If you’ve you ever hopped on a bike after a rough work day and had your bad mood roll away, you’ve probably wondered: “If only I could get paid to ride my bike.” The good news is that you don’t have to be a pro racer to make a living on two wheels. You can coach or instruct like my friend Lorri. You can write about bicycling like my friend Elly. You can work in bike advocacy like my friends at SVBC and CalBike. Or you can work in the bike industry, either at a manufacturer or at your local bike shop like my dear husband did when I met him.
But the purest way to get paid to ride a bike is as a messenger, something I could never see myself doing. Bike messengers are thrill-seeking guys careening around the city on brakeless fixies, hopping curbs and running red lights. You know, like in Premium Rush. But now I have a friend Cain who has launched a new kind of bike delivery service earlier this month called Cowgirl Bike Couriers. They’re not your typical messengers.
Like other bike courier services, the Cowgirls specialize in delivering legal documents, but that doesn’t stop them from delivering packages, flowers, groceries, and even medical supplies. But what makes Cowgirls stand out is their focus on recruiting women as couriers to help bridge the gender gap in American cycling.
I love their mission and the name Cowgirl, which reminds me of the strong women of Old West who had the daring and strength to ride hard and get sweaty in what’s seen as a man’s job. Cowgirls are ready for anything, and I think their new service is too. Ten women and men have been recruited, some key accounts have been signed, and the Cowgirls are riding from Milpitas to Los Gatos, from Santa Clara to East and South San Jose.
I’m not in the market to become a courier, but it’s fun to pretend. So when my friend Lorri asked me to race with her in an alley cat the Cowgirls hosted last month, I went for it. I wanted to support Cowgirls in their launch, and their LadyCat race was a fund-raiser for the Silicon Valley Roller Girls who lost their home rink at the last remaining roller skating rink in the South Bay. Besides, how could LadyFleur not race the LadyCat?
Lorri and I made a good team. I arrived early, giving me time to study the manifest and map out a route using my iPhone. Lorri rushed over from another event so she didn’t know the route, but she could read the map without pulling out reading glasses. That led to a couple of “who’s on first” conversations and an overshot checkpoint on Hamilton Ave that gave us the (dis)pleasure of crossing the Hwy 17 freeway interchange twice.
We survived, though, and 24 miles and two hours later we had hit all nine checkpoints and were sharing drinks and stories with the other racers. We were far from the first to come in, but not the last either. Best of all, we got to pretend to be bike couriers for a day, something I’ll surely never do in real life.
Have you ever been paid for riding a bike or working in a bike-affiliated job? If not, what job would you want?