Bike messenger’s guide to the galaxy P°1

First of all, what is a bike messenger ? I mean everybody knows what it is, however there are differences in delivery options. It is only a few who carry small letters and contracts for big money, but most of us deliver food, vine, flowers. Instead of sleek water-proof messenger shoulder sling style musettes, we ride with cubic, large and ‘volumneuse’ packs. For instance once I had 26 large chocolate cakes and 26bottles of 500ml water for a film crew. I mean, around 18kg of articles.

Most deliveries have absolutely no time constraints. The quality of delivery counts more likely than speed. For the messenger the most important factor is comfort, health and the quality of purchased product at client-arrival. Secondly, convenient handling in traffic, easy bike maintenance on the go, possible bike-part buying anytime / anywhere.

Health and comfort

Forget about the romantic images in your brain about speeding through traffic lights on a single speed bike with no helmet and no brakes. First of all if you rode single speed slash fixed gear, you are extremely limited. Big weights, elevation, injury and you are messed up. With a fixed gear, you must pedal all the time and reverse pedal when slowing down, eccentrically contracting your hamstrings. Eccentric muscle contractions are not endurance moves, but stabilising, protecting and resisting ones. Do you plan riding 70+ hour weeks ? Better cruise around time to time !
Delivering 8bottles of vine up on a local hill ? A 44/18 gear ratio will hammer your knees to death already uphill, then you kill the hammies on the downhill. What if the client will reorder some food and more vine ? After 2 single deliveries you’ll be giving up on the whole day. Fixed gear bikes are made for track cycling !

I recommend definitely a geared bike. One chain ring on the front and 10/11 speed at the back. Honestly 12 speed is not necessary. Choose your frame size wisely. For comfort and handling the best is to choose a size small and adjust the stem if needed. The handling will be way better. Be smart about it. For instance if your height is 176cm and the size M goes from 166 to 176, do not size down, but go with the Medium. However if you were in the middle somewhere, better try out the models in real life. Get a measure meter, go to a bike rental and hire a bike for half a day with the geometry imagined and needed. This will be your work tool. If the form or size won’t fit you, in 2 weeks you’ll have cranky back and bad knees.

If you delivered food, a more upright position will be preferable to keep the purchase the most vertical. Especially if soup, milkshakes, smoothies, coffee and tea were on the line.

Choose your saddle wisely. Too soft, too large or too narrow and your back will hurt. To hard and your ars will be on flames. Something in-between is a good compromise. A little butt pain on some days, but no other discomfort. I mean, I don’t ride in bibs as they make my balls numb wearing them that long. If you did that, it was your choice. In this case you can choose more performance oriented seats.

Maintenance

I am not sure how is it in the states or in England but in the home of cycling – France and Italy – when you ran into a local bikeshop and ask for a 1/2 x 1/8 chain, they will just tell you WTF ? Ask for a lower or higher cog for a fixed-gear or a BMX freewheel ? No chance ! Broke a 1″ fork or a 25.4mm seatpost ? Specialty bike shops might even have only 100% konic forks ! Same true for handle bars and stems. You want a 1″ steerer with a 31.8mm handlebar ? Good luck mate. Don’t even get me started with Campagnolo ! The “new” Shimano Metrea urban minimalist gruppo is a great idea. However, only online ! I think there is now an 11s version what is way more multifaceted.
You can order online, yeah sure, but most of us wants a repair in 10minutes and keep riding ! Skewers are also 10 times faster then screws and they are tool free, also no centralisation is necessary for the rear wheel. We don’t leave the bikes outside long enough to get the wheel stolen, but if yes, bike locks are handy. Hex key tightened skewers are also available, of course, only in standard sizes !

Style
A trekking style fitness bike is also preferable. Frame clearance for larger tyres will help you tackle littered cities, wet and snowy terrain. In some cases you can also run lower pressures. 23 and 25mm tyres are not a the best choice for the rider going against the elements 10 plus hours a day ! I ride 28 and 32 mil tires.

Going Electric 
E-bikes for hilly terrain are necessary. I mean, when you were really out there and climbing 1000s of meters every day, with charged bags, you’ll appreciate the help ! I choose to mix it up ! For instance 2 days assisted, 3 days normal, 1 day assisted, 1 day normal. Why ? Cause I have a life outside of work, I am a runner, I like the outdoors and spending time with my wife. Meaning, I don’t want to be smoked and tired all the time ! I run between 60 and 160km every week in addition to the 70+ hours of cycling ! Assisted electric bikes are fantastic work tools and Bosch motors are reliable and very much resistant and usable. For flat terrain however, they are a bit slow and consume too much battery. They are not necessary for the plains. Just pedal normal bikes ! Yes, there are 45km/h 350watt speed bikes, but those motors consume way too much and your battery life will be extremely limited even with a 500w battery. The new rail system proposed by Haibike allows you to fix 2 batteries on your bike having 1000watt. That will solve some issues, but these frames don’t exist with a Bosch Speed motor yet.

