Thursday, October 20, 2011

Polo on Paper: The Hangup

This play is a bit riskier, in that it's a three-up offense with little chance to fall back, but if executed correctly, it could be pretty deadly.

the hangup

I call it the hangup, in that the goal is to block off the two defenders and create a one-on-one situation with the goalie. It could be especially potent on a left-handed goalie, as you'll be coming on their weak side, but you can easily reverse it for a righty. Players 2 and 3 are supposed to make a lane for the shooter by tying up the defenders. Of course, the other team's positioning has a lot to do with this, so the exact movements of the play would have to change, but the basic idea stays the same: Get in front of the defenders and don't let them get away.

It's important that if one of the two blockers should dab, it'd probably be a good idea to head towards the goal after the tap. There's definitely a lot that could go wrong with this play (missed block, foot down, bad shot deflection for a turnover) but if the blockers are really good, the shooter might even get a couple of chances to shoot by picking up a deflection.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

World Finals on Paper

Now for a couple of more advanced plays. Mr Do's videos from the finals in Seattle are stuffed with good polo. These examples are less plays and more just good positioning and teamwork, but they definitely could be run as plays and be effective. I'll be referring to times from Mr. Do's World Finals video if you want to follow along at home.

Here's the first example, found at 19:15 - a brilliant example of a three up, triangle formation attack.


Players 2 and 3 move up the right side of the court, player 2 controlling the ball. Near the half, he begins to barely circle back towards the left, passing to player 3. After a brief control, he quickly passes to player one, who has crept up the court for a shooting position to the left of the goal.

There are a number of smart plays going on here. First, with three up, the defense is forced to leave one man open to prevent an open goal. Of course, this opens up the possibility of a quick counterattack, which is why player 1's circle back is so key - if the play doesn't work, he's in great position to race back to guard the goal. Player 1 has effectively tied up one defender, and the pass from player 1 to 2 is just enough to draw the attention of the second, leaving the third attacker open. This would have also worked if the defense had chosen to cover the pass instead of attack, because to do so would give an open shot. About the only counter would have been to have two players back and one roving defender, but this strategy makes it very hard to regain control of the ball and begin a drive, and must rely on the other team to mess up.

Basically speaking, triangles are where it's at, offensively. The defense has a tough choice with who to cover, allowing great passing lanes to open up.

The second example can be found at 22:27, just a nice bit of passing that opens up a shot.


This play isn't quite as brilliant as the last, but is still pretty solid because its lines are very atypical. Player 2 is taking the ball up the left side, with player 1 to his left. Instead of continuing up the left board, both players curl to the right, player 1 just a bit behind, ready for the backwards pass. While you can never say for sure what the defense is going to cover, heading back towards the opposite side of the court when you don't have the ball is a good way to shake a defender. Again, if the defender had chose to cover the pass to player 1, it's possible that this could have opened up a shot for player 2. Ultimately, this play didn't result in a goal, but it's definitely a break from the normal, and in another situation, that could be enough to confuse the defense.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Polo on Paper: Kriss Kross

The second play, and one that sees alot of use at pickup, I'm calling the Kriss Kross, a variation of the 1-2.

kriss kross

The basic difference is that, instead of taking a straight line, the two forwards switch lines before a pass and then a shot. The basic idea is, first, that it's harder to cover a player when they're moving around the court, and second, to possibly confuse any defenders. Again, good coverage will neutralize this play, but with an unwary or slow defense, there's a good opportunity for a shot.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Polo on Paper: The 1-2

While taking the ball up the court and slamming out a goal with no clear plan is awesome fun, it's amazing how just a little strategery can wreak havoc. Even the simplest plays can be extremely effective, as long as the entire team is on the same page. To that end, I've started collecting some of the simpler polo offensive plays. First, let's take a look at something so simple it barely qualifies as a play at all. I like to think of it as the 1-2:


In case you aren't adept at reading plays (polo is the only sport I have any semblance of knowledge about - I looked all this stuff up online), I'll break it down. A solid line with an arrow is movement forward, a dotted line is a pass, and the double arrow is a shot.

So, here we have pretty one of the most basic ideas. One player takes the ball up the court, crosses half, then passes to another player who has just reached a shooting position. Wham, bam, one-two punch, goal.

