Urban Velo

Corey’s Stories – Hump Day

coreymtb Every morning when I wake before work, the first thing I do is check the window to see what the weather is like. Today I opened my eyes to see gloomy gray through the curtains. The warm happy feeling I had from a recent trip to Toronto was rapidly fading. The US Postal service has some fancy jingle about “neither sleet nor rain will keep them from…”. Yeah, yeah whatever. I am a bike messenger and although we have relatively the same job, delivering envelopes and parcels, today I wasn’t all chirpy about riding in crappy weather.

I dressed for the possibility of a crappy day, bringing a rain jacket but forgot to wear rain pants. I left home hoping the clouds would pass without dumping their payload. It was only after a few deliveries into the morning when big rain drops began a steady soaking. It might not have been so bad had I ridden my bike with fenders. In my pre-work sulking, I neglected to fix the flat on the front wheel, dooming me to suffer for my lack of earlier action. Instead, I rode my mountain bike that threw the most water upward from the road with every revolution.

By mid-day I was soaked head to toe. I had forgotten to zip my rain jacket to the neck and the vent zippers under the arms. I was collecting water like a sinking submarine. My shoes squished with every pedal stroke or step when walking through buildings. My vacation was definitely over. After acknowledging that the conditions couldn’t get worse, I settled into the misery.

There is an awkwardness about walking around soaking wet. People in buildings repeatedly ask the question, “Is it still raining?” It is a reminder of how you got wet, the water swirling around inside of your shoes and that after the conversation you will return without umbrella into the rain. Since I had resigned myself to suffering in the wet, I trudged through it. My only focus was just keeping my packages dry. When my clothes finally couldn’t hold any more water, the rain stopped. The clouds broke late in the afternoon to reveal warm blue skies.

The misery I expected to endure for the entire day was transforming for the better. As I continued to ride, most of my clothes dried. The temperature increased to something pleaseant in the 70 degree range. My mood elevated knowing I wouldn’t have to ride with wet diaper ass. There is also an unspoken bonding moment when messengers that have endured crappy weather see each other at the end of the day. Chatting with some of the regulars about my recent vacation did even more to raise my spirits.

When the end of my work day arrived I happily began my ride home. At one point I passed a sedan occupying most of a bike lane. I squeezed through the narrow space between the curb and the slowly moving car. With on hand on the handlebars, I ran my other hand across the roof of the car and calmly told the driver through the open moon roof: “I’m right here dude”. I heard a group of pedestrians behind me shout, “You took that pretty good.” I looked back, informing them that I don’t get paid to get upset. They warned me to be safe. Smiling, I told them that’s why I wear my helmet.

Hump day complete, a surprisingly good day despite the ugly start.

CicLAvia — Los Angeles’s Open Streets Event

stoopidtall_halbergman An estimated 150,000 people came out the first CicLAvia of the year, on April 21, to enjoy the extended route, which spanned 15 miles from downtown L.A. to Venice. Advisory notices across town helped to build up anticipation in the days preceding the event, promising the increasingly coveted street closures. With a 150 percent increase in attendance, many people were there to experience the open streets event for the first time. While many chose to enjoy to route by foot, skateboard and on rollerskates, bicycles were still the preferred mode of exploring the route; bike shops throughout the city saw a rush of people who wanted to fix up the rusty, dusty bikes they hadn’t touched in years in preparation for the weekend.

“It was a very ambitious route, fifty percent larger than any route we’ve ever done” said Chris Barnes, who is part of the CicLAvia’s team of organizers. “We had a lot more people than we’d anticipated. It seemed like there were a lot more families, a lot more kids.”

On hand to kick off the fun was outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was greeted at Olvera Street—the eastern edge of the route—by hundreds of eager Angelenos, anxious to play in the streets, without the traffic. Citing an accelerated pace of bicycle and public transportation infrastructure development in Los Angeles, Villaraigosa expressed his vision to create a new civic identity.

