Wednesday, June 25, 2008

CMWC 2008

I've finally recovered enough to be able to gather my thoughts and try to recount the epic week that was CMWC Toronto.

For those that don't know, well, tough... it's the Cycle Messenger World Championships, figure it out.

I started writing a blow-by-blow account of the weekend, but quickly realised this would be very tedious to read if you weren't there, so i'm just going to recount some of the highlights.

Meeting old friends is always a huge part of messenger events, and this was no different. It was great to see Navid again, picking us up in the airport, then seeing Luk, Porno Steve, Kai Hawaii, Pascal, and a bunch of other Euro heads. All really good people. Martin Banana, Andy Duncan, the DC crew, April, Kim, AZ. The Trackstar crew, good friends... the list is endless, but there were a lot of hellos and a lot of sad goodbyes at the end. New people hang out with, The Finnish, Paulus, Paavo and Olli. Good drinking companions. Brian from Ottowa, polo guru. too many faces to remember them all, but all good people who contributed to a great time.

The racing is, of course, the most important part to a lot of people. Personally I don't take it too seriously and have been DQ'd from every event I've entered before this one. Yes, I was DQ'd in NYC 2005 for missing a turn by about 5 feet and running back to make the corner... sound familiar? Anyhoo... the course was a lot of fun in Toronto, 2 way racing made for some spectacular viewing, and one or two spectacular collisions, but not nearly as many as I thought there would be... turns out messengers know how to ride bikes after all! I took the race slow and steady completing qualification in 1hour 25. The fastest time was 1hour 2minutes, Shino methinks. I only found out I'd qualified for the final on Sunday afternoon, on the way to the Islands with a bag full of liquor. The race was nearly ready to start when we got over so I decided qualifiactaion was enough for me and got wasted instead. Fair fecks to 25 Sean for stripping down to his lycra and getting his race face on, he came 16th in the end. Chapeau!

when it all boiled down it was the usual suspects at the head of the pack: Jumbo, Austin, Porno(well done that man), and the world's fastest messenger(TM) Shino. I was so delighted to see him win, the Japanese messengers are always so nice, and turn up to every event, great ambassadors for the messenger community, and Shino is fast as fuck. You could really see his delight when he saw he'd won. Sets things up rather nicely for Tokyo next year. Will anybody be able to beat Shino on his home turf???

Speaking of future CMWC's, the open forum was an interesting one this year. Berlin put a bid in, but a non-present Mo somehow managed to stick his oar in and remind us about the huge divides in the community in Berlin. While his point may have been valid I think if he wanted to make it at an open forum he should have shelled out the cash and turned up in person to voice it, not put Martin in the unenviable position of being mouthpiece for him. I don't think that is right or proper.

Hamburg also had a bid, in the trusty figure of Kai Hawaii. This got my vote as I know he would throw a great event. However, he was beaten to the punch by a curious entry from Nadir of La Carrera cycles, with the backing of Andy Zalan. Guatemala... that's right, Guatemala. Nadir has organised the Gran Premio de Guatemala in the past, so I think we can trust he knows how to organise an event. I'm still on the fence about this one. Part of me thinks it's a great adventure and that it's about time we as a community looked further afield, but another part of me thinks that CMWC's should be held in cities with working messenger communities, like Hamburg, and organised by the local messengers. I also don't think this vote would have gone Guatemala's way if it had been taken in any other city than Toronto. But, the die has been cast, and I will support Nadir all the way. It's going to be an interesting journey, and it will only succeed if everyone pulls together to make it happen.

There was also a reshuffling of the IFBMA council, with 3 new members, Navid, Doddy from Australia, and I'm proud to say that I will be on the council for the forthcoming year as well. Andy duncan remains president and Porno Steve, Martin Banana, Jacob from Boston and Justin from Calgary all remain on the council. If anyone has any questions for the council feel free to mail

Side events are always a popular turn at CMWC's, this year the weather(again) didn't really co-operate so a few events got shelved. From what I can remember Jumbo won the trackstand, narrowly beating AZ. Pascal Brodard won the skids, although i'm not sure if that has been confirmed by the organisers. Ali from DC won the circles with 149 or something ridiculous like that, he can go forever. Jumbo came 2nd with a really impressive 113 I believe. I didn't see who won the sprints, but I can confirm that they were wearing full lycra, this is one event for me that looks less and less like a messenger event every year.