A good time to use this is right after being scored on. If you can get back up the court before the other team has time to cover player two, this can easily take the goalie by surprise. Of course, this is pretty easily countered by simple coverage, but what'd you want, I did say it was one of the most basic plays. It's easily reversible to take advantage of a goalie's weak side or a shooter's strong side, and can be really potent with a righty/lefty combo.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mallet-Making 4011: Countersunk Bolts

If you follow polo blogs at all, you probably saw this post on about a new mallet-mounting system. I could give a little tutorial about how to do it, but really, it's explained pretty well, so I won't bother detailing it here.

Anyways, this system is AWESOME. Drilling through the shaft has always been the worst part of making a mallet for me, and this does away with that completely. Plus, this makes heads easily swappable without damaging the integrity of the shaft by having to put in a new screw.

09-26-11 Bike Polo
Adam's patented three screws and a drill bit attachment method
is now obsolete. Photo by Kermit.

On top of being easy and clean, this method simply holds better than any other I've tried. The head stays firm thanks to the filed teeth - no twisting or jiggling, no screw to bend or break.

Metal-Mantel Approved.

The only thing I would add to the tutorial is that the nuts needed weren't at my local Home Depot or Lowes - I had to go to a smaller, local hardware store for 'em. But I shoulda done that to begin with, right? Also, make sure the bolt head is flat and tapering down to the threads so it will be flush with the mallet-head and able to fit into the countersink hole. This might sound like a no-brainer, but I definitely didn't think about it the first time and bought rounded-head bolts.

The only downside I can see is that with this method, you end up having to cut off a good bit of the taper; the nut gets trapped pretty far from the bottom of the shaft. Maybe this could be solved with different nut sizes, but there wasn't a whole lot of selection at my local store. I'm not a taper-enthusiast anyway, so this doesn't really bother me, but I could see it sticking in a craw or two - but for me, this is perfect. Definitely not gonna make mallets any other way.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Do the chuckle hop

Charles continues to jump. Not impressive enough! Next time, endo out, then fakie 360 off the truck. Haha juuuuuuust kidding.

Shot by Carter after polo, 10-5-11.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Dick Shaft Measuring Contest

In which I compare the shafts of Fixcraft, Eighth Inch and Milwaukee Bicycle Co:

Since ski poles are basically impossible to find in Memphis, everyone has started to rely on the pre-fabbed junts. Since I've had/played with (at least) one of each of the major offerings (old and new eighth inch, black and silver fixcraft, green and orange MKE), I thought a review was in order. So let's break it down...

Milwaukee: Regal and Majestic
Basic question - how much is this gonna run me? Keep in mind, I figured all this based on being shipped to Memphis, TN. So if you happen to live really close to one of the various companies, that'll reduce the price a bit. But any way you slice it, fixcraft has got the best deal goin'. A single shaft is 14.99, and when I got mine, shipping was $10.80 - this was February '11; I couldn't get a current quote online since they're plumb out right now. Eighth Inch is next with $26.87 shipped (though they have the highest base price, $19.99), and MKE will pick your pocket (jay kay) for $30.34 (base price $15.99). Of course, eighth inch offers free shipping on any orders over $50, and MKE does on orders over $75*, so if you're bout to drop a bunch anyway, fixcraft might not be the way to go. But still, Fixcraft wins the cheapwad's choice award.

Fixcraft and MKE both use the same material on their shafts, 7075 T6 Series 4 Aluminum, while Eighth Inch uses 6061-T6. What does this mean? Hell if I really know, but I've noticed that 6061 seems to bend more than 7075, which might sound like a bad thing, but it also seems to bend back into shape easier. Personally, I'd just rather have a shaft that bends less. Score for MKE and Fixcraft.

Fixcraft: Beloved of Frogs
Now, to me, this is pretty much moot. I've found my preferred mallet length to be around 37", and all three shafts are plenty long enough for that. However, I've seen people with mallets WAY longer than mine, so if you're one of those people, you'd probably be better off avoiding the eight inch, which is listed at 105cm (about 41"). MKE cuts 'em a little longer, at 43", and Fixcraft even longer at 49.5". Fixcraft wins again, although I do wonder if they're trying too hard to compensate for something like small feet.

For us weight weenies, MKE managed to make their shafts just a bit lighter somehow, at 3.54 grams/inch. However, the difference is pretty slight: Fixcraft manages 3.84 grams/inch and Eight Inch 3.87 grams/inch. I do wonder if this has changed since Febrary, as all this information comes from each company's website - the main reason I got a fixcraft shaft to start was because I calculated it to be a little lighter than MKE. Course, this all gets to be a bit wonkified anyway when you consider...

