If canceling the main race of monster track has got you all bummed out…there are four other great cycling events you can attend in NYC.
Here are a couple of events worth checking out today:
March 2nd at Hunter College.
2) Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping
Reverend Billy, the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir and the Not Buying It Band
Rev Billy and the gang are having a fund raiser to stop the eviciction of the Carnegie artist studios.
Well I guess this article would have lead to a lot more people attending Monster Track…and we wouldn’t want that kind of popularity.
MIKE DEE, a 33-year-old bicycle messenger with waist-length dreadlocks and a chipped front tooth from a bike injury, has been zipping around Manhattan on two wheels for more than a decade, picking up and delivering packages, currently for Checker Courier.
In his spare time, Mr. Dee helps organize races known as alley-cats. Pioneered about 15 years ago by bicycle messengers to test the skills they developed in their work, these events involve barreling around the city and threading their way through traffic to find random destinations quickly.
On Saturday, hundreds of competitors will take part in Monstertrack, an annual event that is one of the cityâ€™s biggest alley-cat races. A few days before the race, sitting in his dark and cluttered apartment in Stuyvesant Town surrounded by a half-dozen bicycles and piles of spare bicycle parts, Mr. Dee talked about the life of a New York messenger, the rising popularity of alley-cats and the sheer anarchic fun of the race.
Twelve years ago, I was working as a doorman and my job was hell. It paid a lot, but it was mind-numbing and boring. Iâ€™d always see these messenger dudes coming to drop off packages in the building, and they seemed like they were having a good time. They didnâ€™t have to wear a monkey suit to work. If they got hassled, they rose above it with a smart remark and a broken-tooth smile. I was like, â€œI want to try that job out.â€ I reinvented myself.
It was pretty hard. Physically, your body changes a lot. You lose weight and get stronger and eat three times as much as you used to. You get more of an engaged street sense when it comes to traffic and getting hit by cars. New York is a big crazy grid full of drivers who want to kill you.
I was a messenger for a good two years before I even started hanging out with other messengers in Tompkins Square Park, where all the couriers would hang out after work. They were like, â€œWeâ€™re throwing a bike race.â€ A bike race? Donâ€™t we ride our bikes enough during the week? Theyâ€™re like: â€œNo, itâ€™s different! Youâ€™re gonna like it.â€ Then I figured out thereâ€™s more to this than low wages and dangerous working conditions. All right!
The first one I went to was a Halloween race called the Noose. Basically, they drew a hangmanâ€™s noose over Midtown Manhattan and put checkpoints along the line. An alley-cat is: You look at a map of the city and pick 5 to 20 checkpoints. Then the racers have to figure out the most efficient way to get from one to the next.
Because itâ€™s an illegal, unsanctioned sport, anybody can come down, pay $5 and race. And if you donâ€™t like to race, you can be a checkpoint worker outside or at a bike shop or bar or strip club, depending on where we put the checkpoint, and hang out, drink, sign or stamp manifests and try to pick up some boys or girls, whatever youâ€™re into.
Iâ€™ve been organizing races for 8 or 10 years. Every holiday, thereâ€™s usually an alley-cat. Thereâ€™s the Valentineâ€™s Day Massacre. On Halloween, there was the Triple Six, the Noose, the Pentagram. I organized these races last summer called the Five Borough Generals.
Iâ€™m surprised we didnâ€™t get a visit from Homeland Security solely based on the names of the races. There was the Rumble Through the Bronx, the Broadway Bomber, the Staten Island Invasion, the Queens Riot and the Battle for Brooknam. It was pretty awesome.
The next one coming up is Monstertrack, which is a race that I helped start. Ten years ago, Monstertrack had 45 entries. This year there should be 250 people. Way more than half of them wonâ€™t even be couriers.
Originally only bike messengers and their girlfriends came. Now itâ€™s regular people on their bikes saying: â€œI want to do that, too. That looks fun.â€ Itâ€™s a cultural phenomenon for young post-college kids getting these yuppie jobs that donâ€™t pay them any money, figuring theyâ€™re going to be paying off student loans the rest of their natural lives, or who canâ€™t get a job anywhere but a coffee shop with their art degrees. Theyâ€™re like, â€œIâ€™ll just get this track bike and stick a U-lock in my back pocket and ride around.â€
There are categories in the race. Thereâ€™s the overall winner, the female winner, the first-place out- of-towner. Out-of-towners usually donâ€™t pull it together. They donâ€™t have traffic like this in other cities. Unless the guyâ€™s smart or gets lucky, they usually come in 10th.
