Tag Archive for Bike Polo Mallet

Swordplay: A Few Tips on Keeping The Ball

swordplay

I’m not a particularly fast player. I’m not particularly good at shooting or at creating plays or at using my weight to check other players in an entertaining manner. But if there’s one thing I’ve been working on for quite a while (and, if I allow myself a moment of egotistical clarity, something I’m decent at), it’s keeping the ball when challenged by other players.

Okay, not all the time–maybe I’m not terribly good at that, either–but I’m probably better at it than those other things I mentioned above.

Swordplay is my pet name for when two or more players are manipulating their mallets and the mallets of other players in order to gain possession of the ball or to revoke possession of the ball from the opposing player. It’s not hacking per se, as if done correctly the contact between your mallet and the other players’ mallets should be light and intentional (rather than, well…)

The wild swing

But proper playing-of-swords takes quite a bit of technical skill as well as foresight and patience. Doing it well also requires you to work against your gut impulse, and that’s the first lesson I’d like to share:

Work Against Your (And Your Opponent’s) Impulses

Do you remember playing keep-away as a kid? You’d take something from another child (who now, surely, is in therapy) and keep that thing just outside of their reach, mocking them with some horrible nickname like dingus or fart breath or Matthew. 

Wait. Wait.

Anyway–the premise of that maneuver–pushing the other person to reach out for their ball/hat/pants and then pulling it back away from them just before reaching it–works because you’re using their monkey-impulses against them.

Bike polo is a game where most wrong moves are amplified simply because we are on bicycles and not our feet. If you lose the ball when bombing up the court, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to recover it easily. In much the same way, if you can strip the ball away from another player when you are facing the opposite direction, then you are putting them at a serious deficit for getting that ball back quickly.

The natural impulse when someone is coming for the ball is to pull it in closer to yourself, or to shield the ball with your mallet. While this works with some players, it certainly won’t work all the time. My suggestion is this: misdirect and re-maneuver. Instead of pulling the ball into yourself, try pushing the ball through the other player. By this I mean push the ball behind their outstretched mallet or through their bottom bracket. If they are stretching out to get the ball from you, they are leaving the bubble around themselves wide open for you to use.

Let The Ball Float 

Players have a tendency to hold onto the ball like it was life itself. They feel the need to always touch it with the mallet–tiny re-alignments and pushes so that there is no doubt it will go where they want it to.

This is a dangerous thing to do if you’re hoping to keep the ball from players–but it’s also useful to use the expectation against them as well. Since there are many players who always touch the ball with their mallet, people are just as likely to try to hit your mallet head as much as they are the ball. I’ve discovered that it’s quite possible to give the ball a little push just before someone’s mallet comes in contact with mine (and, presumably, in contact with the ball). The ball might be only six inches ahead of my mallet, but the opponent is still aiming for my mallet head, resulting in nothing more than a momentary strike against my mallet head and leaving me free to continue moving up court.

Floating the ball in situations like this might seem very counter-intuitive, but the truth is you don’t need to be controlling the ball to protect it. If you want to practice this, try the following:

  • shoulder up against a wall with a ball on the outside
  • have someone else try to take the ball from you
  • using your mallet, move the ball just before they strike

Eventually work up to a point where you’re doing this while moving, and you’ll see why it’s so effective. Players, generally, want to get the ball and keep moving for a breakaway–so use that built up momentum against them. Missing the ball will destroy the chance for the breakaway, but they’ll still be heading that way anyway–removing them as a threat.

It’s scary at first, I grant you, but floating the ball around your bike while defending it is very effective.

Mallet Down–always

This is a more general suggestion but it’s useful for swordplay as well: keep your mallet down: when shooting, when passing, when moving the ball–keep your mallet head down. Reason being that you’re creating the opportunity for an accidental save or play on top of taking away those seconds of possible steals or interference (with the ball). By swinging wide you’re opening up a chance for some clever player to take the ball or hang up your mallet–you’re putting your “sword” straight up and away from your body, leaving yourself open for an attack.

Wow, that last comparison really came together.

 

Anyway, those are my tips. I think you’ll find the more you work on quick but light mallet  swordplay, the more you’ll be able to defend the ball from attackers and make your run up the court towards their goal more productive.

 

 

One Special Day: M4M

craigs

Me: thin, wearing a red top with orange pants.

You: dark flannel shirt, leather gloves, a black helmet that covered your (I’m assuming) perfect and always listening ears.

We met in a park where you were exercising with friends. I was scared you wouldn’t remember how to hold me but you must have thought about me as much as  I thought about you. Every time I thought you were going to mix me up with someone else there, you came to me like I was the only one for you.

2014-03-16 16.56.55

But then people started going home and you went, too. I waited for you, but I guess you had other things on your mind (we all do, it’s okay).  Another guy took me home but all I could think about was you.

I’ll be back to the park on Wednesday, Mr. Flannel. I hope you will be, too.

do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers.