“Let’s make sure L.A.’s as famous for it’s bikes as it is for its addiction to the single-passenger automobile,” he said. “Because the bike network is growing so fast and Ciclavia is becoming so popular, we’re also making it safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Our public transit system is finally beginning to connect the dots.

“L.A. is quite literally becoming a car-free destination,” he declared before announcing the launch of a car-free initiative from the board of tourism. The initiative entails more than a dozen car-free itineraries for exploring the city, with a broad range of themes from film landmarks, sites with presidential connections, architecture, beaches, LGBT landmarks, and even a “Geek’s Guide to LA,” all available at discoverlosangeles.com/carfreela.  

Villaraigosa said that he hopes CicLAvia grows to happen 12 times a year, with varying routes that explore different parts of the city each month.

“I’m really excited that he wants to make it a more permanent change,” said Barnes.

Since beginning in 2010, CicLAvia has drawn not only L.A. residents, but visitors from neighboring counties and states as well. Shattering the myth that a car is needed to get around L.A. has inspired city officials and community organizers throughout the southwest to establish their own open streets events.

“More than a dozen cities have contacted us,” Villaraigosa said. One of the cities modelling their own events after CicLAvia is San Diego, which will host its first CicloSDias on August 11.

The day brought out a diverse mix of people and organizations to the 15-mile block party, including Daniel Busby’s 8-person banquet table, “A Moveable Feast,” and dozens of freakbikes, including Richie Trimble on his 14.5-foot “StoopidTall,” which turned out to the be the star of the day’s event. Dubbed the “King of CicLAvia” by local media, Trimble and his (stoopid) tall bike had onlookers along the route gasping and smiling as he rode by, flanked by a protective circle of Angelopes helping him navigate his way through the crowded streets.

Because the event requires no registration or admission fee, it is difficult to gauge exactly how many people participated; perhaps the best evidence of growth was that parts of the route were still heavily congested, despite the five added miles. With 30 crossing points to allow for intersecting car traffic, parts of the route came to a standstill at times.

“One thing that I’ve been trying to ask for is modifying the signals so that the cyclists get two cycles,” said Barnes. “It seems like it would be a lot more effective in keeping everyone together.”

Despite the congestion, there was plenty to do and friends to be found the whole way across town–reminding us all to just take the day to enjoy the sun and good company. Two more CicLAvia events are planned for 2013. The next will take a historic route down “Iconic Wilshire Boulevard” on June 23 and highlight the cities varied architecture as part of the Pacific Standard Time Los Angeles art initiative.

See more excellent images of Richie’s Stoopidtall bike at Hal Bergman’s photo site.

Your Polo Update: Bust Out The Hot Balls

Looking into the crystal ball that is League of Bike Polo (ALL HAIL!) I see a few very exciting tournaments coming up in May:

287981_10150351426118013_1170049_oFirst, the Boot Camp Training Weekend for Ladies Army 5 is happening May 4th-5th. This is interesting because of the swingers nature of team selection: everyone puts something familiar into a bowl—three items are drawn out and that’s your team for the first day! The second day is a pull-out bench format: coolers full of beer. Pull out a beer, and everyone who has that brand of delicious PBR is on your team. I gotta say, this sounds like something I could get into.


fmbp2Next up is Bear Polo 4 out of Fort Meyers that same weekend (May 4th and 5th). This one is a bit more traditional with Swiss rounds the first day and double elim the second. There are literally no comments on the thread for this tournament so far, so I’m guessing the field is still wide open?



LA5PosterwebresAnd then, on May 10th-12th, is Ladies Army 5. I’m excited by this one for a few reasons: 1, they have done so much promotion for it that I literally feel like it’s the super-FIFA-Olympics, and 2 because I will get to watch polo that weekend from the comfort of the polo war room. This is happening in Burnaby, Canada if you don’t know, and if you don’t know, now you know. Ya know?

knoxvilleThe last one I want to talk about is the Knoxville Marble City Open, happening May 11th and 12th. This is the first tourney these folks have put on, and they are equal parts overly-emphatic about explaining rules on the tourney page as they are willing to take suggestions to make it better. There is something magical about going to a first-ever city tourney, and I really think if you’re in the area you should give it a go.