For some reason, companies donâ€™t want to sponsor underground illegal bicycle races through the streets. Theyâ€™re afraid that somebodyâ€™s going to get run over and killed. At Rumble in the Bronx last year, at least four people ended up in hospitals. Three while racing and one, my own roommate, got run over going home. His hand was literally underneath a car, but it wasnâ€™t broken.
We give away a prize for Best Crash at every alley-cat. Usually itâ€™s pretty cool. A guy shows up at the finish line with his bike on his shoulder holding a broken front wheel, or thereâ€™s blood streaming down his head, or heâ€™s missing skin on his arm. You need to give away prizes for things like that.
“The organizers of Monster Track 2008 have decided, after careful consideration, to cancel this yearâ€™s main race.
This decision did not come easy and was debated at length. Our reasons are many but the overall factor was that the race has become unmanageable due to the large participation and our concern for the participantâ€™s safety.
As many of you know, Monster Track started as a race held for a small, close group of NYC bike messengers. It has now become an overwhelmingly all-inclusive event. This, on its face, may seem like a positive direction for a race but in the context of a solely track bike alleycat it brings many problems. First and foremost, the safety of the racers is compromised. We believe that this is not a tenable position for race organizers.
Although the main race is canceled, please join us for Gold Sprints on Friday evening, Fixed Gear Competition (track stands, skids, footdown, freestyle, sprints, etc.) on Saturday and the Velo City Tour, at Kissena Velodrome on Sunday.
Schedule of Events:
Friday March 7, 8PM
Saturday March 8, 1PM
Sunday March 9, 12PM
Well that sucks. I respect the organizers for their decision and realize it must have been a hard one to make. But it does leave me feeling a little empty. I mean what kind of outlaw bike community are we? I guess we’re all grown up now. At least we can go back to doing what we do best at the other events, Drinking, fighting with each other and vandalizing property. All kidding aside…I do think that Monster Track did a lot for the bicycle community. Not everyone has to go out there and skitch cars, hit pedestrains and be unsafe. I know a lot of people who just participated in the main race just to check it out, rode slow and embraced what a good time this is on bikes. Its sad to see that because of someones death (in Chicago) that we are going to stop this. For good? For just one year? Are other alleycats going to change. I know working messengers out there feel like there culture is being stolen and don’t want to be responsible for tragedy.
ABC news did a story on alleycats after the recent death at the Tour De Chicago:
Funny how the “I team” did a big investigation on “Alleycats” after someone dies. Maybe they should put that same effort into news when cyclists die from cars when they are following the rules of the road. HMMM. I know I live in a fantasy world.
Look for our Monster Track video which will be coming out at this years event. I may be the last documentation of this famous NYC alleycat.
Well the logic board on my laptop crapped out. Apple care was a worthwhile investment. So I’ve been unable to write for a while and we were away shooting an episode of our new television show: “Babylon by Bike.” We had a great time in Boston. More info coming soon.
Meanwhile tragedy strikes in Chicago which is going to be the home of the North American Cycle Courier Championships.
A young cyclist was killed during a race series.
Matthew Manger-Lynch, (29)
More details are in this article from the Chicago Tribune, written by: Karoun Demirjian
Here is an eye-witness account:
On the second stretch of the ride today, i was in the front pack, which was about 15-20 people. a fellow whom i’d only met that morning, a young guy named matt, passed me on the left, … two blocks later, our pack was approaching a huge 5-way intersection (lincoln/irvingpark/damen), matt was in front. i was maybe 20-30 feet behind him, with a couple riders between us. matt proceeded into the intersection, probably assuming he could dodge traffic or (as had happened up until then that day), stop traffic dead, as they usually see a pack of unruly bikers and stop for us, not knowing what else to do. this time, in this intersection, that didn’t happen. a GMC suburban SUV was coming from the right too fast – matt tried to swerve to miss it, but couldn’t. i watched in horror as the suv plowed right over him and his bike, wheels rolling right over both. the vehicle pulled over at the side of the road; matt lay in the middle of the enormous intersection, bleeding, not moving. the other riders stopped traffic, and gathered on the sidewalk at the other side of the intersection. i called an ambulance. we didn’t know if he was conscious or not – i tried, with the help of another rider (nico), to talk to him, shouting at him to stay awake, to stay with us, to hang on, to fight. there was so much blood. his helmet was fucked on the front and the back, indicating that the wheel had likely impacted his head. he convulsed a bit, never opening his eyes, never responding to our cries. i now realize he was certainly unconscious during this time. police arrived quickly (we had passed two of them a few blocks before), and shortly afterwards a firetruck and then an ambulance. they took over dealing with him, put him on a stretcher and into the ambulance. the police kept asking everyone around if we knew him. no one did. a few knew his name, and gave it to them. no one seemed to know him personally. we tried to find any info we could about his contacts, his phone, his family. others were somewhat successful later.
