Bicycle Polo: The Future of the Sport

Colin Ward-HenningerContributor IJuly 19, 2011

The future of bike polo seems to be in the urban, hardcourt setting.
The future of bike polo seems to be in the urban, hardcourt setting.

In the 100-plus years since its invention by R.J. Mecredy, the sport of bicycle polo has evolved from the country clubs of the Victorian aristocracy to the hardcourts of urban dwellings. While there will always be a place for the grass game, it certainly seems as if the future of bike polo is on asphalt.

The grass game continues to be played worldwide, but the sport that has been taking off in the United States since 2007 is called “Hardcourt Bike Polo” or “Urban Bike Polo.”

There were a few obvious rule changes (shrinking teams from four players to three players per side and using a more practical rubber ball), but other than the hardcourt version of bike polo closely mirrors its grass counterpart.

The hardcourt game has taken off in cities all over the globe, and has easily become the predominant form of the sport in most cities.

It's no longer difficult to find a league and tournaments are constantly popping up in various cities. According to Kevin Walsh, board member of North American Hardcourt—the domestic governing body of bike polo—there are over 150 hardcourt bike polo clubs throughout North America, and that number is rapidly growing (as told to Taya Flores of the Lafayette Journal and Courier).

Walsh also noted that bike polo is one of the fastest growing sports out there.

The sport's far reach can be attributed to its broad appeal. On one hand, it appeals to the hardcore cyclist, someone looking to conquer any new challenge on two wheels. On the other hand, bike polo also appeals to the casual player who is just looking for a way to get exercise.

The sport has also reached a fanbase that is notorious for spreading trends: college students.

Just as they did years ago with "ultimate frisbee," college students are making bike polo an everyday sight on college campuses.

Bike polo clubs have popped up at colleges such as Pitzer (California), Washington State, Indiana University and the University of Delaware, just to name a few.

Bike polo has also been able to carve itself into different niche markets within their demographic. For example, as this NY Times report details, bike messengers throughout the East Coast of the United States have organized their own bike polo tournament.

It's also undeniable that the sport has a certain appeal to the thrill-seeking personality. It may not be as dangerous as BMX biking, but bike polo played at a high level can be just as fast—and dangerous—as many current "extreme" sports.

By looking at the trends in bike polo over the last 10 years, we can clearly see that the hardcourt version of the sport is what's going to carry it into the future. The fact that the sport appeals to various demographics, including college students, working professionals and bike enthusiasts, bodes well for its survival.