An Ode to Laborers on Two Wheels

Let us now praise Sweaty Men and Women;

All hail the Bicycle Courier,

Who is fast on feet and two wheels,

Bringing us coffee and sandwiches and beer.


Three cheers for the bike messengers of the world, the “cyclo-laborers.” While we cower in climate-controlled cubicles, they brave the sun and rain, the light and dark, the heat and the cold. They sweat, so we don’t have to. Our recreation is their vocation. We ride for pleasure. They ride for profit. We ride when we want to. They ride because they have to. We get to sit out rainy days. They get to ride twice as far in the rain, and make twice as much in tips.

Riding for pay weeds out the amateurs. Guys and girls who can’t straighten or tighten their own handlebars and seat posts dont get far: fast, or pain-free. Their wheels wobble, brake pads bleat, and seats squeak. They don’t need a bell because their rusty chain announces them to any pedestrian with ears un-budded to hear.

The experienced couriers know their delivery area like a hipster knows his ukulele. They make the lanes of the streets into runs of strings, sliding from one chord position to the next with the utmost of grace, efficient and unhurried. They assert their presence in traffic safely and predictably with a steady beat.

And when they arrive at their destination, bike couriers deliver happiness: an artfully wrapped sandwich, a creamy frappacinno, a verdant bouquet of flowers. No, bike couriers may not be paid as well as the mostly professional classes that employ them, but like a good butler, they take pleasure in a labor done well, finding utmost satisfaction in a smiling client.


All hail the Bike Courier who brings us Cups of Good Cheer.

May you enjoy this Labor Day, and many more.

Many happy returns to your shop for more deliveries.

Godspeed, Sweaty Rider.

May the wind be to your back,

May your track stands be flawless,

May your tips be undeclared,

And may you always keep the rubber side down.

Author Wesley Cheney sweats on a sultry summer day to deliver piping' hot Jamaican patties (in a kilt).
Author Wesley Cheney sweats on a sultry summer day to deliver pipin’ hot Jamaican patties (in a kilt).


Wesley Cheney bikes for family, fun, profit and necessity in Norfolk, Virginia. He writes about bikes and kilts at Foto by Wes and (re)builds bamboo bikes and bamboo kayaks at 757 Makerspace. When he is not delivering sandwiches for Jimmy John’s on his bicycle, he aspires to earn a BM in Music Education at his alma mater, Old Dominion University. Wesley loves leather saddles, full fenders, helmet-mounted lights and mirrors, platform pedals, front racks, double kickstands, and vintage friction Suntour Command shifters. He warbles on a flugelhorn, sings bass in the choir of Christ and Saint Luke’s Church, and studies ukulele under the amazing Skye Zentz.

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