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Cycle Messenger World Championships Toronto
10.06.08 by Buffalo Bill

In case you hadn’t noticed, the 16th CMWC is being held in Toronto this weekend. This will be the 2nd time that Toronto has hosted the event. As several of my closest friends are going, and I have such fond memories of the 1995 event, I decided to go. As almost no London cycle couriers are going, I am afraid that most of you are going to be bored senseless by what will appear here for the next week. You f***ing sad losers.

Anyway, to get you all in the mood, or at least to get me in the mood, I thought that I would republish something that I wrote in 1995. Courtesy of messmedia’s messenger archive.

CMWC Toronto 1995
Originally published in Hey Tony, Winter 95

Cycle Messengers have a richly deserved reputation for being a few spokes short of a wheel; even other cyclists think they’re crazy. Green Top Nob Jonathan Porritt once said that they were a disgrace to the cycling community because they get ordinary, law-abiding cyclists a bad reputation.

They do all the things that the self-righteously woolly-jumpered don’t: run red lights, cut up cars, get drunk & ride their bikes and hang around town looking cool in their wrap shades and baggies. Vagabonds on the information superhighways, cycle couriers ply an essentially solitary trade. Ccs spend their days alone with their bikes with only two-way radios squawking laconic instructions for company. They may pass the whole day without seeing another courier, without seeing a face that understands their experiences. Snotty receptionists unwilling to allow the briefest of phone-calls or even a visit to their oh, so pristine lavatory, bolshy security guards enforcing stupid rules “ ‘cos it’s more than me jobsworth”, monosyllabic post-room boys pasting up yet another pin-up, carelessly opened car-doors, startled deer and funky chickens on shopping trips too absorbed in the window displays to realise that their path will cross in front of a rapidly approaching front wheel until it’s too late, taxi-drivers intent on their next fare and uncaring about the fate of mere cycle couriers and most deadly of all, articulated trucks driven into the heart of the city, insensitive to soft vehicles, hardly noticing anything beneath them at all, wheels rolling remorselessly onwards-messengering is the last great untold tale of urban life [sic!].

How could the world be made aware of all the legends that have been created daily by each and every messenger, how could these unsung heroes, whose epic tales of endurance and daring are legion, get some recognition? How else could a bunch of messengers get together and spend someone else’s money racing bikes, getting drunk & swapping zoom stories. The answer is the Cycle Messenger World Championships. 1000 professional cycle freaks descend upon an unsuspecting metropolis to party, race & party.

The excuse is to find out who really is the fastest and, in truth, the racing was pretty serious. Messengers showed up from as far away as Tokyo to race. There were teams from cities all over North America & Europe. San Francisco, which will be the host city for next year’s event, showed up with 50 riders. Howard Williams, of the charity Bicycles for Afghan Amputees Rehabilitation, rode 2000 miles across North America to attend. And London, last year’s host and home of the world’s longest running courier ‘zine, Moving Target, brought 15 riders. 8 heats of 60 riders each were sent out on a purpose built course in Toronto’s Dufferin Gate area. They had to negotiate ramps, checkpoints, parked cars, deliver & collect parcels, making sure that they had the right proof of delivery in the right order. One of the checkpoints was a ride-thru and to add an authentic flavour, non-competing messengers acted as traffic police to make sure that of their racing comrades went the wrong way up the one-way streets. (“But I’m only going one way!”)

The heats were 30 minute slices of messenger mayhem. In ordinary bicycle road-racing the riders line out to minimize wind resistance. Messengers like to do their own thing. It was chaos. There were crashes, widespread cheating, and many, many who simply lost the plot completely, mislaying their parcel, their proofs of delivery and what little remained of their sanity. For the majority who had not qualified for the finals there was still a lot of partying and the illegal Alleycat races to keep them occupied. The finalists had to do the same thing all over again on the Sunday. 3 hours of racing in 35 degree heat and 80% humidity. The finals eliminated the weak, the uncommitted and the blatantly insane. Those who fell by the wayside had had enough. It came down to a man to man battle between the German National Messenger Champion, Lars Urban and his compatriot Thomas Sauerwein of Per Rad, Karlsruhe. Lars beat Thomas by a street and gave me my fondest memory of the championships after he crossed the line. A horde of camera people were gathered behind the finish line waiting to capture the moment. Lars put his bike straight into the middle of the crowd, knocking several to the ground.

Damn pedestrians are always getting in the way.

  1. How brave of you to reprint your teenage diaries Bill. Vagabonds on the information superhighway indeed. Have fun overseas mate

    — will    10 June 2008, 21:03    #
  2. Thanks! (I think).

    — Bill    11 June 2008, 06:20    #
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