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Do bicycle messengers work harder than professional bicycle racers?
24.10.07 by Buffalo Bill

This is a question I often asked myself when I was working. My old friend Vince has done some calculations based on the Pro-Tour. He reckons that Mario Aerts did more racing kilos than any other Pro-Tour team rider. According to Vince, this gives Aerts a racing total of 13 212 km. Vince calculates a messenger total of 18 910 km per year.

I myself reckon that I was doing around 500 km a week or more than 20 000 km a year when I was working (allowing for holidays, injury and slacking off). However, behind the racing that a professional racer does, there will be at least another 10 000 km a year training. So perhaps it’s about even.

There can be no doubt that whether you are a professional bicycle racer or a bicycle messenger, riding a bike is hard, dirty and dangerous work. And for every guy or girl making decent money, there are another dozen making barely enough to survive. I was one of the lucky ones: I enjoyed riding my bike most of the time, made enough money to pay the rent, had nice bikes and was able to get away often enough to keep from going totally street-crazy.

You can read more stuff from Vince on the Haute Courier blog.

  1. Erm, there’s a big difference between working harder and working more. But I note that is your headline and not the source.

    Also racing kilometres doesn’t take into account training, which is almost continuous. Nor the delight of the drug testing regime which forces you to declare your itinerary 3 months in advance and be available for random drugs test any morning or afternoon according to where you will be in your itinerary.

    No doubt messengers are out in some foul conditions, put up with a lot of shit from customers, and have to deal with an insulting wage for their preferred lifestyle and work, but by using distance of racing kilo’s versus estimation of daily kilo’s is fairly simplistic.

    Maybe a more realistic measure would be wattage output on a messengers’ bikes compared to wattage output of a pro-racers’ bikes over the duration of a year. At least then the measure would be of effort involved by a metric that could at least be measured fairly and equally. Besides, then it would take into account alleycats and other activities that a messenger could rightfully argue were part of the job as it included ‘training’.

    — DavidK    24 October 2007, 12:40    #
  2. Oh dear, how unscientific of me. :-)

    Seriously, you could also include food preparation, time spent maintaining bike. Wattage, mileage or even calories expended are all fairly simplistic measures of ‘work’.

    There is no doubt that bike racers ride faster, and harder. But I reckon that messengers suffer a greater rate of injury and death. Out of a population of around 400 – 1000 London messengers, 7 have been killed in the last 20 years. In the same period 4 pro racers have been killed from a similar total.

    But this is quibbling. Riding a bike for money is tough, whether racing or courieririring.

    — Bill    24 October 2007, 12:53    #
  3. racing a bike is 10x harder than courierieireing, though you are 10x more likely to go insane courierieireing. (spell it right Bill, duh). There is unknown strength in insanity however – just look at The Incredible Hulk for instance.

    — _targetbot    24 October 2007, 13:26    #
  4. he cant ivan speil der wurd wierd.

    — overdrivel    24 October 2007, 15:01    #
  5. Yes very interesting but they are 2 very different things. Road racers have to wear gay lycra and shave their balls. They spend their time training and training again. Couriers drink beer and race drunk. We are forced to ride due to lack of intelligence. I don’t see the similarity. Why not compare courieirieir output to badger output in digging a hole. Cnut. Cobbles. Bollocks

    — Bollocks    24 October 2007, 16:03    #
  6. erm, there’s a big difference between a working badger hole and masturbating over statistics.also,wattage output as compared to a drunken courierier looking for his/her lock key whilst accumulating metric output is of course irrelevent.I know, it’s quibbling but oops….

    — I've just cum    24 October 2007, 17:05    #
  7. How many bike racers have died from taking performance-enhancing drugs? (lots)

    How many messengers have died from taking performance-impairing drugs?

    jack    24 October 2007, 18:49    #
  8. Lots

    — Bill    24 October 2007, 19:10    #
  9. do we f**k

    — winnie tha pooh    24 October 2007, 22:47    #
  10. Maybe not in London, but look again at SF.

    — Bill    25 October 2007, 08:27    #
  11. there seems to be an unusually high number of suicides on that list.

    — lurkette    25 October 2007, 08:58    #
  12. “have to deal with an insulting wage for their preferred lifestyle and work”

    BOLLOX!!! generalisation!!! assumption!!!

    — redrum    25 October 2007, 10:36    #
  13. So most London messengers make average wage (around £25 000) or above?

    — Bill    25 October 2007, 10:57    #
  14. im bored and injured,just need to moan about anything.


    — redrum    25 October 2007, 15:01    #
  15. Nothing serious, I hope!

    — Bill    25 October 2007, 15:18    #
  16. NO!

    — karrimor    30 May 2010, 01:34    #
  17. I use to courier and race. how many miles was that? now I am just fat.

    — dogger    30 May 2010, 05:33    #
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