TURLOCK -- On this field of play, there is not a single Ralph Lauren outfit.
Nor are there men with royal titles or well-bred ponies.
These Turlockers prefer polo on two wheels.
On Thursday nights, the self-described "bruise collectors" bring their bikes and mallets fashioned from ski poles and PVC pipe -- dented from repeated impact -- to a California State University, Stanislaus, parking lot.
Never miss a local story.
As the Beastie Boys blare from a truck radio, players try to smack a bright orange street-hockey ball through two pylons for a goal. Unlike traditional polo, contact is allowed, but it must be bike to bike, mallet to mallet or body to body.
"It's intense. There's nothing like it," said Jason Boudreaux, 25. "Girls like scars, too."
Bike polo dates to the late 1800s, but the game being played on asphalt in Turlock and cities across the country is slightly less civilized.
The U.S. Bicycle Polo Association, based in Sacramento, promotes a less rough-and-tumble version played on a grass court with rules barring collisions. The organization's director, John Kennedy, said "urban bike polo," like Turlock's game, is the fastest- growing segment of the sport.
"It's still largely an underground thing," he said. "But the game has really taken off."
Kennedy said bike polo was born when the English government sent a shipment of bikes to a ruler in India or Afghanistan. The ruler gave them to his stable boys.
"These guys suddenly realized they could play polo," Kennedy said.
Bike polo caught on with enlisted members of the English army and got so popular that it was an exhibition sport in the 1908 London Olympics, Kennedy said.
In Turlock, the game began with a small following. As they learned the game, rough cases of road rash were more common. Bike shop owner Matt Nascimento, 24, said he once wore a tire mark down his back.
Now, about two dozen people ages 14 to 40 come out to play bike polo weekly.
"Seeing these kids come out is really cool," said Adam Crowell, 40. "This thing might have a future."
Instead of riding bikes pulled out of a Dumpster, they now play with brand-new mountain bikes retrofitted for their sport.
The only hand brake is on the left side of the handlebars so righties can hold on and freely swing their mallets. Disc brakes allow them to keep riding smoothly even if they're rear- ended. The handlebars are taller for better mallet clearance. The bikes have tough frames and heavy-duty rims.
On a recent Thursday night, people walking by with briefcases and strollers couldn't help but stop and watch. In a similar pattern, they cocked their heads for a moment, then smiled when they figured out the game.
"They don't really know what it is," said 14-year-old Dustin Peters, the youngest player on the blacktop.
The players hope they'll one day have another area team come challenge them.
What do they want to say to Modesto bike enthusiasts?
"Bring it on," Nascimento said.
On the Net:
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2337.