Check out these (and other exciting tourneys) over on the LoBP(ALL HAIL) tournament page.

LoBPNext, let’s peek on over at the boards and see what’s what in the world of grown men getting huffy at each other—actually, it’s very far from that in the one posting that I want to talk about over on LoBP. It seems the topic of player licensing came up again and the NAH (specifically, Eric from DC) made it a point to address the complaints and observations in a courteous, careful manner. I have to say that it’s one of the most productive and respectful conversations I’ve seen on the boards in a long time, and I’m excited as to what that says about possible outcomes and resolutions. Check it out here and add into the conversation as long as you a. keep it on topic and b. resist the swelling urge to be a complete jerk. You can be a little bit of a jerk, but don’t go full jerk. Not in public, anyway.

Yes, it’s time to talk about new equipment popping up around the polo-sphere!

modifide shaftHere we have Modifide’s shaft, which, according to Modifide’s Facebook page, was designed with the help of Northern Standard for lightness and the mounting system. I haven’t tried these shafts out so I can’t speak to them in any way, but there you go—I told you. It doesn’t look like they are up for sale yet (as of writing this), but by the looks of things they should be up soon.

lifelineNext, Fixcraft’s lifeline dual break pull (which seems to be off the site at the moment, but they still have a post on Facebook about it). This is a way of making many single brake levers into a dual lever. Right now they have a short pull available but will soon have a long pull as well. Seems like a cheap way to customize your polo rig on the fly.

And that’s really all I’ve seen around the interwebs this week—but I think they are enough for now, don’t you?

No, I don’t either. I want more. All the polo equipments.

Finally, I want to discuss what play has been like now that I’ve been using a shaped head (specifically, the Modifide ARC Mallet head). I can bring it all down to three things:

  • Ball handling: seems better
  • Shooting: not really different
  • Hooking: more dangerous to me

Ball Handling: The ARC head’s shape allows me to cup the ball a little bit (without removing the chance for a defender to get it from me) which thereby allows me to look up more during play. I know that the ball is rolling to the center of my mallet because that’s the only place it has to go, and that allows me more predictability in play. That’s kind of great, and I enjoy it very much for that reason alone.

Shooting: I don’t know how the shape could help me shoot, so I don’t really want to bring that up as the reason, but I’m far more accurate with this mallet than I have been with others. It might be the larger flat surface of the shooting end. Regardless, I find myself able to make long-range shots more accurately, scoop more accurately to team-mates, and all around feel better about myself as a person.

Hooking: Gene made this very apparent to me yesterday during pickup: when someone hooks you, you’re hooked for good. The man pretty much hooked my mallet and then rode around me until he decided to let me go. The shape acts as a wedge to another person’s mallet, and that means you’ve really got to work to get free (good if you are trying to stop a play, bad if you’re trying to make one). I suspect this will change as I get used to people trying to hook my mallet, but yesterday it scared me. Scared me real good.

And that’s your update for now. Thanks for reading, and keep the rubber side down.

Cycling Legalese: Road Rage Retribution

bkevinidesCycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.

Road rage attacks are a relatively rare but unfortunate reality of city riding. Brendan goes over why it may be best to not speculate on a motorist’s motives if you’ve been hit and concentrate on the facts of the collision.

Q: So many people seem to be angry behind the wheel. How can I go after a driver after I’ve been the victim of a “road rage” incident?

Brendan Kevenides, P.C.:In my hometown of Chicago bicyclists and motorists rarely use five fingers to waive at one another. Sad. The mutual animosity that exists between these two sets of travelers is strange really. After all, many of us are both motorists and bicyclists. Yet somehow we seem to forget our other selves while operating one mode of transportation or the other. I suppose it is because while traveling on congested city streets, whether on bike or in a car, we are trying to get somewhere as quickly and easily as possible while sharing a limited resource, usable street space.

