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The History of Bike Polo

Hey guys, I'm doing an information article on bike polo for Movement Magazine (www.movementmagazine.com), and I need your help with the dates. I took a some information from Montana's thread and all around the site, but I just want to check facts and get opinions on what else I should include, without muddying the article with too many dates.

Bike Polo Timeline

1891 : Richard J. Mecredy (Ireland) invents bike polo.

The first start
1897 : First cycle polo club in the U.S.A. & The Bicycle Polo Association of Great Britain is created.

July 1908 : Bike Polo is featured as a demo sport in the London Olympics.

WWI stops polo

1938 : The Bicycle Polo Association of Great Britain has 170 teams in 100 clubs with more than 1000 players.

WWII stops polo

1946 : Bicycle Polo has a new start in Aquitaine, Paris area, Normandy and Pyrénées.
1994 : Creation of the Bicycle Polo Association of America.
1996 : First International Championship of cycle polo in the U.S.A. with India, Canada and U.S.A.
Source: Polo Velo (http://www.polo-velo.net/english/history/history.htm)


1999: Hard-court bike polo is played for the first time in Seattle
2000: The first hard-court specific mallets were made out of bamboo; a street hockey ball was eventually decided on. Mallets would eventually come to be made out of ski poles and high impact piping.
2002: Hard court spreads to Portland
2003: Tournaments pop up all over the West and Midwest
2004: Hard Court Polo spreads to New York
2006: Hard Court Polo spreads to London
2007: Hard Court Polo Spreads to Jacksonville
2007 East Side Polo Invitational (ESPI) featuring 13 teams
2008 ESPI featuring 22 teams
2009 ESPI features 34 teams
2009: The 2009 Hard-court Bike Polo World Championships is capped at 48 teams
2009: Southeast Side Polo Invitational features about 25 teams.
2010: SESPI has 48 teams

your missing a few important ones here
the first east side was in 2005 in philly which was the first polo specific tournament on the east coast(to my knowledge at least.) organized by corey hilliard.
i believe the mid west was playing grass polo in 2003.
their first introduction was ben schicago coming to the 2007 espi in NYC and brought the small ball game back to the mid west.
at that time they were playing a similar game with an inflatable ball on hardcourt. in 2007 the MKE boys (the first small ball tourney for them) and a strong chicago crew came to ottawa for the first north side invite. ( 19 or 20 teams )
in 2008 the cmwc tournament in toronto had the biggest turn out of teams to date (28 teams played), being surpassed later that year by the NACCC tournament in chicago. (35 teams)
In 2009 the NA championships in seattle. (biggest and best tourney i've ever been to.)
also a must to be included is the european championships and the ridiculous growth of the london scene and europe in general

There was grass polo in chicago and madison in the 1970's, but none of these people still play.

MKE 05-06
CHI 07-Pres.

Nov 2009 - 43 team tournament with 2 hockey rink courts, swiss rounds, and double elim comes off without a hitch in COMO.

Great info, thanks. Anyone got some on European dates?

Live Clean Ride Dirty jaxbikepolo.blogspot.com

you can run through the tournaments past events which will give you the dates of some of the euro events. or get an email to roxy erikson through this web site for more specifics as she was one of the organizers for the ehcbpc

first genevian bike polo tournament,
june 2008
all the trophee from "l'equipe" from Geneva are on this blog:

palmares in french:

SUICMC Lucerne, septembre (Championnat suisse de coursier à vélo) 1st place au vélo-polo


ECMC Berlin, mai (Championnat européen de coursier à vélo) 1st place au vélo-polo

Pologamy Munich, juin (Tournoi de vélo-polo) 1st place

EHBPC Londre, août (Championnat d’Europe de vélo-polo) , 1st place

TRICMC Bale, août (Championnat suisse, français et allemand de coursier à vélo) 1st place au vélo-polo

WHBPC Philadelphie, septembre
(Championnat du monde de vélo-polo, sortie en 1/8 final)

BFF Paris, octobre (Bicycle Film Festival, tournoi de vélo-polo) 1st place


Greifmaster Karlsruhe, février (Tournoi de vélo-polo) 1st place

You may want to research the claims of the India contigent as to the birth of the sport ... it goes something like this:
According to the captain of the Indian National bike Polo team, Suddiki Patel:
Wikpedia had it correct the first time (India started bike polo not the Irish). they are editing Wikipedia to reflect this debate.

