community

Pittsburgh Bike Polo Club Hosts Holiday Weekend Competition

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Flickr user kube414
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Picture a combination of street hockey, soccer, and polo, but played on … bicycles?

If you’re having difficulty imagining it, don’t worry—you can see it for yourself.

The Pittsburgh Bike Polo Club will celebrate the holiday weekend by hosting its annual Fourth of July bike polo competition Saturday and Sunday.

The event will begin at 10:30am Saturday in Osceola Park in Bloomfield, and is expected to attract 20-30 bike polo players of all skill levels from neighboring states.

Nico Paris, leader of the Pittsburgh Bike Polo Club, says his group has 10-15 regular players.

Bike polo is played in three vs. three matches, usually on street hockey courts. Paris said the enclosed space can be challenging.

“It gets kinda hairy when you’ve got six bikes, which take up a little more space than a street hockey player, all trying to maneuver in these courts,” said Paris.

The goal, much like hockey, is to get the ball past the other team and into the net. The game attracts a variety of players, according to Paris.

“One of the key points that I think surprises a lot of spectators is that bike polo is a full-contact, co-ed sport, so we do have a lot of women playing as well, and they’re dishing it out just as much as the men,” Paris said.

The game can get a little rough, cautioned Paris. However, he “can count on one hand” the number of serious injuries the club has experienced in the last five years, the worst of which were minor broken bones. Players wear helmets and other safety equipment.

Players check each other, similar to hockey, but can use their bikes to do so as well. Despite the roughness, Paris said, players usually recover from hard hits instead of wiping out.

“For the most part, it really teaches a good sense of balance and coordination on a bike,” Paris said. “It’s kinda surprising what you can end up riding out of.”

Matches begin with a dramatic scuffle for the ball, called the “joust.” At a signal, a player from each team pedal full speed towards the ball, which is on the ground in the middle of the court. The players hurtle towards each other, brandishing their long mallets, and appear to barely avoid collision.

“It ends up looking like a medieval joust,” said Paris.

Balance is key, especially since players are forbidden from touching their feet to the ground. Such a violation is called a “dab,” said Paris, and temporarily removes the offender from play.

This weekend’s competition will be a casual event, said Paris, compared to more competitive tournaments in other cities. There will be continuous pick-up games between randomly selected teams over the two-day period. More information can be found on the League of Bike Polo website.