[messengers] Faux Go Go Go

Date: 5 Jan 2011 23:36:50 +0100
From: Joe Hendry <messvilleto@xxxxxxxxx>


Faux Go Go Go

 

Not all those bike messengers you see are the real thing.

 

 

By John Nova Lomax

 

Huston Press, January 5, 2011

 

 

Some casual observers on the streets of Houston may mistakenly believe that there are
now more bike messengers than ever out and about. There aren't. Well, who then
are all those people on fixed-gear bikes, wearing grungy messenger-looking
clothes, with bike bags slung over their shoulders?

 

In a word, hipsters. And the old-school bike messengers hate
them. "Fuck them all," says former messenger Butch Klotz. "And
their moustaches."

 

Klotz backs up on that assessment a tad, but only a tad.
"I'm happy that there are so many bikers here now that are tearing shit
up," he says, but he remembers all too clearly his first encounter with
one of these messenger replicants. He recalls the very corner he was on when it
happened: Dunlavy at Westheimer. He saw a guy who looked to him like a
messenger in from out of town, and as his is a close-knit international
fraternity, he rode right up to introduce himself.

 

"So I'm like, 'Hey, what's goin' on?' and I get the
fuckin' stink-eye," Klotz remembers. "The guy looked me up and down,
like, 'You couldn't possibly know shit.' And I was like, 'What the fuck just
happened here? You fucking turd. I'll bet you're in your car the first sign of
rain.'"

 

Old Man Tim Bleakie shares Klotz's view. He, too, is glad
more people are on bikes, but...

 

"They're a dime a dozen," he says. "You see
them out there with their messenger bags that you can tell have never seen a
rainstorm, or probably never even a package. And they usually use the
sling-bags, and I've never used one of those because to me that's not really an
appropriate way to be carrying things. The loads swing around, you get back
problems...We call 'em coffee-shop couriers, or coffee couriers. The signature
is the messenger bag." (Bleakie uses a backpack on his rounds.)

 

And then there's their choice of bike. Most of the
old-school couriers came out of the mountain biking scene. While many have
moved on to road bikes, hipsters nearly universally favor a more recent phenomenon,
one that some messengers have also adopted in the last ten years. Namely,
fixed-gear bikes, or "fixies": one-speeds with tiny, straight
handlebars, no brakes, and the ability to be pedaled backwards and forwards.

 

"It's a fad, a style," declares Bleakie, who
favors a road bike. "If they're on a bike, fine. If they want to ride
around on the street with no brakes, be my damn guest, but don't expect to get
paid if you get hit."

 

Bleakie also mocks the little handlebars. "They've all
got those teeny straight-bars, and I'm sorry, but that's got to be the most
uncomfortable and unstable way to ride you could possibly get. But if they
think they're cool and they're riding their bike, man, my hat's off to 'em. I
think I'm cool and I ride my bike, too."

 

"With that in mind," he continues, "people
who ride without brakes or experience, who do it just because it's a fashion
accessory, are fucking crazy."

 

"Some of these kids don't know how to ride them,"
Klotz says. [These hipsters] don't have toe-clips or clipped-in shoes. There's
no recourse for hauling ass and being able to stop fast. I don't understand
that."

 

Like many messengers, Klotz loves riding his
fixed-gear.  "The thought goes from
your brain to your legs to your tires and to the street," he enthuses.
"You get used to the rhythm of your bike. You know when you are coming up
on a stop sign or an intersection that it's time to decide whether you will not
make this one or you go through it. You have to adjust. Instead of bailing, you
have to be real kung fu and find your way through the problem, instead of
avoiding it."

 

The thing is, he and the other messengers on fixed-gears
know what they are doing. "Now I am so absolutely tuned into it, my feet
don't touch the ground except for when I get off the bike."

 

But the recent hipster embrace of fixed-gears has ruined
some of his enjoyment.

 

"I can balance at a light, but I don't even do those
tricks at lights anymore," he says. "Now that the words 'hipster' and
'fixed-gear' are in every fucking thing you read, I put my foot on the ground
at lights so that I will look like a rookie. I'm gonna save that shiny stuff
for my friends, but I don't want to give other folks a chance to lump me in
with those turds."    

 

 


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