The minor adventures of a motorcycle courier

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by JoeyBones, Aug 20, 2008.

  1. JoeyBones

    JoeyBones Encouraging Entropy

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,388
    Location:
    Tampa, Flatistan
    Agreed! You've got to have some stories to share, right?
  2. falconspeed10

    falconspeed10 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    60
    Location:
    NW Wyoming
    Grew up in and around DC. Learned to ride on trail 55, 90 and 150 Dream. Taught the street by my pastor, a veteran of the 101st(Chaplin), gliders at Normandy, there at Bastogne. His was the white 150 Dream. The couriers back then, were all greasy black leathers and BMWs with open access to to all offices, the White House on down. You should see those wide airheads slicing between the road boats of the time.
    I get a taste of that when I stomp into Jackson Lake Lodge, just south of Yellowstone(where the "elite" meet, greet and vacation), coming off my blacked out V65 VF1100c in full road grime black leathers. Those people seem so...disconnected, above it all. Like to think I provide some "grounding". Love the sound of that v4 as I pass under the vallet parking drive through.
    You guys were heroes,...crazy mf heroes but heroes none the less. NO FEAR was your lifestyle. Even back then traffic got crazy in DC and you guys risked life and limb on a constant basis, moment to moment. Thought about taking it up but did not want to get crippled. Should try it now. Been told I ride the Magna Like a dirt bike. What dya think.
    Hypermotos were made for couriers...maybe a Super Duke.
  3. MikeinSA

    MikeinSA Long timer

    Joined:
    May 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    4,031
    Location:
    San Antonio, TX

    Ha, Yea, a few. Ok then, I’ll give it a try…

    I had an afternoon delivery to a law firm in old town Alexandria. It was probably November, and as usual for that time it was gray and soggy, with temps in the low 50’s. I had on my sweet Levi’s jacket with the white fleece lining, jeans, awesome dingo boots, yellow rubbery rain suit, and my 3/4 Bell with the bubble shield. Off the GW and headed down toward the river, I turned the corner and was confronted by a giant ‘street closed’ sign. They had a giant townhouse project going in and had the street to the law firm shut down. My 22-year old brain (without fully developed frontal lobes) thought, “Hell, I’m on an XL, I’ll just cut through that muddy construction site and save, oh, like two minutes” and off I went.

    I was feeling pretty cool, kicking up a sweet muddy roost, when about mid-construction site I saw this giant muddy puddle. And who doesn’t like to play in a puddle right? So off I veered. Except it wasn’t a puddle. It was a utility trench filled to the brim with three days of steady rain. I was going at a pretty good clip when the bike dropped out from under me. I shot over the bars doing the ‘full Superman’, hit the mud, and continued the slide head first, face down, arms still in front like at any moment I was going to take to the sky.

    I wasn’t muddy. Muddy isn’t a strong enough word. No, I had bonded with the earth and was now one with the terra firma. The only thing distinguishing me from the land was the whites of my eyes and a few small patches of yellow raincoat shining through. Pulling myself up, I noticed a crowd had started to gather. About mid-stand I noticed the crowd pointing and murmuring to each other, no one coming to help. “What the hell, I thought……?”, and then I looked down.

    Oh God. My pants were down around my ankles. I was standing there in my muddy, tighty-whitty’s. I was all of 155 lbs back then, and at 6’ tall there wasn’t much to strap the belt to. I completely lost it. As the crowd continued to grow, I rolled around on the ground like a, well no, I was, a mud covered lunatic. I couldn’t get my pants up. They had scooped up buckets of mud in the slide and weighed about 50 lbs. I was rolling, and scooping, and pulling, and scraping, and…… you get the picture.

    By now the crowd was larger than opening day at the Krispy Kreme. Finally getting my pants somewhat back to where they were intended to be, I turned my attention to the bike. I couldn’t get it out of the trench. I pulled, pushed, prayed, cussed, and finally jumped into the trench and with my last ounce of strength I was able to get the back end onto dry (haha, I said dry) ground and from there I drug the beast out of the hole.

    Looking over, the crowd had grown to epic proportions. They had brought in seating and a few enterprising individuals were selling concessions. I had to get out of there. Except the bike wouldn’t start. I kicked and kicked and kicked and kicked and ……..”Oh God, Oh God, Oh God, please let my bike start, please, please, please”. About that time I think my tears had washed off enough mud to see that the kill switch was off.

    And with a roar the beast started. My satchel thingy had launched early in Scene One of the tragedy and was relatively unscathed. I grabbed it, climbed on the bike and headed for the sweet salvation of the blacktop. Reaching dry land the crowd broke into thunderous applause. I clenched my fists over my head in victory over the elements, tried to give the dodging observers high fives, and roared off to the squirty wand wash place.

