Messenger memories

It is perhaps a little strange that, of all days, it is today that I read Frank Duff’s great piece on Kuro5hin about giving up coding for a life on Toronto’s streets as a bike messenger.  I say this because yesterday, whilst I was out bike riding with sprog No.3 round the docks, I bumped into an old courier friend Sally, who used to ride for the same firm and whom I haven’t have seen for at least 15 years.  These events have brought memories flooding back and have made me more than a little nostalgic for the days I spent as a bike courier in the early eighties.  Whether breaking the winter’s ice on the outdoor toilet at the courier office or wolfing down chocolate pudding and custard in the fuggy atmosphere of of the Court Cafe, I doubt I’ll ever find a job like it.

That said, it appears that whilst the radio technology has improved beyond all measure…

One of the defining items of the courier pastiche is the radio. Though, in fact, these days it is much more likely to be a phone. The phone my particular company uses is a really snazzy unix based number by Motorola with ‘net access via the Telus network. We use text messaging for general communication and each courier has their own PHP generated webpage which they access to view their jobs. When voice communication is needed, the phones also function as MIC radios.

…the choice of bike hardware amongst those in the know remains pretty much the same:

The most common sort of bike you will see couriers on is your standard street bike. Light frame, slick tires, no suspension and between 18 and 24 gears. Among veterans however, the favoured bikes are single speeds. There is a large variety among single speeds as well (fixed drive or freewheel, coaster brakes or hand brakes, etc.) but they all share the advantage of being mechanically simple machines. When you are riding eight hours a day, any part that can fail, eventually will. And probably dramatically. Thus, the simpler the mechanism, the lower the mechanic’s bill.

 1900 bike messenger

One Response to “Messenger memories”

  1. Brenda says:

    I guess a foldup bike is out of the question then….

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