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Building a Polo Bike

This is a great write up from hardcourtbikepolo.com for building a Polo Bike. Thanks Doug Dalrymple!

Doug says, "I ride my bike and you’ll ride your bike so it’ll be good to remember that these are just my suggestions on how to make a bike better for the courts.

Probably the top two things that make a bike a polo bike are the gear ratio and the handle bar set up but we will get to that and I’ll start as if we are building a bike from the frame up.

Frame: I have always liked steel. It might not have a weight advantage but it has stability and strength. Also since polo bikes work best with just one gear it’s best to get a frame with horizontal rear drop outs. This is the easiest way to adjust chain tension. Or switch from a street gear to a polo gear and back again if you have a flip flop hub with a gear on each side.

Fork: Again steel will be best. Uni-crown forks are becoming more popular on polo bikes. When matching a fork to your frame consider the brake options, that is if you want to run a front brake. (currently I do not run a front brake. I run a rear brake only)

Gearing: An overwhelming number of polo bike are single speed, either they are freewheel or fixed gear so there is only one gear that drives the rear wheel. Just as a starting point I ride a 1.666 to 1 ratio. Meaning that I have a 35 tooth MKE Pologuard as my chain ring and a 21 tooth cog on the rear wheel. Divide the ring by the cog and that’s the ratio. (35÷21=1.666)
Different players use different ratios depending on riders style and court size. And the same goes for the choice between riding a fixed gear or a freewheel. Either bike is allowed so it then is a matter of choice for the rider. I used to ride fixed, now I ride freewheel.
Typically any gearing between a 2 to 1 and a 1 to 1 would not be out of place on a bike polo court.

Handle Bars: First, the most important thing to remember about handle bars on a polo bike is that THEY MUST BE CAPPED!! (suggested caps here)
After that is again up to the rider to determine what it is they like. I like narrow straight bars. I swing my bike polo mallet with my right hand so I have my brake lever on the left side.
The ideas behind having short handle bars:
1. Less likely to hit them when swinging at the ball.
2. Less likely to be bumped by other riders near you.
3. More likely to squeeze through tighter spaces.

Brakes: Most polo bikes have just one brake lever. Even ones that do have a traditional dual brake set up will still be only using one during most of game play. Therefore it is important to decide if you want your lever to actuate the front or rear brake caliper. Front has more effective stopping but the rear allows for skidding and less chance of endos. Again this is the choice of the rider.
I use a rear brake and have made sure that the caliper and lever are high quality and I change my brake cable often.

Wheels: Two things that are very popular with polo bike wheels are having 48 spokes per wheel and wheel covers or disk covers on the front wheel, if not both.
48 spoke wheels are going to be stronger than the standard 32 spokes and give less chance for the ball to pass between the spokes. Wheel covers are sure to stop a ball and protect the spokes from some damage.
Velocity makes two really good rims DeepV and Chukker available in a range of hole counts up to 48 hole.

Pedals: This one is pretty simple. You’ll need pedals and I’ll suggest plastic BMX platform pedals because they are cheaper ($15-20) and have a less abrupt reaction to pedal strike. Another thing is some people like to use straps. Hold Fast makes a Foot Retention System that is made for BMX pedals.

My polo bike."


The League of Bike Polo Bikes

The folks over at The League of Bike Polo have a nice gallery of polo bikes that could help inspire some ideas. Check them out and see what you can come up with. Here are a few recent bikes.

The League of Bike Polo Gallery