    After the hose-down I strutted in for the drop-off and handed the secretary the package. Barely looking up while signing, I got an, “Oh, is it still raining”. “Um yes ma’am”.
  4. Rango

    Rango Phaneropter

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,203
    Location:
    Kingdom of Belgium
    :knary
    In with a bang... :thumb
  5. JoeyBones

    JoeyBones Encouraging Entropy

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,388
    Location:
    Tampa, Flatistan
    Do it. Take pics for us. :D

    THAT was an awesome story! I'm hoping you have more...
  6. JMforPres

    JMforPres Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2008
    Oddometer:
    456
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    Great Stories
  7. Keithert

    Keithert Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2013
    Oddometer:
    974
    subscribed!
  8. Cortez

    Cortez BAZINGA!

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,170
    Location:
    Croatia
    MikeinSA :clap:clap
  9. biker7one

    biker7one Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2012
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    Taswegia
    AWESOME stories, EVERY one!

    Well done guys, for a click, just 2 days ago because my mate Louis Couriered

    in London back in the '80s . First thought ahhh this ain't gunna be much good,

    no pictures, we're all used to Fantastic pics nowdays, right ?

    Great thread, only regret.. reading it late and not being able to applaud

    EVERY effort. I'm doing so now and hope my contribution will be getting Louis

    here, to relate some tales, I'm sure he knows some of you London guys.

    City commuters, like me in my yoof, have much in common with you Dispatch

    guys so I have a tale or two too. Not tonight.

    You have a lot to answer for JoeyBones, And it's ALL good !
  10. rodr

    rodr Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2008
    Oddometer:
    640
    Location:
    Fairfield, CA, USA
    Awesome read for my dull Wednesday morning. :lol3

    More please. :D
  11. JoeyBones

    JoeyBones Encouraging Entropy

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,388
    Location:
    Tampa, Flatistan
    Looking forward to hearing the stories of your "yoof"!

    :D
  12. biker7one

    biker7one Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2012
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    Taswegia
    Part one.... 'cos my fingers are slow.
    I was a latecomer to bikes, 19, here in South Australia 16 is the legal age so I'd been driving for a couple before Simon Boyce (RIP) bless you brother, arrived with a B120P Suzuki! "have a go at this Gordon", changed my life !

    I was working in the city but 50% of my time was out 'bush' in Geophysical
    Exploration. So the brand new road /trail Kawasaki 250, F11 was my first urban weapon. Savvy with the road from driving cars it was an ideal 1st bike, trials universals notwithstanding! First of two accidents with cages was on that bike.
    Wet road, peak hour traffic, sudden stop, Bang into the car, no damage, hurt pride, lesson learned.

    Here in the 'sleepy hollow' of Adelaide there is a road grid similar I reckon to many US cities. I was in the SW suburb and commuted to the centre, the Hub.
    10 miles, I could go north for 7 and east for 3ish, or east 3 north 7ish, get the picture? There were sooo many alternatives ( early '70s) that it was a combination of both methods. Nowadays minor roads are speed limited, speed humped or totally blocked, does this sound familiar?
    But back then it was go for it, a race but not against the clock like you courier guys, I was usually early anyway, The Race was against all the cage slaves. Read the signs, traffic density, light sequence etc. chuck a right on to Winston? or no, straight on thru' ?
    Lanesplitting was De Rigeur, but not like the vids you show, as i said the clock was never the enemy, so slow stuff , hit the front just as the lights change,
    Perfect! And I did, for me, perfect this commute. Then I moved to the near country. Part 2 next.
  13. Geldof

    Geldof Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2011
    Oddometer:
    12
    Location:
    Birmingham - UK
    Gosh this post has stirred some memories. I was a London despatch rider back in the mid 80's and then for several more years based out of Birmingham on the "long runs" (inter city stuff). I still chuckle when I think back to some of the exploits. Like the time a few of us got our hands on an electric blanket and decided to fashion our own heated grips boots etc. I made some heated grips, basically some electric blanket wire wrapped round the handlebar grips, connected to the battery via a simple handlebar mounted switch from Halfords. I remember the first day I tried them. I was riding up the coventry rd into B'ham and I could feel the warmth building on the grips. By Sheldon I was starting to shed the top layer of skin off my hands. By the Rotunda in central B'ham I was holding onto the grips by fingernails only and finally had to admit defeat as black acrid smoke started billowing out of the handlebar muffs. It seems the electric blanket wire just got hotter and hotter, and finally started melting the insulating tape I had wound on top. At approx the same time 60 miles away on the M1 near Northampton, one of my fellow riders was suffering similar problems, his "heated" derri boats and socks met a similar fate and it must have been extremely amusing for motorway traffic to see a courier doing an early version of River-dance on the hard shoulder .
    Memories also of the iconic CX500 which most of us rode. We became highly adept at dropping the engine out, whipping off the back casing and changing the Cam Chain and Tensioners (a frequent job on the CX). One Sunday night, at a friends lockup, we
    had drained the engine oil (for reuse) and were in the final stages of refitting the engine after changing the cam chain on my bike. The oil was left in a bucket to be reused (save some money). One of the other lads showed up, and said he was dying for a pee. Suddenly to my horror I heard him peeing in the oil bucket. After a small altercation :evil it was decided there was no other solution but to reuse the oil anyway. I actually managed a full week of dispatching on that thinned out motor oil with no obvious negative effect on the bike.
    Not only did we work together, but many of the couriers also socialised together. A common night out would be a few bears followed by a curry. One Friday, after a night out on the Thursday night, I was headed down the A45 towards Coventry. I saw one of the lads coming the other way. he had a fully faired CX500, but as he approched it looked like he had flags waving from his fairing. I couldn't work out what it was on his bike, so later when I met him back at the office out of curiousity I asked him why he had flags waving from his fairing. "those weren't flags" he laughed.... "those were my pants and socks"!! Apparently, the previous nights curry hadn't done him any favours, so in desperation he stopped somewhere to ease his burden. he said afterwards when he reached for some tp, he realised to his horror there wasn't any. So he took his socks off and used those, but they weren't sufficient, so he then sacrificed his shorts. After this quick thinking he then washed his socks and shorts in the sink, and hung them out to dry on the fairing of his bike as he rode back to B'ham.
    Something of those days still remain, because to this day when I am considering a motorcycle to buy, I always find myself thinking would this make a good despatch bike.
    I currently ride an XT1200Z, and I wish I could have had a bike like this back in the 80's :D
  14. terpaksangaskus

