The minor adventures of a motorcycle courier

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by JoeyBones, Aug 20, 2008.

  1. messenger 68

    messenger 68 n00b

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    Just had to join ADV so I could add to this thread. You should write a book Joey, your writing style is great and brought back a lot of memories.

    I was a DR in London from 78 to early 80s, Pony, Delta, West 1, Chameleon and Holborn too! I must know some of you guys, was well known in the Pakenham at one time!

    Nearly 30 years on I can still remember so many stories, but my lasting memories will always be the people, what a bunch of blokes they were.
    Its my eternal shame I cant remember all the names, but in all my life since I have never met such a bunch of characters and unique individuals as I knew on the circuit.

    The most amazing thing about them really is that although mostly certifiable lunatics admittedly of advanced riding skills, the level of professionalism was so high. It takes balls to do it day in and day out, rough and smooth in all weathers with no one to motivate you but yourself. Reading the various posts from old couriers all over the world, Thanks, you have brought back some great memories. Different cities, even continents but the same mind set.

    Was there a better controller than Ken Couchman anywhere? I can hear his "6 yeah" or "free mots at piccadilly and Air St." even now. Or anyone more off the wall than Grant Burger?

    Dont mean to hijack the thread, just say thanks to all posters.
    zoomungus likes this.
  2. britman

    britman Britman

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    Did you know Mickey the Bastard?
    Russell?
    Mike Gillette?

    My name is Paul. I was a friend of Keith and Ken from Pony Express/Delta days. I was "Messenger 60 here" at PonyExpress.
  3. messenger 68

    messenger 68 n00b

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    I remember Mike Gilette, a consumate profssional.

    My strongest memory of him was following him down Regent st. one day, he was riding that Kawasaki 1000 he rode around on and had his wife on the back, when some geezer opened the door of his mark 3 Cortina not 20 feet in front of him. He hit the door square on and I swear knocked it straight off the car and down Regent st. he was so in control there was not even a wobble. The bloke in the car was still holding the door handle at the time, and I think shat himself. Mind you I nearly did just following.

    And obsessive Phil at Holborn, used to change the oil every Saturday morning on his CB550. Never missed a Saturday change in 2 years, once changed it, went on holiday for the week and when he got home changed it again, hadnt even started it! He dismantled the engine after 100K because he thought it must be worn out by then, and it had hardly any wear at all, just a very slight ridge and about a half the cam chain tension used. He never had time to put it back together either.

    Grant was always good value, He lost his digs once for some unlikely reason, and for a few days had a tent on the back of his bike and tried camping in Hyde Park after working all day. Got scared off by wierdos so he moved into his brothers garage but as his sister in law hated him so much she wasnt allowed to know. Worked fine for about 3 weeks, he was up and away at 7 before the house woke up and was always first to call mobile, and the last to sign off. Went wrong the day he overslept and was still asleep in his sleeping bag under her car when she got in it to take the kids to school, the scene when she started the engine and he shot out from under the motor was one I would have liked to see. His answer to the housing crisis was to take a job as a night security guard at a block in Tralgar Square, but after 3 weeks he overslept again and missed his security checks, police got hold of the keyholder and they found him asleep in the directors office. He got some serious ag from that episode !

    At that time he had a 650 Kawasaki that he couldnt stop cleaning every time he stopped, it looked, from 15 feet away, like a new bike, but it was so knackered in every department apart from appearance a scrap merchant wouldnt want it. One day he got so fed up with the oil consumption he parked it outside a Honda dealer, and the salesman offered him top money trade in on an FT500 without even going out the door to look at it, within 2 hours he had done the deal and riden away, he didnt even dare take it back for its first service, they would have not have been happy.

    My mate Ray Hosker, 66 at pony, got me into it and I couldnt get out of the habit for years after. I remember the IBM run, I lived out in Berkhamsted at the time so never got in early enough for the good stuff, it was always the Cosham run I got.

    I remember Alistair at Pony giving me a Hatton Garden to Sheffield for cash once, there was a foot of snow on the M1 and I rode it on a GT250 and suffered like a bastard with the cold, couldnt take a train because the cash was at the other end and I thought I was superman anyway. Thinking about it now still brings tears to my eyes, possibly the worst ride I ever had.

