on the move
Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 3, 2004
By Claude Peck
Araby Williams, 26, favors black outfits, to match her fingernail
and punkish affect. Ebullient Tim Hayes, 23, is more colorful, in camo
a flaming red helmet and blue-tinted wraparound Spy shades. Soft-spoken
Allen, 23, boasts vintage bike shoes and a prized shoulder bag he won
the annual Twin Cities bike-race-bar-hop called the Stupor Bowl.
Bike messengers in Minneapolis, those fixed-gear phantoms who tear down
Avenue and disappear into skyscraper lobbies, are fast-moving
whose runways are city streets. Their style draws from punk, bike
thrift stores, practical necessity and tribal flair.
"Most of the way we look is for utility, but it definitely comes across
a certain look," Williams said. "We get a laugh when we see
emulating our style."
tim hayes speeds down nicollet mall
Williams was sitting in the front window of the Dunn Bros. coffee shop
Nicollet Mall, a popular hangout for many of the downtown messengers.
stripped-down, fixed-gear bikes, or "fixies," lean against trees and
out front, locked only to themselves. Though employed by different
companies, the messengers usually sit together, a few goldfinches in a
of sparrows. They swap stories, rib each other and work crossword
while awaiting their next call.
"The messenger community is pretty tight," Hayes said. "You can go
the country and always have a couch to sleep on."
Despite differences ranging from preppy to punk, the messengers share a
that identifies them just as surely as the Target executives,
Minnesota Orchestra players and WCCO-TV camera crew members who also
the cafe, which often fills with the burnt-coffee smell of an on-site
Allen, who rides for Blazing Saddles, said that messengers elsewhere in
country tend to wear more bike-specific clothing. "The Minneapolis
look a little less 'technical' than in other cities, and a little more
store-y," he said.
tim hayes sports a favorite cap
Messenger style is born of necessity. Stiff-soled biking shoes are
though some messengers wear sneakers. The bike shoes, with or without
clips, distribute leg power more evenly to the pedal.
The spandex bikewear of the weekend warrior is worn by some of the
but they favor black over bright, and hide their spandex under long,
shorts or pants with cuffs rolled high to avoid chain grease. On the
body, layers help control body temperatures between cool outdoors and
buildings, while bright colors help riders to be seen by motorists and
stupid enough to get in their way.
Bike-lock keys often are worn singly on telephone-cord bracelets or
from carabiners to speed the repetitive locking and unlocking of
Common to all messengers -- and widely adopted by the rest of us -- is
cargo bag. The big waterproof bags (popular brands include Timbuk2,
Reload and Baileyworks) are worn high on the back, with a wide padded
across the chest that has a ring or buckle for quick release. Most of
messengers have their phone or walkie-talkie clipped to the strap, and
smaller strap under the armpit to hold the bag and its contents (legal
architectural renderings, contracts, burritos) tight against them.
Hayes is proud of the blaze-orange Dank bag -- handmade in Seattle,
an appliquéd Grim Reaper on the flap -- that he won in a Chicago
Headgear includes wraparound shades, baseball caps and the smaller
caps (Hayes prizes his orange one with the insignia of a Spanish Tour
France racing team), knit caps, tighter-fitting helmet liners in black
earrings. A few messengers wear bike helmets, though just one messenger
requires them of its riders.
Damien Tank, 22, has ridden for Benco since May, and also plays in a
the Skinnys, with another bike messenger. His look is "all about
He resembles a university student, in baggy cords, wool socks, sneakers
a ball cap. But even his low-key look shows glimpses of messenger
new high-tech biking gloves and a Crumpler
shoulder bag. In an adaptation
worthy of the cult movie "Grey Gardens," Tank fashioned a no-flap scarf
ripping the top off a maroon knit cap and pulling what was left down
his head as a neck warmer. By all means, do try this at home.