The quickest rider
16.08.06 by Buffalo Bill
There’s been a lot of talk over the past year, mostly by my sometime friend Tofu, regarding the identity of London’s quickest bicycle messenger. Most men like to boast, and cycle couriers are no different. But how do you determine the quickest London messenger?
Tofu says that because he was the best placed London messenger at the last Cycle Messenger World Championships, held in New York in 2005, he is therefore officially the fastest London messenger until CMWC 2006, which is being held in Sydney later on this year.
Winston, organiser of the annual London cycle courier track event, Speed, Skill and Sausages, sees it somewhat differently. He says ‘if he was london’s fastest messenger he would have won the competition set up to determine London’s fastest messenger n’est ce pas?’ Winston is referring to the time-trial, a solo against the clock effort, contested during SSSII, which Skot won. But what does riding a bike as fast as you can for 30 seconds have to do with being a quick messenger?
Still other people would say that Donny is the undisputed fastest because he has won more Alleycats (illegal street races organised by messengers and mostly contested by messengers) more often over the past few years. Any measurement of a messenger’s speed must include negotiation of live traffic, and a test of route-finding, and only in an Alleycat can you assess these skills head to head. But a sufficiently strong and skilled bike rider, with good nerves, can simply follow someone quick who knows where they are going and then sprint for the win.
Charlie 9 John, of Addison Lee, would say that it’s obvious that London’s best messenger is him. Jon bases this assertion on the fact that, according to him, he consistently earns more money riding a bike than any other London bicycle messenger. And earnings are what counts.
I am not sure who I think is the quickest London bicycle messenger. When you control messengers, you get an entirely different perspective on who is quick and who is not. I am always surprised by how slow the guys who ride fast are. The wild riders are often bad messengers. Taking every risk going is not necessarily going to get the parcel to its destination quicker.
To be a good messenger, you have to do the whole thing quick: respond to your controller quickly, understand the information, identify the pick-up point in your mind, move to it straight away, lock the bike, find the parcel, unlock the bike, communicate that you have the parcel on and see if there are any other pick-ups the controller wants you to do, fit the new journey in around your existing journeys (if you have any) and move towards the destination using the quickest route possible, all the time taking care to avoid harm. You can’t deliver anything if you are lying in the hospital waiting to be stitched up, splinted or operated on.
The quickest messenger I have ever known is a guy called 13. I can’t remember what his real name was. He was unbelievably quick. He never hung out, never spoke to anyone and just got on with it. He cut through traffic in straight lines. But there were lots of riders on our channel that could do that stuff. It took me a while to work out what made him so much quicker than everyone else. What gave him an edge was that he never used to lock his bike. Alway brought it into the building.
Byron Bramble was pretty quick as well, and he was the first guy at SD to do 50 dockets in a day, so he deserves a mention. But Byron false called. Never got caught out, but I have to mark him down for that.
I am going to restrict my consideration of the quickest to the guys that raced messenger races as well as doing big money at work. Skot has never done big money at work, he never answers his bloody radio, and he just doesn’t give enough of a f&ck. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But he’s out of the running.
Stringer was pretty quick as a messenger, and he was a decent messenger racer too. But he’s too wierd.
As a controller, I can only talk about the riders that I have controlled, and though Wee Scott is pretty quick and has won an alleycat, he’s not the quickest guy at Creative. Jakob is. But Jakob could care less about competing in messenger races. Miserable bloody Swede.
Andy Capp would definitely be in my top five, so would Wingnut, as would Tofu, even if I wish he could lay off the sarcasm for more than five minutes. Oh yeah, there’s another key messenger skill. Don’t get smart with your controller, remember the controller does the joking and you do the laughing. Just say ‘roger’ and get on with it. Neil ‘Nelly’ Webb would be too, but he fell off too much. So I would probably go for Josh over Nelly. Josh is really really quick. But he gets mashed too often and I have never forgiven him for not winning ECMC 2003 cos he forgot to tighten his cassette. I am a harsh man.
Overall I guess I would have to vote Elliott the quickest. He won a ton of Alleycats, including the biggest to date ‘Twisted on Fixed’, he could cut straight lines through traffic, he was always top earner, both at Creative and then at Metro, and he could win proper bicycle races, too. And he always gives me a good price on his parmesan. Yes, it’s true, Elliott now sells Parmesan.
I don’t expect anyone to agree with me, though. Least of all Tofu.