NY Times Spokes Blog: The Slowly Fading Cult of the Messenger Apr 13, 2010

Photo by Raymond Jones

Before all my friends start to get all in a tissy over this article, let me clarify some points. David contacted me a few days ago with a simple question; “Do you know anyone who is into fixed freestyle in NYC that wasn’t featured in the Peel Sessions article from last summer?” Let’s see… No, not really. The bottom line is, there aren’t a whole lot of fixed freestyle kids in NYC and when you look to the fixed gear / track bike scene now in most major cities, it’s over-run by the fixed freestyle kids, especially out West.

There’s more below.

Even with “twenty six fixed” coming on strong, the 700cmx army seems to be building up. More so now than ever. So what does that mean to the circa 2006 riders who were riding track bikes? They’re probably still on track bikes and road bikes and cross bikes. People who got into track bikes as their first bike ever are still enjoying them but they’ve also picked up other bikes, ones with derailleurs and learned that there’s a whole new world of cycling they might have never been a part of if it weren’t for their first track bike.

My main point that I was trying to convey to David is this; there are tons of kids buying fixed gears and track bikes for the first time. Most of these people are getting into the mainstream side of it; flashy components, hip-clothing and other notes taken from the skateboarding industry. Naturally there are the die-hards out there, but just like when everything goes mainstream, you’re essentially watering down the population. Some of these guys will stick with it, others will drop off the fad as quickly as they picked it up.

I think that’s what David was trying to say in the article. Not that the Messengers themselves are “slowly fading” as a career or a community, but that the idolization of them is slowly disappearing. I am in no way saying that it’s entirely due to the fixed freestyle movement, I’m just simply stating that this whole thing has become more mainstream and thus allowing a higher concentration of cross-pollination. Kids like track bikes because they look cool and are fun to ride. Now that they’re extremely popular in cities worldwide, you’re seeing a new look. One that’s not mimicking messengers; a look that’s more akin to the downtown cool guy aesthetic.

To also clarify to what Joey Krillz was saying in his first quote:

“Previously, in the scene, if you were a courier, you were it,” Mr. Krillz, 29, said. “But now it’s like, no one cares if you’re a messenger anymore. It’s all about the tricks.”

I don’t think he meant in the NYC scene, I think he was speaking globally to the “new comers” who’s first fixed gear is a trick bike.

What do you guys think?

  • its all about the tricks bro

  • hater69

    it comes of as a negative peace and i think thats the way the guy who wrote it wanted to make it sound. All the things you just mentioned above did not come through in the article at all.

  • too difficult to barspin with a porteur rack

  • d

    With an opener as this…
    “With fewer packages to deliver and an increasing number of urban riders draping themselves with shoulder bags and cutting through traffic on track bikes, some say the cachet of being a bicycle messenger is wearing off for a new generation of street riders.”
    What does one have to do with the other? The way I see it, the number of packages determines the number of messengers; not the look.
    If anything, we should be happy that the trend is two wheeled human powered vehicles and not V8 sports cars. Do yourself a favor and don’t worry about the rest.
    …do I really have to read the rest?

  • this guy should have chosen a different title and been a little more focused. a to-the-point argument about the explosion of a sub-culture into mainstream over-the-counter-culture as the cause of a fading cult would have made more sense.
    also, i don’t know wonka, but i can only assume he told the reporter he was a house robber and the guy took it as a joke and jotted down real estate broker…

  • i’m just not going to worry about what someone wrote in an article concerning a “fad” or not fad. This is honestly an opinion and nothing to get worked up over. I’m going to go work on my bike, and rest up on my sick day.
    keep the rubber down

  • Tom

    To me it was all about the community but now it really has turned into a fashion show. It sickened me when I made a trip out to Venice the other weekend and seeing a bunch of 13-15 year olds riding around on flashy fixies. At that moment I stopped regretting converting to a city style single speed.

  • See, to me that’s the wrong point of view to take. I think it’s really rad that for the first time in a long while, riding a bike is cool.

    Those kids riding “fixies” in Venice are probably going to stick with bikes for a while. That is a good thing!

  • Ukiah

    I think there’s a few points of view on this. The fact that it’s a fad is pretty valid, kids in their early teens are grabbing up road frames and throwing a fixed wheel on the back to hop on the bandwagon, and while this is a huge leap forward, and getting people on bikes is the best things regardless of the type they’re riding, I think riding a fixed gear is in a lot of ways recently a status thing. Yesterday I saw a pack of late teen maybe early 20s kids riding down market street here in SF with the flashiest bikes I’ve seen in a loooong time, one with an aerospoke, one with a trispoke, flashy colors all around. So while I don’t think that’s bad, it just sort of brings up this point that to a certain degree for some people it’s about what you can afford, or what your parents can afford or whatever. If you have a single speed, you’re a certain status, if you have a conversion, you’re a certain status, if you have a track frame, you’re a certain status, if you have a trispoke you’re a certain status. And you feel that out on the streets. And tricks are definitely getting more and more popular. But at the same time, the guys in the original Mash didn’t have the tricks we have now’a days but they’re comfortable on their bikes, there’s a certain fluidity to their riding, and I think that’s what’s really important.

  • i doesn’t matter what you ride or how you ride it as long as you’re riding. Even if kids are doing it as a fashion statement at least they’re riding a bike and in some way contributing to a healthier environment. i like what Tom said, at least its not V8 sports cars.
    Just keep riding!!!

