Photo by Wil Mills of Evan Jordan and Chandel Bodner at the 2008 Cycle Messenger World Championship races in Toronto
~ This article originally appeared in dandyhorse issue 1 in the summer of 2008. We are reposting it, in honour of Race the Place, which is being held tomorrow, April 19, at Ontario Place! Good luck to all the riders! This event is free for spectators. ~
dandyARCHIVE: 2008 Cycle Messenger World Championship
“Do not be an asshole” *
By Emma Ryder
He rides off the shores of Lake Ontario, catches a little air, lands on the slimy wooden floating dock – set up two days earlier as the floating checkpoint by Johnny “Jet Fuel” Englar and co. – and slides right into the lake.
In the drink, as it were.
Problem? He didn’t hang on to his bike. The Portland-based bike courier dove down into the murky waters a few times, but kept coming back up empty handed. A crowd gathered. A white-haired man with a decent build came out of nowhere, kicked off his shoes, took off his shirt, and dove in. It only took him a couple of tries until he rose triumphantly with the bike above his head, in a sort of a Critical Mass-cum-synchronized swimming move. The crowd cheered loudly. Portland’s manifest was destroyed, his race was over, and so, it was time for a(nother) beer. It started to rain again. Someone pulled a tarp over our heads and I was left thinking, “Shit, even the old guys are hot!”
It’s all part of the organized mayhem known as the Cycle Messenger World Championships (CMWC). From June 13–16 about 400 racers from 20 countries gathered on the Toronto Islands for an annual event informally known as “the Worlds.” Martin Larsen, a bike courier from Copenhagen, one of the organizers, and a board member of the International Federation of Bike Messenger Associations, said the race was a success because there was “a worthy winner and no one died.” CMWC is now an officially sanctioned closed course race tagged as the “ultimate urban cycling competition.”
But, it’s origins date back in the late 80s when a few guys felt a need for speed in a city that was then deemed as ahead of the rest in North America as far as being bike-friendly went.
From the dark back alleys and side streets of the city’s cement wasteland and the beer-soaked patios of Queen Street to its present day home for one debaucherous yet blissfully car-free weekend on the Toronto Islands, the “Worlds” arrived back in Toronto for the second official time. Toronto hosted North America’s first edition of CMWC in 1995, which had launched two years earlier in Berlin.
The event’s true beginnings were unsanctioned street races called “Alleycats.” The originators of Alleycat bicycle racing in Toronto were Leo Slonetsky, Lance Lattrulo and John Englar – two bicycle couriers and a bike business owner. Slonetsky hosted an Alleycat on the Saturday of the 2008 Worlds weekend – the night before the final race. After racing all day (qualifying) about 40 riders competed in the late-night race. Armed with a rickshaw and a cowbell, me and my girls “manned” one of the nine checkpoints. Ours was the “kissing” checkpoint at CineCycle. Racers were not provided with a street address for the bikey little theatre, so only about half found us… including the winner, Austin Horse, from New York. We marked “manifests” with a lipstick kiss. Unlike the official race, couriers do not pick up packages, they just need their sheets signed at each checkpoint. Couriers of the world, we love you! That was the message we wanted them to pick up. A solid courier community is part of a larger vibrant cycling community and a healthy city.
* These words - from our headline - were the final instructions uttered by the CMWC race official (Mark Hayward). See for yourself at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcex9gIq4UI
Wil Mills manages La Carrera Cycles, a small bicycle shop on Harbord. La Carrera sponsored Team F.U. at “the Worlds” including Porno Stevie who finished 2nd in the main event. Wil Mills is a founding member of the Devil Strip Rollers, a bike crew based in the GTA that promotes bicycle events year round. Past events include, Go Straight Fast and Storm the Gates. The “devil strip” was the name for the paved space between sets of streetcar tracks favoured by bicyclists in Toronto is the 1800s, in the days of the dandyhorse. www.devilstriprollers.com
~ This article originally appeared in dandyhorse issue 1 in the summer of 2008. ~Update: Wil Mills now works at Cycle Solutions on Parliament. Austin Horse was profiled in our Summer 2013 issue of dandyhorse. In dandyhorse issue 2 we featured a flashback to the Worlds in Toronto in 1995, with photos supplied by John Englar, and a Q&A with Martin Larsen. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to order back issues or go to dandyhorsemagazine.com/subscribe.
Related on the dandyBLOG:
Race the Place is TOMORROW: Saturday April 19!
La Carrera hits the road: In conversation with Nadir Olivet (Includes slide show from Mexico, the Mini-Drome and the old shop on Harbord)
dandyREVIEW: Line of Sight vs Premium Rush (bicycle messengers on film)