This blog will be about the life and experiences of an active motorcycle courier in the UK who rides all over the UK and into western Europe. http://www.sdsamotorcyclecouriers.co.uk

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Respect For Your Fellow Commercial Road User

The opinions expressed in this article are my own, you may not share them, that’s up to you but they form the basis of my everyday riding technique.

I am talking specifically about respect for the HGV driver here, those great big things that lumber along at 56mph and holding everyone up when they overtake another vehicle, especially on dual carriageways.

Well just take a step back for a moment and think, they are vital to our economy, if they weren’t there would be nothing in supermarket to buy, mail would not get moved around the country, in fact it would all just grind to a stop.

The men and women who drive the HGV’s are providing a vital service to us all and as such deserve respect form us all.

From my point of view if I see a lorry indicating to pull out to overtake I first check if it’s safe slow down a little and allow them to pull out in front of me, sure it slows me down a little but it also helps the lorry driver to maintain his relatively slow constant speed.

Imagine facing a 200 mile journey where 56mph is your maximum speed, it would drive me nuts so if I can help to make their journey a little easier by simply giving them some space and a little time I think it’s worth it.

Nine times out of ten, after I accelerate past that lorry that has just completed his overtake I get a nice thank you wave from the driver and I always give them a thumbs up.

It’s just about helping each other to get our respective jobs done in a safe and efficient manner.

Next time you are in a similar situation just try this, it does make you feel good about yourself!

So You Want To Be A Motorcycle Courier

This article has been written based on my own experiences and is offered as food for thought for anyone who is thinking of becoming a motorcycle courier.

So why am I writing this, well I usually get at least one person either call me email me every week asking me to employ them or advise them on how to get started. Whilst I am more than happy to talk or write to them, I am finding that I am repeating myself most of the time so to save me time I thought I would write this.

Let’s address the employment issue first as it’s the easiest, I cannot offer any one either full or part time employment simply because this business does not provide me with full time employment. The service is customer driven, if a customer needs a job to be done fine, it get’s done but if no customers call for a job to be done then the bike does not go on the road.

Occasionally there is more work than I can cope with but this is rare, but at these times I will sub contract to a few other motorcycle couriers who I know and trust and do have the correct insurances.

How many times have your read adverts or web pages claiming become a courier and earn £750 per week, very tempting but what they don’t tell you is how much it’s going to cost you to earn that sort of money, if indeed you can secure that amount of work in the first place.

Think about it, you may have got your motorcycle and have it on a personal loan or hire purchase, this all costs. Then you need insurance for the bike, fully comprehensive with coverage for courier work, the courier work bit can almost double your premium but it’s a must have if you are going to do this work legally. Goods in transit insurance (GIT), not all motorcycle couriers have this and I am not sure if it’s a legal requirement. I do have it, why, well if you have an accident or your bike gets stolen while you are having a convenience break at the services and the clients goods get damaged or lost YOU ARE LIABLE, simple as that!

So that’s the insurances, what other costs, there are the obvious ones like fuel, road tax, servicing and replacement parts like tyres.

Other costs, well if you don’t have good kit when you start you will not be helping yourself at all.

Let’s start with your new office, your helmet, apart from the obvious safety factors that your helmet provides, you also need be thinking can I wear this for up to 8 hours without it crushing my head or causing all kinds of discomfort. You will live in this helmet, it needs to fit properly and be extremely comfortable for long periods of wear.

Gloves, personally I have two pairs of winter gloves and one set of summer gloves I also have a set of waterproof over gloves.

Riding boots, again comfort is a major priority but they also must be able to offer comfort in the depths of winter as well as the high’s of summer.

And finally, what do you wear on your body, many riders still advocate leathers and I don’t disagree with them, although for all round use throughout the year I prefer a two piece textile suit with a removable lining.

So there you go the basic costs which will obviously vary depending on what you buy, but these must all be borne in mind when working out your running costs and if you are self employed Tax and NI are another factor.

There are many other costs which I won’t go into in any depth here, but a GPS is surely an asset, some method of having your mobile wired into your helmet is another essential and whatever modification you need to do with your bike to make it more comfortable to live on, again this all costs.

So, you got your bike, you got good kit and you are fully insured but you ain’t going anywhere without customers!

This is perhaps the most soul destroying part of being a self employed motorcycle courier, you have laid out wads of money and now you are waiting for the phone to ring and give you some work.

Well my friend’s unless your potential customers know you are there they are not going to call you, so that leads us onto our nesx hurdle, how do we get customers.

There are many ways to do this, you could try advertising in your local paper, but be warned this isn’t cheap and doesn’t guarantee results and if the readership doesn’t read the classifieds section they still won’t know about you.

My two favoured way of finding clients is to have an informative web site and secondly is to get out and meet potential clients, do the leg work, give them printed information about how you can help them and answer their question. By doing the latter you are sowing the seeds of a relationship, they know the person who will be potentially doing work for them and not just some faceless name on the end of a phone.

Another way to get yourself known is to attend networking events, go for the free ones in your local area, but be wary of joining any that charge a fee for an annual membership because this can become dead money and in my experience hasn’t generated any business at all, so be warned.

