“Radpolo” (in German) or “cycle polo,” or “bike polo” is a lot like the polo played with horses, but played with bicycles instead, as the name suggests. It can be more practical for an urban setting, especially the hard court (rather than grass field) variety, which can be played on any hard surfaces available.
Bike polo made its Olympic debut in 1908, when Ireland – which invented the sport – beat Germany for the gold. Over the last century it had lost popularity here in Germany, but had a resurgence in the United States and India, dubbed “new powers” in the sport by the 1980s.
It was not until the 2000s that bike polo began to gain new fans across the world, when cycle couriers made it a more urban sport, catching on mainly with city bike enthusiasts.
Since 2007, bike polo has been back in Leipzig.
The players and fans trickling in are curious about the sport’s local home next to the Auwald, where teams play mostly on Friday nights. It is a little outside of town in Böhlitz-Ehrenberg – but it’s a refreshingly quiet place, with nothing around.
Say Richard Scheringer, who was one of the first people to play bike polo in Leipzig:
“We have taken part in the Rollhockeyclub Aufbau since 2012, playing in public spaces like Clara Zetkin Park. But bike polo itself is still a sort of a niche. That is why we have to travel, if we want to compete.”
Like in wintertime, when it’s too cold. The hard court gets icey, and they are glad to go and join Bikepolo Halle in their little gym.
The ones who are into this niche sport know each other across Germany and even Europe – it is actually quite an international sport these days, with a large online community. Especially people from Halle and Berlin are seen from time to time in Leipzig. Two weekends ago, they all met in Böhlitz to have a one-day championship.
The net is cast wider with the International Peppermint Polo Cup this Friday and Saturday (16-17 June).
“As preparation for our big tournament in the next week, we will have twenty teams from six nations playing bike polo and having a good time around here,” Scheringer tells us.
The event is called Peppermint Polo Cup #5, and it’s named after the popular regional drink Pfeffi. One of the sponsors is a producer of the grass-green minty liqueur.
“But it’s all about fun,” Moritz Schefers says about his new hobby. “I began last year in summer, and I had heard about it from friends. Since I am from German bike capital Münster, I was excited from when I first saw it. And by Christmas I had my own bike.”
Before that, he’d go with the beginners’ bike used by a former player. And as there are still just two handfuls of active players, they are happy to meet and interact with those interested in getting started.
“The best way to get in touch is just come around, watch and try it out. Even at the tournament,” Scheringer adds, just before hitting the courts again, where he hear, “3… 2… 1… polo!”
Peppermint Polo Cup V
16 June 9 am preliminary // 9 pm pickups
17 June 10 am – 7 pm finals // 8 pm rookie session & pickups // 9 pm aftershow party
Ludwig-Jahn-Straße 24, 04178 Böhlitz-Ehrenberg
Cover shot: Peppermint Polo Cup in 2015. (Photo by Michel Klehm)