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Thread: Couriers??

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    Career Cyclist threadend's Avatar
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    Couriers??

    The search engine didn't turn up much on this subject so I'll ask, feel free to direct me to a thread that discusses this subject if you know of one that exists.

    Has anybody here done time as a courier? Where? How Long? Best memory, worst memory, why'd you quit?
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    TB Player A F Baker's Avatar
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    http://www.chibikefed.org/

    I learned about this website from the book called The Immortal Class by Travis Culley. The book is about bike couriers in Chicago, and the website is at least partly dedicated to couriers.
    'No other folk make such a trampling,' said Legolas. 'It seems their delight to slash and beat down growing things that are not even in their way.'
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    Senior Member bikerider's Avatar
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    I worked as a bike courier for about 8 months a couple of years ago. Like most, I tried it because I wanted a job where I could be outside getting excercise without someone breathing down my neck all the time. I notice that there is a great 'mystique' relating to bike couriering. Most of it is BS. It is poorly paid, gruelling and somewhat distasteful work. Many courier companies are unscrupulous and have a high rate of turnover. Couriers are often treated like crap and many of them have an attitude of their own. They spend 1/3 of their day in elevators.
    You will have several near-misses with vehicles a day. You will either be sitting around bored or you will be in a tremendous rush.

    However...

    if you have a passion for cycling all day and every day no matter what the weather you'll love it. Everyday is a rush and on the better days you'll know why some people can't do anything else.

    My best experience was being asked by my dispatcher if I could get from where I was to a major client and pick up a package to be dropped of at Revenue Canada (our 'IRS') before they closed that Friday - which was in about 12 minutes. If I failed they would have to pay a 'huge' penalty. I said 'sure' and I pedalled my a$$ off. It was like a time trial - I pushed myself as hard as I could go and I knew I had to make it. Not for the client, mind you, but for the personal challenge. I made it with time to spare (not much, mind you) and when I phoned my dispatcher he breathed a tremendous sigh of relief as if the fate of humankind rested on the successful delivery of this package! This was a great client incidentally, that's why I hustled. Like most humans, couriers respond according to the way they are treated!

    My worst experience was my fifth day on the job. The temperature was barely above freezing and it rained all day. I was not well-equipped for it and I spent the entire day soaked through. All the packages got wet. Everything got behind so I had to carry more than usual. I finished late and my fingers were blue by the time I got home. Worst. Day. Ever.

    I quit because of the lack of money. The working conditions simply aren't worth the low pay IMO.

    Ok, I've rambled on long enough. Are you contemplating trying this? If so, don't let my negativity scare you away - give it a shot and after a few weeks you'll know if it's for you.

  4. #4
    Carfree since '82. Grrr! JonR's Avatar
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    This is a good thread! Though at age 62 I'm pretty obviously not going to set myself up in the courier business, I have always admired bike couriers and what I've read here confirms my admiration.

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    Career Cyclist threadend's Avatar
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    Thanks for the link and comments. I'm to old to become a messenger :-) myself, but I am thinking about starting a delivery business that employs messengers. Mostly as a way for local highschool and college kids to earn some cash. Of course I do expect to get a return on my investment, but earning a living isn't the goal. Setting up a scholarship program using some of the proceeds is also part of the plan.

    I've done considerable research on the internet but get the feeling the real story lies somewhere beneath the information that I've been able to find.

    I'm am trying to find information about the size of a population base that will support this business. I know big cities with huge populations are the common setting, but these services seem to serve only a small sector of that population or have a regular clientele.

    Any thoughts or knowledge along those lines.

    TIA
    2003 Iceman Challenge - 2:34:55 - 897 / 2,000*
    2002 Iceman Challenge - 2:39:23 - 1093 / 2,186
    2000 Iceman Challenge - 2:49:18 - 1516 / 2,153
    *estimated

  6. #6
    Devilmaycare Cycling Fool Allister's Avatar
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    Going on my wife's experiences as a courier a few years ago, the biggest proportion of clients are lawers. If there are lots of lawers in your town you should do ok. However, if there are no existing bike couriers in your area, perhaps it'd pay to find out why before throwing too much money into it (it could be simply that it hasn't occured to anyone yet).

    I do admire what you're trying to do though, so good luck, it deserves to succeed.

    PS. If 'nike courier' didn't yeild many results in your search engine, try 'bike messenger', which I believe is a more common term for it in North America.
    Last edited by Allister; 02-12-02 at 01:51 PM.
    If we learn from our mistakes, I must be a goddamn genius.

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    No experience, but I'd like to be a part-time bike courier/messenger. However this is not very likely. The nearest place where they do this is at 20K distance which most employers consider as too far, even for some other jobs
    But the main reason is that they told me outright that I wouldn't be suitable, being a WOMAN! Perhaps they were correct in assuming that I would be more obedient to traffic rules and less willing to risk my neck for some 'stupid' parcel. It just seems a good way to get and stay in shape..

    Money isn't a concern, so it's just for the cheap thrill and fitness aspect I want to do it...

