long ago, the local participants in bike polo spent almost as much
time hoping not to get arrested during a game as they did playing it.
But these days, the Milwaukee Bike Polo Club zooms around on two
wheels, focusing solely on scoring goals while its membership steadily
the club captain and president, began playing nine years ago when some
people at a local bike shop told him about the sport. "I showed
up and fell in love with it," Newborn remembers.
version of bike polo is a three-on-three competition. There are no set
positions, as players fluctuate between offense and defense.
Competitors need to keep their feet on the pedals to be eligible to
score a goal. If a foot touches the ground, the player has to ride to
the middle of the court to "tap out" and restore
eligibility. Goals can only be scored when the rounded end of the
mallet strikes the ball.
The size of the
court varies (Milwaukee’s is 140 by 60 feet), and the goals are 6
feet high by 3 feet wide. The ball is made of hard plastic, similar to
a street hockey ball.
There are 25
members, men and women ranging in age from 18 to 40, in the Milwaukee
club, which began play in 2005.
players pick it up pretty naturally because of the hand-eye stick
movement swinging at the ball," Newborn says. "Hockey or
soccer players used to team movement passing sports get the gist of
the game relatively quickly."
learning to ride a bike one-handed without hitting other players while
watching the ball and striking it with a mallet is an acquired skill.
"It’s like any other sport," Newborn says. "You have
There are 193
clubs in America and about 400 worldwide. The Milwaukee club, which
fields several teams based on skill and experience, has been
competitive at all levels — winning the World Championship in Berlin
in 2005 along with several North American and Midwest championships.
The club played
Sunday nights in the O’Donnell Park parking garage until 2010, when
11 players were arrested there for trespassing. The club worked with
Milwaukee County Parks and Recreation to find a new venue — the
unused tennis courts at Washington Park, where Newborn says they play
"pretty much whenever there isn’t snow on the ground."
bike cost $1,800, says some players spend up to $2,500 for their
mounts. One local shop designs specific frames for the sport.
As bike polo
increases in popularity, more rules have been introduced to ensure
safety. Shoulder-to-shoulder contact is allowed, but colliding with an
opponent’s bike is illegal, as is touching another player’s
But no rules
will completely prevent injuries. Newborn broke his clavicle five
years ago and says scrapes, cuts and bruises are common. But Newborn,
who is 32 and the father of a 2-year-old daughter, says he has no
plans to give up the sport.
a ton of fun," he says. "Both from the competitive aspect
and the social aspect. I’ve made friends in the sport all across the
country and around the world."
The club is
looking for new members. Anyone is welcome to watch and try out for
free. For more information, visit MKEBikepolo.com or the club’s