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Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Bike Messenger?

By Jiri Kaloc

Bike messengers are common in most big cities. They can avoid traffic, they are fast and flexible, and anyone can do it. Thanks to services like UberRUSH, UberEATS, or Postmates, all you need is a bike and a smartphone. But making a living as a bike messenger is not an easy job! Are you fast? Are you tough? Can you make enough money?

You have to be fast on and off your bike

Your livelihood depends on your ability to make deliveries quickly, and that’s not only about your riding speed. You have to be able to choose the best route in split second, navigate through traffic efficiently, lock up your bike fast, and sprint up many flights of stairs every day.


You can’t ride just any bike

You shouldn’t ride a road bike because the horizontal position creates pressure on your hands that can result in injury over time. That’s why messengers often choose more upright mountain-type bikes. You need reliability, comfort, safety, and speed. Experienced messengers say you should expect to pay at least $500 to $1000 for a good bike and about as much a year on replacement parts. You might also consider investing in a comfortable bike seat and helmet, sufficient reflective and lighting accessories, and waterproof clothes and backpack.

Expect to get “doored”

Being “doored” means slamming into a car door that is suddenly opened. Especially when you’re trying to go as fast as you can, it’s something that can be hard to avoid. You should also be ready for a lot of road rage from car drivers. They will honk and shout if you’re in the way and some might even try to teach you a lesson by riding on your tail.


You won’t earn much

How much you earn depends on the city, the company you deliver for, and most importantly on how experienced and fast you are. Bike messengers in New York City earn about $80 – $150 a day which is not bad. But think of all the spare parts for your bike, the extra fuel, and savings in case you get injured. And on a really bad day, you might earn close to nothing.

You have to figure out where to pee

There’s no toilet conveniently waiting for you just a few steps away like in the office or at home. You have to plan your pit stops ahead and accept a lower level of comfort. You should also think about hydration and fueling, it’s a whole day on a bike after all.

It will be heavy

Bike messengers usually ride 300 to 800 km (200 to 500 miles) every week, rain, shine, or snow. Sounds like a lot? Now imagine that with up to 30 kg (66 pounds) on your back! That might be an extreme example, but riding that much every day with a lot of weight will take its toll. Your riding technique and recovery routines will be tested to the max.


So, do you have what it takes?

If you think you do, try it! Postmates operates in 44 cities in the US and UberEATS in 50 cities around the world. Just keep in mind what experienced messengers say: It’s not worth it, unless you love it!