A 30-person bike gang fills the streets of Provo every Wednesday night in search of a well-lit stadium. These unusual athletes look like a band of Bad News Bears riding tricked-out bikes and waving custom mallets before engaging in an epic battle.
Amateur players gather to play an aged game that is emerging from obscurity. The game is bike polo, and uses mallets, hockey balls and bikes in an interesting twist on the refined sport usually played on horseback.
Bike polo actually originated in Ireland in 1891 and was a demonstration sport at the London Olympics in 1908. A more recent street version of the game was created in 1995 in Seattle by a group of bored bike messengers.
Spencer Hawkes, an illustration major from Gorham, Maine, lived in Japan last year and said the game has expanded to all parts of the globe.
“In Japan I would bike around to every bike store I could find and just try to find out more about bike polo,” Hawkes said. “It was tons of fun and I was hooked. I met lots of cool people and we played every weekend.”
Scott Manning, a UVU student from Shelton, Wash., is one of the directors of Provo’s bike polo group. Though onlookers may view it as a renegade hipster fad, he insists it’s not.
“Bike polo is 100 percent legal and we want more girls to come out and play,” Manning said.
Manning and his polo mates tweak the rules in order to enable beginners to play the sport. According to Manning, bike polo is more about developing friendships with others who share similar interests than playing the actual game.
“The camaraderie of all the individuals involved — whether they are playing, cheering on the games or just hanging out — is what’s so special,” Manning said. “We aren’t about what kind of bike you have or how ‘hip’ you are. We’re just a group of people who like to play and hangout with some good ‘ole clean Utah fun.”
The innovators of bike polo in Provo encourage all interested in bicycles or the sport to check out their Facebook group, “Bike Polo Provo!” In this community, members share insights on current news and articles about bicycles and the sport in Utah.
Kelsey Fanning, an elementary education major from Danville, Calif., said she reluctantly began attending the Wednesday night meet-ups.
“I just learned how to ride a bike two years ago,” Fanning said. “Embarrassing, I know. But I married a hipster and he dragged me to a bike polo game a while back and I love going just to hang out and cheer others on. Sometimes I play and sometimes I fall but I always have a good time.”
Group members meet Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. at Wells Fargo Bank in downtown Provo.