Welcome to Santa Cruz County’s Bicycle Courier Blog

I thought it would be great to have a place where Bike Couriers and Bike Riders could meet and talk, share stories, trade advice, and build an online community. I look forward to reading and writing our Courier stories, news, and comments.

Rick Graves

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Two years and counting...

As two years of business in Santa Cruz comes to a close, it's a good time to reflect on all that we have accomplished. Our growth in size and market share has been achieved at a phenomenal pace, opening up new markets in the entertainment, legal, medical and government sectors.
On any given business day, you will see at least 4-6 Clutch Couriers on the road. We are in your banks, courthouses, post-offices, clinics, college campuses, and office buildings-providing highly skilled professional services for a variety of needs, from delivering blood to notarizing and serving legal documents.
Because we had the chutzpa to provide daily courier services to Watsonville by bicycle since early April, a whole new market in South County is welcoming all bids, motorized and otherwise. It is Clutch Couriers that has the client base and the long term business plan that will maintain and grow this vital transportation link into the future.
We have maintained and grown our client base because of the standards we set and a lot of positive word of mouth. Some of the local envirogencia may not acknowledge it, but we have taken more cars off the road than anyone else because of our emphasis on excellent service. How did we convince the Bus company to replace armored trucks with pro bike messengers for their inter-office mail delivery? With the strength of our great track record and referrals-not political finger wagging.
Clutch Couriers' success over the past two years is vindication of the philosophy I have espoused all along: Make yourself indispensable to your clients, diversify into new markets, and not only is it a net gain for the environment, you are creating jobs that actually provide a future for the industry here in Santa Cruz County.
The more people that hire us because we do a great job first, the greater the impact that it's all done on bikes.
Something to look for in the first quarter of '09 is the upgraded website with e-commerce capabilities and hopefully a cleaner, simpler interface. We welcome your comments on this blog as the site is constructed, check the progress at:
Thanks and praise must be given to our hard-working crew: Asher, Juliette, David, Nick, Jay, and Zack-Without their dedication and work ethic none of this would be possible. Of course you can tell that they love what they do, which is the point after all.
To our clientele and community who have encouraged us through the growing pains, and sometimes derision-Thank you so much. We're not going anywhere, and eventually more people will get behind the fact that Santa Cruz deserves at least two excellent professional bike messenger services.
Finally, thanks and love to all my family-blood and heart. It's your inspiration that keeps me going.

Two years and counting...Here's to many more!


Rick Graves/Clutch Couriers

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dia De Los Muertos

Here are some photos of those of us that participated in this years Dia De Los Muertos bike race. Thanks to Elena and all the other organizers and volunteers, and congratulations to Kelly from PedX for showing us that to win an alleycat it's not just how fast you are but whether you keep your head in the game-


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Branciforte Junior High Bike club

Julie-(Phil Woods niece) from The Bike Trip runs bike safety and culture classes at various middle and high schools around town. She invited me to speak at the Bike Club at B-40 under the heading of "Bike Sub-Culture/Meet Rick Graves-Owner of a successful bike messenger company."

I think I got across how important our job is to these kids, as well as letting them know that it's the most fun you'll ever have working. They loved seeing me use the radio, and I think this will lead to more respect from these kids when they see any bike messenger on the road.

Thanks Kids, Tony & Julie, You Rock!

Friday, October 3, 2008

First Rain!

I Love the first rain of the year. It's a good reminder that in life, shit falls on your head.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Clutch Couriers office pic

Just a quick note to let y'all know that Clutch Couriers (three months ago-lagger) has moved to a new office on River Street.

Come on down if you want to see a tight ship sail.

Nuttin' but Love-


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Re:Last Post

I got some good feedback on some messenger boards about the last post, some people thought it was funny and some people took it personally.

My main point was:

Our long term relevance and survival depends upon us presenting ourselves as skilled professionals-not as a lifestyle posture.

Peace, Rick

Friday, July 25, 2008

Save Our Profession

Like Hip-Hop-The Messenger Image has become a sad self-parody. By my count and definition there are at least six sub-genres from the traditional bike messenger (those of us still doing it for a living).

Hipster(enger)-Used to be a purely musical animal with tight black pants and colored raybans. Add fixie-bike,beard,chrome bag and cap--instant hipsterenger!

Posenger-An offshoot of the hipster, these people look the part but haven't done a lick of work. They religiously attend all alleycats, if only to add to their spokecard collection.

Snobenger-An actual working messenger that has forgot that they belong to the larger human race. They only hang out with people who ride fixed gear bikes, have matching girl/boyfriends, and act like the rest of us take up too much room on their road.