Road rage incidents have the potential to turn out much worse for the bicyclist than for the driver. The motorist is, of course, wrapped in a cocoon of metal while the cyclist is not. A few years ago I represented a young bicyclist who was the victim of such an incident. He was riding his bike on the right side of the road in the city when a driver aggressively cut in front of him, nearly causing a collision. The bicyclist, pissed, rode after the vehicle, a red BMW, which eventually encountered slow moving traffic. As he rode by the car, the bicyclist rapped on the vehicle’s passenger window and waved hello with a single finger. That should have been it. However, the driver, now also pissed, sped forward at the bicycle and struck its back wheel causing the young man to fly forward, ass-over-teakettle. His injuries were not very severe, thanks to nothing but dumb luck. Later, he contacted me to represent him against the driver in a personal injury action, which, of course, I did.
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Corey’s Stories – My U-lock Weighs A Ton

corey_cmwc2012It isn’t easy being a bicycle messenger in NYC. And by that, I am not referring to the bicycle riding part.

I was in an upward bound elevator yesterday. The doors to the car opened a few floors early. A woman was preparing to enter when a girl’s voice said: “Mommy, no”. The woman looked to me and the lit white up arrow on the door frame. I acknowledged with a nod that the elevator was indeed heading up.
Just then another smaller child, two possibly three years old, with a giggly face surrounded by curls came bounding toward the car as the doors began to close. I do not know if it was because of her short height or slow reaction time, but the sensors failed to stop the doors. I could foresee her getting crushed by the giant hulking metal doors.

Instantly I reacted, leaping forward to grab the doors and prevent a tragedy. The speed at which I lunged shocked the girl. The mother, having the same protective instinct, yanked the girl from the imminent danger of the doors a second later.

The moments earlier happy face turned into a mask of horrified fear. I tried to smile to let her know that everything was fine, but she began sobbing loudly. The doors to the elevator closed. The elevator resumed its slow upward climb. Two floors later I could still hear the muffled wailing of the frightened child as her mother consoled her.

Although the mother thanked me in the moment just after I saved her little girl, it stung just a bit knowing that somewhere that girl may be forever terrified of bicycle messengers or cyclists in general. Damn.

Women Mean Business

Yes We CanThis is a guest post from Rebecca Susman, Membership and Outreach Manager at BikePGH covering The National Women’s Bicycling Forum.

Last month my colleague Jane Kaminski and I attended the League of American Bicyclists’ 2nd Annual National Women’s Bicycling Forum with the theme “Women Mean Business.” The double entendre of the title was perfectly descriptive as 375 leaders and advocates came together to discuss how women are changing the face of bicycling both within the business of bikes and within communities.

To this day when asked to picture the typical bicyclist, people usually think of a man, possibly wearing either racing spandex or bike messenger attire. Women and men throughout the bicycling world have been working for years to make this just a stereotype, and not the statistical reality of who uses the streets on a bike. We have come a long way, and in 2011 women accounted for 46% of the adults who ride bicycles.

As a bicycle advocate I have attended other national conferences on bicycling including one other women’s forum, but this was the largest woman-focused event by far. It was incredible to be in a room with so many women of diverse backgrounds openly discussing their experiences and hearing the similarities of so many of the stories. I know, and currently work with, some amazing men within both the bicycle advocacy and industry worlds, but this was my first time experiencing an environment in which women of different professional backgrounds (not just the higher-ups) felt comfortable asking questions and speaking their minds. Once given a forum in which they did not feel pressure or fear judgment the floodgates opened, and every workshop I attended ran overtime until they kicked us out of the rooms. The discussions were so engaging and sense of camaraderie affirming that at the end people spoke of a need for more similar forums, and necessary adjustments in advocacy and industry based on the outcomes.

Below are some statistics, ideas, and highlights from the forum.

– Each generation has produced more women who are riding and spending money on bicycles. Currently, 44% of Generation X bike owners and 60% of the Millennials who own bikes are women. Over half of the bicycles bought by women were not purchased in local bike shops in large part because going to a shop felt intimidating. This indicates many future opportunities for local bike shops if they listen to what the women are saying and take the appropriate steps to make their environments feel welcoming.