In rain, I ride only normal bikes. The 20kg e-bike handles weirdly on wet roads and also the assistance can be a bit tricky when starting out too fast on a white line. Your wheels might spin out, causing possible danger.

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This is the SDuro Cross 9.0 low step with integrated battery. You can choose regular or low step versions in the SDuro Cross line. Same frame size, but lower top tube height. For comfort and for people with shorter inseams. 500watt battery, equipped with Shimano XT gruppo and Magura MT4 brakes. Possible 2nd battery mounting option !

Brakes
What about disc brakes ? Well, what about them ? I rode only rim brakes till now, but will go for the disc ones, for sure. Why ? Rain ! Stopping power and efficiency of rim brakes is zero ! After 10minutes my rims are dead black from the oil build up ! Seriously, black as ! The interesting thing is that it is only on the first day of rain. Why ? The road sucks up all the pollution and dirt coming from car fumes. The rain brings that up from the pores of the concrete and needs that initial first day to get cleared off. Unfortunately in to the rivers and sea. From the second day of rain the bike rims will be still very much dirty but with way less oil. Also the friction coming from these brakes weakens the rims. I am at 30000km this year ! I carved a freckin’ notch into my rims ! It is cheaper to replace discs and disc brake pads, than the wheel itself !
Secondly disc brake pads are cheaper ! What ? Yes ! When riding in rain, I completely flatten out my gum based pads in 4 days TOP but often less ! Often less, seriously ! Metal based disc pads can hold up to two weeks of total rain while riding 140hours ! Some months I must spend 60bucks on 3 sets of  rim brake pads.
Also “better” brake pads have a lot of channels in them. These pick up dirt and scratch your wheel, diminishing the efficacy of breaking surface !

Just make sure you buy your disc brake pads in advance. There are at least 60 varieties and it isn’t sure you’ll find the exact one needed in the local bike shop. 

Cabling
Internal routing is common. It would be more sensible to use external cable routing in high maintenance-need commuter and messenger bikes. Aerodynamics are zero and aesthetics are secondary. Outside of hydraulic disc brake hoses (even those), the derailleur cabling should be external. Jagwire has very specific waterproofed gear cable sets with teflon coated cables available.

Bottom Bracket

This is also something what will be changed at least every 6months to a year. Get external ones for sure ! Knocking out press fit cups every time you want to re-grease  bearings is impossible. It will weaken your bikeframe and bbcups too !

Pedals and shoes

If you rode all day long, up and down, carrying heavy stuff, well, going clipless is obligatory. You might be fine for 1-2-3 even 5 years. Do you want to have cartilage and strong tendons in your older ages ? Go clipless and balance out posterior and anterior muscle chains. Push and Pull ! Always high cadence. It is way faster too !

Shimano XT pedals are resistant and cleats cost 10bucks for 2years ! I recommend to not to go under the XT line ! I destroyed everything lower than that. Other brands don’t hold up either. Eggbeaters, Frog, Nukeproof, Look. Riding in rain and dirt for weeks on end is different than setting off every second week on a DH course. XT and XTR ! Sure value !
I use the Shimano easy multidirectional cleats the SH-56 ! I have no issues either with the SH-51, but prefer the 56s in the city !

If you had thin feet, you can go with any shoes. Mavic, Look, Northwave, Bont, Gaerne, don’t care. I have a large feet and also need the daily comfort. In addition I sure need distance walking comfort !
I prefer and I recommend MTB all-mountain shoes. You can walk in them like in any other shoes, they are durable as and look like normal shoes. I ride AM50. Heavy, but comfy.