Polo was a huge draw this year, hat's off to Brian from Ottowa for organising a tremendously successful event. Over 60 teams registered and when the dust settled one of the teams from NYC with Zak, Doug and someone else walked away victors. I was delighted to see this event be so popular, but I just don't know if it should be part of CMWC. There were a hell of a lot of people there just for the polo, on polo bikes, not messengers. I felt it detracted from the main event somewhat. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the sport and love playing it. I just think if it is that popular maybe it should have its own event.

Messengers know how to party, rain or shine, and this was put to the test as there were a lot of thunderstorms over the weekend. We're a hardy bunch though, so the resourceful found shelter and the drunk just took their clothes off. Navid's goldsprint qualifiers were a case in point. Just as everything was set up and ready to go an electrical thunderstorm knocked out the equipment and the heavens opened. This didn't deter anybody though. The tunes kept coming, the beer kept flowing and people kept smiling.

Apparently the offical welcome party got shut down by the cops for underage drinking. Hardly the organisers fault, but I'm glad I stayed under the stage in Navid's that night. The closing ceremony was supposed to have beenheld on the islands, but the storm ruled that out and a hasty venue change led us to Sneaky Dee's, a popular messenger hangout. We got to hear some local music before the awards could take place, one kid with a ginger afro was particularly good. There were some really sweet prizes on offer, frames for the main race winners. For some reason, alcohol induced no doubt, I thought it would be a good idea to take the stage after the prizegiving and thank the organisers... I don't think many people heard me though, so I think I got away with it.

There seems to be abit of a backlash brewing on the messenger mailing list at the minute, I guess it's inevitable that some people are disappointed, we certainly had our fair share last year. I guess people assumed that Toronto would be far better organised than it was. A lot of infighting among the organisers led to rifts in the community and as such some of the event suffered. I really don't want to get involved in this argument 2 years running, but I think the organisers did a good job. I had a great time, is that not enough? Not for some people. I guess cultural differences have something to do with this as well. The Japanese are thankful for everything, the Swiss are not happy if everything doesn't run on time, The Celts and the Finns don't give a shit as long as there's enough alcohol. Broad generalisations I know, but the underlying point is there... when you travel to another country don't expect everything to be like it is in yours, and don't mistake messengers for event organisers.

Ok, enough, I just hate to see this wonderful community fighting with each other when all I saw for that weekend were people from all over the world with big shit-eating grins on their faces.

Thanks Toronto! See you in Tokyo!


Apologies for the lack of posts... been away at CMWC Toronto and then ridiculously jet-lagged getting home. I'm only getting over it now. A full report on CMWC will follow, but first some breaking news on the Cyclone front...

It appears that the call has gone out from Cyclone (Dublin's best loved and most hated courier company) for a new design for the jerseys they are forced to wear. Before the mangement have a chance to pass the buck and simply rehash the old design with added yellow, as has been their policy for the last few years, I thought it would be only right and proper to put the call out for some real, talented people, to come up with a design that a human being would actually like to wear day in and day out.

It appears Cyclone are offering a 'cash' prize to the winning design. Now whether this involves €5 and a pat on the head, or something substantial is beyond me, but I think the honour of making 40+ couriers look less like a swarm of angry bees with eyes in their chests should be incentive enough.
. (apologies to Fergus)

If anyone feels like having a go, feel free to mail me your ideas and I will pass them on with full credit for the design. If anyone just feels like taking the piss, also get in touch and I will post your scorn on this very page.

So, the criteria are: " any colour, format, design, style or medium which is printable can be used. The use of the word cyclone is not necessary" ... these are Cyclone's words, not mine, so take from it what you will.

Please, unleash your talent on this worthy project.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Horrific crash in Mexico

I find it hard to look at this image, but is serves as a gruesome reminder of how dangerous it can be to ride a bike.