According to Suddiki, the King of England sent 8 free wheel bikes to the "Emperor of India". However, as a Monarch, he felt biking was beneath him, so he gave the bikes to his soldiers.
The soldiers stopped playing kick ball, and mounted their bikes and started smacking the ball with a mallet.. At this point "Bike polo was born". History shows this took place in 1887-- and tournaments followed shortly after.

Here's a link which seems to loosely correspond to the above

So the origins seem to be in debate. All I can relay is that a couple of Indian lads showed up for grass pick up here and totally took us to school. There was one occasion where an older gent and his son saw us playing and asked if they could join in. They were on crap K-mart dual suspension bikes and still riding circles around us.

this is what you are looking for...


That's actually what I used for all my dates, but a lot of things aren't clear.

Live Clean Ride Dirty jaxbikepolo.blogspot.com

Nothing is ever clear. For example, my father in law who grew up in capetown skidded around a hard packed surface with his brother neighborhood kids, hockey sticks and a ball. (imagine my surprise hearing this after telling him about how I discovered hardcourt!)

I'd say go with tourneys if you want to publish dates. And leave out "spread to" in favor of "exploded in."

the pneumatic tire, the safety bicycle design, and some fun whacks made bike polo happen. The people who make tourneys happen take it to another level.


Credo quia absurdum

Kev's grandfather has a similar story from the 1930's



when my boss (he's 60ish years old) first saw my wheel covers, he recalled playing polo on bikes as a youngster. it was played in the street with a set of croquet mallets, all neighborhood kids. they were swiftly banned from playing by their parents when one of the kids took a mallet to the front spokes, and thus my boss immediately recognized the value of the wheelcover.

this makes me think that bike polo was not invented, but has been discovered like some beautiful mathematical equation. it was always there, it was just waiting for us to play!

then again, any fool can see it's fun to ride a bike around with a mallet and crash into your buddies. perhaps it was just inevitable.

hellochris wrote:

then again, any fool can see it's fun to ride a bike around with a mallet and crash into your buddies. perhaps it was just inevitable.

adding this into my tagline, great quote!

lucky wrote:

Kev's grandfather has a similar story from the 1930's


that is amazing that he got a chance to share this with anyone, let alone his own grandfather. wish he would transcribe it though.


Hurling + Driver. great transcript kev. Does he come out to watch polo nowadays?

i wish! he was literally on his deathbed when i recorded that, talking in gaelic half the time.

kev wrote:

Grandad: We didn't call it polo. I think it was some connection with the Gaelic.... Iománaíocht. iománaíocht.

Me: --trying to repeat it--

Grandad: (spells it out) ... And of course, we called our weapon an Iomán.

Condolences on your loss. But such good fortune to have shared some years with him and got this amazing story!

So, does Iomán mean mallet, bike, or elbow in Gaelic?


Credo quia absurdum

Ioman = the version of hurling that became the modern standard

funny thing is if you google that word now the interview with my grandfather is way up in the ranking. So Either there's another spelling or it's really archaic... Other thing is that the closer he got to death the more he was letting his gaelic take over. the first time i talked to him about polo he was very clear that they called it bike polo.

i was going to say that polo was played in Philly before 2004. i first played there when i lived in allentown, before i lived in philly proper which was in 2004.

emoxfag wrote:

i was going to say that polo was played in Philly before 2004. i first played there when i lived in allentown, before i lived in philly proper which was in 2004.

Thank you. I've said this before and people jumped my shit, Boston was playing bike polo at this time also, no tournaments but couriers on the east coast were playing for sure as of 2003!
Boston NYC Philly!!

Now in freewheel flavor!!

yeah and DC too, i can assure you

slayers are only slayers if the slay out of town...