Cross Country vs. All-Mountain

Recommendations

You will not find the perfect bike, ever ! However, you can make a compromise with the possibility of a future update ! I recommend that at least go perfect with the frame, rear gear set up and later on you can change the rest. If you had a short cage 10 speed road rear derailleur and want to go higher, well you have to change, chain, cassette and the derailleur itself and the front ring and the shifters… If you chose a Shimano equipped road bike, it will be extremely hard to find long cage derailleurs. You can get from 105 and Ultegra but only up to 32cogs. If you wanted to go higher, you cannot ! You can use an MTB derailleur and an 11-42 cassette with your Ultegra shifters, but you have to add a Shiftmate and it starts getting messy. Sram has it’s Apex 1, Rival 1 and Force 1 group sets outside of MTB sets and they go up to 42 teeth cassettes. I’d rather use flat bars and MTB shifters, though. Then you would have a wider range. You would be able to mix and match Sram and Shimano with little limits.

Avoid internal hub gearing like the Shimano Nexus, unless you want to spend hours on fixing a simple puncture ! Dead End ! Even replacing a spoke will be giant pain in the ars !

Unfortunately many perfectly equipped bikes come with a crap front suspension. If you did not find anything else, what suites your geometry, that is an investment to make. Buying a bike with a front suspension and ordering a carbon fork in the meantime.

Here you go, some great deal no-bank-breaker bikes what are great start. Basically all are the same, with similar price, purpose and equipment. No big differences.

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Commencal Fast City – 999€
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BMC AlpenChallenge – 999€
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Charge Grater 4 – 1300€
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Boardman URB – 999€
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Specialized Sirrus X-Comp – 1600€ – For those who needs speed and can surely and safely lock their bikes !
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Charge Grater 5 Titan – 2500€

Sizing is key to success
Big guys are limited ! That sucks ! BoardMan URB – Size L top, meaning 540 seat tube. BMC Alpenchallange and Commencal Fast City are better with XL 560mm. I ride a 62 and a 63 road bike with long reach. If I had 2cm shorter reach and a 560mm with a longer seat tube, I am okay. I’d prefer a 58 or a 60cm but they don’t exist ! X-Comp XL 563 seat tube ! Grater XL 60mm seat tube. I tried these bikes and actually the reach is often 62cm for the XL bikes so I am completely fine with these ! Though I clearly can say that sizing precision was never a major concern in the fitness line of bikes !

I love the look of the X-Comp, however you pay the big buck for the brand and the carbon frame . The Commencal and the BMC are better as you can maintain them more easily with little to worry about the aluminium frames. If you want to up-upgrade, they are also easily done with some Chris King components !

It seems that big names do not focus a lot on fitness bikes. Geometry, equipment and all other stuff are just thrown on bikes like they did not care. Nobody wants triple chain rings but not even doubles. Nobody wants a 15kg bike because of the cheap front suspension fork. Add 100bucks and use carbon fork.

Phones

The 3 most important factors are: Durability, Battery life, Speed ! You want a phone what can have a tough casing ! LifeProof and UniCorn Beetle are the two best cases, period ! LifeProof is water proof, Unicorn Beetle is not, but the camera lens is not covered !

Iphone or Samsung will be your choice as these case companies don’t make phone protection for anything else. IPhone has zero battery life and even less in cold ! Samsung is better and the touch screen functions better through the screen protector ! The S7+ S8+ S9+ or NOTE8 and NOTE 9 are your options. I don’t compromise on this. I need the functions and don’t want to charge it every second hour. It is not an ad or sponsoring crap. Tried and tested, time after time ! Huawei, Xiaomi, Motorola, Sony …. Dead end for the messenger ! My phone is my work tool. I have all apps and all notifacations off

You can get a tough phone like the Blackview, the Dogee or Crosscall ! They will break too ! You need a soft case, so the impact is totally absorbed when the phone is dropped ! Yeah, you can get a Sonim but no companies carry it and you’ll pay 1000 bucks. I got my S9+ for 120 euros ! I tell you a trick. You want 1,2 or even 3 new phones ? Change your pre-payment company, add TV ! They bring down the stars for you ! Just make sure that phone cell coverage is the same great in your region for the new service provider too ! I paid 120 euros up, I pay 20bucks a month for the subscription, I had 100euro cashback from Samsung and 70euro of free accessories.

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Cannondale Quick 2
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For messengers who carry very heavy loads even in winter times and need a serious workhorse. Bombtrack Arise !
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For messengers liking to jump up and down from sideways and wiggling in traffic. Not the most ideal with the lefty and a 650b wheels, but can be a great choice for the right environment. You must know your own maintenance, have backups or an always open specialty shop around !
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I did not discuss road bikes as I find that they are not the best messenger tools, due to the sporty geometry. Too long reach most often. However if you wanted a tool this is fantastic. 1300€, high quality , 1x gearing , Disc breakes. The Giant TCR SLR 2. Just need to change tires.

 

 

 

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