Welcome to our bi-monthly contribution from The Bikesmith, Jim Steffen. Twice a month he’ll highlight a local bike enthusiast and get their perspective on riding in Memphis. Leave your nominations in the comments.
Local artist Funlola Coker is a rad bike polo player. And she thinks you could be one, too. She even thinks I could be one. When Funlola talks about how fun bike polo is and how supportive the Memphis bike polo community is it’s with an enthusiasm that is hard to match. And she and her bike polo comrades have built a scene that is inclusive and fun and very Memphis. If you’re interested at all in biking, meeting new people and shenanigans, I suggest you check out Memphis Hardcourt Bike Polo. Funlola will be happy to show you the ropes.
How did you get into bike polo?
I stumbled upon it at the 2011 Midnight Classic. It was 2 o’clock in the morning and the ride was over. My friends and I were stuffing our faces with donuts and beer when we saw the court set up with people playing. We had no idea what it was so we went over and tried it out. I sucked and thought I would never try it again, but I went out to Bluff City Sports where we used to play more often and just kept going back!
What is the best part of the Memphis bike polo scene?
Definitely the friends I’ve made! I don’t think I would have kept going back if it they didn’t encourage me. I had a hiatus from polo, well more than one, but I kept going back because of all the support. The people of Memphis bike polo club loves to travel around and make new friends. I’m really looking forward to more of that this year!
How’s the bike polo scene in Memphis different than in other cities?
So far I haven’t traveled out of Memphis for polo, but when people come from different cities to play it feels like a big family reunion. The Memphis club just loves having new people come and play and are very encouraging. From what I’ve seen from other cities clubs, it seems very similar.
If someone is interested in watching you guys play or joining what should they do to get involved?
I’d say find us on Facebook or instagram and like/follow us! That way you can keep up with where we’re going to be. Now that it’s getting warm again and it won’t get dark so soon, we will be playing more at Bluff City Sports. That usually happens on Wednesdays and Sundays at 7:30. It isn’t an ideal court (it’s a lumpy parking lot) so sometimes we play in Germantown or Southaven. So if you know a place let us know! Tennis and hockey courts are perfect… or even a big spacious parking lot. If you want to come out and play, we’ve got a couple of loaner bikes that you can use. The more people that come out, the more chances we get to play!
What are things that make a bike awesome for bike polo? Does glitter help? Are you allowed to put spikes on your bike?
The right size bike that’s comfortable for the player is always best. If you’re just starting out you don’t need anything fancy, but it needs to be without pokey or stabby parts so handlebars should be capped and such. It can get quite physical on the court and you don’t want anything to hurt anyone or yourself. So glitter yes, spikes no!
What would you say to someone scared to start playing bike polo?
Don’t be! Everyone in the club says it’s something they never thought they could do. Some people have mountain bike or track riding experience, but a few including me don’t. As long as you’ve got the safety gear and the desire for fun you’re good to go. Someone recently told me that if you’re playing polo, you’re winning. That attitude goes a long way.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to begin biking in Memphis and doesn’t know where to start?
It really is about just getting on a bike and going for it. Before I had a car, I did it out of necessity and I wasn’t too comfortable with it. Memphis wasn’t as bike friendly as it is now, but it could be better. If being on the road is too overwhelming, you can always take your bike to Overton Park trails or the Greenline. I love taking the Greenline to Shleby farms and riding around there. No cars! I feel that it’s important for me to say that I never thought I’d be a “bike person,” but I’m not sure that should be a thing. Now I’m playing bike polo and learning to build a bike. Anyone can be a bike person.
And finally, can you teach me how to ride a wheelie?
We can hold hands and learn together! I’m practicing right now so come back to me in a few weeks and maybe I’ll show you.