Go to content Go to navigation Go to search

Why Buffalo Bill?
5.12.05 by Buffalo Bill

Why am I called Buffalo Bill? Would you like the long answer or the short answer?

Short answer: Because I’m a c***.

No, the short answer is that I am called Buffalo Bill cause that’s what people know me as now, and even though I have used my ‘real’ surname (ie the one that appears on my passport) at various points, it’s easier to use BB, as that is the name everyone recognises. Using my ‘real’ surname leads to confusion, and the ‘nickname’ is often added in any case, as Joe Hendry has in this press release about the Marcus Cook Award.

Long answer: In 1987, I joined the hippest and biggest London cycle courier company, On Yer Bike. All the fastest, coolest and best dressed London bicycle messengers worked there; OYB riders never seemed to hang out with the rest of the losers who camped permanently in Soho Square or the Court Caff – they always seemed to be busy.

OYB riders were so cool it was painful to contemplate how uncool I was compared to them. They all seemed to be riding the latest Muddy Fox Couriers, the even more desirable looking Rockhoppers or (to me anyway) impossibly exotic light-weight hand-built steel-framed road bikes. I was riding a pile of junk with wheels.

They had the coolest bags. They taped their radios to the straps of their bags; I was using a ghastly radio holder that cut into my armpit. They had girls riding for them. And blimey, the girls were stunning looking.

When you are reading this, I must ask you to remember that I was a very immature 21 year-old, utterly clueless and easily impressed.

Anyway, I got a job there cos Kev and a few of the others had some trouble related to… well anyway, they had to leave in a hurry. I was in there like a shot. It’s an ill-wind that blows no-one good, innit?

Finding 5D Shepherd Street was part of the test you had to pass to become an OYB rider. It’s in the far corner of a yard off Shepherd Street, and if you couldn’t find it without assistance then you weren’t going to cut it as an OYB rider. I found 5D, and climbed the stairs into the control room. It was a huge room, the walls of which were lined with sofas and at the centre of which were 6 control desks. For those of you that have ever seen ‘Streetwise’, the control desks shown in that show were copied from the OYB office.

One of the desks was heaped with paper dockets, ashtrays, phones, pagers, packets of cigarettes, several half-full cups of coffee, two-way radios and surrounded by plastic carrier bags bulging with more paper dockets. It looked like the work-station of a crazy person. I was interviewed by that crazy person, Claire Nielsen, an imposing woman with a fearsome reputation, a 60 per day fag habit and the sexiest radio and phone voice I have ever heard; I would find later myself doing anything that voice asked.

The interview consisted of writing a short essay on why I wanted to work for OYB. I can’t remember what I put down – it was probably an essay of unparalleled arrant nonsense, but Claire gave me a job. And then I had to pick a radio name.

This was the coolest thing about being an OYB rider: they didn’t use phonetic, numbered call signs to identify riders on the two-way radio (‘Polo-One-Zero’). The quirk was a reflection of the owners’ lack of grounding in the despatch/mini-cab business. That the Home Office (notionally responsible for policing short wave radio transmissions) let them get away with it is somewhat puzzling.

And as it was now a big company, there was more than one John or Tony on the circuit, so they had to call those riders by something other than their ‘real’ name. Hence the OYB riders used call-signs like ‘Postman Pat’, ‘Major Tom’ and ‘Paris’, adding to the OYB mystique. The pedal bike circuit at City Sprint, which is the inheritor of the now almost totally dilute OYB traditions, still uses this system.

When I got my radio I was asked what my call-sign would be. Here was my opportunity to establish my identity. I had of course thought about it, and I knew that the most famous of all the Pony Express riders, who I rightly viewed as our legendary and illustrious predecessors, was Buffalo Bill. So I would be the modern Buffalo Bill. What an arrogant bastard.