Protestenger-Started out as a critical mass rider and devolved into an individual or "mob" who does stupid shit that makes motorists hate us even more.

Smugenger-An offshoot of the protestengers, these people actually believe they are saving the world by riding a bike. Avoid these people like the plague, they have the ultimate justification for everything they do.

Trustenger-A trust-fund subsidized messenger or collective only in it for the social status. They are willing to work for fees so low as to skew the industry standard below a living wage. Not to be trusted with your documents, they don't really need the work.

Don't let these cliques represent our profession.

My only consolation is that you can only ride so many miles on cool points. Those of us that love the job itself and get up to feed our kids and pay the rent will be around long after this flavor of the month bullshit is over.

Rick Graves
Clutch Couriers

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cultural differences

Some things I'm enjoying in Watsonville that you hardly ever see in Santa Cruz:

Girls popping their gum.
People actually loading stuff in trucks.
Cowboy Hats.
$1 tacos.
The 98 cent store.
No Volvos.
Red Tail Hawks.

I promise to get a new camera soon, somehow the screen on my cybershot got cracked.

Ride safe

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Watsonville and Beyond!

While prestigious Santa Cruz law firms like Bosso, Williams and Nancy J. Kerrigan, have contracted with Clutch Couriers for daily court filing at Watsonville Superior Court, Clutch Couriers already provides legal services to several Watsonville based-firms, (see client list).

We have now expanded our range to North Monterey County, providing daily bicycle courier service to Alpine Gem Flower shippers in the Aromas/Royal Oaks area. A fifty-mile round-trip from our base in Santa Cruz!

Owner Anne Duran says, ”While Clutch Couriers service is excellent, their cost is around the same as the motorized companies, and because they deliver by bicycle they help us achieve our goal of reducing our carbon footprint.”

This is an exciting opportunity for businesses in Las Lomas, Pajaro, Watsonville and all points north to Santa Cruz to be provided with professional courier services at an affordable rate and in a sustainable way.

Because residents of Watsonville have seen Clutch Couriers riders on a daily basis on their streets, courthouses, and post office, and because of the positive word of mouth being generated from their south county clients, Watsonville-based companies are now requesting bids from all providers motorized or otherwise.

Clutch Couriers strategy towards these emerging markets is to submit bids comparable to the motorized competition and then provide a better service.

That way the transportation link is established in a sustainable and economically viable way for both the purchaser and the bike messenger doing the work; a point not lost on most of the potential south-county messengers we have talked to.

It is Clutch Couriers philosophy to raise the expectation and standards of performance in the industry, and provide each rider with a professional skill-set.

The result being a client base that is wide-reaching and amazed at what a bike messenger can provide, and messengers who can be paid a fair rate for those professional skills.

I am seeking your help in getting the word out about this vital link that truly is taking cars off the freeway every day.

For more information visit www.clutchcouriers.com or call 831-466-0560

Thank you for your time,

Richard Graves
Clutch Couriers/Owner

Friday, May 16, 2008

Thoughts on bike to work week

Sustainable transportation is not just a slogan. To give it meaning, you have to put it into action, which is what Clutch Couriers is doing with our new bicycle courier route to Watsonville, a hilly, thirty-four mile roundtrip from our home base in Santa Cruz.

Already the word is out and companies are looking for bids to take advantage of emerging South County opportunities for sustainable transportation in action.

The more people that sign up, the more affordable it becomes, and a new green economy is born, linking the North with the historically under utilized businesses in the South County area.

Clutch Couriers is the only courier company in Santa Cruz County to provide same day filing services to Watsonville Family Law Superior Court, and now that the County has moved all family law proceedings and filings to the new Watsonville Civic Plaza, attorneys in North County are forced to make the long commute by car to get their documents filed or retrieved on time.

That is unless they use Clutch Couriers, removing a car from the freeway, and relieving stress on both person and planet.

By creating professional services relayed by bicycle, Clutch Couriers creates economic upward mobility for a traditionally flat line job, as well as viability for bicycle delivery on a whole different level of the economy.

The effect is cumulative, the more people that do this job well, the more people from different sectors of the market will want to hire bike messengers, a net gain for the environment.

By creating viable sustainable transportation to Watsonville, Clutch Couriers makes possible a satellite office in the Watsonville area creating more green jobs where the need is most pronounced.

When people see sustainable transportation working for them on all levels, both the heart and the pocket book, and when they are served by professional and skilled bike messengers, this will be a movement that cannot be stopped.

The way to truly change the world is through avenues that affect daily life, such as the business sector, not from some ivory tower or panel discussion.

Join us in getting the word out. With your help, the growth of professional sustainable transportation services will be limitless.

