Urban Velo

Crush Polo – It’s So Easy To Fall In Love: Being Objective with Polo Equipment

3mallets-e1298092691133-768x1024 The very first mallet I ever got was a crooked, over-taped, worn down gas pipe/ski pole combo. It was the greatest mallet I ever owned.

The next one was a brand new ski pole with a brand new gas pipe mallet head, and it was the greatest mallet I ever owned.

The next one was a Fixcraft LT with a St. Cago head and baseball bat grip – it was the best mallet I ever owned.

And so on, and so on.

What I found is this (and, perhaps, not surprisingly so): people fall in love with their bike polo equipment. This makes sense in a very “this is my rifle this is my gun” sort of way, and it’s only natural that the equipment you use in the sport you love is likewise loved.

But while all this love is in the air, it’s easy to ignore the little frustrations. So your polo bike has a few spokes that are tied around other ones – the nipples in the rim are more like an announcement of your presence than an annoyance, right? So what if your mallet shaft looks like a macaroni noodle and the mallet head has been worn down to a nub? They’ve never let you down before!

But maybe they are letting you down. Little by little, they’re starting to underperform. Being able to recognize the natural wear and tear of your equipment is perhaps the most underdeveloped and important element of doing well in our sport. Lemme explain:

There comes a level of blindness with the ownership and use of sports equipment. Some of this is healthy: the amount of scratches on your helmet or the dinged up paint of your polo bike (‘cause it’s a polo bike – it’s not meant to look that good). But then there is another level of blindness that can cause big problems for you, your team mates, and even your opponents.

Still good, right?

Still good, right?

This is something that stems out from the nature of the people who play the sport, too. Bike polo is very much so tied to city dwelling, city riding folks. I know for a fact that many of us are not so good at keeping our bikes shiny and new. In fact, I’d venture a guess that some urban riders attempt to see how malformed they can make their bikes while still having them function.

And this mentality certainly carries over to bike polo. How else can you explain some of the monstrosities that are seen during tournaments? What I’d like to get across is this: make sure you’re looking at equipment objectively, not subjectively. This is going to be hard for some of you (we have a player in Lancaster United who will use a mallet until it’s bent into a C), so let’s just say once every month you put on your responsibility hat and give this a try.

Every thirty days, check your mallet and your mallet head. Is the head getting loose? Is it even slightly close to the shape it was when you first attached it to the shaft?

black-e1298093866822-768x1024How do your spokes look? Are your grips still covering the ends of your handlebars? It seems really self-explanatory when written out like this, but I’ve had more conversations with other bike polo players where one of us pointed out a broken or breaking part and the reaction was simply “oh, I didn’t notice that”—well, that or “I know. Mind your own business Matt stop telling me how to live my life.” One or the other.

You’re doing this for a few reasons, as I said before. The most important of these reasons is looking good. No, I’m just kiddin’ – its safety you guys! There is plenty of pain that can be avoided by even a cursory review of your bike and bike polo equipment, and even more if you decide to retire worn down equipment before it breaks.

Creamy-Mallets-5-613x1024With the expansion of longer lasting equipment (through a mix of better products and less mindless violence on the polo courts), players can’t simply assume that their equipment will be destroyed before it dies of old age. When I first started playing I’d have a mallet shaft for about 2 or 3 months before it was bent over my own wheel, someone else’s mallet, or a crash. Now I’ve had the same shafts for well over a year in some cases, and I find myself getting used to bends, dings, and scrapes – and that can lead to ignoring larger problems.

Should you throw out every mallet that has a slight bend to it? No, I’m not suggesting that at all. What I’m saying is that there needs to be an awareness of how healthy your equipment is and how it’s playing. Chances are that going from a curly mallet to a straight one might even improve your game – who knows.

About mlkabik

Matthew Kabik is the editor of www.lancasterpolo.com and a bike polo player. He is also an editor of an actual paying gig, but it's boring to hear about. Matthew lives in Lancaster, PA and his first bike was a restored 1968 Schwinn Typhoon. If that doesn't give you an idea of what kind of guy he is, nothing will.

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