couriers take to the streets in race
PM, ABC Local Radio, October 2, 2006
Reporter: Jennifer Macey
MARK COLVIN: It's a public holiday in New South Wales but Sydney's bike
couriers were out on the streets - not to work but to race.
The winner of today's competition will wear the red "Champion's" jersey
when Sydney hosts the World Cycle Messenger Championships later this
Hundreds of cycle messengers from all over the world will be in Sydney
for the championship event.
Jennifer Macey reports.
(Sound of bicycle bell)
JENNIFER MACEY: Sydney's bike couriers find it difficult to separate
work from play.
On days off, groups of couriers compete in unofficial alley-cat
competitions, which replicate a day at work complete with pickups and
Police say if cyclists are breaking road rules they'll be punished, but
organisers say they don't condone any cyclist to break the law.
SIMON MCKENZIE: There's seven checkpoints, each one has a pickup, and
each one has a delivery. So basically you're getting seven jobs, we're
off on two minutes, there'll be three people going at each two minutes,
so don't try and follow someone, cause they may be doing a different
way to you.
JENNIFER MACEY: Today's winner will have the honour of wearing the red
champions jersey when the city hosts the 14th annual World Cycle
Messenger Championships later this month.
More than 200 messengers from interstate and overseas will be competing
in two days of races.
One of the organisers, Simon McKenzie, says it's the first time the
event is being held in the southern hemisphere.
SIMON MCKENZIE: Being a bicycle courier or a cycle messenger is a very
different way of cycling. It breeds different skills to the general
commuter, or to a road cyclist, or a track cyclist or a mountain bike
And the only way for us to showcase our skills at the highest level is
to simulate exactly what we have to do on a workday. It's not about the
dealing with traffic, it's being able to think quickly and process
information straight away and work out which way you have to go. It's
almost like a cycle orienteering event if you like.
JENNIFER MACEY: The main race at the championships involves a gruelling
three-hour closed circuit course at Olympic Park to ensure there's no
Riders work out their own quickest route to pick up and deliver the
bulky odd-sized parcels.
English bike courier Ian says the championships are not just about
IAN: It's more of a celebration of what we do, rather than anything
else. It's a coming together of our culture.
It's not necessarily about winning. There's always the
testosterone-fuelled few who always feel they need to prove themselves
as being the fastest, but I don't race to win, I just race because it's
there, you know, it's fun.
It's all coming together and doing what we love.
JENNIFER MACEY: Couriers use the gathering to meet up with colleagues
from around the world and exchange hair-raising stories about
negotiating traffic or simply to show off their fixed gear bicycles.
Nadine Schloss is the reigning German women's champion, and has arrived
early in Sydney for some pre-race training.
NADINE SCHLOSS: I won the race, and I won the flight over here, cause
Lufthansa, they sponsor the flight to the women winner.
Couriering, yeah, you have to love it, I think. And I do. So why not
REID: My name's Reid and I'm from Vancouver Canada. Couriers do lots of
races on weekends and holidays and stuff like that, so ... I've done a
few here, and a bunch back in Canada as well.
JENNIFER MACEY: And are they tough?
REID: Maybe not physically tough, but they can be tricky some times.
Like, some times there's a scavenger hunt, so you have to find
different objects - a purple flower, maybe, and a beer coaster from a
certain beer. So some time you have to be smart, instead of just fast.
RANDALL: I'm Randall from Zurich, Switzerland. For me it's not all
about the race any more, it's for about seeing the bike messenger
community, and it's like a big family, we know each other for years.
You're going to meet new people, and it's all a big party.
RACE ORGANISER 1: Gather round people, the decision has been made.
(Sound of applause)
RACE ORGANISER 2: Shane-o, our winner.
(Sound of applause)
JENNIFER MACEY: Local courier Shane Clarke finished today in 30 minutes
and 46 seconds.
SHANE CLARKE: I thought might as well come in, race before the World
Championships to get a practice run at it, and to walk away with the
jersey, it's, I'm quite happy, I'm stoked, I can't wait for the World
Championships, look out, here I come!
MARK COLVIN: Sydney bike courier Shane Clarke, ending that report from
Having once been knocked over while on crutches by a cycle courier, I
do hope they stay off the pavements.