Another way to get yourself working quickly is to talk to established local courier companies with a view to sub contracting for them (subbing). This will get you busy quickly if you can find one who wants the services you provide, but again beware. The chances are they will offer you around 60p per mile, sounds great at first, but think about it 60p per mile equates to £60 for 100 miles. If you are travelling 100 miles away from your base to make the delivery, you still have 100 miles to get back home again, so that 60p per mile is now effectively 30p per mile and furthermore, you have to find all costs out of this 60p per mile. Chances are you will end up working for less than the minimum wage on these rates, you might as well be stacking shelves in the local supermarket, and it would be a lot safer!

If you are as passionate about motorcycle riding as you think you are, then this could be a great way to earn a living for you. But if your passion for riding is beating up the back roads on a Sunday with your mates during fine weather, maybe riding 100 miles then forget courier riding, you will not be happy doing it unless you are doing inner city work.

My average round trip is usually about 400 miles whatever the weather, much of this is done on motorway’s, European trips can be as much as 850 miles but these always include an over night stop. This sort of mileage is achievable in a day but I wouldn’t advise it it’s too dangerous once fatigue sets in your concentration is shot to hell.

In the summer long runs are great, you are nice and warm and dry, but now take this nice long summer ride and do it in December, its freezing cold, blowing a gale and chucking it down and daylight is fading and you still have 150 miles to go to make the drop off. I tell you without a word of lie, a motorcycle can be one lonely place in situations like this!

Anyway I think that’s about it for now, I hope I haven’t put you off about becoming a motorcycle courier I just wanted to let you know about the realities of this type of work.

Safe riding

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Had a Nice Visit This Afternoon

Yep, we had a nice visit from our mate Chris this afternoon. Chris owns and runs Northampton Motorcycle Couriers and provides a really professional service which I can personally vouch for as he has done a couple of jobs for me.
We spent some time discussing the Honda ST1100 as he also has one which he uses for work and then we spent some time working on his web site, which isn't quite ready yet, but when it is I will post his URL.
While I was doing stuff on his site he was giving Shalini some really good constructive comments on her jewellery webs site http://www.jewellerybyshalini.co.uk which she was really pleased about.
Then we went down into the garage to show him the windscreen that I had for him if he wanted it, he was chuffed so we strapped it onto the back of his bike and I am sure it will be fitted tomorrow morning.
So all in all a very nice afternoon, oh, and the dogs, Bullet (named after the Enfield) and Millie both made a new friend.

All the best and safe riding

Dave

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Holland Courier Trip 16 - 17th Feb 09

Left home around 12:45 to head for the Eurotunnel at Folkestone, arrived quote a bit earlier that the reserved time so managed get on an earlier crossing. The ride so far was in fine dry weather which was really nice.
During the crossing I changed all my time pieces and swapped the GPS memory card, then sat down with a sandwich, bag of crisps and a flask of tea and my book for the remainder of the crossing.
It was quote a bit cooler on the French side but it was dry. As I travelled north into Belgium it became noticeably cooler and then it started, yep, the dreaded wet stuff falling from the sky. Stopped at a garage for a fill up and some cheap tobacco. 46 Euros for 10 x 50gm pouches of Sampson, it would costs about 110 quid in the UK for that lot - WHY?
Anyway reached Tilburg around 8:15pm and resembling a drowned rat, it wasn't long before I dived into a hot shower, after hanging all wet gear on the hotel room's radiator, then a quick bite to eat and chat with Shalini and then I turned in and read for a while.
Woke at about 6AM and went for breakfast, also did a weather check in the hope that it would be dry, no such luck. Anyway hit the Tilburg rush hour and headed for the pick up, once the package was on board I headed back to the Eurotunnel at Calais, but I still had one delight to look forward to, as if the driving rain wasn't enough.
The delight I speak about is the Antwerp ring, this morning it was particularly dreadful, just like the M25 when it's having a bad day, anyway cleared that nuisance and made the Eurotunnel with minutes to spare.
This gave me half an hour to relax a bit before the run up to the drop of at Cambridge, it was pleasant to be riding in dry weather again!
Made the drop off about 45 minutes ahead of schedule, the client was chuffed, the word "magic" was used - nice.
Now it's time to go and relax after a total round trip of 694 miles, about 60% of them done in the rain.

Cheers and safe riding

Dave

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Honda ST1100 - Best Bike For Courier Work

