Bike Polo Beginnings

I’ve been into bikes since I was five or six, when I first learned to ride a two-wheeler. I’m fairly certain I learned on this orange-y yellowish bike that had a banana seat that I had borrowed from one of the neighbour kids. I have a vague recollection of working my way up and down the fenceline of my parents’ yard until I finally got the hang of it.

Like most kids, my bike boundaries were well defined. At six, I was up and down half the block. By seven, the end of the street. Eight, and I could go around the block and to the corner store(s) by myself. After that, I started commuting to school. In high school, before I got a car, I seemed to only date girls who lived outside the city limits (and/or half-way up mountains).

I took a pause for some car-driving years (say, 95-02). In ’02, having just moved back into Vancouver from the ‘burbs, I borrowed my dad’s mid-80s Stump Jumper, bought some clothing to help avoid road drownings, and got straight down to being a bike commuter. My commute started out as a ride from Knight/E. 59th to Pender/Thurlow, later becoming Boundary/Marine to downtown, and then finally Boundary/Marine to Lonsdale/15th in North Vancouver (a mere 36km round trip daily). The trip was faster than car or bus travel, and it made such a difference in my life, being able to shed stress to and from work every day.

Once we moved to places that had winter climates, my commuting season shortened, but the commutes themselves didn’t. In Ottawa, my first house was a 20km round trip, and the last place I lived in was 49km daily (Orleans-YOW). Edmonton (St. Albert) to the base was 26km round trip. By this point, I’d long since graduated from Stumpy, having gone through a Norco 10-speed that I’d been given by some friends, and then later, onto what’s now my main ride, a Jamis Beatnik fixie.

Along the way, I’ve tried to get my kids into biking, and I think I’ve succeeded partially. My eldest occasionally rides his bike to his friends’ houses, even though he’s got a bus pass. I got a good-fitting bike for my daughter this year that she likes, and so I’m aiming for her to be more independent on two wheels.

My youngest is my road warrior. He’s 10. He commutes by bike daily from my house in View Royal to his school in Esquimalt, almost 10km round trip. This kid is built to ride. We went to Recyclistas together to buy him a bike for his birthday last year, which is what set off this whole thing for him. The difference for him in having a bike that fit with good gears was a world of change, and it allowed him to really power through some of the tougher hills that exist around my place. More than that, he’s gotten to experience the same kind of freedoms I enjoyed as a youngster, and he’s using them to his advantage – being that all his friends walk to school (we live outside the catchment area and there’s no bus service), he’s able to have after school hangs. His friends’ parents even take notice, as he rides his bike on his own to their houses without any parental taxi action. He’s confident, and he understands the kind of impact that riding can have on his health and his environment.

So where does that leave me? I’ve got the shortest commute by bike that I’ve ever had – 2.5km each way. I barely crack a sweat going to work. But I do most of my trips now by bike or by foot. My truck doesn’t see a whole lot of action anymore, and I’m very okay with this.

Now, I find myself getting more into bike repair. Christmas this year saw me refurbish a bike for Kristy so she has a set of wheels available to her here. I’ve got a repair stand coming this week so I can take better care of the fleet of two wheelers that are in my garage, and like I said in my previous post, I’m planning on volunteering at Recyclistas so that I can gain more experience.

I’ve talked enough about how I got here. Now I’m going to talk about what I want to do this year — BIKE POLO. Glory be, I think this might be the sport to end all sports for me. There are enough histories of bike polo floating around the internet for you to read. As with most things I seem to be doing of late, I’ll document what’s going on – my plan at this time is to build up a bike and a mallet, figure out what’s what, and get down to some solid play time.

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