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How Do I Become a Bike Messenger?

By Gregory Hanson
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A job-seeker who wants to become a bike messenger will need the right combination of gear, skills, and contacts. The gear needed to become a bike messenger will vary a little bit from city to city but will always include an excellent bike, some cargo storage space, and navigational aids. A bike messenger needs to know the geography of the city that he or she wants to work in and to be in excellent physical condition. Finding a good messenger company to work for and making connections with other bike messengers in the local area is also helpful.

The single most important piece of equipment needed to become a bike messenger is a good bike. A messenger will spend hours each day on his bike, stopping and starting in traffic. Messengers almost always provide their own bicycles and should select a bike that is durable, comfortable, and has excellent brakes, as messengers need to stop frequently and sometimes suddenly.

A bike messenger needs to acquire some additional equipment as well. A bag is essential and should be waterproof. Maps or a device capable of using global positioning system (GPS) technology are extremely helpful, as well. A lock to protect the messenger’s bike while picking up or dropping off packages is also essential.

Someone looking to become a bike messenger should be prepared for days spent doing hard, demanding, and dangerous work. Bike messengers need to be able to ride for hours every day. They are constantly threading their way through dense, urban traffic and, as such, need to have excellent reflexes in order to avoid accidents or injuries, which are very common in this occupation.

Navigation aids make getting around easier, but a basic knowledge of urban geography is still very helpful for anyone trying to become a bike messenger. Knowledge of the actual location of buildings and streets is helpful. A familiarity with traffic patterns throughout the day is also quite useful.

A bike messenger will usually need to work through a messenger service. These services advertise and are not hard to locate, but finding the right service to work for can make it much easier to become a bike messenger. Most services pay per delivery rather than at an hourly rate. Very few services offer any kind of medical or other benefits, although some do, and investigating this aspect of potential employers is worthwhile, especially since bike messengers have a high rate of on-the-job injury.

Some cities have very active messenger communities. These communities offer opportunities for socialization and camaraderie. More importantly, for someone who wants to become a bike messenger, they can provide leads and information about messenger services in a given city.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By donasmrs — On Jun 26, 2014

I think that anyone who wants to become a bike messenger should make sure to learn their way around the area quickly. Sometimes bike messengers also have to use buses and the metro, so it's important to know about the city transportation system as a whole.

By bear78 — On Jun 25, 2014

@literally45-- The pay rate is not great compared to the amount of effort required for the job. And it's risky as well.

But working as a bike messenger is a very old occupation. Bike messengers have been used in the US since the late 1800s and there is still a need for them.

It's not difficult for those living in metropolitan areas to get a job as a bike messenger if they have a bike. Certification is not required and it doesn't require a great deal of skill or qualifications.

By literally45 — On Jun 25, 2014

I see bike messengers in the city all the time. Initially, I thought they were just people biking to work, but realized that they are carriers later. I think this is a great job for people who like being on the move, love biking and being in the city.

I'm not sure if it's difficult to find work with a carrier service though and I don't know about pay rates either. If the biker also has to pay for any damage that occurs to the bike while working, then it might not be very advantageous.

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