Spoke-in’ — Biking, Schooling, Living the Dream

His tattooed wrist declares “Ride or Die,”  but don’t be fooled by a motor-obsessed world – Ian Summers’ wheels of choice are of the chain and gear variety.

For confirmation, look no further than the back of his legs — ink renderings of bike gears. And for a Californian who loves to ride his bike, and even make a sport out of it, Summers found just the right place.

Although he’s not entirely sure how he ended up in Eugene, Ore, Summers is completely sure that the School of Journalism and Communication’s Advertising program, with a close-knit, family-like atmosphere, was the route he wanted to take – and take it he has. In learning advertising tricks of the trade, Summers has learned to do a little of all: writing, art designing, and lots in between. It’s the perfect blend of creativity and media creation for him.

“Where else can I write and do cool stuff and get paid for it?” he says.

Besides majoring in Advertising, the skills he picked up in his Multimedia minor inspired Summers to do something he’s dreamed about since he was 15 – write, illustrate, and create his own zine.

It was those skills in Advertising that led Summers to make a zine about a sport he’s adopted as his own – the emerging and up-and-coming sport of bike polo. A cross between street hockey and a demolition bike derby, Summers is now fully responsible for Eugene Bike Polo. (“The other guy moved away,” he says.) And his zine has become the up-and-coming how-to guide for Eugene’s bike polo community that’s quicky shifting into high gear.

Although it originated in Portland, bike polo cruised down the Willamette Valley, Summers says, and “sat in Corvallis” until his friend Sean brought it to Eugene. “New York claims they started it, but New York thinks they started everything,” he says with a chuckle. All it takes is four cones, four mallets (made from ski poles), a street hockey ball, and enough enthusiastic people for a three on three team. Oh, and some bikes.

There’s not a lot to the game – the goal is to make goals, after all – but the game is better kept that way: flexible and malleable. “The whole thing is to keep it without rules,” he says, “because if you put a bunch of rules to it, it gets lame.”

Summers is rampantly enthused about anyone coming to join the Eugene Bike Polo entourage – it’s a sport that people from all walks of life can, and do, come and play. “There are bike nuts from across the board,” he says. “We have bike mechanics and mountain bike racers and the fixed gear kids… People come from all walks of cycling.”

The concept of putting polo while simultaneously riding a bike might seem intimidating to some, but Summers brushes that aside with a wave of his hand. “It’s really hard, but anyone can learn it,” he reassures. Anyone can get good at it really quickly, but it’s still tough to learn. “Sometimes I forget that it’s really hard… It’s hard to remember how hard it is.”

So once Summers graduates – and passes the Eugene bike polo torch on – he plans to scoot on up to Portland, where an ad agency and an edgy weekly magazine are catching his eye. And needless to say, when he’s not taking the reigns on a campaign, he will probably be found hollerin’ out commands with a bike polo mallet, his legs melding into his bike with a wide grin on his face.


Anyone interested in playing bike polo should either contact Ian for more details, or just show up to the Washington / Jefferson Park at 8:00 PM every Thursday with an open mind and  (believe it or not) a bike.


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Filed under Alex Strack

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