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Bicycle Polo


July 24, 2023

I played this game when I attended Aiken Prep School. Back then we didn't wear helmets, we used cut down real polo mallets and real polo balls. We played on a soccer field and there were tons of collisions and mangled wheel from mallets getting stuck in the spokes.

I remember it being quite a cardio workout!

Jason Farthing practices his bike and ball-handling skills, two key elements of the niche sport of bike polo.


To Feel Young, He Saddles Up for Bike Polo

A straight-edge 50-year-old puts in overtime to hang with young bike polo competitors

By Jen MurphyFollow

The Wall Street Journal

July 22, 2023 at 6:00 am ET

Riders on fixed-speed bikes wield mallets and race head-on trying to whack a ball into a 3-foot-by-6-foot goal. As with hockey, contact is allowed. Helmets are required and collisions are common.

“You can hit anyone as hard as you want at any speed,” says Jason Farthing, a bike mechanic in West Palm Beach, Fla., who loves the sport.

Crashes also occur when mallets get caught in spokes or players lose control of their bikes.

Farthing recalls sprinting to catch an opponent and being halfway over his handlebars trying to block the shot when he saw the wall behind the goal. “I had to throw my bike and do a flying squirrel landing chest-flat to the wall,” he says. He ended up with bruised palms and a few fractured ribs.

At 50, he often finds himself playing with men and women half his age, but prides himself on his speed and bike-handling skills.

Farthing says the community aspect of bike polo is just as appealing as the sport’s competitive play.

“I can do a 360 with the ball around an opponent while riding full-speed,” he says. He aspires to play into his 60s and plans to compete at the 2023 World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship in Perpignan, France, in late August.

Bike polo dates to the 1800s and was a demonstration sport at the 1908 Olympics in London. Back then it was played on a grass field with rules more akin to equestrian polo. A group of bike messengers in Seattle are credited with creating the faster-paced, rough-and-tumble hardcourt version in the late 1990s.

Farthing found it in 2008. He is an avid mountain biker and skateboarder and played soccer in his teens.

The game is typically played three-on-three on a concrete court no smaller than 120 feet by 60 feet. Players constantly switch between offense and defense as they navigate their bikes with a single hand and are penalized if their feet touch the ground.

“You learn to protect the goal by hopping around on your bike,” Farthing says.

He drives two to four hours to scrimmage with regional clubs and competes in around 10

tournaments a year. Teams don’t just play and go home. Even though play is fiercely competitive, opponents gather after games to grill and camp for the weekend. “There’s a strong community aspect,” Farthing says.

Farthing says the community aspect of bike polo is just as appealing as the sport’s competitive play.

The Workout

What Farthing calls a lazy week involves five days at the gym. He often goes twice daily. If he veers from this routine, he says old knee injuries flare up.

He does cardio at night and will jog on the treadmill, hit the StairMaster, then walk-jog on the treadmill at maximum incline for 25 minutes each. He has a kidney-shaped pool and jury-rigged a bike tube to the railing to loop around his waist so he can swim in place 30 to 40 minutes every day.

Farthing lifts weights four mornings a week. He has a workout for legs, biceps and core, and another for legs, chest and shoulders. He changes up the order of the exercises monthly. Exercises might include single-calf raises, hanging leg raises, back extensions, single-leg hamstring curls, upright rows and weighted crunches.

Most cyclists spend hours in the saddle. But in bike polo you go from a dead stop to full speed. Farthing rides less than 5 miles to work, but he does intervals, sprinting across intersections, then coasting to the next and repeating. “My muscles are toasted and I’m drenched in sweat by the end,” he says.

He drives over an hour to practice with other players at a roller hockey rink in Fort Lauderdale every Wednesday. A few days a week he practices solo at a racquetball court and will try to repeatedly hit the ball to the wall without it touching the ground while spinning 180-degrees on his bike.

“Learning new bike polo skills is like mastering skateboarding tricks,” he says. “You have to do it 1,000 times in a row to drill it into your muscle memory.”

Farthing regularly puts in double sessions at Planet Fitness in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Farthing says a regular strength routine keeps aches from previous injuries at bay.

The Diet

Clean living: Farthing is vegan and has embraced the straight-edge subculture of punk, which eschews alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs, for 34 years.

Breakfast: Protein shake.

Chipotle hack: He eats a lot of rice and beans and picked up a hack while working at Chipotle. “If you order a bowl, you can ask for more of anything except double meat, guac or queso,” he says. “As long as the lid can go on, you can keep asking for more. I get triple beans, triple veg and double rice then ask for three tortillas. That lasts three meals.”

Splurge: Ethiopian food.

The Gear

Bike: Farthing bought his Pake Rum Runner single-speed track bike frame (retail $295) scratched and dented for $120. He spent more money on his front brake, a Hope Tech 4 Trial Zone Disc Brake ($250). “You can really dial it in for control,” he says.

Sneakers: He rides in Adidas Five Ten Trail Cross Mid Pro mountain bike shoes (retail $180) that he bought used for $75.

Helmet: He wears a Sena R2 EVO helmet ($200). It has Bluetooth and delivers audio through speakers just above the rider’s ear so he can still hear traffic.

Mallet: He has a Fixcraft XT mallet with a head from German bike polo brand Stubborn ($60).

Apparel: Levi’s commuter jeans ($98).

From the Aiken Standard in 2008:

Bicycle Polo is Saturday, Sunday

  • Oct 6, 2008

By B It’s a tournament featuring some of sport’s best and brightest. Bicycle Polo of Aiken and Augusta will host the Wendland Memorial Tournament this Saturday and Sunday at the Powderhouse Fields, with the event starting at 8 a.m. both days. Aiken’s Billy Matheson was a teammate of Jan Wendland, for whom the tournament is named, with the Boxwood Bicycle Polo team during the 1970s. Matheson captured the 1995 and 2002 editions of the tournament, and is looking forward to this year’s competition. This year’s tournament features a field of five entries. “If it weren’t for the strong games we played in Aiken, we wouldn’t have been ready for the International Bicycle Polo Tournament finals in 2005,” said Matheson, who won his third World Bike Polo Championship in 2006 at the 8th International Bicycle Polo Federation Tournament in Kennewick, Wash. “We lost to France by only a couple of goals.” Matheson has played bicycle polo for the past 38 years, and he also played on World Championship teams in 2002 and 2004, in addition to being a part of last year’s winning team. The bike polo veteran will be joined on the Aiken team by the same roster which reached the finals of the 2005 World Championship: Steve Smith, Zak Smith and Seth Kopald. They’ll square off against teams from Aiken Preparatory School, Asheville, N.C., Baltimore and Unionville, Pa. The team from Unionville features Crosby Wood, who tied for the lead in goals-scored with 16 during the 2006 World Bike Polo Championships. Unionville captured the Wendland Memorial in 2003. Aiken Preparatory School has fielded the youngest team in this year’s tournament, said Matheson. The Aiken Prep roster is composed of Taylor Freeman, Ricardo Armstrong, Matt McGhee, Ben Wyszynski, Andy O’Byrne and Chase Epting. Freeman and Armstrong are grandsons of renowned horseman G.H. “Pete” Bostwick. “Rob Harrington and Brian Maddox have done a wonderful job,” said Matheson. “Bike Polo has been played for 90 years at Aiken Prep, and they’re continuing a great tradition.” Asheville, N.C. is a new entry, but they play a fast and quick style of polo, said Matheson.

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