I’m probably the most equipment-obsessed of the players in Brum, and the only one who plays on a new(ish) bike. Everyone else’s bikes are older and more rickety than mine, but I work in a bike shop and get a tasty discount, so I can afford to splash out.
It’s a Genesis Day One 2010, in farm-gate size 60cm, with a few modifications.
First, I needed a lower gear, as cheaply as possible. The easiest way to do this was to get a basic mountain bike chainset and use the ‘granny ring’, which in this case was 26t. Coupled with the 18t freewheel, it gives me 39.2 gear inches (according to Sheldon Brown). I firmly believe that this is about right for polo on the size of courts we are using in the UK. Many people in Brum are using bigger gears, and I can always out-accelerate them despite the fact that I am a) heavy, b) unfit and c) often in a poor position. If you’re not spinning out a couple of times in each game, you’re probably on too-hard a gear.
Second, I needed a wheel-cover. I went to Express Polythene, a cool drive-thru polythene shop in Digbeth (because who wants to get out of their car when they’re buying plastics?) and bought 1m squares of corrugated plastic for £5 a pop. Being essentially talentless and cackhanded, I made a right pig’s ear of them, but they’re roundish and do the jobs they’re supposed to of protecting the spokes from damage and preventing the ball from squeezing through under pressure (it sounds unlikely, but it happens).
Third, I put on some flat pedals, which are poor for acceleration and frantic hopping (compared to my previous SPDs) but more than make up for it in injury-reduction. Also, with flats it’s easier to take one leg off the pedal when you shoot, which Ben learned from Americans and is becoming de rigueur.
Lastly, I put on some massive tyres (700 x 35c) to raise the bottom bracket height a bit (it’s still not high enough – witness my frequent pedal-strike to slams) and raise grip on wet courts especially.
I played on that for about 6 months and it was fine except the rear wheel especially was too weak. I replaced this with a Halo 48h jobby, which is nowhere near as good as I hoped it would be due to poor quality spokes and it being machine built. It was cheap though. So there.
Recently, I’ve put on a Promax (Taiwanese for “cheap and cheerful”) brake lever which controls both brakes:
This has improved brake performance massively and I now love exploiting ugly stop-start style play against brakeless/fixed or rear-brake-only numpties. Mark my words, dual-brake setups will take over bike polo in a way not seen since the great freewheel vs fixed battle of 2009/10 (freewheel won, in case you weren’t paying attention).
Other smaller changes include a layback seatpost and big long ‘freeride’ saddle (which make morale-destroying wheelie-goals achievable despite the Day One’s longish chainstays), and a 70mm ish stem to move the weight backwards a bit more.
Last but not least, I wrapped some garish bartape around the downtube because I mess up 77.8% of my b/b shots and forcibly whack the mallet against the frame, causing it to bend. This seems to help. Oh, and my friend, colleague and vanquished alleycat competitor ‘Scarily Fast’ Pete, added an hilarious ‘adbusting’ sticker:
In summary, it’s a pretty-good polo bike, although a little bit long in the wheelbase and chainstay especially. I’m intrigued to try 26″ wheels, although they look better for smaller riders than me, and I’ve invested too much in 700c equipment now, so I’m changing back to a Pompino frame soon.