    Ivana
    vehicular cyclist : commuter - tourist - randonneur

  8. #8
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Originally posted by fietser_ivana
    It just seems a good way to get and stay in shape..

    Money isn't a concern, so it's just for the cheap thrill and fitness aspect I want to do it...
    Sounds like bike commuting, to me!
    No worries

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    Senior Member bikerider's Avatar
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    JonR: I appreciate the kind words. One courier I know in Toronto is in his late 60s and he seems to do ok.


    Originally posted by threadend
    ...I'm am trying to find information about the size of a population base that will support this business. I know big cities with huge populations are the common setting, but these services seem to serve only a small sector of that population or have a regular clientele.

    Any thoughts or knowledge along those lines.

    TIA
    As I was only a 'grunt' my observations would be of limited scope but I can give you my impressions (long).

    First off, despite the existence of fax machines, email and fancy communications technology in general, there is still a massive amount of paper being shuffled around - maybe more than ever. I don't think that this situation will change anytime soon if it hasn't by now.

    In Toronto there are dozens of courier companies (other than UPS, FedEx, etc) and they use (privately-owned) cars as their main source of business. Competition among companies here is fierce and the market is completely saturated. Many - but not all - also employ 'bikers' and 'walkers' as well whose main purpose is to serve the downtown 'core' and 'walkers' often utilize the subway lines as well. I believe the ratio at our company of car/biker/walker was about 15:3:1. The bikers/walkers only have the speed advantage in the downtown and in Toronto there are a huge number of businesses in the 'burbs surrounding the city. I often got the impression that the non-car couriers were fairly trivial in terms of revenue and were simply there to be competitive downtown so that they could retain the client.

    Perhaps there is not sufficient traffic congestion or the distances are too great to support the use of cyclists in private courier firms.
    I imagine in smaller towns where nobody has set up a business people use UPS and FedEx, even for small packages. I can't really give more insight other than to suggest contacting local businesses and see if there is a demand. Lawyers, Insurance Firms and Investment Companies are common clients. Companies are often reluctant to change couriers but using bikers you could easily undercut car/major couriers. If you have any more questions which you feel I might be able to answer feel free to email me.

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    Little Debbie Fiend Club KevinG's Avatar
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    Here is the best messenger site I know of.

    http://www.messengers.org/main.html
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    Center of the Universe ngateguy's Avatar
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    I was never a bike courier, but I was one of the evil dispatchers. I too have a lot of respect for most bike couriers, at least the ones who show up when it rains and snows!! My couriers are the ones that goaded me into commuting (If you are going to make us work in this weather it is only fair you know what it is like) Are there any former ENA (Seattle) riders from the late 80's out there? drop me a line if there are (It is the mighty and all powerfull Dave) remember choir practice?
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    i've applied at the local courier shop (Breakaway Bicycle Couriers, LLC) a while back. they didnt have any openings at the time, unfortunately. i'd love to go work for em now, part time because i'm in school as well, but they require a fixie, and i can't afford that right now. such is life.

    It is poorly paid, gruelling and somewhat distasteful work. Many courier companies are unscrupulous and have a high rate of turnover. Couriers are often treated like crap and many of them have an attitude of their own.
    the only difference between that and working at the pet store i'm at now is that well, i like bikes, and i dont like pet stores. i'd be doing myself a favor by becoming a messenger.

    the local shop i mentioned above is really the only one in milwaukee, and the guys are always out on the move (i'm downtown a lot, and i never fail to see at least one of them)
    i ride bikes.

  13. #13
    Friend of Jimmy K naisme's Avatar
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    Originally posted by fore
    i've applied at the local courier shop (Breakaway Bicycle Couriers, LLC) a while back. they didnt have any openings at the time, unfortunately. i'd love to go work for em now, part time because i'm in school as well, but they require a fixie, and i can't afford that right now. such is life.
    Dude, a fixie is easy, it's like finding a used steel bike stripping it down to its essense, and if anything springing for a rear wheel and a cog. Take a look at what the messengers are riding, they aren't spiffy Eurotrash Colognas, they are meat and potato USA steel with no name, cause they get beat up and run the risk of theft, accidents and weather. I've only seen one messenger on a Bianchi Pista, and I think that was his going home bike.
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    i can barely afford a new innertube these days *shrug*

    i've been checking out garage sales and such in the hopes of finding one, no luck yet.

    there's one guy around here on a bianchi as well, and i've seen one other 'eurotrash' frame, i forget what though
    i ride bikes.

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    Originally posted by fietser_ivana
    No experience, but I'd like to be a part-time bike courier/messenger. However this is not very likely. ....
    But the main reason is that they told me outright that I wouldn't be suitable, being a WOMAN! Perhaps they were correct in assuming that I would be more obedient to traffic rules and less willing to risk my neck for some 'stupid' parcel. It just seems a good way to get and stay in shape....


    Ivana,

    I don't have any official statistics, but my own observations on street and in our office shows there are a few female bike courriers. How many? Probably between 5 and 10% at most.

    I'd like to do that one day, for fun, but I know I don't fit the profile. I'm good at long distances, and I hardly speed...

    Regards,
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

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