A man on a bicycle lifted his mallet and blasted a street hockey ball between two orange cones for the game-winning goal.

 

The players converge every Sunday, and sometimes on Thursdays, at "The Pit" -- an asphalt court on the corner of Chrystie and Broome streets in Chinatown -- for a pickup game of 3-on-3 bike polo. The game involves pedaling quickly, stopping and starting on a dime, and occasionally colliding into each other.

 

Bike polo is similar to equestrian polo, except that the playing space is much smaller and light contact is allowed. Occasionally, someone will break a finger or lose a tooth, players admit. But that hasn't stopped the sport from taking off in popularity.

 

"It's one of those things where once you catch the bug you're hooked," said Sean McCormack, a freelance photographer who drove 15,000 miles last year just to play in bike polo tournaments.

 

He called "The Pit" a fabled court that is "almost the mecca of the East Coast."

 

The sport was invented in Ireland in the 1890s. But it fell out of favor until a group of Seattle bike messengers formed a new incarnation in the late 1990s. Today, it is played in more than 300 cities worldwide.

Watch 'em play




Looking for a cheap way to spend your Sunday? Games are held every Sunday at "The Pit" from 2 p.m until dark, and benches surround the court.

They also sometimes play on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Tuesday games are held at various courts in Brooklyn, and Thursday matches can either be in Brooklyn or at the court in Chinatown.



On a normal Sunday, about 12 to 20 bike enthusiasts head down to the "The Pit."

Many more play at tournaments, such as the upcoming East Side Polo Invitational, which will pit a team from New York City against teams from Boston; Washington, D.C.; Richmond, Va.; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The tournament will be held in New York this weekend.

A North American champion will be crowned in Milwaukee later this year.