Bin Fever
What goes around comes around
The quickest rider
I don’t fight
A Place of Perdition

  1. hey bill!
    ive just found moving target on t’internet and had absolutely no idea it was still going and its really really weird but i was having a big clear out not so long ago and found the very first and second hard copy print issues of Moving Target which i have lovingly archived!

    anyways, just thought i’d drop you a line, the moving target online zine looks great!

    dunno if you remember me, i live in soho, i was rider 64 at creative courier from about 89 to 92 but i was also at on yer bike when it was in shepherds market in the mid 80s (i was one of the ‘stunning looking girls’ who worked there, ha ha!) and yeh Claire took me under her wing! used to love that run from Bowater House to Charlotte Street and wish i had a photograph of me and Andy Cap and Kev and Olly at the Bunch o Grapes on a Friday night and really wish i had a photograph of Claire puffing away in that crazy office! God, we were like so cutting edge! its great to read all about it!

    ok enough reminiscing!

    and yeh im still on two wheels good and trying to avoid those HGVs!

    alison henry aka “six four”

    — Alison Henry    24 April 2008, 12:46    #
  2. My radio name was Benimino after that well known Italian tenor of yesteryear.I also started in 1987 had many a jolly evening at ye grapes.Hope you are all well and are there any reunions ?

    — marty    5 October 2008, 16:42    #
  3. why buffalo bill?……..becoz anyone with a name like william chidley would be taken even less seriously than he already is?

    — tipper    24 October 2008, 03:57    #
  4. I rode a muddy fox in 89 in sydney.
    I musta been cool once.

    yogi    28 February 2009, 11:29    #
  5. Beniamino! Caro mio Ben. Alison! I wish I had a picture of you when two trucks were wall-to-wall in poland street and you were facing them down and directing them to part. My interview up those stairs in Shepherd Market was Bradley grabbing my ass and confirming for Robin that there was no reaction. I started that day.

    Jefferson    20 April 2009, 00:30    #
  6. alison! are you famous photographer yet or what?

    — andy capp    5 May 2009, 00:37    #
  7. Your all still breathing, those were the days, proper jobs shifting live crickets, buying condoms, day sheets and being paid in cash. I’m still breathing, although a little more on the hills these days.

    — Paris    12 August 2009, 20:54    #
  8. Buffalo=thick hide. shouldve googled this ages ago,just at a loose end@ the mo. Not been riding for, well years, rediscovered two wheels as my son wants to become a pro DH racer and he needs someone to ride shotgun on the trails. hence i have crossed to the dark side and gone all MTB, still single speed though ;) Still ride the old work bike occasionally and can out drag most civies in edinboro, when i go to the smoke from the stix. Anyone going to the UCI DH championship 6th june @ Ft William? see you there?
    Ooooh pazza babes is still alive!
    Braddladle grabs everyones arse aint no big deal; tickling yer ‘nads as you get up from the saddle to sprint kinda takes the breath away though.
    Any one heard from Wiggle/Rosie/Fred/BJ/Daisy( clearly didnt make it on the stage)etc?

    — karrimor    30 May 2010, 01:17    #
  9. Most of this is true, apart from one glaring omission. OYB was split into two half’s, the “Stiffs”* and the motorcycle side. All of whom, i shit you not, looked like we’d stepped straight off the set of Mad Max 2. That was the general idea. Matt black bikes, ridden by mohawks and general filth. Soho in the 80’s was a cesspit of despair and horror, OYB fitted in beautifly. Two great mates, “Balance” and Matty one-two, both now sadly no longer with us, we the innovators of Gay-chic couriers. OYB was the fucking best job i ever had. NB, robin, the owner sold it for £3.5mil and never looked back.* Stiffs, cycle courier, because they were all so stiff in the pub…..

    — digga    3 August 2010, 01:02    #
  10. One of ‘ems on friends reunited complete with pix of his wonderful music“career”.
    On a DR fashion trip does anyone remember Bren and his pink lycra romper suit?

    — karrimor    15 October 2010, 02:50    #
  11. At the time I though they made me one of the “best dressed London bicycle messengers”. God, how wrong I was….

