Avoiding pedestrians. Swerving in and out of traffic. Beating the clock to deliver hundreds of packages. When your job is like a video game, to score high you need a damn good strategy. And for a bicycle messenger, that means getting a bag full of packages delivered all over their city—fast.
Next month, the world's top bike-delivery men and women will put their workweek skills to the test at the Cycle Messenger World Championships, an annual urban cycling race where the pros (those guys who deliver your parcels via two wheels) and the amateurs compete in events that mimic everyday on-the-job tasks for a bike messenger. Held in different cities around the world since 1992, this year's event is set to take place in Melbourne, Australia.
"Instead of seeing who can make it across the finish line first, the race is more like a maze or a live-action board game," explains New York's Joshua "Whitesnake" Weitzner, who has competed in nine World Championship events.
To win, participants must pick up and deliver packages along a closed course in the race's host city. Each racer is given a manifest and could be asked to make more than 100 stops during the four-hour event. Side contests during the main event include bike polo, the bunny-hop (where contestants must jump their bikes over a high bar), and the cargo race, where cyclists have to get creative in order to transport oversized objects like beer kegs and hay bales from point A to point B.
According to Godspeed Courier's Christina Peck, 28, who came in first in the women's division and third overall at the 2014 event in Mexico City, being the fastest cyclist doesn't necessarily guarantee you the win.
"Certain people that I know I'm not quite as fast as I can still be competitive with by being meticulous," she says, which can mean making sure no packages accidentally fall out of her bag and remembering to check in at every stop on her manifest.
Each race is designed to uniquely represent the city it's being held in. In San Francisco, the course had steep grades to mimic the famously hilly city. "In Guatemala, it was mostly dirt—very bumpy and strength sapping," says Peck. "They had random pedestrians wander through the course." Peck says the Melbourne race will be held on the waterfront, but other than that, she has no idea what to expect.
So how does one prepare for a race they know so little about? Weitzner says just showing up for work every day is training enough.
"I could probably write a book about the things you deal with as a messenger that the general public has no idea about," he says. "There's the camaraderie, the insult of having to use freight cars and back doors, the unfettered access to parts of the city that no one else ever sees. But maybe more than anything else is how damn addictive the job is."
Even if there are a few impatient customers along the way.
"I don't think a lot of people appreciate the logistical planning that goes into five riders delivering 170 jobs a day," says Peck. "And mostly on time!"
More from GrindTV