– Women identified their top barriers to riding (in descending order) as: distance, safety, and time. 

– In recognizing the different lifestyles of woman/ people with children, it is important to address the different equipment needs, types of trips taken, and ways to get people biking. One successful way is through organized community and family bike rides that are short and centrally located.

– Georgina Terry of Terry Bicycles and Natalie Ramsland of Sweet Pea Bicycles opened the day with a discussion moderated by Karen Brooks of Bicycle Times. They began by geeking out on steel vs. carbon and then taking the discussion a step further towards removing barriers to bicycling regardless of what people ride. Their fundamental goal was about getting people together on bikes.

– Jenna Burton, founder of Red, Bike and Green, spoke about creating a culture of bicycling where people of all backgrounds can use it as a way to enjoy and feel ownership of their neighborhoods.

– Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth put us all to shame as she spoke of the competing in bike races on the hand-crank bike that she started using after losing both of her legs in Iraq. She advocated for the merits of bicycling as a method of rehabilitation and way for war veterans to reclaim some of the physical fitness and autonomy they enjoyed prior to their injuries.

– Janette Sadik-Khan, NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner closed the day with an inspiring Keynote address about the importance of creating “livable cities” and making cycling a mainstream form of transportation. This focus addressed community design and safety through an interconnected system of bicycle infrastructure coupled with legislation for support. It also provided protected bike lanes with an aim of creating safer streets and an eye for business. The statistics showed that the areas with the lanes and bike parking saw both a rise in retail sales (50% in some corridors) and a decrease in storefront vacancies.

In short, the National Women’s Bicycling Forum was a great day with interesting, knowledgeable people from across the country and a tremendous amount of information provided at once. It will take me some time to digest it all, but was definitely worth spending a beautiful, sunny Washington DC day inside.

Every Lane is a Bike Lane


Turns out every lane really is a bike lane. Some of us knew this already, but now L.A. Metro is spreading the word, with a new bold campaign which clearly states just that.

The campaign features messages including “Every Lane is a Bike Lane;” “Bicyclists may need a full lane;” and “Please share the road” in bright yellow lettering on the back of 75 Metro buses and on 135 billboards. Radio spots on 21 local radio stations throughout the region also share the straight-to-the-point PSAs. The campaign will run through May, leading up to Bike Week, May 13-17.

“It has been really surprising over the past 3 to 5 years to see the cities like L.A. that are coming on board in a very strong way,” said Carolyn Szczepanski, director of communications for the League of American Bicyclists. Recently Los Angeles received a bronze award from the League’s Bike Friendly America program, which designates bicycle friendly communities. “Cities like Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville—these are cities that we wouldn’t have thought of as particularly progressive—they’re not Boulder; they’re not Portland … but they are coming around.”
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Cycling Legalese: Visible, Assertive, Alert and Predictable

bkevinidesCycling Legalese is our online cycling law column from everyday cyclist and Chicago based injury lawyer, Brendan Kevenides.

Last column explained that drivers are responsible even if they say they didn’t see you. Even if a driver is found at fault, in civil court a cyclist’s injury claim may be reduced if it is found they contributed to the incident by not being visibile and riding predictably. This column may help you not get hit in the first place, and may help in civil litigation in case of an accident.

In the last edition of Cycling Legalese we considered the viability of the “unseeing eye” defense which drivers tend to raise in bicycle crash cases. Now we turn our attention to ways in which urban cyclists can increase their visibility, reducing their chances of being “unseen” in the first place. These guidelines will reduce the likelihood of being hit, and will aid your chances of a successful outcome should litigation arise from a crash. Juries in civil cases will be asked to consider not just the motorist’s negligence, but the injured bicyclist’s as well. In many states, even if the driver is found to have acted negligently, the injury victim’s compensation may be reduced by his or her own percentage of fault. If a jury finds that the cyclist was more than 50% at fault, then in some states compensation may be denied all together. To avoid injury, and a poor legal outcome, be Visible, Assertive, Alert and Predictable; VAAP, if you are into gibberishy acronyms.