Double Capped Mallets: Solving Arguments, Causing Arguments

double cap

So why doesn’t the sport go to double capped mallets? I mean, it would eliminate some of the hooplah about scoop shots, for one thing, and if  I could avoid hearing that argument (for or against) for the rest of my life, I’d be a happy Crusher.

Furthermore, going to double capped mallets would remove a hefty chunk of rules from the rule-set, and that would help streamline the sport, as it were.

Do I think it’s going to happen? No, probably not. We’re creatures of habit, us polo players, and the greats have built up their abilities around a one side capped (or no sides capped) mallet head. The sport would need to relearn the sport, and who has time for that?!

Though I don’t think it’d be the worst thing to happen. Having open ends is a hold over from when we used to steal gas pipe to make our equipment, and because of that we learned to use those open ends to our benefit. When we started making our own (or making caps for those open ends), we learned that having that closed side made for stronger, more predictable shots.

But, we kept that one open side. Oh sure, there are some clubs that experimented with double capped sides, but in the end they were/are the minority. I don’t think it’s because it’s a horrible idea, I think it’s because bike polo doesn’t want to lose that scoopy skill set that it’s gained.

Just give it some thought: what would the benefits be to our sport moving towards having a closed mallet requirement? What are the negatives?

Okay, one negative off the bat would be how to attach the mallet head unless you have a removable cap on one side. Shut up.

For Everyone Who Bought the Fixcraft Cleat:

Fixcraft-Connect-Cleat-1-150x150

Fixcraft is providing a page-long explanation, tip sheet, and background history on the Cleat and why you’re going to like it so much:

For those who got the complete mallet kit or the shaft plus connect, you will have the easiest time of anyone putting your mallets together.  It really is as simple as putting the shaft and cleat in place, and tightening it down. Anyone who has had mallet making parties, or screwed up a $15 shaft before will find a real zen quality to having a modular mallet building experience.  We recommend putting the shaft through the mallet head almost to the other side, then insert the cleat as your mallet is head side up.  Once the holes align, insert the bolt and hand tighten it.  Don’t use a drill gun or get all crazy.  As soon as it’s flush, you are done.

Read the whole thing here – feel like a superstar.

Fixcraft’s “New” Store tomorrow, and a revealing pic

fixcraft

Yes, I know what I said earlier today. I’m a liar and you all should know that by now.

I just had this pop up in my feed from Fixcraft and I gotta say I’m pretty amped:

cleat

 

Now, to be fair, the “cleat” you see in that picture isn’t going to be up for sale for a few weeks, but it doesn’t take away from yet another entry in the search for the greatest mounting system ever in history. This one appears to be shaped to fit on the inside of the head, with a grippy underside, and a piece that corresponds to a prefab groove in the shaft.

Fixcraft has indicated that new heads and new shafts will be available, however, as soon as tomorrow. So keep an ear to the ground.

 

Ok – signing off again. Srsly.

How do you hold it?

LancasterUnitedBikePolo111912 (42)

…and other questions I’ve been asked while at a urinal during the Fall Velo Swap.

If there is one thing I notice consistently happening with new players, it’s the shoddy way they hold their mallet shaft. I think it’s a mix of being freaked out about riding around one handed, being more focused on steering, and just general lack of knowledge. It’s actually the first step I take in determining how strong a person is as a player: how are they holding their mallet? If it’s loose and back, chances are they aren’t going to know how to use it to the full effect.

This is kind of hard to explain and I’m in an office, so I don’t have my mallets with me (well, they’re in the car, but last time I came in with a polo mallet my boss had to have a chat with me about business appropriateness. Whateverrrr….).

Anyway let’s pretend this here highlighter is a mallet. This is how a fair amount of new or under-confident players will hold it:

mallet grip (1)

OK – before we get started: I did take this picture with my hand under my desk, my cube mate did notice and asked what I was doing, and I explained that I needed to document the highlighter. We’re kinda confused with each other right now.

Alright: so the picture: as you can see from the hilightmallet, the grip is loose, the wrist is bent back with the weight of the mallet itself, and it would be amazing if, during the process of swinging, this person hit the ball with any force.

Generally, this grip results in lost mallets, missed shots, and plenty of trouble.

 

The preferred way to hold your mallet is, of course, with a bit more vim and vigor:

mallet grip (2)

Here we can see the hilightmallet is tightly grasped, and the wrist is engaged and straight. As the player maneuvers the ball, their wrist may bend back a bit, but through muscle movement (and not because of a lack of engagement in managing the weight of the mallet). Shots will have more power, as  the wrist and arm aren’t acting as an absorbing element to the swing and contact. the mallet end is consistently in a more predictable place, and the shooter can expect a more accurate shot.

Is this brain science? No, not at all. But there is so much time spent in the training of athletes in other sports on hand position that I thought it funny we don’t necessarily include it in our “welcome to the sport” advice to new players.  At least we don’t in my club.

