Newest Review: ... going to be physical work, I knew I'd be dealing with incompetent muppets' on the road. No biggie. If your used to the service/retail indus... more
I was a Bicycle messenger...
Courier - My Experience and Advice
Member Name: paulie is busy
Courier - My Experience and Advice
Advantages: Fun, outdoors, eat as much as you want and never put on weight.
Disadvantages: dealing with the public, Bus drivers, potholes, exaustion
It's Courier, or bike messenger bty...
Well, after graduating in drawing pretty picture from an allegedly top London College for drawing pretty pictures I embarked on the glittering and glamorous career in warehouse work and bike shop staff.
As testing and fulfilling as these careers were, I felt that dying slowly from alcohol abuse and boredom in the Midlands (London was to expensive for a skint graduate) wasn't for me and saved up cash to move back down to a flat in suburban west London.
Using my Miarella Frostrup level of connections I soon found out art galleries only employ trust fund kids or their mates niece. I needed cash fast and had to stop dreaming of spending time hanging up paintings and serving drinks. Went into a Job centre in Shepards Bush, saw and applied for a job as a bike messenger.
The job itself (despite the other review) is pretty easy. All you need is to be in good physical condition (I ride bikes all the time anyway) and have a good temperament. I knew it was going to be physical work, I knew I'd be dealing with incompetent muppets' on the road. No biggie. If your used to the service/retail industry you deal with idiots all the time.
My interview process was a few basic questions.
'Do you know London well?'
'Yes.' (but not as well as I thought…)
Do you ride regularly or do any other physical activities?
'Yeah, I ride BMX and do Thai Boxing'.
Pay was a retainer of £250 a week cash in hand, up to me to sort out taxes/expenses. obviously the more drops I did, the more I'd earn. I averaged about £300 a week, working 10-12 hour days.
Then I shadowed another messenger on his route for a week, picking and dropping as we went.
We used mobiles, not radios. They gave me a (Ortlieb) bag and tried to fob me off with some ropey looking recumberant bike to which I declined and used my Specialised Rockhopper, adapted for single speed.
One thing you really need to know is bike maintenance. You should carry tubes (repair kits take to long, fix em at home), micro-pump, spare links & chain tool, spoke key and an Alan key set. Make sure nothing on your bike is quick release, it'll get nicked. Carry a good lock, a small Kryptonite is good for weight, but a chainlock around the waist is more practical. As for clothes I wore some Van's low top trainers, shorts, my old BMX racing leathers, tight t-shirt, gloves and cap. I tried a pollution mask but they get too sweaty. I carried a fold up waterproof jacket too and had a fleece top and beanie for the winter.
Due to being tired in the evenings, I couldn't really do much apart from look for decent jobs or chill at home. I couldn't really afford to socialise much beyond going to a skatepark anyway. Rent and bills were too much for that sort of thing during the week.
But I didn't mind, the job itself was a laugh. Riding all around London at breakneck speeds, flirting with bored receptionists, going into impressive buildings unchallenged by security, having a few 'encounters' with drivers who try to kill you, it can be real fun. Sometimes the weather isn't allot of fun though... But that's just part of the job. If you get a cold easily and let the sniffles get you down, get an office job.
Weekends were a heady mix of getting absolutely wasted and (for me) riding my BMX. Allot of messengers know their way around the squat party scene and the other scenes that go with it.
You really burn the candles at both ends, but as you're so fit your body can take it. Plus allot of messengers know people who know people (or maybe it was just my mates...) so whatever you want from cheap jeans to computer games to vitamin pills you can get it all really, really cheap.
I eventually quit after a year. I was tired of getting almost run over (was only in one bad accident) and not getting paid enough. It's also tough when your mates are earning three times what you do and you just can't afford to go out with them... Plus I didn't work my arse off at Art College to end up as a delivery boy. Which is what it is, no matter what retro fixie and stupid haircut you have.
I'd recommend it as it can be fun, but it's not for the weak hearted or the feeble minded.
Summary: It's a good laugh, but not a way of life.
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