Matthew is remembered on this blog
Fashion week has moved on to London but the bike community in New York, is still chatting about the great orange props DKNY left us in their annoying attempt to promote themselves…I mean promote biking, I mean promote thinking about biking, I mean thinking about themselves looking good and maybe forgetting what they were supposed to think about…biking or something orange.
To be fair, DKNY wanted to put up white bikes and were quickly thwarted. Not because of the blatant rip-off of sacred ghostbike memorials dedicated to lives lost for biking, but more importantly to be respectful of the fashion rule before Memorial Day, and didn’t want to piss anyone off. Besides the new rule for Spring 08 is Orange is the new white.
Here are two more articles which came out in local papers with some fine reporting on orange bike fever.
Jefferson Seigel came out last Friday for the cat fight out front of the Fashion Week Mecca, sometimes known as Bryant Park. He filled this report in the paper he works for, the Villager.
Title–Cyclists: DKNY knocked off our â€˜ghost bikeâ€™ idea
By Jefferson Siegel
Just before the start of Fashion Week, dozens of neon-orange-painted bicycles appeared around the city chained to lampposts. Stenciled on each was the Web site address for the fashion company DKNY.
read more… here at the Villager.
Ah yes another article on Bike Couriers. This one is from my old hometown of Seattle.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing really new here but I like to include all the articles I can, for the archives.
Thanks again to Joe Headry of Messmedia.org for his constant diligence in finding articles about couriers.
Seattle street racers: Ride along with Seattle bike couriers
By Erika Cederlind
Daily – University of Washington , February 12, 2008
Driving in Seattle sucks. Itâ€™s pouring rain and traffic is terrible. Cars speed up to intersections only to slam on brakes, honk horns and wait bumper to bumper. Weather conditions, road construction and commuters only compound the problem.
On a bike, these problems disappear. Bike messengers can weave in and out of traffic, avoid construction and get from Pike to Pine in a matter of minutes, while driving through downtown Seattle can take upwards of an hour.
In a city like Seattle, bike couriers are a necessity. Legal documents, architectural drawings, business proposals and more must get from point A to B as soon as possible.
Washington Legal Messengers is one of several bike courier companies in Seattle. Like many other delivery services, its base is nondescript (like its riders) and unmarked by any sign or logo that would explain its presence.
At 5 p.m., couriers are finishing their workday. Wet and wind-burned from the January weather, the bikers recline in chairs and on desks, drinking beer and laughing at the events of the day.
The couriers bond over their common problems: frustrations with drivers, the weather, or an annoying customer. Their commonalities create a unique community. They all know each other and many of them are willing to help out another courier.
â€œThereâ€™s an unspoken bond between messengers,â€ said Matt â€œFaceâ€ Nascimento, a Washington Legal messenger Nascimento has worked as a courier for two years; by messenger standards, heâ€™s still a rookie. He moved to Seattle from southern California, and like most, fell into the job by accident.
â€œI was just riding my bike around the city,â€ Nascimento said. â€œIâ€™d just gotten out of school and wasnâ€™t ready to go back. I went around, asked a couple of messengers and eventually landed a job at ABC Legal.â€
ABC Legal is the biggest legal delivery company in the area.
Now Nascimento considers himself a â€œliferâ€ â€” a career messenger. Many lifers start as messengers in one city and move to other cities later in their career.
When courier Chad Strand moved to Seattle from Reno he experienced the positive impact of the community.
â€œThe first week I met another courier, and she already knew everything about me,â€ he said.