    Racing home to Battersea after the pubs chucked out with Mark Brown, me on an XS1100 him on a 400 Honda auto, both pissed. Got pulled on Chelsea bridge by an RT 100, and the copper giving us such a coating and threatening such penalties Mark actually started to cry! Then all of a sudden he shut his book and started chatting about how he liked to see bikes ridden hard and congratulating Mark on holding me off on a much more powerful bike. He was a good copper alright, didnt meet many like that and he was right too, Mark had more natural motorcycle ability than anyone I have met .

    Steve Billingham riding through Brighton, West to East, very early one morning, picked up an unmarked BMW car around Hove. He knew full well it was the law, but felt bloody minded so he raced it, cosistently over 100, right through Brighton and on towards Shoreham when he was stopped by a roadblock, rode straight up to the biggest copper, dropped the bike and screamed for help as he was being chased by some lunatics who wanted to kill him, he actually held the policemans legs as part of his scared act! And he got off scot free in court too!

    Dont remember mickey the bastard, wish I did though, what a name. And I remember a Guy who died late at night on the A3 when a Belgian artic did a U turn in a silly place, he was a lovely bloke who just wanted to ride his bike.

    What I suppose did it for me was an incident with the wanker jeweller Gerald Ratner, who tried to knock me off the bike in Mortimer st one day, no reason at all other than I hooted the git when he pulled out on me. Wouldnt open his window to talk to me at the lights then tried to have me off again when they changed. Got him back at the next set and in temper because he wouldnt get out whipped the car with its aerial I had broken off for the purpose. That got me nicked ( although the judge threw out his damage claim) and the unfairness of it all made me think it was time to get out, so I did. Great days.
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  4. neduro

    neduro Addict

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    This is a really great thread.
  5. MoBill

    MoBill Smiles when says dat Supporter

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    Just read that last bit aloud to my roommate. Great copy.

    Reminds me of old days in tanks...but nothing else to compare.
  6. britman

    britman Britman

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    So what's your name? I used to go out to Mike G's and his wife Sally's house att eh weekend. She made a mean cheese and prawn toasted sandwich just as those toaster things got launched.

    I nearly got Mike killed. We were sitting at a stop light when I dropped the clutch and shot forward (deliberately). Mike thought the light had changed and zipped off only to find cross traffic still acoming. I didn't do that again.

    Mike got busted in Australia when he had a Kwaka 750 2 stroke. The charge air pollution.

    There was Clive at Globetrotters who was always clean. A little slow brain wise but always clean.

    A Kurdish guy whose name I can't remember who ride like the wind.

    I remember seeing a pissed off rider block a limo in the West End. He was going to wreak some sort of revenge for something. A large Arab guy got out of drivers seat and with one punch laid the messenger out. Got back into the limo, reversed and drove away.

    Had the tail light on a bike broken by a chauffeur driven Jag in parliament Sq. Got off the bike to exchange words with the driver to find an actor sitting in the back (Can't remember his name). He gave me 20 quid to fix the bike. Done deal.

    Another time I was waiting in and office to pick up when another Globetrooter came in to tell me a bloke had knocked over my Gpz550. I went outside to find the clutch lever and turn signal were broken. Tracked the guy down and with the help of the other rider restrained him whilst yelling for someone to call the police. They showed up and took him off to jail. I was contacted by the police the next day telling me the bloke was going to press charges for assault. I ddin't need the hassle so we agreed to call it quits. I do know he would have had a sore arm and shoulder cause I'd hammer locked him hard. The other rider told me he'd used the pressure point in the other elbow so I doubt if he'd have been able to wipe his arse easily for a couple of days.

    That was a different Guy (not the Elton John messenger Guy). He was a red haired bloke - good friend of Keith's at Globetrotters.
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  7. britman

    britman Britman

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    Bloody hell I'm dragging this from the dark depths.

    Riding in Kent somewhere approaching a small village when a bloke jumps out in front of me, crouches and lifts both hands in a gun holding fashion. I wack the throttle open and as I swerve by him I see it's a cop. I get stopped down the road by a marked car and they want to bust me for speeding. I told them I nearly crapped myself cause I thought the bloke was going to shoot me and shouldn't they be wearing some sort of easily recognisable uniform insted of scaring the living daylights out of innocent citizens.

