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Article added Thursday, March 29, 2001
"Nerves of Steel"
Bike Messengers in the United States

By Rebecca "Lambchop" Reilly
2000 Spoke and Word Press - Buffalo, New York
A Book Review By Chip Atkins

Nerves of Steel
[Click] the pic to see book cover
While the image of a bicycle messenger is well exaggerated in the media and collective consciousness of cities in the United States, documentation of the real thing is as furtive as messengers themselves. They can be seen darting across magazine sidebars and television commercials much as they do across lanes of traffic and alleyways, but no one has really been able to reach into their big shoulder bags to see what's inside. Rebecca "Lambchop" Reilly, after eight years of "messing," achieves this with her new book Nerves of Steel.

The book begins with a survey of messengers through the ages covering the Greek gods, the Pony Express, and the modern bicycle messenger. Following this is a detailed chapter on the profession and a chapter on the messenger microcosm. The thick of Spoke & Word's debut publication is Lambchop's story of her coast-to-coast travels to record tales of a subculture thriving on society's fringe while remaining the lifeblood of the conventional modern cityscape. Make no mistake: Even in the electronic age, the bicycle messenger is an indispensable part of the business world in keeping documents and parcels that are too sensitive for e-mail or worldwide delivery services moving from one side of the city to the other.

Lambchop
Bikers hard at work
The author's vignettes are transcribed from interviews and personal accounts into a stream of consciousness about the various cities where she's worked. This can sometimes be difficult to follow, because so many of the names had to be changed to protect the guilty. However, it still offers a sometimes gritty, sometimes hilarious, honest view of bicycle messengers and their trade.

Whether you're interested in becoming a bicycle messenger, trying to understand why messengers choose to risk their lives on a daily basis, or understanding why that messenger screamed at you for cutting 'em off in traffic, you should read this book.


To Buy the Book... The Book is available at the official,
Nerves of Steel Web Site or at the Bega Services Online Store
About the Author...

Lambchop
"Lambchop"
Rebecca Reilly
Lambchop was born and raised in Buffalo, NY where she learned to ride a Huffy in the snow. She graduated from Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio with a dual major in Equestrian Studies and Business Administration. After trying her hand in the business world, Lambchop decided to become a bike messenger in April of 1992 at the age of 23 and still considers DC the city of her rookie year, the location of her first courier family.

Since then Reilly has made a mission of being the first author in history to chronicle the 100 years of bike messengers and the 2000 years of messengers of other varieties in history. For the past 8 years, she has been a bike messenger to support her cause in the United States's largest cities: Chicago, Houston, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Boston and New York City.

Over her eight years as a messenger she has also gone on to win various titles and appointments in the International Messenger Community. She has helped organize the Cycle Messenger World Championships twice, once in 1996 in San Francisco and the other in 1998 in Washington, DC. In 1999, she was the second recipient of the esteemed Markus Cooke Award for service to the international messenger community. Aside from competition, Reilly has also played an influential role in the formation of the San Francisco Bicycle Messenger Association, the District of Columbia Bicycle Messenger Association and the New York Bike Messenger Association. Lambchop speaks French, studying since fourth grade, and has taught herself Chinese, (Mandarin and Cantonese), and some German.

Lambchop also enjoys building bikes, smelling the roses, traveling, painting and taking baths with her cat Porkchop.