Don’t Be A Dick

Text and photographs by Fergus Coyle

Throughout the endless summer of 2019, I got to know a fantastic bunch of people who’d regularly meet at a court just south of the river in Bristol, U.K. This was a time long before social distancing, where you could share a beer with a stranger as the sun goes down over North Street.

The project began after reading a post by Bristol Bike Polo about a newbie day, where you can rock up and learn the ropes. After a few drills of traffic cone slalom, I was ready for my first game! Bike Polo requires a unique skillset demanding a mixture of bike handling, mallet on ball coordination, and an awareness of the players around you. With beginner’s luck on my side, my mixed team of amateurs and regulars won our first game, and from then on, I was hooked!

Bike Polo has its roots in early 2000s Seattle. A group of cycle couriers played on a basketball court between deliveries. It’s generally accepted that this is where the general ruleset originated, which is still in use today.

There are 5 main rules:

  • 3 against 3

  • Don’t put your foot down

  • 10 minute game or 1st to 5

  • Mallet on mallet, bike on bike, body on body

  • Don’t be a dick

The “Don’t be a dick” rule reflects a shared ethos that can be interpreted both on and off the court. Bike Polo is an all-inclusive sport that promotes mixed-sex teams and individuality - to the point where nobody’s going to question your appearance; if playing in a kilt is your thing, then cool! 

My time documenting the Bristol Bike Polo scene lasted a whole summer of Thursday night meet-ups, grabbing a few precious shots between games before the light faded. Little did I know it was to be the last summer of play before a two-year hiatus.

With infection rates dropping in the U.K, there could be some hope towards group activities starting up again. The Bike Polo scene could once again flourish here in Bristol.

To keep up with Fergus’ work follow their instagram here.

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