Cyclists at the university be wary, a noxious infection is spreading through the bicycle community. The virus is known as hard court bike polo, and has infected and made host of the Bike Root. Bike Polo has been replicating rapidly on campus since late March. The virus has been shown to transform mild mannered commuters into mallet wielding practitioners of skillful carnage on two wheels.
Bike Root Founder and Coordinator Lance Ayer is now an avid player since bringing the sport to campus as a part of the community bike shop's "Bike Shorts Day" celebration.
"We just decided to have a match at our Bike Shorts Day party on the 20th of March and people came out in droves so we just kept doing it," said Ayer.
The Bike Root now has a set of mallets, made of ski poles and plumbing pipe. Mallets, bikes, a ball, two nets and a surface is all that is needed for hard court bike polo.
The game is usually played with teams of three and ends when one team scores three points. Games can be played with four players and to five points when time permits, but are often timed when many people want to play.
Players cannot touch the ground the whole game, doing so is a penalty known as "dabbing" and requires the player to hustle to half court and audibly "tap out" on whatever available before they can reenter play. Players use the mallet extensively to "tripod" for balance, especially when defending the goal area.
Bike polo is quite quick and sometimes referred to as bicycle hockey. A team must make at least one pass in the other team's end before shooting. Goals must be shot with the small end of the mallet; shooting with the wide end of the mallet is a "shuffle" and does not count. Only "like" contact -- body on body, mallet on mallet or bike on bike -- is allowed. Collisions and crashes do occur, but the sport is safe overall. Bike polo etiquette is to play others as hard as they play you.
The game also has a large social aspect. A portable boom box is essential and most players learn to bring food and refreshments, making each bike polo session also an enjoyable potluck. Ayer believes it is the people who make this game so fun.
"Everyone who comes out and plays, they just want to be here to play and it's a really positive atmosphere," said Ayer.
Bike polo has been a sport since 1891 and was a demonstration sport at the 1908 Olympics, the original game being played on grass. The hard court variant has grown in popularity in recent years, with much thanks to bike courier communities worldwide.
Pick-up bike polo is now being played Tuesdays after 5 p.m. and Saturdays after 1 p.m. at the U of C tennis courts.