My Messenger Heroes - Andy Capp
3.04.06 by Buffalo Bill
The first time I saw Andy Capp, he was leaning over a desk, flirting with the very pretty receptionist of a film company in Fitzrovia. I noticed that the purple wind-cheater that he was wearing had a small Condor Cycles logo embroidered on the top left of the front panel. I was impressed.
I got my package signed for, and as I turned to leave, I said to him, ‘that jacket’s flash, innit?’. Andy was a little taken aback as I was wearing mirror shades, and no socks in the middle of winter, and if any one was being ostentatious it was me, as Andy has pointed out to me every time either of us has retold that story.
Shortly after that, I started working at the same company as Andy, at On Yer Bike. OYB was one of the two biggest pedal bike companies (the other was Vanguard), and it had the hippest riders. Andy wasn’t all that hip, he wasn’t doing the job to support his art, to pay for his guitars or to put food on the table between acting jobs like most at OYB at that time, he just rode his bike. Fast. And loved doing it.
Andy was the fastest at OYB, consistently made more money than anyone else. He also rode a fixed wheel. That him made stand apart from most of the other riders. At the time, nearly every cycle courier in London either rode or wanted to ride a mountain bike. A hippy squatter called Dom, who rode for Metropole, had a pink mountain bike made by Cannondale, and it was much admired by everyone that hung around in Soho Square (including me). Everything about Dom’s bike was fat: the tubes of the frame in which the fat-tired wheels sat, the grips on the handle-bars, the sprockets. Andy’s fixed wheel was the opposite. It was thin and austere.
Andy didn’t care what everyone else thought; he rode fixed because he thought it was faster, cooler, because it was ‘wicked’. It was the choice of a purist, of someone that believed in turning the pedals and only turning the pedals. Andy was so strong that he used to break cranks, so great was the torque that he generated as he shoved his huge 52-18 gear around. He would shear crank-arms and pull handle-bars apart.
He also had the knack that a very few messengers have of being able to cut straight through traffic without ever slowing down, or causing the traffic through which he was moving to swerve to avoid him. I couldn’t do it, and only a few truly can. Andy could cut straight through a junction like Ludgate Circus as if the crossing traffic wasn’t there, avoiding the speeding cars, lorries and buses without seeming to.
He worked for a while as a mechanic at Condor, and got good enough to be taken on the Milk Race, as a mechanic in the neutral service car. Monty Young once told me that he thought Andy Capp could build wheels as well as anyone.
As he and I are very similar dimensions so he was able to sell me one of his bikes. Andy sold a lot of bikes and bike parts to messengers.
Andy got bored of working in a bike shop, even if it was Condor (‘after you done one 753 Record Gruppo build-up, you done ‘em all’), though, and ended up back on the road at Wings Couriers, and then after a trip to the Far East, back on the same circuit as me at Security Despatch. We used to keep score, and I never ever once managed to beat his docket total in any week. We went to the first Cycle Messenger Championships and he made the final, placing in the top 20, the best placed London rider. He made the final in 95 as well, again the best-placed London rider. He won the first alleycat series that was ever held in London, and was a key organiser of the first Messenger Championships held in London, 1994
He moved to San Francisco, and started working as a messenger there, on one of the better circuits, and proceeded to kick their arses too. He got the reputation for calling for any tag, no matter what it was, no matter where it was. Of being real hard worker.
And he’s still riding today, 2 days a week, for the company of which he is a partner, 21, nearly 22 years later. And still loving it. What a hero.