Four Things You Don't Know About Bike
They really like fashion, for example.
By Sharon Clott
Esquire Magazine, April 11, 2007
On the scale of dangerous jobs, bike messenger is wedged somewhere
between third-shift convenience-store worker and IED bomb squad member.
They're a breed apart, hurtling down cracked urban streets, swerving
around cabs and dodging idiot tourists, their squawking walkie talkies
trumpeting yet another successful delivery. Fuck the post office --
sleet, snow, gloom of night, tractor trailer, traffic jam -- ain't
nothing stopping a bike messenger's appointed round.
But it's more than a job for these guys -- it's also a sport. This May,
they'll be competing to see who's best, running in the 10th annual
North American Cycle Courier Championships in San Francisco. In his new
book and documentary, Pedal, photographer Peter Sutherland examined
last year's race. We asked him to do the same this year, as well,
exposing four things you might not now about the hardy urban athlete
with one pant leg rolled up.
#1. Your dad could be a
"People think that the typical bike messenger is a tattooed guy with a
silkscreen on a shirt wearing an army hat. But, there's a lot more to
it than that -- there are dads from the Bronx and the guy who has no
other choice because he makes messengering his 9-to-5 job. Or there's
someone like "Kid" -- he's in the film. He focuses on "messengering,"
not just cycling, and prides himself on knowing all the tricks of the
trade -- locations, fast ins-and-outs, dispatching. He'll make
deliveries against all odds."
#2. They're serious about
"This is a profession that attracts a certain type -- an expressive
type. There's always an eclectic style to bike messengers. Their
wardrobe ranges from handmade stuff to customized clothes. The bike
messenger isn't exactly the guy going out for the football team. Jonas
is like that. He's from Denmark. He was there with a group of friends
and all of them were messengers. They travel to messenger races and
embrace the whole lifestyle."
#3. They don't stop
because...they don't have brakes.
"A lot of messengers ride fixed-gear bikes, not track or road bikes,
meaning they ride without breaks. They're definitely serious athletes.
Like James, the guy with the broken hand. He hadn't been messengering
for long, but he is very fast. He had a bad fall near the end of a
race, picked up his bike and ran with it across the finish line. True
#4. Cabs are their nemesis.
"There's a dark side to messengers, like the weather isn't always good
in cities, substance abuse, and honestly, people get hurt. There's a
scene in the documentary where a female messenger gets hit by a taxi.
The sound of the car hitting her was so loud that I almost vomited when
I filmed it. I thought she was dead. Really, it's a sketchy sport. When
you're young you feel bulletproof. But there are also a lot of
uncalculated risks that make this sport so dangerous."