When America dis­cov­ered Moto-Polo

Old Bike Australasia - - OUT’N’ABOUT - FROM PAUL GARSON

A 1935 magazine ar­ti­cle tagged the con­cept as a “mod­ern” form of polo and pro­vided an il­lus­tra­tion of the “of­fi­cial” play­ing field where thor­ough­bred stal­lions were re­placed by iron horses, in this case fo­cus­ing on Har­leys and maybe an In­dian or two tossed into the fray. On closer in­spec­tion, the sport seems a bit closer to the French mo­tor­cy­cle soc­cer al­ready in play in Europe. As an ob­server re­ported, “Scarcely a mo­ment goes by in a typ­i­cal moto-polo game with­out an ex­cit­ing spill or a tan­gle.” Rel­a­tively low speeds how­ever pre­vented ma­jor in­juries to bike or rider and ap­par­ently the rel­a­tively new sport was spread­ing to mo­tor­cy­cle clubs across the coun­try with league and cham­pi­onship rules in ef­fect while the solo-seat bikes them­selves were reg­u­lated by the Amer­i­can Mo­tor-Cy­cle As­so­ci­a­tion, or the AMA, as we know it to­day. Of­ten the bikes were stock, run what-youbrung civil­ian ma­chines, although the reg­u­la­tions per­mit­ted the re­moval of any­thing not needed in the game in­clud­ing the front fender. The U.S. ver­sion of Mo­tor­cy­cle Polo ap­par­ently al­lowed choice of gear, in­clud­ing head­wear, rang­ing from hard­core foot­ball in­spired hel­mets to spiffy sweater and tie ap­parel. Ten bikes of two five-man teams were fielded which made for plenty of ac­tion. Like soc­cer, play­ers took spe­cific po­si­tions, the goal­keeper seek­ing to block the ball with him­self, in­clud­ing his hands, or with his bike. The other play­ers could use only their feet to move the ball but could how­ever block it with their head, shoul­ders, and el­bows. Rid­ers weren’t al­lowed to trap the ball or block it with their bike or use their hands with­out get­ting pe­nalised. The reg­u­la­tion field mea­sured a max­i­mum of 200 x 300 ft., the 14 ft. tall goal posts set 20 ft. apart while the kick-off was made cen­tre-field with a penalty cir­cle for free kicks spaced 50 ft. from each goal. Play was di­vided into fourquar­ters of 15 min­utes with four um­pires and sev­eral refs of­fi­ci­at­ing.

Photo by Fran­cois-Marie Du­mas

Teams rid­ing Monet & Goyon or Koe­her-Es­coffier took the French Moto Ball Cham­pi­onship from 1933 to 1938.

IN­SET ABOVE 1935 US magazine ar­ti­cle ex­tolled the virtues of Polo on mo­tor­cy­cles. ABOVE No dives taken here. Big twin rid­ers charge to­ward the goal mouth.

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