Visible: Most state vehicle codes require bicyclists to ride with a white, front facing headlight and at least a rear reflector. Frankly, I have always found it surprising that you can buy a bicycle from a shop without a light. After all, head lights are not an option for car buyers. In any event, buy one. And while you are at it, buy a red light for the rear of your bike. Some states only require a reflector in the rear, but go a little nuts and treat yourself to a bit of rear end protection. Having reflective properties on your clothing and/or bicycle is also a good idea to increase visibility in poor lighting conditions.

Visibility is as important during the day as at night. Bright clothing will help you get noticed. Also, during a daytime rain or snow shower, do not hesitate to turn on your lights. It is smart to have them with you, with fresh batteries, at all times.

Assertive: You belong in the road. Act like it. Behaving like a shrinking violet while riding in traffic is no fun, and can be dangerous. Cyclists should, and are generally required, to ride in the right-most lane that leads to their destination. That does not mean that you must ride in the gutter. Riding too close to the edge of the road will likely make you less visible to drivers and will encourage them to attempt to pass too closely. Bicyclists should ride as far to the right as is practicable and safe, but no more. No one wants to be honked at, but at least if a driver is honking at you you know you are being noticed.

Being assertive applies not just to lane position, but to all aspects of urban riding. “If you, the cyclist, pause or hesitate, you are almost guaranteed that the motorist will take the right of way whether it is theirs or not. Know the rules of the road and follow them with confidence and conviction,” recommends the League of American Bicyclists.

Alert: Drivers are going to screw up. Expect it. For example, if you see movement inside of a vehicle parked along the curb, anticipate that the driver may open the door into you. Realize that in the rain, drivers cannot see very well and will have a harder time noticing you. Do not just watch traffic lights; watch the traffic. It is common for drivers to run an intersection through the dissipating remnants of a yellow light. Look before proceeding into an intersection, even a controlled one. It is important to consider the driver’s perspective while riding your bike. Be cynical. Hope for the best, assume the worst and act preemptively.

Predictable: Though I have placed it last, predictability is perhaps the most important aspect of safe cycling. Following the rules of the road — though some may seem hardly written with the bicyclist in mind — helps you communicate your intentions to drivers. Yes, sometimes salmoning (riding the wrong way) is convenient, but a driver will not anticipate a moving object coming from the wrong direction. Giving nary a pause at a stop sign is not something a driver will expect you to do, even if he or she sees you coming. At an intersection, drivers will be looking for traffic coming from cross streets, and slow moving pedestrians in crosswalks. They will not expect a fast moving object to rocket off of a sidewalk and into their path. Follow the rules, not just because they are the rules, but because doing so makes you more predictable. Drivers, generally, do not want to run into you. Make it easy for both of you to continue on your way without conflict.

Nothing contained in this column should be construed as legal advice. The information contained herein may or may not match your individual situation. Also, laws differ from place to place and tend to change over time. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of an attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. This column is meant to promote awareness of a general legal issue. As such, it is meant as entertainment. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.

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Corey’s Stories – Coming In From The Cold

corey_cmwc2012Hello. My name is Corey the Courier. I am a bicycle racer and messenger in NYC.

In January there was a week of bitter cold weather. The wind chill was amplified by being on the bike. I had been reading all about the cold weather from friends across North America on social media. I avoided these silly discussions. Every year that I can remember since childhood, it has always been cold at some point between September and March. Making a fuss about the annual occurrence seemed a waste of time.

Although I usually won’t complain about the conditions, I have the good sense to know when it’s time to come inside from the cold. I had been riding daily for Elite Couriers as the cold began punishing those in the north. My training rides went from several hours to a one mile jaunt to the gym where the steam room was utilized for thawing purposes.

photoMy friend Ethan posted a message on Facebook about needing a mechanic for a new bike shop. As the manager, it was his responsibility to find someone capable of assembling or repairing bikes and had the ability to build wheels. Having all those talents and living nearby, I knew I could be indoors during working hours. I took a temporary position to give Ethan extra time to find a permanent wrench. I would escape the clutches of Old Man Winter.

