Photographer's Note

London Bicycle Messenger

Everywhere in London you have to look out that you won’t be knocked down by a London bicycle messenger. With their fluorescent yellow jackets they rush along. I captured this specimen sitting on the top level of a double-decker early in the evening near Piccadilly Circus.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to be a messenger and not get stitched up, nicked or runover.
What basic tools should I carry?
A pump, two tyre flips (the big flat Michelin flips work well), a puncture repair kit (get the little patches that only Condor seem to sell) & two spare tubes. 4,5 & 6 mm allen keys (also called hex wrenches) and a 14/15mm spanner if you have solid wheel axles that are secured with nuts.
Having spare tubes will cut the time that you lose due to punctures, as time off the road means possible loss of earnings. This way you save money. It's always good to have two tubes as punctures often come in pairs. Really industrious riders use stand-by time to fix the holes in tubes that they have replaced.

What is the best map book?
A Geographia A-Z with expanded Inner London pages or even better a Mini A-Z & a Super Scale Inner London. If you're inexperienced, do NOT attempt to use the Mini by itself. Any notional weight saved is utterly negated by the length of time it will take you to find Bourchier St, Draper Pl or Wardrobe Pl in the painfully small & abbreviated lettering of the central area maps.

Do I have to work if it is raining?
Yes. If you go home because you're wet, you are a muppet. Anything Goretex or Pertex should be alright, but remember that these membranes have to be kept cleanish to work properly, so find out how to wash them correctly and do it regularly. Mudguards go without saying.

What bags are decent?
The days when bicycle messengers merrily rode around looking like overgrown newspaper boys with orange vinyl coated shoulder bags that contained all their worldlies and that had non-adjustable length straps are gone. There are plentiful variations on the single-length adjustable strap shoulder bag or 'messenger bag' first produced by Globe Canvas (aka De Martini) for telephone line men and adopted by bicycle messenger companies in NY sometime in the late 70s.

Is my bicycle safe left unattended?
No. Never ever ever leave your bike for a second anywhere without locking it with good quality (ie cost at least £30) lock, even if you are only to leave it for a second. If you leave your bike without locking it, even for a second, you might as well just give it away. Lean locking is OK in London most of the time [Ed - no it's not], but generally it is a good idea to lock your bike to something immovable, like a parking meter. Never get lazy about locking your bike. Don't ever imagine that your bike is too tatty to interest a thief; anything with wheels looks appealing to a crack-head or a junkie.

Source: London Bicycle Messenger Association

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Additional Photos by Rob Zwemmer (alvaraalto) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5508 W: 326 N: 10458] (41056)
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