The bike messenger community is a tightly knit group which is fiercely proud and protective of its identity. I base this conclusion purely on a detailed reading of the online forum of ‘Moving Target - the world’s most useless messenger zine’ (their description, not mine).
The posts on the MT forum are from bona fide cycle couriers (I’ve probably misused some vocabulary here - messenger terminology I’m guessing is probably guarded with a vengeance too); and they are by turns, wise, witty, self-deprecating, frivolous, serious and it has to be said, very funny.
Chapeau to the Zine’s founder, Buffalo Bill, for an informative and entertaining ‘product‘ (not sure about that bon mot either, by the way). His moderating presence never feels far away on the website and he writes the news stories on the main page with a light touch. The familiar forum banter is frequently hilarious and gives you a clear sense of a real vibrant community as you read through the threads.
I also get the feeling that Mr Bill or (Mr Buffalo?) is a decent human being who wouldn’t necessarily hold against someone the fact that, like me, they’re not a real messenger, despite aping the look and riding the obligatory fixed wheel bike.
But a handful of the regulars who inhabit the Moving Target universe can give off different vibes. Reading between the lines of the constant light-hearted joshing, there are hints that some forum posters harbour a genuine resentment towards ‘fakengers’; a breed of cyclists whom they see as impostors, trying to garner all the kudos and street cred associated with the tough life of being a bike messenger, without putting in the hard, hard graft.
Fakengers have stolen the style of the messengers - cherry-picking the bits of courier chic they like, without giving anything back. And from that perspective I can see the aggrieved realengers (can I say that) have a valid point. But as an unashamed fakenger, I’d like to put forth the case for the defence (just as former mega-messenger Buffalo Bill has already done - here and here).
It takes no great leap of the imagination to see that bike messengers will latch onto kit which makes their job - of cycling quickly and efficiently around town - easier. The fixie of course comes with a long list of proven benefits; low maintenance, better pedalling style; more control for the rider, etc. If general cyclists read enough about the wonders of the fixed wheel and see messengers weaving effortlessly through the traffic jams enough times, they are inevitably going to become curious and start experimenting with gearless pedalling and will therefore graduate onto trying out the peerless gear too.
My single speed Pearson is a bike to work scheme machine which has revolutionised my 20 mile London commute. No more sticky gears and clogged up cassettes. Every morning I put my head down and just let my legs do the rest. I can appreciate the messenger look and counter-culture vibe, but I’d never try to pass myself off as a real BM. That doesn’t mean to say I’m not partial to any cool stuff which is cycling-related - what bike lover isn’t? Crucially I can’t track stand and I’m not afraid to admit, that I’ve so far only used the freewheel side of my flip flop hub (outed at last!). Definitively not a messenger wannabee then.
The copycat aspect of the fakenger phenomenon should be taken as a huge compliment. If fakengers weren’t around to give sustenance to the messengers’ romantic aura; by feeding the urban myth and doing them the ultimate flattery of imitating their style and behaviour - would the concept of the bike messenger retain any resonance in the general collective consciousness? (I suspect lots of people don’t care about the latter and would consign that last passage to Private Eye’s pseud’s corner’).
While I could never be mistaken for a proper bike messenger, my inflated fakenger credentials appear to have sustained an irreversible slow puncture. Having gone through the tick list of essential fake messenger accoutrements, I’ve found myself to be sorely lacking;
Fixed wheel bike - check.
Sweat-stained garments - check.
Permanent beer lust - check.
Non-Sidi, scuffed cycling shoes - check.
Off the peg single speed bike - fail (at least it‘s not a Langster).
No shiny new messenger bag - fail.
Pro-cycling replica jerseys - fail.
No rolled jeans - fail.
Front and rear brake - fail.
No spoke cards - fail.
Flip flop hub with freewheel option - fail (to the Tower with him!).
I’ve been sticking up for ‘fakengers’ when I don’t even pass muster myself to join the ranks of this maligned sub-species. Get ready for the next backlash, against bicycling mutants just like me - a ‘fake-fakenger‘.
Find more of the same from another fixie-fixated blogger @ Yamabushi mon Amour.
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