This was during a sanctioned bike race in Mexico, only about 15 minutes into it. The driver was apparently drunk and asleep behind the wheel. One of the riders was killed and at least 5 more were seriously injured. It's a miracle more people didn't die.

The picture speaks volumes, nothing more needs to be said.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Random kindness of caravans

As I'm doing the Wicklow 200 next weekend (although I'm now leaning more towards the 100), I thought it would be a good idea to actually do some training that involved a bit more climbing than riding up Bridge street twice a day.

Avoiding the booze on Saturday night, I managed to get a good kip and rise early enough to get a good run at the day. It's been a while since I've gone out on the road in the mountains, but the route came back pretty quickly: Out through Templeogue to Stocking Lane where the road begins to climb. I found myself running through my gears at a rapid rate and soon had nowhere to hide and had to grind my way past the Hellfire club and Massey's Wood on my way to the viewing point.

By the time I reached the viewing point my heart rate was off the scale and I was having serious doubts about my fitness. I took a few minutes to savour the unparralelled view of Dublin, it actually looks pretty from up there, took a few more swigs of water, sucked it up and forced myself to continue climbing. Thankfully the gradient was a bit less punishing from here and I was able to cruise for a while and get my legs back.

Over the Sally Gap and on towards Kippure, and here my sense of direction got very fuzzy. There may be only one road, but I had no idea where it led... a quick phone call to Chris had me on my way to the crossroads past Kippure where I had to make the decision... right towards Blessington, left to Roundwood or straight to Glendalough. I went for the middle ground, distance-wise, and headed towards Roundwood.

Lots of downhill here but up ahead I could see what looked like some punishing climbing. At this stage my legs were feeling good and I was looking forward to the challenge. Thankfully the gradient was deceiving and I managed to climb prettty comfortably to a stunning view of the lake by Lugalla, really just an exceptionally beautiful place. What goes up must come down... this was the steepest descent yet, nearly all the way into Roundwood. My new computer showed a max of 64.2km/h coming down here... that was fucking scary, but of course exhilarating. The only problem was I was going to have to climb back up here later...

Roundwood provided me with a bench and some much needed sustenance. Rather than taking the ugly route back through kilmacanogue and civilisation I felt I had the legs to head back uphill and tackle my route in reverse. Hitting that climb in reverse really nearly killed me, I was pleading with my bike for a few extra gears, but there were none to be had, of course this only added to the sense of satisfaction when I made it to the top.

Another quick breather and I headed for the next descent. Confident from my high speed descent earlier I blasted down, this time though I hit a small stone in the middle of the road, at 55km/h! Back tyre blew out but thankfully the front held and I was able to stop without too much drama. Being the experienced tube-changer I am I quickly managed to break the vale in my one spare tube... and had no patches with me... uh-oh.

I had called in the cavalry and press ganged Dotc into rescuing me, rather disappointingly a couple of roadies cruised by without so much as a sideward glance, but then a saint in a caravan stopped and came to my aid. He had a hybrid in his car and happily gave me the tube from his front wheel to keep me rolling. That just made my day! The guy would accept no money for the tube and was just glad he was able to help. There are some good people left in this world.

With a light heart and 2 fully inflated tyres I set off with a renewed sense of purpose: I had to give it my all now to justify that act of kindness, as if by pushing myself that little bit harder i was somehow showing my gratitude from a distance. I don't really remember much of the return journey, I just put my head down and pushed all the way home.

It's such a disappointment to ride back into Dublin, to reacquaint yourself with traffic lights and tailbacks. Quite depressing actually, I just wanted to turn around and climb back into the wild, peaceful beauty I'd come from. But I really needed a coffee, so I thought better of it and went home.

The reason I'm writing about a small journey(75km) that many people will have done countless times, is that I personally had forgotten how much beauty we have access to on 2 wheels so close to Dublin. The simple joy of cresting a hill and having the landscape unfold beneath you is something I don't think I will ever tire of, and doing it under your own steam makes it all the more rewarding. Far more rewarding than riding up Bridge Street twice a day.