DIY or BUY: Are We Losing Something With Commercialization of Bike Polo?

taken from UrbanVelo

Anyone who is actively involved in Bike Polo can tell you it has its roots deep in the ‘Do It Yourself’ movement. Perhaps this is because of the complete lack of commercial equipment found in any home grown sport, but the fact remained that if you wanted a mallet or wheel cover, you had to pretty much know how to do it or find someone local who did.

And I think that’s just swell.

Because of this need to rely on your own (or at the very least another polo player’s) know how, Polo became more than a past-time for players. It became a lifestyle shift. Speaking for myself, I almost never look at a gas station cigarette sign or a length of plastic pipe without wondering how well it would work for polo.

But with all good things that pick up in both numbers and interest – people will figure out a way to make money. I’m not saying this is a bad thing at all; in fact it’s really great. You can now get a mallet from Eightinch or MKE, Wheel covers from Burro Bags (which alot of LCBP players have) or Fixcraft. I’m happy for it, seriously. All the people I listed above are passionate about the sport, and make really outstanding products.

taken from eighthinch.com

But a question has been bothering me: are we losing something with this inevitable transition? When will the point be, as with all sports it has been, when new players don’t even Think about building their own mallets? Are we really losing anything at all?

I posed this question to Horse specifically, as he is my Jedi Master of Polo (I’m letting that nerd flag fly). He made a good point: Here in PA, we are blessed with ski shops, friendly gas station managers and quick fingered friends. We can get all the supplies we need and do pretty damned well at looking after our own. But if we lived in, let’s say, Florida or Alabama – where would we so easily get $1.00 ski poles? It comes down to availability.

Taken from fixcraft.net

I understand his point – some people need to get things sent to them online just to even play. But do they really? Necessity is the mother of all invention (more appropriately, perhaps, laziness and procrastination is the mother and half drunk father of invention).  I’d love to see what players in those spots come up with to fill the gap.

I guess I’m just a sentimentalist, but I can remember the very first time I made my own mallet – or the first time I cut my own wheel covers from a Grizzly Chewing Tobacco sign. There is something to be said for the uniqueness of lay craftsmanship – of the care and excitement that comes with it. There is also something to be said, however, for buying something that will last you much longer and is created for the sole purpose of Bike Polo. The folks over at Wired think so.

What do you think?

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6 comments

  1. Brett says:

    I hafta agree that making your own equipment bonds you a bit more with the sport – the lifestyle shift – and I think that’s a good thing.

    But I also agree that finding the “right” equipment in the wrong climate is pretty tough. Here in Memphis, I made do with golf clubs and regular old pvc until getting schooled by someone who’d played in other places and had better equipment. While you can certainly fill the gap any number of ways, I was surprised at how much easier things became with a mallet that isn’t constantly shattering/weighs a fuckton.

    I think that dedicated, store-bought equipment is a good thing for the growth of the sport in the long run, the question is just whether or not growth is actually desirable. Here in Memphis, where the sport is still in its fledgling stages, I’ll do anything I can to get people to play. But if I lived in a polo mecca like Seattle where there’s polo every night of the week already, I might feel differently.

  2. Horse says:

    No one likes to see their sport go ‘mainstream,’ which is essentially what happens when companies start seeing an available market… but, in some ways, it says something about the sport you’ve supported and harnessed since before you could buy ANYTHING for it besides some Franklin Reds. The good products will stay, the bad will fade and be easily dismissed, and i’m pretty sure people will still be using old ski poles instead of 18 dollar…well..ski poles.
    as a side note to this ramble.. if i had to pay for mallets, holy hell i’d be pissed when i snap one in half.

  3. mathbach says:

    fyi, it’s “eighthinch.com”. as in 1/8 inch, not 8 inch, that’s some other site you must frequent.

  4. Bart says:

    I have played for about 4 or 5months and have pretty much tried to do everything myself. This includes making several mallets, a few wheel covers with different materials, and rebuilding/combining two bikes together.

    I now know the mallet length, head size, weight, and grip types etc. that work best for me. I know why I like holes in my mallet head, why it it critical for the head to have a tight fit on a ski pole etc. I know the type of wheel cover materials that will deflect or stop a ball, best way to build and attach wheel covers, and I love to custom design them.

    I have combined two bikes together and stripped it down to the bare essentials. I have gone from an eighteen speed to a single speed, replaced my cranks, pedals, brakes, wheels, handle bars, grips, and seat. I know why I made each adjustment I did. I learned a lot from other players like Horse, Andy, and Troy. As I learned about these things alone they way I know what I like, and it gets better after each day we play.

    I feel I have come a long way in a short time and wouldn’t be here as quickly if I bought everything “pre-made.” Though there are definitely advantages to buying “better” equipment I love that I know what works for me, whyi it works, and how to build it. Every bit helpswhen I try to explain it to new folks. I need to know why I am doing something not just that I bought it and can use it. But that is just me…

  5. j.b says:

    I agree, I have used and made many homemade mallets, but then I moved to the south and when I started to play down here I snapped my mallet shaft, so I then went looking for some at used sporting goods stores and at thrift stores and craigslist…. found nothing… back home I used a lot of Eighthinch products. So after looking around I ended ordering their mallet head and shaft, plus i didnt have any tools to put other ones together at the time… I got it in the mail bolted it together with the allen wrench that comes with and started using it… Its great hits great, Hits great. I talked to Eighthinch and they said sometime soon they are working on a 7075 shaft just like the fixcraft xt shaft

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