I recently sat down (and by sat down, I mean at my computer to type out and email these questions to him) with Matt to ask him a few questions about the sport, how he became involved, and what he thinks is upcoming in the world of bike polo.
Tell us a little bit about how you came to play bike polo – who got you into it?
I started playing polo about three years ago after Kyle repeatedly bombarded me with weekend texts asking me to come out. I always rode bmx on sundays, so it was a random weekend when everyone else (bmx) was away and I was free.
Very briefly, what was your first setup like (bike, mallet, etc.)
Well, my first setup that i played with was my college commuter bike, which was a Windsor track bike. Fixed, no brakes, and i used to bring riser bars to polo in my messenger bag and switch them out to play. That only lasted about a month before i was strictly on risers. My first polo specific build was a Kona Paddywagon.
As for mallets: before the end of last year, I was just like most with whatever Kyle would build me out of whatever was laying around. Now I’m pretty sold on the company offered stuff. Fixcraft XT pole and St. Cago capped head is my go-to setup now days (until the fixcraft UHMW heads come out).
What do you think of how big Bike polo has become in Lancaster? Why do you think it grew so rapidly?
I think its awesome. We’re a small city on paper, but we’ve got such a thriving culture, be it music, or art, or food. It just makes sense that we’d also have a relatively strong cycling community. We have the same polo numbers that some actual legit cities have, and everyone that plays with us is pretty seriously committed. It’s pretty awesome that most people have never heard of our city or where its at geographically, and yet we’re getting 15 guys out twice a week.
What’s your favorite piece of equipment right now?
That’s hard. I love ‘things’. In polo, and in general, i’m super stoked on disc brakes. I’m really surprised more people are adopting it. The power and predictability of discs are just mind blowing. I’m stoked on the FGFS scene making bomb proof parts that transfer over to the polo world. I’m stoked on UHMW. I love my bike, so I guess that’s gotta be in there.
What is one thing (or more) you wished you knew when you started out?
Kyle will disagree with me for this, and I have to admit he is one of the two or three players who I think make it work, but Fixed gear is dumb as shit for polo. Had I known that, I think it would have changed my progression a bit. That and I wish that I had started playing in a club that was well established. Only because I think its difficult to progress when you’re not behind the curve so to speak. It was basically Kyle and myself for a good bit of time, and if we had some serious players to learn from it would have sped things along. That being said, I wouldn’t trade our club for anything now. Everyone’s good, everyone’s at a similar level, and everyone’s super chill.
You invented the Horseshoe disc guard – was that a polo-specific invention? What inspired you to create it?
When I had initially talked about going disc, there was a lot of feedback from guys worried about losing a finger or getting a calf cut open. Back then we played really high contact low finesse polo, so that was a totally valid argument. The Horseshoe was basically just to satisfy that point of view. I like the way it looks, and I’ve managed to sell a few of them to different clubs around the world, so that’s pretty self satisfying too. There are a few different options out there, but most of them are application specific, and i wanted something that anyone could bolt on (with some exception.) So for the most part, if you’ve got a disc specific fork (as in not something you welded together) you can use the Horseshoe.
You’re also known for being a stickler for rules – how do you see the expansion of rules (such as we’ve seen with the 2012 draft NAH rules) affecting polo?
I don’t know that its a being a stickler for the rules as much as I’m just a loud mouth with no tact. I’m the guy that reads the entire catalog and memorizes what page and part number the cool parts are under. That and I mistakenly assume that everyone takes polo as seriously as I do. That aside, I think the draft rules make total sense. I don’t agree with everything in them, but that’s why they’re a draft. There’s just no way that this sport can remain grass roots. There are worlds, regional qualifiers, and a damn league. You need rules. And generally, in my opinion, it”s the same people who HATE the rules that will cry when someone breaks them. The NBA has a 2000 page rule book. Ours is like 10 pages. I think we can live with it.
The only affect I see it having is making the tournament play more competitive and somewhat more regulated. It won’t make the team with the best equipment win. I’d hope it will even the playing field and give newer clubs a good basis from which to develop.
Who influences you the most in polo, and why?
Really good teams, I hope. Seeing these teams that have played together for years just owning games. Pittsburgh really motivates me to learn how to pass and play with the two other guys/girls on my team. I’ve always enjoyed watching them. They contrast so strongly against the power/force teams, and yet they score and win games. It’s almost like watching a bull fight.
What do you consider to be your best skill and your worst fault when playing?
I’m too cocky as it is. So of course I’ll answer this:) I ride a lot, and i know my bike. I think that transfers over to just about every aspect of polo. Having good bike control opens so many doors on the court. That, and I can get my fat ass moving pretty quickly.
My worst is definitely that I forget to pass, a lot. I can’t win games by myself, but sometimes it takes half of a game to remember that. And I take things too seriously.
Do you think Polo is more or less open to new players since you started?
It’s more open in that there are more resources, and more players (at least here). But at the same time its so much less open at our club because we’re right at that point where we need to start having a ‘B’ night. New guys come out and just look generally scared. I can understand it. All of our core guys have progressed so steadily that its super easy to forget how slow we played just a year ago. We need to create a better environment for the new guys for sure. And we need more chicks that play polo.
Not really. I never say it but I owe a huge amount of thanks to the club for letting me take charge of things so often, I’m sure its really annoying. And to my lady, for having grown up in a cycling household and understanding just how the bike comes into the family dynamic. Not many people could understand that and take it in stride.
Editor’s Note: Please make sure Horse’s Lady is aware of that last sappy part, or else it’ll all be for nothing.