    I honestly had no idea it was a cop and a radar gun. Stupid buggers. I rode away from that one.
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  8. messenger 68

    messenger 68 n00b

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    Yeah I remember Clive, I used to call him Sharkey, he loved that! I was best man at his wedding matter of fact, thoroughly bloody nice bloke but not the sharpest knife in the drawer was he. He used to have a Pantah 900 in his living room, never even started the thing. Probably couldnt find the key. He was Mr clean and tidy though, undoubtedly the best dressed despatch rider I ever met. And he used to commute 50 miles each way every day too.

    Most of us were a very scruffy bunch , I used to wear a dirty old belstaff that left a quite remarkable mess on a lift wall when it was wet, and stank like a grave. In the early years my bikes were always letting me down, so wasnt a topearner till West 1 days, and accordingly the outfit I wore was the sort of thing Aqualung would have thrown out. I tried newspaper down my wellies ( didnt have derri boots till the 80s) because my feet were so cold. What a fucking mess that makes, its like wet stinky newspaper that has no insulation value. Some wiseass told me about the SAS wearing ladies tights, so I tried that shit too. It is impossible to put them on without getting great holes in them, so you have to put a new pair on top every day. In my case I tried a newspaper layer between each pair, still going for that warm foot ideal see. I gave up after a week as the sight was so extreme I got scared that if I did have an off no hospital would treat me.

    In those days I rode, into the ground, an RD200, a T250 and a T20 Super Six , I wish I had known better! After that I generally rode bigger bikes, was not bothered by petrol prices just like more weight ant better brakes, I still reckon I could get an XS1100 through traffic quicker than most. When I came back to bikes after a 15 year layoff I bought an Aspencade and used to frighten childeren and animals with the gaps I went through, I still think of it as normal!

    What nice people Mike and Sally were, I bet good things happened to them, as I remember they moved out to Tring or somewhere? Mike Agostini lived out there too, we got quite matey after I left Pony, but not spoken to him since he started Special Delivery and got Rich.

    I remember Keith tearing up Grants copy of the Sun every morning and giving him the cost. He wouldnt have it in the office but still paid for it every day! There was a quiet bloke called " the Yorkshire" there at the time, mad keen Glodwinger at weekends as I recall, but dont remember a Kurd.

    Did you used to cash your cheque with Jack the Pak, or were you Beresford Ave?

    My name is Duncan, I was a short tubby specky bloke then, and I still am now.
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  9. britman

    britman Britman

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    I was paid out of Beresford Ave and deposited the check.

    I don't think we worked for the same companies at the same time although it's obvious we knew a lot of the same riders. Small world.

    Derri boots. Bloody hell there's a memory puller. AND you can still buy them - bloody hell
    http://www.surplusandoutdoors.com/shop/outdoor-footwear/derri-wellington-boots/classic-derri-tie-top-pvc-boots-316524.html

    I tried tights once, made me have a mincing walk:lol3
    Went onto long johns after that.

    Agostini - he had a 2.8 Capri, we'd go dashing around in at weekends. Lost track of him when I went to Delta. He had such a big head for his size. I mean physically.

    Martin was a controller at Pony who went to Delta which caused a bit of a migration.

    Very incestuous business.
  10. JoeyBones

    JoeyBones Encouraging Entropy

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    Not a hijack at all dude! I love reading the stories and encourage anyone who has Courier "Adventures" to post 'em up!
  11. JoeyBones

    JoeyBones Encouraging Entropy

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    You said a mouthful there man! A couple of years running through city traffic like a madman developed serious riding skills that I still have today. Like Britman said, you get to where you can FEEL the cars around you and the bike becomes an extension of yourself.

    Try this - on a regular two-lane road (with no traffic!), see how many slow speed figure eights you can do without touching a foot to the ground or crossing over one of the lines marking the side of the road.

    To this day I try and stop for stop signs and take off again without taking my feet off the pegs.....
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  12. theturtleshead

    theturtleshead Tits on a fish

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    :clap That old peripheral vision trick.I love it! Staring straight ahead whilst plough through traffic at a great rate of knots,but being aware of every last movement of the things surrounding you! or more commonly know by people who don,t know how to do it as driving like a complete arsehole,ACE!!!
    Al theturtleshead
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  13. cyborg

    cyborg Potius Sero Quam Numquam

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    Really been enjoying this thread! :clap

    After reading all this so far I contacted a guy I know in London (I'm in Seattle) who I know did messenger service on a '95 Triumph Tiger (new style triple) for a year or two IIRC and urged him to share a few stories, maybe he will. Even now he rides London on commute as he says "I'm travelling across London every day by bike. Only trouble is the weather has been absolutely dire, cold wet and horrible. As for stories, not many [sure, I'll bet] but there's at least 3 or 4 times a day I see madness in the way of bad driving, people not looking when they cross and general idiocy. Still better that than spend twice as long sat in a car..." Amen to that brother! (I commute every day, all year, by bike, last 25+ years or so...)

