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.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Being A Sub Contractor Courier – Been There

I have twice tried doing sub-contractor work, this is known as subbing or being a subby and both times I gave it up after a few months.

Now let me say that subbing is a great way to get work when you are just starting out because you don’t need to go out and find the clients, you service the requirements of an already established courier company.

It’s also a great way to learn about the diversity of this occupation, yes there is a lot more to it than just delivering things. You will also learn very quickly if this is the life for you but by this time you will have made substantial investments in insurance at least.

As a self employed subby you will be responsible for everything apart from finding clients, this includes providing the motorcycle, maintaining it, ensuring you have the correct insurances including Goods In Transit and of course good riding kit.

Before getting into subbing the very first thing you need to do is establish what it costs you to cover one mile on your bike, take into account all costs including insurance and maintenance. Once you have worked this out you need to put a value to your time as well, time is a commodity that can never be replaced and therefore it does have a value. Ask yourself what you could be making stacking shelves at the local supermarket of flipping fires at McDonalds, you need to be earning substantially more than those occupations offer. By now you have good idea of what all this costs you.

Now you can go out and seek subby work and find out what the offers are for you to work for them, keeping in mind your costs that you have already worked out.

Both of the times I have tried subbing it has lasted for around 3 months, at the end of that period we have done the sums and found that we have effectively been paying for the privilege of working for another courier company.

As an example we found out that the last company we subbed for where charging clients around £1.20 per mile, they were paying us 60 pence per mile, so for a 100 mile run they made £60 and I made £60 less all costs, you simply cannot run a motorcycle for that and make a profit.

As always I will do my best to share my experience for those who are looking at becoming a motorcycle courier, it’s not the easiest of occupations but it is extremely rewarding once you get yourself established.

Safe Riding

Beware Of Disclosing Your Clients Details - Never Do This

On 25th March 2009 I received this innocent looking e-mail:

Dear Dave Austin,

We might be interested in using your services. Please could you provide us with a couple of companies you deal with at the moment, so we can contact them for reference's.

Thank you for your time in this matter.

Best Regards

Lee Price

Lee Price
Accounts Manager
Skyline Despatch Ltd

I looked this company up on the internet and they do have a web site, but I couldn’t find where they were located, although there was a telephone number.

I rang this and got an answer phone message stating “you can’t leave a message” so I replied to the e-mail above inviting them to contact me to discuss this further.

There has been no contact in any shape or form, now the request in the e-mail may be innocent, but I am wary that they may have been hoping that I would forward my clients details so that they could contact them and try to poach them from me.

I would never have revealed the information they we requesting anyway because I see this as a breach of client confidentiality and that is simply not done.

If another courier operator wants to use you for services they should not need references from anyone, so please never ask me for my clients details because you will never get them from me.

Safe Riding

Specialist Courier Service By SDSA Motorcycle Couriers

Although we carry anything on the bike that our clients want us too, as long it’s legal we do offer a very specialist service.

Our main focus is on transporting confidential material and do guarantee a dedicated service.

You may be wondering how we can offer this service in a confidential manner, well first of all we use a totally unmarked motorcycle, the bike has no logos or slogans on it stating that it’s a courier bike, no contact details at all. So to all intents and purposes the guy on the bike could just be commuting to work or riding for the fun of it.

The service is dedicated, yes totally dedicated, when I collect your material for transportation it will be me who deliver’s it on the same day. No one else will handle your item along the route, we do not use depot’s or hubs like many of the larger courier companies.

If I stop along the route for fuel, you item will stay on my person all of the time, even if it was in the secure luggage on the bike, I always keep it on my person if I stop.

I also only work on one client’s job at a time, I never carry more than one client consignment at the same time, that’s why we believe our service is totally dedicated, a service that’s not that easy to find these days.

If you have confidential documents, data media, legal documents or anything else of a sensitive nature that would cause a disaster if were to be lost why not get in touch to discuss your requirements.

We operate our dedicated service throughout the UK and are happy to travel to the pick up point, and remember, our same day deliveries are not just in the UK we have also provided this service to Amsterdam on numerous occasions.

You may be wondering why we don’t use the bike for advertising whilst we are out and about, well this is for the reasons outlined above and also we don’t need to. Our reputation for reliability and confidentiality is getting around by word of mouth that is why our client base is steadily growing.

