Most bike polo afficionados surely deplore the thoroughly unstylish (yet popular) practise of cobbling together makeshift chukkah equipment out of plumbing pipe and old ski poles. As a result, the Brooks team began last year to investigate possibilities for a more elegant Limited Edition mallet that would reflect the rich English heritage of our name, and of this old-but-new sport.
Which clearly meant a huge investment of time and money, without the strong likelihood of any tangible return. But we felt our bike polo mallet was so important that it should not be fettered by the economic dictates of mass production, nor the insistent throb of common sense.
Dispensing with aluminium and plastic, we looked to establish what natural material alternatives were available for making the World’s Finest bike polo mallet.
We sensed that what we were looking for was continuity with the Brooks brand. Ideally, the wood of some uniquely English tree, that could provide both the sturdy flexibility needed by the shaft, and the light, yet steely density required by the head. It was just at this time we became the beneficiaries of a most fortunate coincidence.
We found ourselves at Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire last November, taking photographs for our new campaign “Unquestionable British Tradition“.
During the shooting, Marketing Manager Andrea Meneghelli jokingly mentioned to the property’s owner what a pity it was that the forest was comprised of beech, a wood totally unsuited to something like polo mallet production. The owner replied in passing that, although the trees were indeed mostly beech, there was also a sizeable rash of ancient hickory nearby.
Back at his hotel that night, Andrea googled “hickory” and discovered, among other things, that it was used back in John Boultbee Brooks’ day to make… golf clubs.
That settled it. A week later we had our first four sample hickory trees cut at Burnham and brought to the Smethwick Works.
After much trial and error (during which much hickory was discarded), we found that the wood at the base of the hickory’s trunk, when seasoned and tempered properly by a process similar to the one we use for our “Aged” saddle line, can become more than hard enough to serve as a mallet head, while further up the tree, the wood near the pith is far more “bendy”.
From this we established that the best “head-wood” was near the centre of the trunk’s base, while the best “shaft-wood” was about four fifths the way up each tree. Branches and the remaining portions of the trunk were uniformly unusable.
The findings of these tests ultimately pointed to the necessity of using one hickory tree per mallet.
We feared, of course, that some might consider it obscene to chop down an entire forest for the production of a small quantity of bike polo equipment. But we are equally convinced of the extraordinary force that bike polo exerts on the world of youth culture, and the obscenely important financial consequences of meeting the needs of this young, brand-conscious demographic.
However, in deference to those less concerned about fun, and more about old living things, we decided to compromise and limit production of the Brooks “England” at 70 mallets, barely half the total number of hickory trees growing in Burnham until November last year.
And concerning the waste, the unused portions of the tree will now be in use in our Hoxton basket.
Below, we see one of our colleagues at the Smethwick Works putting a finishing touch to an “England”. The handle can be wrapped with Brooks Leather Bar Tape, or as below, set into one of our Bar Grips. Optional sharpened rivets can be attached to the “business end” of the head.
Therefore, Brooks wishes to hereby announce that “dropping” on the 8th of this month at precisely 8 (eight) a.m. at only 8 (eight) selected Brooks Dealers Of Excellence worldwide, each of whom will receive only 8 (eight) ‘England’ mallets. Retail Price : 8,888.88 (Pounds Sterling)
The ‘England’ will be on display this summer in Seattle where Brooks is title sponsor of the 2011 World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championships.
In other news, plans for the new Brooks Helmet are well underway.
Photo courtesy of Richard Masoner www.cyclelicio.us Thanks, Richard!
Behold The Inquisitor, a Limited Edition “retro” leather helmet to mark the European Cycle Messenger Championships taking place in Madrid this summer. And in a break with tradition, we have provisionally agreed to relegate (on just this one occasion) English leather in favour of something more in tune with local mores.
Brooks Marketing Chief Andrea Meneghelli felt, that were we able to source the hides of one or two bulls recently dispatched at Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas by some of Spain’s leading matadors, it would send a good message out from the company not only to ECMC participants, but to Spanish cycling enthusiasts in general. We expect to have the first run of Inquisitors ready by the end of May, with perhaps an accompanying short film of the entire process. Olé!