    A few years ago I visited him and we went for a ride around London and countryside, me on his knackered but well serviced messenger Tiger and him on his newer EFI Tiger. After following him for a hour or so I was laughing with glee at his madman style and had to ask him about it -- then found out about the messenger duty. Good thing I had many long years of nutso 'lane sharing' experience in California because following him was quite an adventure and took serious focus. I won't errr.. elaborate, but you messenger guys will know what he was doing :lol3. I just followed right on his tail figuring he knew what was OK and plus didn't know where the hell I was going. He sure got through town fast but it did feel a bit insane! Then out into the hedgerow single lanes for some spirited twisty riding. I figure this was just a taste of mild London Messenger riding... a normal day about town. :augie

    Keep the great stories coming! :thumb
  14. tractorking

    tractorking Retired Moto Courier

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    One of our riskiest pranks was to try to grab money at the toll boothes/
    When the driver pulled up to pay the toll booth guy you would try to pass between and snatch the money before it passed hands. Only worked for me a coupla times but there were guys that would make that hit a few times a week.

    We used to wear the Derry Boots as well although we didnt call them that.
    When it was really pouring rain the rubber suit with rubber boots, the thinest gloves you could find topped with rubber dishwashing gloves over them, you know the bright yellow ones.

    So there I was...........
    Im on the pay phone with my dispatcher at the corner of Columbus and Union which is in a tourist type niegborhood knownas North Beach. Im standing about 20feet from my bike with my helmet halfway on my head.

    I see the suit guy walk out of the liquor store and proceed to get into his Lexus and back it about 15 feet into my BMW knocking it over. So he stops and gets out of his car, I tell the dispatcher to hang on and set the phone down.

    I pick up my bike and he looks at it and looks at his car which has a minor bumper scratch and sez " It looks like the damage is about even and you should not have been parked there". I told him to F$ck off and that he had hit a stationary object that had no driver on board so the fault was thouroughly his.

    Now Im a big believer in "Easy way vs. Hard way".

    Easy way, Say your sorry and cut me a check for a couple hundred dollars right there and we'll call it even.

    Hard way, Is an escelation. First License and Insurance to file with the insurance company, and if they are still assholes then we call the cops and if need be and ambulance which can cost a whole lot more time and money especially if it goes to litigation later for injuries and lost wages.

    Having said that, I much prefer "Easy way".

    So i explain easy way/hard way to this guy and he's not going for it but he is getting nervous now and when I ask him for his insurance card he jumps in his car and starts it up to leave. I stand infront of his car and he starts to knudge my motocross boot shine plates with his bumper. So I step aside and as he moves a few feet I kick the drivers door of his new Lexus as hard as I can with my metal tipped boots putting a giant dent and a scratch in it.

    So he stops and gets out and looks at the door. Im standing behind him and say "I think the damage is about even", That makes him mad and he trys to cuff me up side my head but the helmet keeps him from making contact.

    I was never a fighting kid in school and was always pretty shy and avoided confrontation, until I became a courier.

    So I look at this guy and he trys it again. I grabbed him by the shirt and started hockey punching him in the face. I mean I literaly was saying to my self "how many times can i hit this guy in the face" to the rythem of my blows. So here are these two guys fighting in the street of the tourist district in the middle of the season. I probably made contact with his face at least 10 times and trew maybe 20 punches in about as many seconds.

    Eventually the someone broke it up, he drove off, the cops came and I filed and assault and hit and run report. I got a settlement from his insurance since I had his license plate number and tracked it down. I didnt hear anything else about after but if he had a run in with the law afterwards Im sure there was a warrent for this smug asshole.
  15. MoBill

    MoBill Smiles when says dat Supporter

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    :poser
  16. cat

    cat Long timer

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    All respects to London despatch riders.

    Did any of you used to have fish and chips at Johnny's outside Embankment?
    I had to have at least one Johhnys a day, to keep the body warmth up.

