Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Reader Story: Portland Bike Polo, ten years in the making

Posted by on May 8th, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Oregon Bike Polo Championships-69

Bike polo players in Alberta Park.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

[This story was submitted by northeast Portland resident and president of Portland Bike Polo, Sasha Friedman.]

Portland Bike Polo has progressed over the past ten years from an offshoot of an indie messenger sport to a large group of athletes practicing year-round for national and international tournaments and putting on community outreach programs. Every week in Portland, rain or shine, twenty to fifty people come out to play a fun and challenging team sport on the pavement that combines individual bike riding ability with the ability to work and compete as a team.

Outside of playing, Portland Bike Polo has worked to improve and maintain the facilities at Alberta Park, our home base. We play on what is classified as a “to-be-decommissioned” tennis court, which means that Portland Parks & Recreation doesn’t have the money to fix it up to a point of usability for tennis, nor the money to tear it up out of the ground. PP&R granted us the opportunity to work on the court, so Portland Bike Polo raised over $1,000 to perform repairs and improvements to the infrastructure, making the court playable for both us and PDX Ball Hockey, with whom we share the court.

Portland Bike Polo is also putting on a children’s outreach program in conjunction with Glencoe Elementary in order to get kids excited about riding bicycles and playing team sports. After last year’s polo demonstration, led by Portland Bike Polo member Timtim Weeks, Glencoe Elementary has decided to provide bike polo as a physical education option at the school. Portland Bike Polo is providing bikes, equipment, and a great experience for young cyclists.

This July Portland Bike Polo has the honor of hosting the inaugural Western Conference Championships, produced by Portland Bike Polo member Eric Crandall. This tournament will be a city-based team competition with only the best from East Vancouver, B.C., Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Unlike the traditional three-vs-three, fifteen minute polo matches, this event will have nine-person teams compete in hour-long matches. With Cascadia already home to the current National and World Champion teams, the level of play will be very high and very fast-paced.

Bike Polo is a great spectator sport, and there are always quite a few folks who come out just to watch us play. In an effort to increase our fan base, Portland Bike Polo member Arlyn Bement (in conjunction with Universal Cycles) is organizing several exhibition matches during the upcoming Sunday Parkways events at Fernhill, Arbor Lodge, Bloomington, and other parks. Check out the City of Portland website for more specifics.

If you have never seen Bike Polo in action, check us out at Sunday Parkways. Also, find us on season one of Portlandia, and in the upcoming Travel Channel series Unpacked.

— Check out more of our Reader Stories, here.

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  • evan May 8, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Great article, and a fantastic sport! The Portland Polo Club is very inclusive so don’t be afraid if you want to show up and try it out. Thanks to the Polo team for the outreach.

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  • RyNO Dan May 8, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    My hope/wish is for sanctioned and dedicated polo courts in all five quadrants. Cool article.

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  • METROFIETS May 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Go Portland United! Whoop! Whoop!

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  • JessicaHorning May 8, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Thank you, Sasha, for this article and for being an amazing representative of the bike polo community. Viva El-Presidente!

    Hope to see you all on the court Sunday!

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  • DK May 9, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Nice article.

    I’d like to know what type of bikes are used. Are they modified in any respect to give competitive advantage for their intended purpose or can someone show up with a standard bike and compete effectively?

    On the surface, looks like maybe the rear brake is operated with left hand and front brake removed (for right-handed rider I presume). Can anyone elaborate? Anything else get changed/modified/purpose built?

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    • Scott May 9, 2012 at 10:26 am

      You are more or less correct about the brake. Some riders have come up with ways to integrate the front brake into the single left lever. Some use other methods to operate a front brake with the left hand like a thumb shifter.

      The bike frame is rider choice and shifts somewhant based on style of play and the city in which you play.

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  • Todd Hudson May 9, 2012 at 9:53 am

    There’s also a group of people that play unicycle. More challenging and fewer rules….

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    • Todd Hudson May 9, 2012 at 9:54 am

      That should say “unicycle polo”

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    • Scott May 9, 2012 at 10:30 am

      Now with 3x more boring!!!

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      • Gasper Johnson May 10, 2012 at 11:56 pm

        I watched my first Unicycle Bastard Polo just last week. I though it was amazing!

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  • Chris Tuttle May 9, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Kindred spirits on the other side of the planet: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/09/sports/motorized-polo-gains-a-foothold-in-east-africa.html?hp

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