Bike Polo any­one? Monika Sch­narre tries her hand at the lat­est sport mashup.

Play­ing polo with­out all the pomp and pageantry

Thornhill Post - - Contents - MONIKA SCH­NARRE Monika Sch­narre is a model, ac­tress, en­trepreneur and tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity. She has ap­peared in over 50 tele­vi­sion shows and films and on over 100 mag­a­zine cov­ers.

First off, let’s talk about what bike polo is. Polo on bi­cy­cles has been around for more than 100 years. Hard court bike polo (on ce­ment) gained pop­u­lar­ity around 2007 as a pas­time for bi­cy­cle mes­sen­gers in Seattle be­tween de­liv­er­ies. Alex Lyon from Toronto Bike Polo taught me in the ins and outs of the hard court ver­sion on the hockey rink at Duf­ferin Grove Park. The sport is ex­actly as it sounds, polo with­out the horses (or pretense) of the tra­di­tional game.

The rules, in­so­far as they ex­ist, are sim­ple. Don’t touch the ground with your feet. Fail­ure to com­ply with this guide­line re­sults in a trip to cen­tre line, which must be tapped with your mal­let be­fore you can get back in the game. Jostling is OK, but out­right shov­ing is not. Teams field three play­ers a side — usu­ally an at­tack­ing de­fender and two for­wards. Games last 15 min­utes.

FIRST IM­PRES­SIONS

It’s a steep learn­ing curve at first. Bal­anc­ing on the bike and hold­ing the mal­let while try­ing to move the ball for­ward all chal­lenge your senses at once.

THE FA­CIL­ITY

Al­though var­i­ous clubs play at lo­ca­tions through­out the GTA, I was at Duf­ferin Grove Park, lo­cated at Duf­ferin and Bloor. Be­gin­ners can join pick-up games here on Wed­nes­day nights at 7 p.m. where Toronto Bike Polo sup­plies the mal­lets, balls and coach­ing for new play­ers.

THE IN­STRUC­TOR

Alex Lyon’s pas­sion­ate for the sport is ev­i­dent dur­ing the les­son.

“It has the in­clu­sive­ness of a DIY bike com­mu­nity but also has the team bond­ing of more con­ven­tional sport. To me that’s the best of both worlds,” he says.

EQUIP­MENT

You can start out us­ing your reg­u­lar street bike as long as your bike has brakes and is safe (noth­ing sharp). You can buy polospe­cific bikes, but nor­mally peo­ple only do that af­ter they have played for a sea­son. Those bikes only have one gear for quick pickup from a stand­still along with a disc brake on the front wheel for stop­ping quickly. The mal­lets are pro­vided but they rec­om­mend bring­ing a hel­met and knee and el­bow pads.

LEVEL OF DIF­FI­CULTY

This looks much eas­ier than it ac­tu­ally is! Think cy­cling home with all of your gro­ceries on a bike while dodg­ing rush hour traf­fic. I felt as if I were five years old, and my train­ing wheels had just come off my pink BMX.

THE NEXT DAY

Bike polo is all about bal­ance. You end up us­ing your non-dom­i­nant shoul­der, since your dom­i­nant hand holds the mal­let. This is a cy­cling sport, much like moun­tain bik­ing; there­fore, your larger mus­cle groups (quads) and sta­bi­liz­ers (arms and shoul­ders) all get a good work­out.

FAVOURITE PART

Bike polo is very in­clu­sive. Some of the best play­ers in Canada are women. Ev­ery year there are women’s tour­na­ments, in­clud­ing the women’s world cham­pi­onship event, ti­tled the Ladies Army.

Monika, with mal­let in hand, gets into the polo spirit

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