5/17/2009 - DanielNOLA joins bikepolo.ca (leagueofbikepolo.com)

FreddyJoe,,, a few corrections from Montana's polo history thread..
1st -the spelling of my name. Matt Messenger aka Messmann
2nd-spelling of Messmann's Messquerade (.net)
and in 2003 CMWC we had a hardcourt demo on the last night of events. I think that these demo games really started the interest when couriers returned home.

Matt Messenger
since 1998

First European Hardcourt Bike Polo Championships took place in London in August 2009, capped at 40 teams from 7 countries.


Thanks for the info guys. I'll put up the article when it's out.

Live Clean Ride Dirty jaxbikepolo.blogspot.com

did this article ever come out. i would love to see it and share with folks..

ESPI was in 2005

And NACCC Polo Championships in 2006

Doug D
Brooklyn, New York

did this article ever come out. i would love to see it and share with folks..

1999 Messmann throws first tournament at first messquerade, just a costume alley cat at that time. Mason, Dillon(billy), Chris Baker win a half once of weed and 3 glass pieces. Parking lot next to Kozmo.com. I think only 4 teams or so played. real fuzzy and parting hard back then. I remember playing some international pick up @ CMWC NYC05 in a big ass parking lot in Jersey CIty. I also took a pedicab on the subway from ground zero for cargo race. I still can't believe we pulled that off.

Matt Messenger
since 1998

what the, you put a pedi cab on a subway in new york? that's ballsy.

actually two cab and 3 road bike between 3 of us. Had picture, but lost it down the way. We got kicked off ferry up north by the capt. due to the nyc pedicab owner talking shit to the captain. epic day.

Matt Messenger
since 1998

EPIC!! I've bet you've got some great stories in you, Mess.

Midwest is best!!

Saw video of apparently you in a cargo race, maybe this exact one. Some really cocky asshole won it.

do you have a link to this video?

Matt Messenger
since 1998

Took me a minute to find it but I am pretty sure this was it:

Cargo Bike World Championships 2005

Quality sucks.

yeh thats it. To bad the didn't show the highlights..Did you see that huge parking lot in the back ground in a few of those scenes? It was where I played polo with guys and gals from all over the world for the first time. Huge parking lot pick up. pretty funny.

Matt Messenger
since 1998

BENCH MINOR HISTORY (need to be completed):
Don't realy know who get the idea, please tell me
Description : http://nycbikepolo.com/?p=389
Based on hockey line change play. Invented by NYC in end of 2009, for the first tourney in march 2010.

14 march 2010: Geneva copied the changing line and long game systeme for a invitationnal tourney w-e.12 Teams who played normal polo on satursday were splitted in ABC players, then three teams of 12 players.

19-20 march 2010: NYC. Unlimited registred players, but they needed to get selected by captain, like in professional sports drafts. Some original rules were applied, like "scoop-shooting" allowed to score, and non-offensive-screening.
Descritpion here: http://nycbikepolo.com/?p=389

12 september 2010: Grenoble. Based on the Geneva systeme. Teams from the classical tourney of the satursday were splitted, in fourth teams, with captains.

6 novembre 2010: Paris. Based on the NYC pre-draft systeme. List on Pignonfixe board, and pre-selected captains choose on this list 8 players: http://www.pignonfixe.com/comments.php?DiscussionID=52579&page=1#Item_0

Google Books has a search function. It is amazing.

The picture is wide so not sure how well it will display on your screen. But if you click through you can even download the datasets.

  • bicycle polo 1700-2008.png

And as Chasm pointed out, we all know where the spike in the early 80s came from.

Having a lot of fun with the google book search. Have to find some better examples. This example is radball played in a roller skating rink in 1898.

St. Nicholas: Volume 25, Part 1 - Page 478 - 1898

"Rough riding and intentional jostling are, of course, forbidden by the rules."

That's where they went all wrong. It took us another 100 years to correct that mistake.

So does that mean Charleston has the first account (in writing) of hardcourt bike polo? And they were so good at it they started throwing in radball techniques? Even if they didn't, these finds are pretty awesome.

This example had no mallets just radball style action.

I think. I'm going to read the whole chapter later tonight.