Edmonton lands world bike courier Olympics
Downtown 'brats' will compete for global bragging rights on city streets
The Edmonton Journal, May 19, 2004
By Cathy Lord, With Files From Joel Kom
EDMONTON - Those "pesky brats of downtown" from all over the world will
converge on Edmonton in July for bragging rights as top bike courier at the
Cycle Messenger World Championships.
| Brother couriers Bill and
Mike Thain, front, ride the streets of downtown Edmonton
|Credit: Larry Wong, The
Showing off the power of their thunder thighs and orienteering skills, 500
bicycle couriers from 18 countries will compete July 1-5 for the title of
the world's fastest bike messenger.
Biker Bill Thain has been planning the event for several years and is thrilled
Edmonton was chosen to host this year.
When he tells people what he does for a living, he says, most of them say,
"Oh, you're one of those jerks who cut people off in traffic.
"Rather than being portrayed as the pesky brats of downtown, we're trying
to throw a more positive image on what we do," Thain said Tuesday in an interview,
between making deliveries.
In addition to sprints, a cargo bike race, track bike races and the gruelling
main race, messenger culture will also be highlighted through art, films and
fashion, Thain said.
The main race will take three to four hours, with couriers making pickups
and deliveries at eight to 12 checkpoints on downtown streets.
Courier Andrew Degenhardt said he is happy to be competing for the first
time. "There's going to be lots of parties and lots of events, so I'm looking
forward to it."
Iain Reynolds said doing his job is enough preparation for the competition
but he would like to get some rest before it begins.
Thain said he works hard through all kinds of weather to make about $25,000
a year ($3 per delivery) but he loves the freedom the job gives him.
"I don't like working at a job where the walls close in a half an inch every
day. It drives me crazy."
Of being a courier, he said: "I've yet to find a job where you get thanked
so much in one day. It's not so much about the money as it is about the people
that you deal with. And of course it's great being outside when it's nice
Although faxing and e-mailing have cut into the demand for couriers, Thain
was busy Tuesday taking orders by cellphone and two two-way radios. But at
35, he thinks he's close to retiring from the field.
About 28 bike couriers in Edmonton each make 30 to 60 deliveries a day compared
with the 200 road warriors who ride the downtown streets of Calgary. Thain
said he reaches speeds of more than 45 km/h on his bike.
The Edmonton riders are close-knit and often help each other out.
The Cycle Messenger World Championships started in Berlin in 1993 and were
held in Toronto in 1995. This year's competition is dedicated to those who
have lost their lives while working.
"We've been fortunate in Edmonton," said Thain.
"Edmonton is very bicycle friendly. That's one of the reasons we went after
Thain said he appreciates the support he got to host the event from the
mayor, Economic Development Edmonton and the chamber of commerce.
"Without their support, we wouldn't have been awarded the event."
The Cycle Messenger World Championships in Edmonton run from July 1-5. On
Canada Day, opening ceremonies will take place at Louise McKinney Park, trials
and fixed-gear events are on July 2 at the Argyll Velodrome, main race qualifications
take place July 3 in the river valley and the main downtown event happens
July 4. For more information, check www.hardcoremessengers.com