The Most Extreme Sport of All

Bike messengers converge in Houston for some extreme competition

Don't be surprised if 200 crazies on bicycles roll past your house this weekend hootin', hollerin' and bunny-hoppin'. The annual North American Cycle Courier Championships (NAC3)are coming to Houston, and they're bringing bike couriers from Canada, Ireland, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, the UK and all over the United States.

The couriers will take over downtown, the Warehouse District and the Montrose, facing the same hazards their day jobs present -- be they chilly downpours, hot sun or sore knees. But this weekend they'll ride for respect and bragging rights rather than a paycheck.

"This is just us getting together," organizer Chris Wathen explains as he fondles the first-place trophy he's building from bike parts and an old Texas license plate. "It's not like we're having a conference or something. We stand around and talk shit to each other all day long. 'I can make that faster. I can do more boxes than you…' This is a time to say, 'Okay, I beat the shit out of you.' "

Shane Gillespie, Butch Klots and Andrew Escondido (a.k.a. The Yeti) ride high this weekend at NAC3.
Matt Sonzala
Shane Gillespie, Butch Klots and Andrew Escondido (a.k.a. The Yeti) ride high this weekend at NAC3.

The competition will be heated but good-natured. There's a camaraderie among bike messengers. When you become a courier, you're joining a global network of urban thrill seekers who have at least one thing in common: They're not content to sit behind a desk in a typical nine-to-five job. This weekend, local messengers will open up their homes for visitors who need a place to crash -- not that there will be much time to sleep.

The party kicks off Friday night at the Last Concert Cafe (1403 Nance), with fitting entertainment for the courier crowd: free beer and the punk band 30footFALL. But Saturday is when the real action begins. The first qualifying heat is at 8 a.m., and events will run well into the night.

To see some of the world's most intense slacker athletes go head to head in competitions way more raw than anything on ESPN or Jackass, head to the Warehouse District just east of downtown and make sure to look both ways before you cross the street. With separate heats for track bikes, sprints, best skids and bunny hops, along with the main race -- a bike race/scavenger hunt -- the weekend will be packed with extreme urban action. And expect the couriers to throw in a little tomfoolery for good measure.

Veteran local messenger Shane Gillespie rode in the Cycle Courier World Championships in Philadelphia in 2000. "We were seeing people with crazy skills," he says. "Guys bunny-hopping on top of cars, riding backwards for hours and hours. One guy followed us around all day riding backwards." Sounds like that guy might have gone a little overboard on the free beer.

The event is sure to be just as wild in Houston. NAC3 organizers are also promising a Low Rider bike show on Saturday and, one has to imagine, one hell of a closing party. No granny cruisers allowed.

 
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