On Monday morning I awoke to falling snow outside of my window. Success! I had beaten the system. I could still earn income without suffering in the muck. I assembled new bikes with the comfort of music playing.

The next day as I left the house, the temperatures had risen. It was balmy, almost like a spring morning when one would expect to see tulips blooming or buds sprouting from the trees. Inhale. Exhale. Aah. It was a great day for a bike ride. I thought of two long rides I wanted to do, but was sadly headed indoors to wrench on bikes.

Wednesday morning the weather was beautiful. The day’s high was warm like those mid spring days when the cherry blossoms send petals cascading downward mimicking snow. Damn. I really wanted to be outside on my bike. I could see several of my friends rolling past the shop enjoying the day. My plan was to spare myself the brutal commute and working in the cold. Mother Nature played a cruel trick. After agreeing to working indoors, the temperatures were mild and pleasant.

Thursday was to be my last day in the shop as the Ultra Orthodox Jewish owners have half day hours on Friday and Saturday completely off. As I organized the order of bikes on the showroom floor, a rep from cycling company visited to present apparel available for sale to customers. It was quite interesting watching the rep discuss women’s jerseys “in a variety of colorways” to a man whose community strictly adheres to a dress code of all black everything except white blouses and shirts. The irony was that a few years earlier, the Hasidic Community fiercely lobbied Mayor Bloomberg to remove existing bike lanes due to “scantily clad” women rolling through South Williamsburg Brooklyn. Their wardrobe would inspire immoral behavior among members of their pious sect.

Building and repairing bikes I can do. Bridging the divide between religious doctrine heavily ingrained into the Hasidic community and the fast paced lifestyle of New York cyclists I cannot on my own. It will take years. While I wish them every success with the new shop promoting cycling, I had to return to the road. I love riding.

At the end of the week as the Hasidim prepared for the sabbath, I returned to the chaotic messenger scramble in Manhattan. The weather, almost as if scheduled, resumed its punishing cold. I rode through another day of heavy winds and snow. I had been reminded that life as a messenger in the winter is brutal and relentless.

Tourneys, Forums, and Products (Oh My!)

Let’s start this column with a look at some of the upcoming tourneys in April, shall we?

Survivor2.3On the West Coast and out of San Francisco comes the SF Survivor Bench Weekend (April 6th and 7th) . Featuring everything you’d expect out of San Fran (Friday pickup, a poker party, potluck BBQ, knife fights) along with prizes and otherwise interesting hilarity. If you’re in the area it’s a good way to get into the groove of the season, no doubt.


bpsbNext on the ol’ agenda, we have Bike Polo Spring Break (BPSB) out of Lexington, KY (Also April 6th and 7th). If the poster is any indication of what to expect, people can expect rainbows and pixilated mohawked gentlemen trying to pick up pixilated women at the beach, and dolphins riding jetskis. However, if you know anything about Lexington Bike Polo, you’ll know that they put on one heck of a shindig and it’s definitely worth your time and effort to be there.


poster_1_currentsponsorsAnother hot number comes the April 13th weekend: Battle For The Midwest 2, which features (now get this) a $40 dollar fee per player, which includes beer all weekend, 3 meals Saturday, and at least 2 meals on Sunday. That’s what I’m talking about, Midwest! As of me writing this, there is space for 1 more team, and I’d suggest pulling at least 7 of your buddies together to go to this one – if nothing else just to see if you can make your money back in beer alone. I know you can, Baby Cake. This is another bench format tourney as well. Lots of sponsors, probably lot of awesome.


bikepoloposterlogosAnd that VERY SAME WEEKEND (April 13th) we have the Eastside Regional Qualifier out of Boston. The Eastside Regional Qualifier holds a special place in my heart, and while I haven’t been able to form up a team for it (I only write about bike polo well enough, I don’t play it so well enough), I might just make an appearance up there to document the happenings. The fee is sixty bucks registration plus 10 bucks to the NAH for their contingency fund (which you can read about here). So that’s a seventy spot for your team to head up to Hockey Town and get your game on. Boston brings the heat when it comes to an event like this (God knows the weather typically doesn’t, am I right?), so you’ll be in good hands.