Couriers are a mix; some do it while theyâ€™re in-between jobs â€” others are lifers. Many are college educated and have worked elsewhere. All of them love the outdoors, cycling and canâ€™t imagine working in an office.
â€œI canâ€™t tell you how many offices I walk into where theyâ€™re counting down the hours,â€ Strand said.
â€œThey say they canâ€™t picture doing my job,â€ he continued. â€œBut I canâ€™t imagine doing theirs.â€
Many people canâ€™t imagine dealing with the risks that many of the messengers face. Most couriers shrug any danger off.
â€œPeople think weâ€™re stupid,â€ said Jonathan Tamesue, a Fleetfoot courier. â€œBut weâ€™re playing on a level that people donâ€™t understand.â€
Courier consensus: fear is for rookies. Safety is about confidence.
â€œThe moment you doubt yourself, you fall. Any hesitation means you get hurt,â€ Nascimento said.
Just donâ€™t try it at home. As Strand explained, â€œWe are professionals.â€
Although the occupation seems â€œmacho,â€ Nascimento explains that quite a few women work as messengers, too.
â€œThere are a lot of girls who do it who donâ€™t get the respect they deserve. Itâ€™s not a total male-dominated sport,â€ he said.
The messengers know the city like the back of their hand. They know which intersection lights change slower and how many seconds you have before a car 20 feet away will hit you. Traffic patterns are instinct.
â€œI knew it (being a messenger) finally clicked when I saw holes instead of cars,â€ Strand said.
The risks arenâ€™t important to the couriers. Despite the dangers of getting hit by a bus or wrecking on early morning ice, they love their job.
â€œYou get into it,â€ Nascimento said. â€œYour endorphins are going and you get addicted.â€
Independent courier Roy Wilkie describes his job as an adventure.
â€œItâ€™s a daily road trip. â€¦ Itâ€™s a challenge, you have to keep so many things together.â€
Balancing the route, dealing with paperwork, time, and external factors can all complicate a simple route. Getting a package to a company on time, Tamesue said, is ridiculously epic.
â€œYou have to get from the [Denny] Regrade to south Seattle in six minutes, and you got it there with 30 seconds to spareâ€¦ You canâ€™t explain how good it feels,â€ he said.
With all the hills in Seattle, people often wonder what kind of bikes couriers favor. For many messengers, itâ€™s all over the board.
â€œItâ€™s what suits you,â€ Wilkie said. He explained that some people prefer mountain bikes for heavier packages, track bikes without brakes for going uphill or just a good solid road bike.
â€œTrack bikes are hard, though, for going downhill,â€ he said. â€œYou have to pedal with the speed of the wheel or youâ€™ll crash. But right now single-speed, fixed gear bikes are really fashionable. As soon as they go out of style, Iâ€™ll work with one.â€
Historically, bike messengers have been around since the invention of the bicycle. The United Parcel Service (UPS) was started by a couple of guys delivering on bikes in Pioneer Square. Seattle bike delivery companies began in the late 1970s as the city grew.
â€œBike deliveries are the most logical,â€ said Gary Brose, owner and president of Fleetfoot Messenger Service. â€œTraffic is terrible and people want to get things done in an hour, 30 minutes or 15 minutes. What weâ€™re selling here is time.â€
Time is a valuable resource valuable enough that Seattle couriers can make a pretty good living.
â€œI donâ€™t have to worry about having to eat Ramen because Iâ€™m worried about making rent,â€ Strand said.
Some companies pay hourly, but most pay on commission, plus extra for wait time, rushed deliveries and extra weight.
â€œYou really make as much money as you put into it,â€ Tamesue said.
Couriers manage several jobs a day, riding miles up and down hills and all over Seattle. They ride from the U-District to Ballard, through the downtown core and farther south. Some ride to Bellevue and Issaquah if the need arises.
â€œItâ€™s usually from 30 to upwards of 80 jobs on a busy day. I average about 40 miles,â€ Fleetfoot messenger Brant Waldron said.
Despite weather, traffic or construction, messengers do their job.
â€œItâ€™s a total unsung hero thing,â€ Nascimento said. He laughed and then added, â€œI have a good quote for it from Thoreau: â€˜The most wild is the most alive.â€™ And I think, yeah, weâ€™re pretty wild and pretty alive.â€