A programmer switches gears – so to speak – and takes up a career as a bike courier. From 2005. I wonder what he’s doing today? web.archive.org/web/20050…


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….

As a courier, you will get hit by cars. It is an occupational hazard…. A certain brash courier from another company who liked to refer to himself as “The Fastest Messenger in Toronto” (and he may well have been, arrogance aside) once told me that he didn’t wear a helmet because having a safety net makes you reckless and that if you are fast enough, you don’t fall. The next week, he went through the back window of an SUV that stopped suddenly and spent two weeks in the hospital. I don’t know a single courier who has worked the job for more than a year and not been hit at least once….

One thing I was surprised to discover is that pedestrians are almost as dangerous to the full-time cyclist as drivers are. Especially if you indulge in sidewalk riding, but frequently even if you stick to the road, people will dart in front of you or suddenly stop or change direction without even the most cursory glance or indication of intent. A car, at least, can’t change its direction of travel by a full 180 degrees in half a second.

Mitch Wagner's Blog @MitchWagner