To find out more about our services please visit our web site:

Safe Riding

Thank You Honda Motorcycles UK

I recently had the bike serviced at 77,000 miles no problems found, but it did use up the last available space in my service record book for the bike.

Wasn’t sure where to get a new one so that subsequent services could be recorded so I gave Honda Motorcycles UK a call on 0845 200 8000.

Explained the situation, they asked a few questions and hey presto a new service record book arrived in the post the next day – free of charge.

As Honda say in one of their Accord ads on the TV:

“Isn’t it nice when things just work”

Safe riding

Vine Street London – Which one?

London has two Vine streets, this caused quite a problem a while back when a courier was subbing for me and he went to the wrong Vine Street through no fault of his own!

I did the same run last Friday and remembered the problems he had experienced.

The problem is that clients publish their address as Vine Street EC3N 2AA which is fine if you are taking things to their post room, but if you taking it to a person in their offices that’s a different story. In this case their offices are on Vine Street but with a different postcode.

I decided to call the recipient before setting out on this job, explained that I had a document to deliver by hand to Mr X and they gave me the correct postcode, the job went off like a breeze.

If I hadn’t made this simple call I would have ended up about 3.5 miles away from where I should have been. Ok, 3.5 miles isn’t much but it’s a long way in central London, and if you aren’t London based with an intimate knowledge of London’s road’s it is a real nightmare.

So the moral of this story is, if you aren’t 100% sure of where you are going it’s worth a 2 minute call to the recipient to check, they won’t mind because they realise it reduces the likelihood of navigation problems and means they get the item quicker.

This is the main reason that I always ask for the recipients contact number when accepting a job, if the sender can’t give me the number a 2 second search on Google normally finds you the number.

Safe Riding

Friday, 13 March 2009

The First Of A Few Modifications To The Bike

Motorcycles are built in the hope that they will fit most shapes and sizes of rider, but let’s face it, it’s impossible to that without some failure in one place or another.

So in this series of posts over the next few weeks I will show the modifications I have done to my ST1100 in order to make it as comfortable and functional as possible as a long distance courier bike.

I will start out with the handle bar modifications.

You may be wondering why I did this, well I was experiencing quite a lot of strain on my wrists and lower back after more than 100 miles.

I started out by working how much higher I wanted the bars to be in order to put me in a more upright riding position. Bar risers were an option but they didn’t offer enough height increase so in the end I opted for a set of Heli Bars. These had to be imported from the USA as I couldn’t find a supplier over here and yes, they were expensive but when you spend as much time in the saddle as I do they soon pay for themselves.

The standard hydraulic hoses were just about long enough to cope with the increased height of the Heli Bars. We also had to careful when deciding on the final set up so that the brake lever didn’t foul on the upper fairing when full left lock was applied.

Verdict, I have ridden over 30,000 miles with these bars fitted and I have never once experienced the strain I used to get in my wrists and lower back, even on a long run of 500 miles.

The Heli Bars were imported from the manufacturers at and used the ST1100 MTS kit (95 – 02).

I have just noticed that they are also available from , just scroll down the page a bit.

Picture of the original bars fitted:

Picture with the Heli Bars fitted:

A Day In The Life Of A Motorcycle Courier

I left base at around 09:30 for a pick up about 50 miles away in Cambridgeshire, this was a pre booked job.

Arrived at the pick up, met the new client and had a brief discussion regarding the instructions so everything was clear and understood by both parties.

Set off for the delivery in Abingdon, a speedy and easy journey and made the drop off in good time, got the package signed for, rang the client to let them know the drop had been made and set off back to base.

Stopped for about 20 minutes outside of Oxford to have my sandwiches and tea from my thermos, and then got back on the road again, arrived home about 15:30.

The next job was to get the invoice raised and paperwork done for this job and email it to the client, just about completed this when the phone rang. It was a previous client who I had done work for back in November 07. This time it was rush job to the GMEX in Manchester.

Got the email off to the first client, gulped down a cuppa tea, got the new job details into the GPS, created the POD form and was on my way by 16:00, arrived at the pick up at 17:10 and was then on my way to the GMEX. Arrived at the GMEX at 19:30, beating the deadline with 25 minutes to spare, the recipient was happy and so was the client when I called him.