And remember, a rising tide raises all boats.


Richard Graves
Clutch Couriers/Owner

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fixed vs. Gears

I'm looking around the various messenger forums (see Lucian Gregg on this blog) and noticing an escalating conflict that is fuzzy in definition but focuses on the fixed gear bike.

I don't want to talk about the narrow conflict of gears/brakes vs. fixed gear but rather the larger reality of the conflicts between everyone that shares the road and the consequences of certain actions and attitudes to those of us that ride for a living every day.

Everybody knows it's how you use it. Experience breeds caution.
Do you slide behind pedestrians, encouraging them to get across safely, or do you buzz-bomb their noses in a blaze of purple and yellow, breeding hatred of all cyclists?

What I wanted to get at in this blog is ways to avoid conflict and possibly death on the road and one of the best ways and hardest to accomplish this is to develop "wu wei" or I call it "duck back".

When I was in my first couple of years in New York I used to marvel at how the most laid back geezers made the most money. Later I realized it was all about the attitude-slowing down makes you more efficient-the more you try to influence or make an impression on the people and obstacles you run across messing in any given day-the more energy you expend and less efficient you become.

Bad accidents and bike trouble start to accumulate and before you know it you're yelling at your dispatcher or client and digging it deeper. Worst of all you are not looking for that opening door or the turning bus-driver who for god sakes can't see if you're riding in his right-side blind spot thinking about how your girlfriend hates you instead of seeing his blinker or tires running you over-and boom-you are riding wheel well for three blocks while your helmet keeps you conscious to feel the pain.

Wu wei will show the way to help us all give each other a brake. Messenger and hipster, commuter and activist, fixed and gears-let's get a duck's back about this and let it slide.

Love, Rick

Friday, January 25, 2008

Biodegradable Bike

Dude built a wooden bike-Genius! Hopefully within a year all the enviro-messengers will be riding this in their clogs.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wannabe Bike Messengers don't get it

I know this is someone else's diatribe but it is so close to my own philosophy and disgust at the creeping hipsterism and snobbishness in our industry that I had to post it.
Plus it shows that whoever told you that you can make $350 a day in Philly is full of it.
I wanted to write a book called "shoot the messenger" about waking up and realizing that all the most elitist jackasses in town were suddenly dressing like they were doing my job but I think a good mockumentary-style send up will do a better job.
The next few postings will follow a theme of simple tricks to stay alive on the road and should be less political-I promise.

The hyper-glamorized job is simply that: a job. BBB dispels bike messenger myths.

By: Julian Root

Temple News, January 22, 2008

To be a bike messenger is to be professionally inconvenienced, and yet it continues to be one of the most romanticized and sought-after positions for young people in cities. Any messenger who denies the implicit "cool factor" is either lying or blind. But what is it that makes this job seem so much "cooler" than similar jobs, like delivering food on bicycle?

Short answer: nothing other than a slightly arrogant, albeit completely ingenuous, sense of solidarity.

Unfortunately for most Philly messengers, this sense of solidarity is often more exciting on the street than it is on their paychecks. Before taxes were withdrawn, my best 40-hour paycheck in the past nine months was about $325. Considering what most eight-hour days of messenger entail, this is hardly worth it in the eyes of most levelheaded people.

It must be the work itself that elicits so much enthusiasm.

On an ideal day of messenger work, life is good. Jobs come in at a steady, comfortable pace, the weather is good, no flat tires are sustained and motorists are generally complacent. However, these days - particularly in the wintertime - are few and far between.

"What can I say about y'all? I got a lot more respect for all the bikers after working here a few years," James Thrower, a radio dispatcher at the Rapid bike messenger service, said. "The s--- you guys put up with is amazing. I used to curse out bikers when I'd be driving, but now I sympathize. You guys ain't got it easy out there, and I gotta respect you for sticking with it."

It's impossible to explain to a cabbie why you had to cut him off as you flew through that red light. Why should there be any explanation, anyway? The idea behind bike messenger services is that bikes can go places and do things cars cannot. They are simply more efficient than cars in the city. If every messenger obeyed every traffic law, it would be an obsolete business.

Generally speaking, bike messengers stick with the job because they are good at what they do. Pedestrians and motorists are as fundamental to urban life as the concrete itself, and every good messenger knows this and adapts accordingly.

Unfortunately, many people don't realize this and curse the messenger for taking what may seem to be insane risks in traffic. The irony is that the messenger is, quite literally, only doing his job. Anyway, for all that lawyer in the Benz knows, I could be delivering his next mortgage payment!

