Two Spoke Forums banner
1 - 20 of 20 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
24 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I work in downtown Philly (what we locally refer to as Center City). We have the usual bike messengers that you see in big cities all over the country.

My question is, why do they seem to favor single speed bikes? They looks sort of like track hybrids - basically a bit more rugged than a regular track bike, with a brake or two and heavier tires but just the one speed.

My speculation is that it is both a badge of honor within their community ("real bike messengers ride only these manly bikes!!"), and a theft deterrent. The messengers often ride up to buildings, lean the bike against a wall and head right in without worrying about locking it up.

There are probably messengers that don't ride these but I don't think they are the majority. Any messengers out there have any insights?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
129 Posts
I'm not a messenger, but have talked to a few recently. Some of the big things in that are the trendyness of riding a single speed, simple looks to not look flashy enough to steal, and less stuff to break. One of the possibly biggest things behind that is most of those guys run fixed gear, meaning they have no brakes and just use the downward force on the back pedal to slow to a stop. They do this because they are out there 5 days a week in the rain, sleet, snow, and whatever else falls from the sky that gets on your rims and causes you general brakes to be nearly useless. If left to rely on the basic road-bike brakes, they would have to ride even slower to avoid being hit by cars at intersections and whatnot.

Many times they don't have time to lock thier bikes up, nor a place to do so. I have been told that running your u-lock through the frame and rear wheel will almost always keep someone from stealing a bike because they cant ride it away and have to go through too much trouble to get the lock and/or parts off back at the shop. Generally your messengers will only be in the building for a couple minutes to drop the package off with the receptionist. In that amount of time there is little chance of someone nabbing the bike.

I feel like I'm rambling now... One more reason for the lack of locking the bike is the major hurry these guys are in. They compete greatly to see who can deliver the most packages and the quickest. Many of them are paid on comission and/or tips. The more packages they deliver in a day, the more money they make.

I hope that helped:)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1 Posts
Your mind is freed from thinking about shifting. I commute to work in DC on a fixie. I have a front brake just in case! You cannot coast on a fixed gear, but you can on a singlespeed. I have a rear hub from Surly which can have a sprocket on both sides and enables both options by taking the rear wheel off and swapping which side is on the chain side.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
24 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
There is a whole community of bike messengers, I've learned (in Philly, at least). They hang out and party together, and are not very accepting of outsiders. I suppose they also share tips on outlandish outfits since they all seem to wear them. : )

Actually, the clothes are probably functionally derived. But they always have that look.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
129 Posts
From what i gathered during my time spent in Boston and the bike messenger videos/documentaries I've seen. U have to be a bit deranged to be a messenger in a city like that anyways. The clothes being a little odd is just a side effect.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4 Posts
Plus you often have to come to a quick stop, in a SS or fixie you dont have to deal with getting back down to a low gear in order to get moving again.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
19 Posts
Bike messengers put a lot of miles on their bikes and in some very terrible weather, especially in cities in the northeast where the winters are bad. They want to be on bikes that have as few small, moving parts as possible. That way their is much less likelihood of constantly repairing these things. Also, just about everything on a fixie is bolted to the bike, so simply locking the frame to a fixed object gives you reasonable security for the whole bike which is nice. Finally, it is certainly a status thing. To the original poster, you are probably mistaken when you say that they all seem to ride single speed bikes. I would be willing to bet that they all ride fixed gear bikes. I think that because it is such a tight community, and because they tend (but are not always) very elitist, you would get laughed out of the room if you tried to get a messenger job on a single speed.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2 Posts
i know several messengers in dc, new york, and a few other cities and none of them fits neatly into the descriptions offered here or elsewhere on the internet. they each have their reasons for doing what they do, and so do we.

some reasons for riding a singlespeed in the city include lower cost of ownership, less frequent maintenance, cheaper maintenance, easier to clean, fewer moving parts, less to steal.

fixed gear also adds more control with your legs and more control at low speeds.

oh yeah, did i mention that these bikes can be a lot of fun? that's the best and only good reason to ride them if you ask me.

they also force you to stand up and pedal to get up the hills. if you're not in good enough shape to ride hills hard before riding a fixed gear, you will be aferwards.

plus there's the "cool" factor that influences some more than others. these days the coolness has pretty much worn off being that there are kids on fixed gears everywhere you look in the city.

but really, who cares why messengers ride them? or why hip kids ride them or why some roadies ride them for training? do it if it feels good, and don't if it doesn't.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
27 Posts
Funny, last couple of forays I have made into NYC on bidness I have not seen one messenger on a fixie. Though, I have seen plenty on geared bikes. I did talk to one chap on a free wheel SSer with one brake and asked what he does for the rear brake -- said he uses his foot against the tire.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,501 Posts
Funny, last couple of forays I have made into NYC on bidness I have not seen one messenger on a fixie. Though, I have seen plenty on geared bikes. I did talk to one chap on a free wheel SSer with one brake and asked what he does for the rear brake -- said he uses his foot against the tire.
I was in Manhattan in February and not only did I not see any fixies, but no singlespeeds either. Almost all of the bikes that I saw were cheap pieces of ****e! The contrast was striking compared to Philly. We always stop in South Philly for cheese steaks whenever we are on 95.:) There are tons of cool bikes in Philly and the overwhelming majority are fixed or ss.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
27 Posts
I was in Manhattan in February and not only did I not see any fixies, but no singlespeeds either. Almost all of the bikes that I saw were cheap pieces of ****e! The contrast was striking compared to Philly. We always stop in South Philly for cheese steaks whenever we are on 95.:) There are tons of cool bikes in Philly and the overwhelming majority are fixed or ss.
I should have mentioned that all the fixies I did see were all appropriately locked to posts, which could mean that the messenger was inside the building. The POS bikes are usually ridden by food delivery guys. They are unique in their own right. I have seen some with grips made out of pipe insulators.
 

·
Boston Biker
Joined
·
123 Posts
POS, fixed and single speed enable us to forget about the bike; forget about it chained to a lamp post and forget about it on the ride. Leaves more time to enjoy the motion.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
461 Posts
Generally your messengers will only be in the building for a couple minutes to drop the package off with the receptionist. In that amount of time there is little chance of someone nabbing the bike.

yea, i had a USED mtb taken within 10 sec, when i went it to get a drink of water!
 
1 - 20 of 20 Posts
Top