Hardy or loolhardy, Dunsmore can clock up 500 miles a week

Life and times of a cycle courier

BRIAN DUNSMORE, 31, has been a cycle courier in Glasgow for ten years. For the past four years he’s worked for Timbuk II, a couriers’ co- operative, Interview: Richard Moore Photos: Jonathan thtlejohn

ycle couriering has been big

for longer than people

think. It really kicked off in London in 1978. when they had a postal strike. but there have been bicycle messengers since the last century in some of the bigger cities. such as New York and Dublin.

We’re definitely coming round again. With more city centres closed off to cars and full of one- way systems. a lot of companies can see the sense in cycle couriers. Never mind the AA. we’re the fourth emergency service. Unless you’ve got a jet-pack. nothing in the city can go any faster.

I enjoy the job immensely. The fact that I’ve been doing it. off and on. for ten years speaks for itself. And the weather really doesn’t bother me. I like being outdoors. as do most couriers. We’re hardy: or maybe foolhardy. l have worked in an office before but I found the constraintsjust too much.

When I left school I did the usual thing that Scottish guys do: I got pissed for three years. I didn’t recognise myself anymore and becoming a cycle courier was one way to change that. I’d always loved sport anyway: boxing. athletics and then cycling.

The money’s not good: it never has been. But working in an office would drive me up the wall. There's pressure. but we can release it. You get to exercise - or exorcise - all that pent-up pressure and aggression.

I work nine-hour days. in all weather. Sometimes the body says. ‘No.’ but the funny thing is that people always think I’m younger than I am. 1 think that’s because I’ve got a smile on my face when I’m working.

When people start this job they

sometimes have problems with the traffic. but that’s normal. You leam to read how people drive. You can sit behind a car and watch what they’re doing. and read their body language. And if you make eye- contact with the driver they often give you a bit more space.

In the city you have to cycle aggressively; you’re a vehicle. and you’ve got every right to be there. You can take up a whole lane if you want.

I’ve had arguments with drivers. where I’ve had to point out that there were 14,000 pedestrians killed by cars last year: only two pedestrians were killed by bikes.

Yet cyclists are perceived. by a lot of drivers. as being the most reckless. dangerous people in the city! I would say that 95% of the time the cyclist is in the right.

I've had some unusual assignments. I’ve had to deliver an engagement ring to a girl in a bar. I didn’t actually have to propose for the guy; she knew who it was from. Another strange job was to pick up a cat after someone moved house and forgot it. We always say that we’ll take anything apart from pizza.

And we rack up quite a few miles. On a really heavy day I’ll ride pretty much non-stop for nine- and-a-half hours. from 8.30am to 6pm. I might get a bit of lunch on the move. but I’ll only really stop to deliver packages.

I‘ve covered I 10 miles in a day; an average day will be between 40 and 50. and at a fair old rate. Come Friday. if it’s been a hard week. I might have done 400—500 miles. and I’ll be wasted. Usually it’ll be straight to the bar. Four pints later [’11 be absolutely minging.


strange job was to pick

up a cat after someone moved house and forgot it.’

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I started off on a mountain bike, now I use a track bike. As the thrill goes out of one bike I’ll change to something else. The track bike has a fixed wheel, with just one brake. A fixed wheel gives you that extra edge; it keeps things interesting. Riding in the city is exciting anyway; the fixed wheel gives an extra thrill. Wheels bear the brunt, but Alistair Gow at Wheelcraft builds the best wheels in the country.

Many cycling events have been cancelled to help prevent the spread of foot-and- mouth disease, and - though all these events are correct at the time of going to press it may be worth confirming with organisers that events are still on.

May/Jun North Sea Cycle Route. 0131 229 7190. Inaugural ride for the 6000-mile route; join any section.

Sun 13 May SCU Development Series, Kilmarnock, 01563 543456. The Scottish

Cyclists' Union series designed for newcomers to road racing. events usually 40—60 miles.

Sun 13 May SCUMB. Sidlaws, near Dundee. 01241 854367. General information on SCUMB

series. 01560 600707. The Scottish Cyclists' Union's mountain bike cross-country series. with races for various levels and age ranges. The 15 May Meadowbank Track League. 0131 654

2719. Experience the thrills of track racing, on the velodrome re-built for the 1986

Commonwealth Games.

Continues every Tue evening throughout the summer.

The 15 May Bathgate

BMX Club. 01506 656714. The return of the BMX! Races/ activities every Tue throughout summer. Sun 20 May Glasgow/Loch Lomond Bike Ride. 0131 226 3705. A 21 -mile ride on the >

10—24 May 2001 THE LIST 17