Messenger culture has become increasingly visible through the fashion world adopting their look and films like Mash SF and Macaframa, leading to lots of people wanting to emulate the lifestyle - fixed gear riding is becoming the subcultural equivalent of skateboarding in the 80s, an excuse to hang out outside with friends, a sport embedded in the urban environment. Nowadays, bike messenger culture, with its daring punk feel and affinity for fixed gear bikes, is bleeding over into hipsterism (this is a personal un-scientific theory based upon a decade of observing bike messengers and then hipsters in San Francisco). This makes the fixie a generationally-defining item, exemplifying the "I can do more than you with less money" attitude of hipsters.
Bike messengers are the true samurai of cyclists. They ride with a purpose in all kinds of weather conditions and on some pretty hairy roads. There is a "preferred" bike or style for these road warriors. Today, we are going to discuss the center of this messenger culture- that is the messenger bike.Messenger Bikes’ importance and differences from normal bikes
Importance of messenger bikes
First and foremost, here is a question- what role do messenger bikes play in the modern life? As the transportation used by messengers, they can be said to be a big help. Messengers prefer the bikes to the cars for bikes can move conveniently in traffic and move from a place to another place faster than a car in the center of the city. Messenger bikes are worth messengers depending on because the motorized vehicles have been confined and slowed down by the traffic. Therefore, messenger bikes render us a faster access to the things we want to deliver.
In addition, messenger bikes are environment-friendly. In construction, bicycles consume limited amounts of mostly non-toxic commodity metals and materials which stay in use for extended periods of time and are reusable and recyclable at decommissioning. In use, except the limited erosion caused by messengers -- bicycles have no negative environmental impacts with no emission released. In expenses, fuel, insurance, and maintenance costs will be lower for the bike. A car expense column covers the cost of parking, while a bike is much easier and therefore cheaper to park than a car. What is the on-street parking like? Does the city have off street parking? Where would a messenger park a car at work? Presumably, messenger bikes save a lot of time and cost for both the messengers and the consumers. What’ more, in terms of maintenance, a bike is cheaper to maintain than a car, though they tend to require more routine work than a car.
Typically a bike messenger starts off with his work at the same time you do. Before he reports to his office/base, he would quickly check the bike's condition and service the parts that need it. As for a messenger, it is very essential to keep his bike in a very good condition as (1) to earn for his livings and (2) not to miss any time-based pickup/deliveries. Here are some differences of the messenger bike from normal bikes.Messenger Bikes’ importance and differences from normal bikes
Messenger Bike vs. Normal Bike
Fixed gear bikes vs. bikes with gears
There really isn't a mold for a messenger bike. Whatever works is fine. But most messengers choose fixies.
If you had a geared bike in the city, then that can be an advantage at times. When you hit a straightaway where you have green lights for 10 blocks, you're gonna appreciate having gears to maximize your speed and efficiency if you're trying to make time. But messengers have to stop quickly from a fast speed. They ride them largely because, in a certain range of conditions, they are more fun because the bike is more responsive, feeling like you're more one with the bike.
The fixies have a certain cult-like appeal and messengers seem to take pride in being different with it.
A fixie bike is not as complicated to ride as a multi-gear bike. It is also lighter, which makes riding with parcels not as challenging as how it would be with its clunkier, heavier geared alternative. Fixed gear bikes are lighter and cheaper than the geared counterpart that is made of the same frame material and equal quality parts. It is also relatively cheaper, so messengers who tend to just leave their bikes on the sidewalk in their rush to deliver their parcels or letters would not be risking not as much in case of loss or damage to the bike. And they will be cheaper to replace if they get stolen.
As far as it has been seen, the French porteur bikes always used full-size front wheels, generally used for newspaper delivery. The small-wheelers tended to be used more by the Dutch, German, Danes and Brits. The classic butcher's bike.Messenger Bikes’ importance and differences from normal bikes
Simplicity vs. custom
There is one rule that most messengers follow- keep the bike simple. You don’t need a lot of crap on your bike. A single speed or fixed will save money and maintenance time in the long run. Best thing messengers can do is to get a quick link on your chain, so they can simply undo it and put it in a bottle of solvent to soak and shake it for cleaning. A single disc brake (front) will save them having to buy cantilever brake pads every two weeks and will save the rims from braking wear. As for what happens when the bike gets stolen? If they don’t lock it up properly, and it is stolen, they will lose out on a paycheck every day. ALWAYS lock it up (see bike security, bike theft threads (SEARCH) properly, and don’t advertise that is a nice bike. Ugly it up. Flat black spray paint is a good friend. Remove all decals, even on the wheel.
(In Vancouver BC there is an average of 20 - 30 REPORTED bike thefts a day. The number of bike thefts that go UNREPORTED is triple that. Thanks to the Mayor supporting the over 3000 drug addicts by providing them with a place to shoot up, there is and a lot of addicts that need to steal to get their fix. Bicycles are the PREFERRED item, as they command 10 - 30 bucks per bike when sold by the thief. That gives the addicts a couple of hits. The average addict in vancouver BC has a $250 - 400 dollar a DAY crack, cocaine or meth habit. Do the math....they need lots of cash to support their habit, bikes provide that cash.
A nice flashy bike, particularly something like a Brodie, Rocky Mountain, COVE, Kona, Norco VPS, Banshee etc. are particularly attractive targets for bike thieves. Riding a bike like that around, with its blatant advertising in the form of decals is like yelling out FREE CRACK in the middle of Main & Hastings. Even entry levels to mid-grade bikes are targeted. This is where 'uglying up a bike" comes into play.Messenger Bikes’ importance and differences from normal bikes
By "uglying up" and simplifying a nice bike, there is a lesser chance of it being noticed by a thief. By using a 14mm chain and ABUS DiSCUS lock for the frame and rear wheel or using a 14mm chain and Discus lock for the front wheel, frame and whatever 12" steel lamppost you can prevent thief. There should be no accessories on the bike to steal, nothing really too attractive. It would take a thief far too long to work thru the locks on the bike, it’s easier for them to go to another bike, say that nice flashy Rocky Mountain locked up with a cable lock next to the messenger bike.)
Saddle- Messenger riders earn their living all day on the saddle, so it would probably be a good idea that their bikes are equipped with comfortable padded seating.
GPS- Every messenger has a fantastic mental map of the city, and simply uses that to navigate. For the odd address that they are not familiar with, Google Maps can be on the phone to show the general area around the address, and once they’ve found the street in question, it's just the old-fashioned way to find the right street number. Distance Measurement allows them to trace on the iPhone or iPad with a finger and the app will measure the distance they traced. Units are in both kilometer and mile. Messenger riders can zoom in to get a better view of the map and accurately trace the exact past or future route to see exactly how far it is. It is easy to search locations to find the area they want to measure, and the maps look and work very similarly to the original Google Maps concept. The app is very simple and has a basic user interface so it's very intuitive and easy to use.Messenger Bike, GPS
Messenger bag- It’s the symbol of a messenger bike. The primary reason why bike messengers use messenger bags is that they don't have to take them off to load or unload them. If they're continually picking things up and dropping things off all day, they don't want to be faffing about taking a backpack on and off all the time. A secondary reason is that the flat rectangular shape of a messenger bag is more suited to the kind of things that messengers tend to be carrying (e.g. documents).
Hope you now would have a better understanding of the messenger bike culture.