  • NAM

    I don’t understand what the big concern is for flashy bikes. If someone is given the option of having flat black, raw, or an anodized color component, why should their aesthetic taste influence how they are perceived? Not everyone wants a murdered out, sticker bombed ride. So let’s all not judge based on color but instead how they use their bike. If it’s a fashion statement, chances are the bike is just U-locked against a fence while the rider takes a clove break. It seems like a lot of people are getting uppity about how bikes look instead of how they are ridden. I’m pretty sure any component will cost the same whether it is hipster purple or street cred black.

  • Goodman is trying to keep his job. Running out of bike stories …


    the article isn’t saying much, but its just trying to say that messengers are no longer the cool style of bike riding, fixed freestyle is. but no matter what its still people riding bikes. who gives a fuck why they are riding bikes and who gives a fuck what the bike looks like. and the whole status thing with having either a single speed or a conversion or a flashy track frame is bullshit. its just reflecting your own insecurities.

    sorry if a sound angry, but it seriously baffles me sometimes when i come on here and read comments that are negative to the fact that young people are riding bikes because they think its the “cool thing”. bikes are the cool thing!!!!!!

  • iamjberube

    more people on bikes>less people on bikes

  • Ukiah

    Yeah I wasn’t saying that I personally feel that way, that’s for sure. I say if someone is riding to school/work/wherever, regardless of what it’s on it’s a step in the right direction.

  • Chris

    Not from NY or the West Coast, but I sort of agree with the article, and don’t really see what the big deal is. Isn’t fixed freestyle the new big thing? I don’t partake, but it seems like a good time. I guess I didn’t see how this article was really saying much other than “the messenger fad is out, freestyle is in.” Not that big of a deal. Both “styles” of riding seem like a good time.

    Personally, all the negative comments below the article on the NYTimes page blew me away- you’d think bike messengers shot some innocent bystander every other day. It sounds like everyone knows someone who got hurt by in a courier related accident and blames the bikes or the style of dress messengers use for the accident. Honestly? how many people are hurt by cars every year? Seems like a car accident just doesn’t stick out in peoples minds (whether the driver was reckless or not), but if some courier on a bike hits a person, we should probably crucify them all.

    Or people just hate that it’s become fashionable to dress and ride in a certain way. Jesus, do people really not have anything better to do with their time?

    I really don’t get it. Just ride bikes and have fun. Try not to get hurt. Everything else works itself out.

  • here in tokyo i feel things even progressed passed 700cmx and “twenty six fixed”, so much so that guys would put on a non-fixed setup or get rid of their bike altogether and just buy a bmx.

    due to that, they won’t be as fast riding from one end of the city to the other and hence started hanging out with other people and go to other spots. the messengers are still here doing their thing, riding fast but no tricks and there’s plenty of tricking bmx’ers around. it’s sad really, but it seems the 700c trixters with non-slammed saddles that could do a little bit of both (riding fast and doing tricks) are diminishing :(

  • I’m an 80’s kid, and growing up in TX…I always thought that messenger life was the shit. I would always volunteer my young courier services to run my friends Nintendo games back to block buster further in the city, just cuz I was the fastest one in the neighborhood. We took trips to chicago and NY to see Fam and that’s where I discovered bike messengers in the 90’s…they were gods to me then, and I still respect the hustle today. My messenging days where few, being broke and in between jobs but I know many who are out there RAIN, SHINE, COLD AS FUCK, TIRED, HUNG OVER, DEPRESSED, BROKE, ECT…NOT ONE COMPLAINT ON THEIR FACE…THat’s the hustle. I’m indifferent to the new trick/track scene because although I don’t hate it, it just doesn’t appeal to why I get up and on my bike every mourning…long story short…do what makes you TRUELY happy TRICK OR MASH


  • eden

    i think the funniest part to this article is the fact that he called it a “cult”… Awww yeah baby i guess im in a cult, do i get jumped in, or something? hahahaaa…


  • honestly riding fixed is turning into a fad, yet let us all let it be. as long as all of us who really love it and ride and know we will till the day our legs are just gone are still having fun let the fun continue…i see it too. kids getting track bikes to look cool. having their parents spend mad money to make them get into the scene. its just one more thing that goes on in teen culture and just hip culture it will change soon enough….for now i ride 700cmx and i love it and i also am an advocate of striving for new thing so the fact that the trick scene has changed a bit with how the bikes look fuck it let everyone do what they like we are all part of a cool new thing and everything changes components can be mixed up ya know…we all love bikes thats all that matters for now…ill be on my bike tomorrow im sure you guys will be too

  • The question is: who. gives. a. f**k. ?.

    Sure, if I was a messenger, maybe i’d be a little be upset to see some teenagers misusing my “street creds” by copying my look, my bag and my bike… but I could also think: hey man, these kids consider us to be so cool they’re now doing everything to be and act like ourselves. Or, third alternative, I could just don’t care, get on my bike and do my job, like every other day, knowing i’ll be there, riding hard on the street, wheter the cool-scene-boy is still ridin’ his flashy bike or not.

    I think it’s a little bit like every fashion… when skate became the big think, everyone got into skate, then it got bigger and bigger, so big that now you can buy skate-wear anywhere (actually it’s the most common clothing around) and people don’t even remember that clothes come from skate “culture”.

    And the skate guys will do their stuff regardless. The surfers will surf, the messengers will deliver, the scene boys will push they’re bike on the sidewalk just to show, the trickster will grind they’re pedals, some people will start riding, others will stop…

    Just keep riding… only issue to care about should be your own safety.

  • flip

    I ride to work almost everyday. I save money by not giving it to public transportation services. I work 9-5 monday thru friday. @ $2.25 a ride, that ends up being more food for my belly.

    I still can’t ride fakie.