Are the days of the motorcycle courier back to stay?

As express, so-called last-mile deliveries double, is the motorcycle courier now back as a bona fide two-wheeled job?


IF somebody said the words ‘motorcycle courier’ to you, you’d most likely imagine a dishevelled-looking person with flowing hair and a roll-up cigarette hanging from their bottom lip.

The bike will likely be some old-school naked (CX500, Bandit, Fazer – take your pick) and it’ll be finished in a nice utilitarian patina crowned by a sea of stickers on the top-box that read like a who’s who of racers and biker cafes of the time. These weren’t just people who rode bikes to make money. Being a bike courier in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s placed you in a niche, a kind of sub-culture within the larger sub-culture of the motorcycle world.

And while the role of the motorcycle courier was all but killed off by the internet a couple of decades ago, the rise of Covid-19 across the globe has massively increased our reliance on so-called ‘last mile’ delivery solutions.

It’s something that Dr Tracey Worth, Chief Executive of the Institute of Couriers, brought into perspective when speaking to the MCIA. She urged the motorcycle industry to sit up and take note of the motorcycle courier industry, using a massive increase in the number of deliveries pre and post-Covid as a wake-up call.

Are the days of the motorcycle courier back?

“Pre-Covid, we made 25 billion express deliveries in a year,” she said. “In 2022 the figures are not exact as we are only just in 2023 [but] there were 60 billion.”. And Dr Worth doesn’t think that trend is going to change any time soon, going on to say “But my sector can’t deliver it…and that’s where the Lcat (lightweight 125cc motorcycles, scooters, and electric bikes) is going to help. That is where we are going to be able to expand and that is where you are going to see the low-hanging fruit of opportunity.”.

Dr Worth’s comments may make it sound like the heyday of making ‘more than a city gent’ are back, but in truth, the world is a very, very different place. The rise of the gig economy has moved motorcycle delivery and couriering away from a dark art of sub-conscious motorcycle control, ethereal filtering skills, and big paydays. Today's courier landscape is computer-controlled, smartphone-driven and, according to BMF’s Jim Freeman, possibly lacking in the skills of the early trailblazers.

Speaking about modern-day food delivery couriers, he said, “as part of the gig economy, [some] have raised numerous concerns about riding standards, the state of their equipment and, especially, Training and Testing. There have been calls for employers to only hire Full licence holders. I’d have thought that the electric bike was the most appropriate choice, in an increasingly 20 mph urban environment.”

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