And that’s my upcoming tourney wrap up (yes Southwest Regional Qualifier, I see you there – next time).

So now that you know what tourneys are upcoming and have a reason to start packing for all points, let’s talk about what bike polo as a whole has been discussing, and from a quick glance at the LoBP (ALL HAIL) forum, it looks like the most recent conversation is on mallet hooking the goalie to force a footdown or a roll-out. As most people in the forum thread accurately point out, this is a perfectly legal move and a very effective one at that. However, the gem of this thread comes from a very important clarification that many bike polo players fail to grasp: the difference between a hack (or slash) and a hook.

A hack or slash is when there is a forceful movement of your mallet against your opponents in (generally) a downward or sideways motion. A hook is when you make contact with the opponents mallet first, and then lift or push away. This is obviously a simplified explanation, but it’s an effective one, I find. If you roll up to another player and swordfight with them, you’re doing it wrong.

One of the most discussed forums I’ve seen is one dealing with moving picks and interference rules. I’ll leave you to get the little details, but it comes down to this: how should moving picks be handled in bike polo of the future, and should there be penalties for offensive and defensive interference.

I was having a hard time understanding most of what was said (surprising, no?), until Kev of Toronto posted this video  and noted that around 16:55 there is a great example of “off-ball body checking” that should be made illegal for fairer play (or at least for less violent play). I watched the video and saw how and argument could be made for offensive picks being not so great. But from that point on the conversation spins into somewhat veiled personal attacks, quotes to simply dissect semantics, and other adventures in saying the same thing over and over again.

You know, typical board stuff.

Let’s finish off with something near and dear to all polo player’s hearts: new stuff round up.


picture from Arena Bike Polo

Arena Bike Polo has come out with some shiny new bike polo shafts and mallet heads, and I must say that I’m a fan of both. The shaft just looks great and feels light in the hand while still maintaining strength, and the Alchemy head is basically the economy (don’t take that as slight in any way) version of the M.I.L.K. head out of Geneva. It’s peppy, well-constructed, and currently one of my go-to mallets. I haven’t done a full review of it on Lancaster Polo yet, but I will very soon. You can check out their fine products right here.



Picture from Modifide

Picture from Modifide

Next we have a newer entry into the bike polo equipment game, this being Modifide. The piece of equipment in particular is the ARC mallet head, made of Canadian UHMW and built with the curves previously unseen in the sport. I played with one for a day so far, and I am impressed with how the shape controls the ball. The price is high here in the states (40 bucks or so with shipping included), but I guess that’s the price you pay for engineering and…stuff… Check out their Facebook page for more on the ARC. I have a full “first day” review of this mallet head on lancasterpolo.com right now, if you’re so inclined.


picture from Northern Standard

picture from Northern Standard

Finally we have Northern Standard coming out with a suspiciously similar-to-the-ARC mallet head and a new shaft to go along with it (which has the same basic shape as their honeycomb mallet a little while back).  I can’t speak much to either the shaft or the head as I haven’t tried them out, but if past performance is any indication of future projects, I think we’ll have some fine additions to put your wallet toward. Most notably is the end of the mallet shaft:  Four-toothed for your mallet head’s pleasure, though that doesn’t seem to be on the site quite yet. The price is $28 Canadian dollars, which is something close to $28 American dollars as of this writing. Add $10 dollars shipping to that and you’re looking at about the same price point as the Modifide. Here is the NS website for you to gander wares.

So that’s the polo update from your humble columnist.  I hope the beginning of your season is going well, and I look forward to seeing you crazy polokins at the tourneys!

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