Friday, February 10, 2012

Re: Bike Messengers and Bike Racers

Begin original correspondence:

Hello John,
Thank you for the interview last year. I am still working on my bicycle study.
I have a question about the link between bike messengers and bike racers.
I learned that Nelson Vails, the silver medal at the 1994 Los Angeles Olympics, was a bike messenger from Harlem in New York.
I also learned that some of the historical Colombian bike racers participated in the Tour de France used to ride bikes for work.
So I wonder if there are still many bike racers in the US who has either a bike messenger or another job use biking. Are there any other successful US bikers have similar bike work background?
A lot of people told me that bicycling is becoming an expensive sport and hard to be a successful racer unless you come from a rich family.
What do you think? Do you agree? Can you share me your perspective and experience?
best regards,

Begin Response Here:

So good to hear from you, Toshi.

There are several accomplished messengers turned pro. Probably one of the most accomplished and current is Jason McCartney. He left the pro peloton and worked as a messenger before retuning to the pro ranks and riding for Team Radio Shack.

Another messenger turned pro (and personal friend) is Jen Purcell. She was a messenger back in the early 2000s in Dallas and made a name for herself in the Texas scene. She went back to school and after graduating got back into racing. Two years ago she won three national medals and rode last year looking for a contract. She finally got one with Team Tibco and will be doing some time in Europe.

Finally, there is Craig Ethridge. Another friend of mine, he has made quite a career of messengering and racing single speed in the cyclocross world.

That's not it at all. Craig is a good example of a messenger who competes as a messenger and also as a bike racer. Another exapmle would be Austin Horse. Austin is a New York messenger, very similar to Craig in that he competes as a bicycle courier at events around the country and at national and World messenger events, except Austin is a "sponsored" messenger and has done commercials and was a stunt double in the recent messenger film "Premium Rush." This is the way of the modern messenger, of sorts...

The sport of cycling is expensive, no doubt. And with any sport, the sacrifices make as much the champion as overcoming the challenges. I brought a lot of enthusiasm to the sport. And by that, I mean, that I had not a clue how much I was lacking in regards to all the right gear. But I showed up over and over again to the hardest, most elite group rides in Austin until I couldn't be ignored anymore. I would hang on or finally get dropped (not keeping pace with the group) on the outskirts of town and keep the group in sight until everyone made it back to town and I could catch up at stop lights. Finally someone asked me to accept some recycled gear and training advice. I was so eager and grateful.

I don't think this is very typical of most bike messengers. And all of the above individuals reflect a pursuit on the bicycle that included being a bicycle messenger. There are very valuable traits every individual learned as a messenger that allowed them to compete at a high level or attain notoriety as an accomplished athlete and a stepping stone for what these individuals needed to get where they are today.

What, you ask, are those traits? Ha! Go work as a messenger for a few months, I wouldn't want to spoil it for you!


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