    — Bren    19 August 2011, 01:36    #
  12. Yo BB! Postie is alive and well, having spent 8 years in deepest darkest France, back in the UK now, still riding/playing/slickin’ back the quiff! xx

    — pat tedd    20 September 2011, 12:21    #
  13. Bren, you were lucky we didnt tie you down and paint pubes and a cock on it…

    — karrimor    23 February 2012, 00:12    #
  14. Don’t know what possessed me to Google OYB, but great to see some are still in touch. I was the twit who wore (donated) Suzuki one pice racing leathers on a step thru’ shopper moped, and pedalled 1 day a week. I was there around 83=85. Agreeing with an earlier comment, they were probably some of my best times ever. Sadly, despite “going straight” I don’t think I have ever managed to have so much dispolsable dosh. Mickey Muddle, Kevin Car, Stan the Van, “Bigger Mercedes” Happy days!

    Moped Rich    7 March 2012, 20:31    #
  15. FYI: I worked at OYB in 82 /83 in Gosfield Street and then a place just northw est of Hanover Square.

    I remember Aunty Claire – one day I cycled up behind her (she occasionally rode a bike as well as controlling) just near Berwick Street and quietly touched her arm – sle leapt a few inches off the saddle byut still stayed upright. She took it as the joke it was intended to be…happy days indeed.
    I have since kept up occassioanlly with Buffalo bill, basically on the cyclists’ rights / politics front. Naturally I still ride (as I have done in london for 37 years and don’t drive.

    I remember seeing Bigger Mercedes at a gig.

    Bob Davis    15 March 2012, 00:43    #
  16. And also, now that the memories are flowing: there was Dave Styring – we used to hang around together because there was a clique of us who were old time club cyclists (“bikies”)who thought ourselves somewhat superior to these newbies riding “mountain bikes” and what not.
    I used panniers rather than a courier bag, although succumbed after a while to a Timbuktu in 1985 which I still have.

    One memory I have is that after a day of going up and down Oxford Street I was covered in diesel soot – is it that bad nowadays? – I would suggest not. Other people i remember: a gay Kiwi called Angus Carruthers, nice guy, very gentlemanly. A fruitarian called Graham (although he called himself “Crow”) who lived on apples and oranges. he was very pale.
    Also lots of resting actors learning their lines while waiting for work.
    We did loads of work with advertising and film people who would occasionally invite us to Xmas parties. In those days advertising people were likely to get the white wine in on Friday lunchtime and if you wanted a signature after about noon, tough.

    Happy days.

    Bob Davis    15 March 2012, 00:56    #
  17. Hi,
    Remember me?
    Great to to read how positively everyone seems to feel about that little company I created back in 1981 —-
    and I still remember all of you with great fondness. It was a golden time.

    — Robin Willis    24 January 2014, 18:48    #
  18. Well said Robin , Beniamino aka Marty ,started at Shephards Market autumn 1987. Anyone remember Bosco ?

    — Marty    13 March 2014, 11:22    #
  19. Wow, what a blast from the past! No one’s mentioned us hardworking girls in the office who gave you your wages every week though. I was the goth, working alongside Carolyn, Pam, Verdanne, Natalie, Rachel and Sheila from 1987-1989. I was far too scared of Claire to venture up to the control room very often but the office parties were epic – happy days!

    Cathy    12 April 2014, 11:03    #
  20. Keep them coming guys !

    — Marty    15 April 2014, 15:04    #
  21. Hey Bill. I came to visit you in 1999 from Denver USA. I should have looked this up years ago. Its good to see you still have this going. Shoot me an email if you would like to catch up! I hope you are well! Pawlee

    Pawlee Reardon    3 May 2016, 02:12    #
  22. Hey great to read all these messages, memories of OYB will always stay with me, Goyle

    — Goyle    3 May 2016, 16:34    #
  Textile help

<  ·  >