Honda ST1100 - Best Bike For Courier Work, I guess this is quite a bold statement to make but I stand by it 100%.
Imagine, you have just taken on a courier job, it's 400 or 500 mile round trip, it's cold and throwing it down with rain and somehow you have got to stay warm and dry for the next 8 hours or so while you complete the job!
Well I guess this where the ST1100 wins over many bikes, it is offers excellent weather protection for the rider with its generous fairing and decent wind screen, I have added the fairing extenders on my bike which gives that bit more protection for the knees.
Another all important consideration is the riding position, if you work in an office at a desk, then the chances are you will have a comfortable chair that provides good support for your days work. Well as a motorcycle courier, the bike is your office and for most people the ST1100 is very comfortable for long distances. I did a few mods on my bike to achieve a good riding position, first off I got a set of Heli Bars, this increase the height of the handlebars which gave me more of an upright riding position, thus taking the strain off my wrists. I also bought an Air Hawk saddle cushion, rather than being filled with gel, this cushion is inflated with air, I don't go anywhere without it. Because I was created without any padding on my bum, this is an essential bit of kit.
OK, so that's rider comfort taken care of, you still need a bike that's going to take you the distance and bring you back reliably with the minimum of fuss, well the ST1100 is just a mile eater, it's equally happy on the motorways cruising at a good rate of knots and going slow around town streets and offering a good fuel return from it's smooth V4 engine.
You also need somewhere that's waterproof to carry the item you are carrying for your client, plus a place to keep your spare dry gear, flask and butty box. With 2 generously sized panniers on the bike as standard, you don't have a problem with this, add a GIVI top box and you can carry the kitchen sink as well if you want!
The are plenty of good ST1100 around for the prospective courier to buy, many are ex police but that isn't a problem. With the ST1100 age isn't too much of a worry as long as the bike has a proven service history, don't worry about mileage to much either, mine has 75,000 on the clock and is still chomping at the bit for the next mile, these bikes are known to cover 200,000 miles with ease, you just have to look after them, regular 4000 miles services are a must.
If you are going to get one, there are 2 things to check before commiting and this could save you hundred's in the future.
  1. Check the exhaust downpipes and collector box, these are prone to rot and new system will set you back a heap of money. I replaced my whole exhaust system at around 50,000 miles and it cost £800.00
  2. If possible check the rear swing arms for rot, these are prone to go and again it's an expensive thing to replace. My swing arm was repaired at 60,000 miles and then layered with more paint than a ships hull! Cost - not too bad £150.00 because we had caught early enough to allow it be repaired.
Look after the bike and it will look after you!
I will describe my bike and the addon's in more depth in another post but I will never post a full picture of the bike, when I am out working I do not want anyone to know it's a courier bike otherwise it could become a target for theft of what I might be carrying for a client.

Safe Riding

A Tip For Riding In Europe

Hi this tip is mainly for riders who are not based on the European mainland and it concerns buying fuel for your bike.
As you know by now I am based in the UK and our currency is becoming worthless in other countries, especially in Euroland. In addition to this my bank HSBC now charges a 2.99% premium for anything bought abroad on business credit card, so keep this in mind.
On my last courier trip to Holland I stopped in Belgium to buy fuel as I was getting low and I paid using my business card for the fuel, it was almost a full tank that I bought, about 20 litres.
This was sufficient to get me up to Amsterdam and then back to the Hook of Holland to catch the ferry back to Harwich.
On arrival back in the UK I filled up again, almost the same amount of fuel at a Shell garage, it cost just over £18.00.
A few days later I checked my business card statement on line to see how much that fill up in Belgium had actually cost, I was astounded, in total the fill up in Belgium cost just over £25.00, remember the same fill up in The UK had cost £18.00, thats £7.00 difference.
So if you are going on a touring holiday this year and you plan on doing a lot of miles - beware it's going to cost you!
So what's my tip, buy Euro cash before you go and use it for everything you buy, yes the exchange rate isn't that great but at least you won't get hit by the 2.99% that the bank lumps on top for every transaction that you do abroad.
I will be buying some Euro's on Monday morning for my trip to Holland this coming Monday and Tuesday.
One final thing, do make sure you carry a credit card just for emergencies though.

Safe Riding!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Intro - Dave the Motorcycle Courier

Hi, so I have got myself a blog so I guess I should introduce myself and let you know what I do.
OK, I have been riding motorcycles since I was about 13, off road until I could gain a license, since then I have had various bikes but my firm favourite of them all has to be Honda's ST1100 Pan European. This is the bike I use for all my courier work up and down the UK and into western Europe, the bike is absolutely bullet proof and is perfect for the job. My average ride is usually about 450 miles round trip on average, but can be longer on the European trips, these get on for 850 miles!
So what do I do for my clients, well it's all to do with speed of delivery and of course guaranteed delivery. Usually I get a call and am on the road within 30 minutes riding to the pick up point, sometimes callers want things doing that are impossible because of time scales so I tell them it can't be done. You see I would rather be truthful with people as opposed to promising them the earth and then not being able to deliver!
I carry all kinds of stuff from documents to media to components, virtually anything as long as it will fit in the waterproof luggage and of course it must be legal.
I guess our service is very different to a lot of other courier companies because we operate a point to point service, we do not have depots dotted around the country, so for example if I was asked to pick up in Peterborough and deliver to Liverpool, that's exactly what I would do by the fastest route. We also only work on one clients job at a time, we don't carry jobs for many clients all at once and then deliver along a route, if we did this we would be able to say (honestly) that it's a dedicated service.
If you want to learn more about what I do and the services I offer have a look at http://www.sdsamotorcyclecouriers.co.uk
At the moment I keeping a watchful eye on the weather for nest Monday and Tuesday as I have a trip to the Netherlands, at the moment it's not looking too bad so fingers crossed.
Catch u later and safe riding
Dave