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

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 Before taxes were withdrawn, my best 40-hour paycheck in the past nine months was about $325.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