Next to traffic, the most contentious element of many messengers' jobs is the brakeless bicycle. Designed originally for use in a track with other brakeless bicycles, these rudimentary fixed-gear bicycles are controlled entirely by leg strength. Legs are as crucial to stopping as they are for starting. This raises eyebrows not because it is impractical, but because it is completely unnecessary.

Yes, I ride without brakes. No, I do not condone it.

Riding without brakes is certainly manageable, and with a little experience, it's easy to do for many months without any significant problems. It's desirable because it looks sleek to have a bicycle with no brakes. The purity of complete self-reliance also makes it appealing.

However, with brakes, you can go faster, since you can stop faster. And your knees, which play a key role in slowing down while riding brakeless, will thank you. On one grueling, brakeless morning, I covered the distance between downtown Philly and Second and Somerset streets six times. That is almost the equivalent to riding from Temple's Main Campus to Doylestown, and the trip made my knees feel set to explode.

Riding brakeless simply adds to the solidarity aesthetic of messengers. Like any group of similar people, they endure similar hardships and similar gains. There is an immediate connection felt between two messengers who share a glance outside in the pouring rain: "I am tired, cold, and soaking wet, and I will continue to be in another six hours. Knowing you will be, too, makes it that much better."

After navigating through ice, wind, rain, snow and triple-digit temperatures, there is little the bike messenger cannot quickly adapt to. It is rare that a messenger will complain about the weather. The messenger often has to struggle to keep his or her mouth shut in the company of businessmen and women riding elevators, who complain about the conditions outside while sipping lattes in their warm, dry suits.

Frankly, any hullabaloo about bike messengers is insubstantial. It's a job like any other outdoor job. It rains; they get wet. It's nice out; they laugh at the suits stuck in office buildings. The pay generally sucks, regardless. Add some flashy gear (sleek track bikes and fancy messenger bags), and suddenly people think there is some special, esoteric knowledge the messengers possess, which they certainly do not.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Lucian Gregg and fixies in Santa Cruz

My deepest sympathy goes out to the family and friends of Lucian Gregg. For me it serves as yet another reminder of just how fragile life on the road is.

If there is something positive that can come out of all the media attention paid to his untimely death, I hope that it can spark a discussion and debate about the relationships between all of us who share the road.

For those of us who make our living on a bike (I am owner and founder of Clutch Couriers and have been a bike messenger since 1994) it can be obnoxious to bear the brunt of the road rage generated by the “fixie” fad and it’s enthusiast’s behavior.

While I appreciate Josh Muir’s optimistic viewpoint (in the Sentinel’s article January 7th) that fixed gear bike riders are people who “figure out a way to enjoy themselves in the world” it has been my experience that many fixie riders in Santa Cruz are trying to impress each other while paying little mind to how their actions affect those of us who ride every day.

Fixed gear bike messengers started out in Manhattan where the flat terrain makes it the logical choice, and the need to blow stoplights and cut off pedestrians is part of the job if you want to make a decent commission.

The practice spread to other cities, and although I am in awe of the skills displayed by the elite riders in San Francisco, with all those hills, I doubt that riding a fixie makes them more proficient bike messengers.

If you look at the bicycles that are ridden by the nine or so messengers in Santa Cruz (including the four that ride for Clutch Couriers) they all have gears and brakes as a practical matter.

Lets face it, fixed gear bikes take longer to stop, and if you have to skid to a halt you are less likely to yield to motorists and pedestrians who may have the right of way.

Josh Long was right when he equated the fixed gear fad to a certain trendy brand of footwear, however as my sixteen-year-old daughter informs me, Uggs are “so last year”. Maybe riding a fixie in Santa Cruz should be too.

Rick Graves/Clutch Couriers

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Crazy Helmet Cam

Check this site out


This is the best helmetcam video site I've seen-Races in Stolkholm, London, NYC-this guy has it all and mad skillz to boot.


Friday, January 4, 2008

Riding the storm out

Props to all the messengers who rode today-I live for days like this-I have to say that it felt great-like I kicked that storm's ass-I respect Mother Nature-it's just a blast to be a soldier out there, battling the elements.
It started out with four trees falling around my house. Within the first hour on the road all the power was out, stoplights were down or hanging, and there were live power lines on the road. I know my tires are rubber but I swear I felt my fingers tingling.
Everybody was looking at me like I was crazy-but the eastside still had power and I needed to make those pickups. I had to go by the ocean and check it out-roaring at the gale force winds and rock hard rain flying in my face. Trees were down all over Light House field.
By the time the day was fading the storm had left-whimpering away-and me shaking my fist at the sky asking, "is that all you got?"
God-it feels good to be alive and to finally be in a real winter.-Rick