So there you have it. A tiny thing that can have a big impact. Back to work.

 

 

Stop Missing Passes: One Quick Trick

I am the king of fumbling passes. I am the Monarch of missed dishes and the royalty of…rahrahrreee roo.

I can’t think of one for royalty.

Anyhoo – I used to have a huge problem with catching laser passes from my team mates, and that was a very frustrating thing, as I’m sure you can imagine. It makes you feel like a jerk when your own guy lines up that perfect, if-he-gets-this-he’ll-score shot and you miss it because it flies over your mallet or deflects away.

Here’s a little sum-sum I learned:

mallet 1

If you try to stop a speeding ball with your mallet on the ground (and your entire arm locked up like a statue), the ball will inevitably not do what you want it to. Instead, it will either rocket away from you, deflect along the length of the mallet head, or hop over your mallet head and roll past you.

Instead of this, try lifting your mallet a little bit and letting your arm be a little loose – this not only traps the ball better, but your arm absorbs the momentum of the ball – making it controllable:

Mallet 2

 

And there you go. From me to you. Why you’re using a water filled egg for polo, we’ll never know, but now you’re at least prepared.

OMG NEW PRODUCTSSSSSSS

http://benscycle.blogspot.com/2013/01/sneak-peak-mbcos-uhmw-1-piece-bike-polo.html

Yea.  Great.  MKE puts out some cool products, and they’re really dedicated to the polo scene.  I get that.
What I don’t get is hyping a ‘sneak peak’ that is both the crappiest graphic possible, and a full year late.
Here’s what I think they should have posted instead.

editmke

 

Buying a Complete Mallet – Next Step?

St. Cago does it, Magic does it, MILK does it with their sexy mounting system,  and pretty soon (I suspect), everyone is going to do it.

They’re gonna do it real good.

Buying a complete mallet from a company first struck me as a waste of money and of the personal enjoyment of building your own whacking stick. After thinking about it, though, I have come to the completely subjective opinion that the built mallet for purchase is a logical step and more than likely one that will expand quite a bit in the coming years.

I’m trying to look at it through a historic lens of supply and demand.

Essentially, people create the things they need from whatever they have (demand), eventually smarter people realize they could turn a buck, and they begin making the specific material the first set of people want to purchase (supply), and then those people use that material to create the things they need.

Example: people build dwellings out of local timber, mud, and bear shit. Eventually a general store opens that sells hammers, nails, and bear shit at a modest fee for people to purchase. Home builders are still doing the work themselves, but they are getting a better quality home.

But then the consumers get lazy, and the suppliers get sharp. Suppliers begin offering not only the parts you need to create that house, but the entire house! Now you don’t even need to swing a hammer!

And so it goes with most everything in a consumer culture, and so it will go with mallet making.

Clearly I’d be a fool to think that the purchase of just mallets or just heads will go away (ok – I am a fool, but not because I think that). The way I see it, companies will either begin manufacturing their own mallets that can be cut to size by the polo player or they will make arrangements with other polo making companies to buy heads at bulk and offer them up as part of the deal. This happens a lot in Lacrosse, and I imagine in other sports too. A supply culture will begin to exist between polo making companies, and that will lead to a more unified force in creating bike polo equipment, which will make for better equipment. Capitalism at its finest.

So don’t be so incredulous when you see more companies like St. Cago or Magic offering pre-built mallets for our sport. It’s just the next step.

Equipment Check: Milky Goodness

DSC_0004

Horse already reviewed this mallet head a month ago while his black beauty was still all shiny and new. He’s all about shiny and new. Me I’m more about dirty, worn and old, because I am. He is also all about numbers, so if you need to know how much this weighs or how many micronanograms long is it, go read his post. I’m just gonna tell you the shit you need to know.

First decision you need to make about this mallet head is cost. No matter how great this head may be, if you have to think about how much to spend on a six pack so your kitty doesn’t have to eat out of your neighbor’s trash, then don’t even consider this mallet. No matter how great it is (and it’s pretty fucking great) that cheap or free material you used to use will still get the job done. Plus you can look down your nose at the chumps who spent all that cheddar on one mallet head and you got yours and had enough left over for many beers.

But if money ain’t no thing for you because you’re making trucker’s pay, then get this mallet. It is without a doubt, the Cadillac of mallets. Super light with no drilling, and it transfers your schwing power to that little ball so so well. I figure it has something to do with this Frenchie CNC engineer guy listed at the bottom of this page.

The mounting system did come loose one time, I added a dab o’ locktite and no further issues.

Plus after a month of play, which for me is roughly 15-20 hours, this head has held up incredibly well. I figure I can probably get another 2 or 3 months out of this position, then if i can get two more rotations out of this head the thing will last almost a year. so when you look at it like that, the pricetag is a little easier to swallow. Especially if you can get your group’s merde together and order a bunch to save on shipping.

pics of the goodness after a month of play…