    That was 1980/81. I worked for a small company in Frith St. There was a good Italian espresso shop in Greek St. Some of my friends worked for a small company under the arches at Charing Cross. One, I can't remember his name, was an Australian, rode a Ducati 750. We lived in a squat next to the Imperial War Museum.

    I remember the first week I did it, I had these CRACKING headaches in the evenings, from the fumes, but my friend said it would stop after a week or two once I got used to it, and it did.

    There was more work in winter because so many of the despatch riders didn't work. damn, my hands, I thought I'd get frostbite. It was ok down to about 10 degrees, but anything less, I knew, because it became painful, it felt like the ends of my fingers had been hit with a hammer. I used to go to the bathroom in every office building and put my hands under the hot water.
  17. messenger 68

    messenger 68 n00b

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    Used to get my chips at the Sea Shell in Lisson Grove, and breakfasted for a while at an Italian place half way up Wardour St on the left but cant remember the name, Luigi? Nino? something like that.

    Had a couple of incidents but used to try hard to control my aggressive streak, at that time I had the breaking strain of a Kit Kat, but am less tolerant now! I had a run in late one afternoon once with some tosser knowledge boy on a Honda 90 in the pissing rain some where near Ken High st, The 250 Suzuki I was on was running on one cylinder due to the wet, this tosser is behind me. Lights change, I am fiddling with my plug cap and get a huge shock just as this geezer hoots me to get a move on. Well, I put the bike on its stand, went back to remonstrate, he is off his bike too and as I am shouting at him I thought what a good idea it would be to crack him in the face with my visor, at the exact same moment as he decided to knee me in the cobblers. We both went down at the same moment, him holding his face, me trying not to be sick in my lid. Calmed us both down though, he got up shook hands and cleared off, I had to wait a couple of hours before I could wobble back to base and get a lift home from Derek in his car.

    Another time I was carved up by a couple of Arabs pulling off the Westway to go down Westbourne Tce, I was so angry as they stopped at the lights I ran up, pulled out the keys and threw them into a building site. These 2 big blokes got out and the red mist fell away, I thought I was going to get mine in a big way when another Pony rider pulled up, never been so glad to see anyone in my life! Cant remember his name but was an ex Army PT instructor, rode an XS500 8valve, not much of a rider but just the bloke I needed, we rode off together while the mugs went key hunting!
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  18. dentedvw

    dentedvw Where did I put that

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    This is giving me fits, carry on boys!
  19. BSK

    BSK Ohhh mist! Die Bullen!!!!

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    WOW!

    I guess my job as a pharmacy messenger was just half as interesting as the other jobs. Maybe being in Berlin wasn't the turf to be on either.

    I worked as a pharmacy messenger during my high school days to finance my needs to parts, bikes and fuel. While my friends spend their cash on weed all the time it was my part to get tools bought and other peoples bikes and mopeds fixed.

    Working in Reinickendorf (the northwest part of Berlin) I would travel all over the area and deliver narcotics in between the pharmacy, clients, doctor offices and the local distribution center.

    Never had any real rush as quickly as possible jobs but would often use the Todesstreifen (the path along the Berlin Wall) to cut my times down by half or even more. Nobody could ever figure out how I made it so fast in between dropoffs but the old path in between East and West Berlin was the quickest way to move around in the North when you had to travel South.

    It was also illegal to travel those on a motorrized vehicle of any kind and I often had run ins with the locals or pedestrians which would move out of the way but yell and scream on the top of their lungs.

    Never got into any real trouble as they prob were never able to read my licence plate (never washing a bike helps) but one time during a run coming around a corner I was surprised by cop cars everywhere and ambulances and one helicopter in the field. They must have had something bike going on as they saw and definitely head me since the rear tire was smoking and screaching. I did a quick U-turn when through the closest brush and took the route through Pankow back to my house.

    There weren't many steps to ride up and down on but some small ramps would often lead up next to the fire department routes and I would take those to cut down on time.

    To make this whole thing even better I was running most of my runs on a moped made by Zuendapp in the beginning. Well I had several ones; I would buy them, fix them up, run them for a month and then move on to the next one. The last vehicle that I used was a 125cc scooter for convenience which racked up 6K km's in 4 months. My favorite bike was my old Suzuki 80cc which I bought on my 16th but then sold to my buddy since it got horrible gas mileage.
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  20. MoBill

    MoBill Smiles when says dat Supporter

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    Excellent.