In a small nook outside of Paris, Bikevibe met up with Paris Bike Polo in Pantin, located next to the Ourcq canal where runners went by and bikers took advantage of the beautiful skies. Pantin, a commune in the northeastern suburbs of Paris, is an up and coming neighborhood that’s filled with diversity and young people. Paris Bike Polo’s practices are held on a court here, and many of the players live here, as well.
Text: Kaitlyn Bové
Photos: Andy Donohoe
As we are walking around the neighborhood on our way to one of their practices, Paul, one of the cabinet members, explains how the neighborhood has seen a lot of change in the last several years. Pantin is home of one of the best bike polo teams in the world, and as Paris continues to grow and expand, so too will the team.
Paris Bike Polo is a warm and welcoming community of players who encourage anyone to join, no matter your background or gender. They are some of the nicest guys in town, with a team comprised of 30 players, each as diverse as the next. They all come from different professional fields, from sports management to the fashion industry, with designers, engineers, jewelry makers, and typographers, to name a few. Paul declares, “Actually, it’s just people with an open mind. You have to be open minded and want to try something different, something no one has explained to you before.” Back in the days it used to just be the ‘hipsters’ in the biking community, but the sport has transformed into something fun for anyone. “You could be a writer and be a great player, too,” Paul added.
How does someone join the team?
“You just go and say ‘Hey, I want to play bike polo’. Like you for example, you could come and play today if you wanted.”
France has around 300-800 bike polo players in the country – 300 being the side of the spectrum of players that steadily show up to all of the practices all year round, with 800 being those who are part of the community but aren’t necessarily going to every practice. They are the chillers who come to be a part of the friendly group having fun. Paul, coming from Toulouse and being the pioneer in their bike polo team in the southern city, comments that Paris has a more competitive vibe to it compared to that of other cities in France.
Paris Bike Polo was created in 2007. Now going on their 11th year they have become the most successful team in the world after having won the world championships two times and making the final rounds three times.
Despite their irrefutable success and growth as a team, the Paris team is not funded by the city. This is not the same for all of the teams around France, but for Paris, it’s unfortunately what they are dealing with.
Why do you think that is?
“Paris isn’t a small community, so a lot of the funding for sports goes to football, or bigger sports. We actually pay to play on the court, which for me is a shame because it’s public services. For example, in Toulouse we never had to pay anything, even the lights, because it’s part of the politics for playing sports. In Paris they used to pay more than €1500 a year to pay for the previous court in the 20th arrondissement, but it’s a bit cheaper now that we’re in Pantin.”
However, bike culture in Paris is changing. The new mayor has proposed to double the amount of bike lanes and promised to commit a great sum of money to expanding Paris into a more bike-able city. With that being said, the group also organised a grant for new players who want to play but maybe can’t necessarily afford a new bike. In 2012, they were also the hosting team of the European championships. The successful team hopes to see more wins in the future. The championships happen every two years, and they’re already preparing for the next tournament. In the meantime, you can find them hanging out on the courts of Pantin, practicing hard, and having fun.