    terpaksangaskus Lonerider

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2011
    Oddometer:
    40
    Location:
    Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat INA
    i'm dizzy to translate a very-very long report from english to my langue :cry
  15. MaNDan

    MaNDan 'Old cycles & my '26Chevy truck

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2013
    Oddometer:
    119
    Location:
    Wild midWest -USA
  16. JapseyeOgri

    JapseyeOgri n00b

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2009
    Oddometer:
    9
    Location:
    Osaka, Japan
    You didn't use Chazbikes, in Greenwich? Usually ride in on your own CX, or VT, and ride straight out on a rental, that was usually free whilst they were doing a service.

  17. aspieman

    aspieman M58

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2008
    Oddometer:
    17
    Location:
    UK
    He wasn`t around when I started,anyway I have never liked riding other people`s bikes....

  18. tractorking

    tractorking Retired Moto Courier

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2008
    Oddometer:
    85
    Location:
    SF Bay Area, California
    Wow Joey
    What a thread you started.
    Almost 400posts and 8 years...
    So many stories here...

    You done good.
  19. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2004
    Oddometer:
    198
    Location:
    UK and around
    The Chasman is still around, servicing rather than renting bikes near the War Museum on Kennington Road where Supreme used to be.

    I took a VT off him once when I'd run out of working options, but it didn't end well.

    Slightly OT, but who can think of films featuring messengers? I got Riding High (1980) with Eddie Kidd (a Brit Knievel). Obscure but good stunts - ends with a monumental jump in Essex. And High Hopes (1988), squatty leftie type on a Superdream. Blew it (for me) by using the word 'over' on the radio when it should have been 'rodge'.
  20. 81forest

    81forest ADDRider

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,191
    Location:
    Seattle
    Yep, I never heard anyone say, "over!" Is that trucker lingo?

    "Copy that" was the response the dispatcher looked for, also roger. Haven't seen any of those movies, need to check them out. I kind of liked "2 seconds" but it is a bicycle messenger movie.

    Found an old blog post from the Seattle courier days. I remember writing this during the winter, when being a motorbike messenger seemed like a shitty job. Hands cold all the time, poor traction and it got dark at 4pm... but looking back I would do it again in a heartbeat. :cry

    I may have posted this before in this thread. From April 10, 2009:

    "There’s a hidden violence about this job, something that makes me jumpy at the end of the day. Something that makes me check my blind spot when I’m crossing the floor of my own living room to get a beer. It’s a weird, nameless apprehension.

    Partly it’s from the constant roar of the wind noise on the freeway. It’s as if the air, angry about being agitated, is slapping me around and screaming in my ears, buffeting the helmet around. I read somewhere that wind can make people crazy; maybe as I sit there in the airstream, my wits are actually getting blown away and lost in the heavy din of traffic noise.

    Possibly there’s a hidden violence from inhaling all of the noxious fumes of vehicle-waste. Barbarian hordes of free-radicals versus my immune system. I like to think that all the garlic I eat is busy scavenging free-radicals all day, but I really can’t be scientifically sure on that.

    The fear of crashing seems more manageable, something that you can think about and avoid doing. I watch crash videos on youtube, talk to people that work in emergency rooms, and listen intently to anyone telling a horrific motorcycle crash story. Everyone knows someone that’s been killed on a motorcycle.

    There’s a little list of ghoulish catastrophes that I keep close in my mind: spinal puncture, brain trauma, amputation, skin grafts, wheel chairs, feeding tubes, etc. Thinking about it makes me feel safer. Somehow the beast is less frightening when you can look at it and name it, rather than constantly suspecting its presence under your bed."