Eight Inch shafts are completely straight, meaning their weight is going to be consistent throughout the shaft. MKE and Fixcraft, however, both have tapering ends of 15" and 16" respectively. In theory, the more taper you leave, the lighter the grams/inch will be. Taper is also important to some people who claim that the taper is actually stronger than the straight section, and from my experience I have to concur. On the other hand, right now the taper is nearly moot for me personally, due to my method of mallet building. I always make a half inch hole in the top of the mallet head and force the shaft through it as far as it'll go, all but eliminating the taper. Even though it's all pretty much the same for me, I suppose it's better to HAVE the taper for the people that want it, and fixcraft has got the edge, if only by an inch.

Eighth Inch: R.I.P.
Finally, the big one. All that other stuff won't mean diddle if your shaft is gonna bend/break during the first game. While that might sound unrealistic, that very thing happened to me the first night I took out a mallet - and this was practice, mind you, not an actual game. It's nearly always the same thing that gets every mallet: the dreaded cross-the-wheel monster shot that whacks your shaft into your front wheel. So which shaft yeilded to the wheels of steel (or, well, aluminum) the quickest? The answer, surprisingly, was fixcraft. In spite of having the edge in pretty much every other area I can think of, I've found that they just don't wear as well as the other brands. While they probably bend and dent just as much as the Eighth Inch ones, it's much harder to bend them back, and snapping them is a real danger if you get too energetic with it. My MKE mallets, in addition to wearing better, just FEEL more solid. I know this is subjective, but I feel like intangibles like this are just your brain figuing something out that you just can't put your finger on.

Roasted, Toasted and Burnt to a crisp.

Hands down, MKE shafts last the longest and stay the straightest for me, and that's what really counts - maybe it's that coat of paint they slap on it. Perhaps if fixcraft was noticeably better in terms of weight or price, I'd be tempted to use them instead, but really the differences are mostly cosmetic. The shafts are nearly identical on paper, one just plays better than the other for some reason. Still, once fixcraft launches their new XT (Extra Tough) shaft at the end of the month, I'll definitely give it a try. Since they are a bit cheaper, if they can make a shaft that resists bending, I'll gladly make the switch. I regret to say that Eighth Inch just isn't for me, again because of the bending, but also because of the weight. In theory it's not that much heavier than fixcraft, but it somehow feels that way - could be that taper difference. Of course, they do have the benefit of having mallet heads that screw right on, making them a little more appealing for an absolute beginner, but at this point I really enjoy the process of making mallets. For now at least, it's MKE ftw.

* - Originally, I had said MKE offers free shipping on orders over $100. Ooops!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tommy Gun

I haven't been keeping up with fixed freestyle all that much recently, so it's weird that as soon as I get bored and check on it, I find this amazing video that was released a mere four days ago.

Tom La Marche for Specialized from Uncle Buck on Vimeo.

Tom. La. Marche. Booyah.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Memphis Polo Vid

Early this summer, Jason Sheesley got some game footage and interviews together to make a little polo intro. To my knowledge, this hasn't really been posted up anywhere so I thought, what the hell:

I managed to avoid getting interviewed, but he still managed to catch a few fleeting shots of me in action. Check out the sweet exposed lower back action!


In fact, if you look a little closer...

A tramp-stamp is born...

An open message to the NAGAV8R



Photo by Cara.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Long Overdue Chrome Kursk Review

As frequent readers might remember, last year, to kick off Chrome's entry into the shoe market, they gave away a free pair of their shoes to anyone that sent in their old shoes. Sweet deal. Well, after a year and change of wearing 'em on and off, I think I can finally make some kind of judgement on 'em.

Da shoes. And a mallet. For context?

As you can see, they've held together pretty well. I've definitely never had any shoes that didn't rip or lose their tread after around six months of abuse, much less a year and a half. I do have my gripes, however.

One of the laces broke pretty quickly - not a huge deal, but still, not fun. Laces, of course, are easily replaced, but these have little metal dealios on the ends so they don't fray. Eh, one step forward, one step back.

Also, right out of the box, the right insole felt like it had a crack running through it. A little weird, but not uncomfortable. Just a factory defect that got by somewhere. Pretty sure I could have gotten them switched out, but seeing as they were free to begin with, I didn't wanna bother.

Last kvetch: The shoes themselves are made of cordura, not canvas, which means they're pretty tough - hence the no tearing part. However, my tender-footed self finds the heel especially to be a bit TOO stiff. I haven't suffered any blisters, but it feels like the heel of the shoe is digging into my heels and ankles. I can't say this for sure, but I feel like they were partly to blame for a strained ankle - with my regular shoes, I feel like I can sorta roll my foot with a fall (which may cause its own problems, but still). With the Kursks, my foot plants, causing the ankle to bend along a very defined line. At one point, after wiping due to a pedal strike, it felt like the shoe almost SLICED into my tendons - it felt like something in my foot was popped outta place by the shoe itself. If the shoe had just a touch more give, I feel like I coulda avoided the injury. Orrrrrr, I probably should have just worked on NOT FALLING and stop blaming a shoe for my own ineptitude.

Now for the good stuff. Like I said, the shoe is VERY sturdy and tough. Some of the rubber on the sides has kinda peeled away, but the shoe itself is standin' up to whatever I throw at it, which is one reason it's become my shoe of choice for mountain biking. Another reason is the little elastic strap to hold your laces in so they don't get caught up in your drive-train. And of course they look pretty cool, although, as with Converses, when I look down I sometimes feel like I'm wearing clown shoes.

Finally, the sole of these shoes is pretty great:


It's nice and thick enough to dampen vibrations from hitting a billion roots at Stanky without feeling like there's a million miles between your foot and the pedal. Plus it's red, which looks especially cool on a bike.

Cut to the chase: These shoes are pretty dang nice. I would definitely consider paying the full 70 bucks for 'em once my first pair wears out, but only if I happened to have a bit more moola than I usually have. Great splurge, but far from an essential.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cycle Memphis 4.0

So, the latest Cycle Memphis ride went off without a hitch last Saturday - unless you count Jason hypnotizing Rem with phat beats so that he crashed into the boom-box trailer.

That sentence makes sense, I swear.

Anyways, the ride was pretty much how it always is: critical mass without calling it that. The pace was...We'll say...leisurely. Twelve miles per hour is leisurely, right? Little less turnout than usual, but there was alotta bike stuff goin' on that day already, plus the little cold snap. Kermit did manage to grab a few videos of Cara doin' what she does best: ridin' fakie, tire slides, rollouts. She makes it look so smooth! Check it out:


Monday, October 3, 2011

Chuckles McGee

This was posted up on facebook, but as not everyone is hip to the facespace/isn't friends with Rem (of memfixed fame no less), I thought I'd post it up here too:

Video by Rem

Featured is Memphis fixed rider Charles Fox on his Volume Thrasher, badass in his own right. Definitely at the forefront of Memphis FGFS, especially as far as hops/balls are concerned. If anybody in Memphis has the skillz to progress to the stuff some of the other big fixed riders are doing right now, I think it's him.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Where's yo' head at?

Well, summer's winding down and I feel like it's time this thing had a purpose - other than the reading list on the sidebar.

There's a butt-ton (button?) of stuff to slowly sort out and post, but I'll start with the thing that's really started to grow on me the past coupla months: mountain biking.

Pictured: a butt-ton button.

About a year ago, I bought a Surly 1x1 from a friend of mine on the cheap with the intention of giving polo on a freewheel a serious try. It definitely seems to be the way most of the rest of the sport has headed and I wanted to see if there was a reason for it. Well, whether I just didn't give it a long enough try, or had just progressed too far fixed to turn back and try something new, or maybe even just wanted the extra cool points, I didn't end up liking the experience and ended up with (yet another) extra bike.

The 1x1, which I have dubbed "Hot Pants" due to the flamin' saddle it came with.

I took it on the Wolf River Trails a coupla times and had fun, but it really hasn't been until the past few months that I've waded waist-deep into it. After thinking I was hot shit on the WRT doing a coupla blue trail laps at mach 5, I finally got up the nerve to go to Stanky Creek with Kermit. Naturally he pushed the shit out of me (almost literally, as I overheated a little over halfway in and had to fight back puking), but it was still amazingly fun - albeit humbling. I've got a pretty long way to go before I can consider myself a decent rider, but every time I go I shave off a few minutes. Course, based on my most recent times, I'd still be competing for third-to-last place in category 3, but if I keep improving at the same rate I am right now (yeah right), I'll have first place on lock in...about three months?

Anyways, it's exhilarating as hell and very different from any other type of cycling I've ever done. If you're one of those road-only, commute/group ride/polo kinda people like I was, you should at least give it a try. Not to oversell it, but IT WILL BLOW YOUR MIIIIIIIND.