Set off for home, but missed a sign for M62 Leeds somewhere along the line, so ended up heading towards Barnsley along a winding twisting road through the moors, brilliant riding roads during day light in good weather but not ideal in the pitch darkness of night.

Finally got onto the M1 and stopped at the services at Woodhall and had a bite to eat, and then set off for the final leg home, arrived back at about 23:30.

This day had been a long one, about 14 hours, covering some 550 miles!

This wasn’t a typical day, but demonstrates how flexible you need to be as a self employed motorcycle courier.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

What Is A Dedicated Courier Service

A dedicated courier service is a service that is devoted exclusively to your consignment and no others at the same time.

So what are the advantages of a dedicated courier service?

1. If your consignment is of a really urgent nature you can rest assured that the courier is only working on your job exclusively. Because yours is the only item that is being transported there is no deviation from the route between pick up and delivery. Which means that delivery will be quicker than a conventional courier service.
2. Your consignment is sensitive or confidential in nature, be it printed documents, magnetic media or even DVD’s, because yours is the only package being carried there can be no confusion or chances of losses as there are no depots or hubs to used along the route.

So how can SDSA Motorcycle Couriers help you next time you have urgent delivery requirement?

We only work on same day urgent jobs, we do not do multi drop jobs while carrying for multiple clients at the same time. Our motorcycles are free from any logos or advertising, so no one knows that the motorcycle is a courier bike.

We offer this service nationwide and into Western Europe.

Once we undertake a job for you, you are assured of a truly dedicated service from the point of pick up right though to delivery and to give you peace of mind, we call you immediately after the consignment has been signed for by the recipient to let you know the job has been completed successfully.

All jobs are signed for by the recipient and we can fax you a copy of the “proof of delivery” document just as soon as we get back to base.

So next time you have a panic delivery requirement give SDSA Motorcycle Couriers a call on 01780 766151.

Friday, 6 March 2009

The Schuberth C2 Flip Front Helmet

I have used the Schuberth C2 for three years now, it’s the only helmet I use for courier work.

The advantages of a flip front are paramount as far as I am concerned as you can easily stop and ask directions, simply by flipping the front up, no need to remove your helmet. Other advantages are that you stop for a break to have a coffee or a sandwich and again you don’t need to remove it, this great when it’s cold or wet because you can keep the warmth around your head, and also stay dry.

I have also found that it’s a relatively quiet helmet, even at speed on the motorway it is still easy to speak on the hands free which is installed in the helmet.

Comfort, no complaints here, motorcycle couriers most probably wear their helmets for much longer than the average motorcycle rider. I find that even on a long run there are no comfort problems at all even after 6 hours of continual wear.

The only big disadvantage that I have found with this helmet is with fogging of the visor, if it’s cold outside it starts to fog almost straight away, if it’s cold and wet then it’s not good at all, especially when you are faced with 180 miles in driving rain and you have to keep lifting the visor to clear the fog.

On my latest visor I have noticed streaks of “fog” right in the front field of vision, running from top to bottom, initially I though this was water getting inside, but have now realised that this is because the anti fog coating has peeled away.

Recently I contacted Schuberth customer services in Germany to discuss this, there was no argument at all, they simply asked me to fax over the receipt for the last visor I bought and they would send me a replacement.

It arrived a few days later, excellent service but it remains to be seen if this visor has the anti fogging properties that it should.

It is interesting to note that the new version of the C2, named the C3 is supplied with a pinlock visor insert fitted as standard. From everything I have read about the pinlock inserts, they are very good at stopping the visor from fogging.

Having said that, I can’t find anyone, apart from a company in Germany who offer’s C2 visors with a pinlock insert fitted.

But to round off, I feel the Schuberth C2 is an extremely good all round helmet for this type of work and would recommend it to anyone.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Wild Ride Home Today

Had a courier run today down to south London, for a change it went like a dream. Rather than going straight down to Tooting through Finchley and all the clogged up raods of London, I always go around the M25 then pick up the south circular. Although this is further in terms of miles of is much quicker in time as there is less congestion.

Today for some reason the roads where very quiet and there was only slight drizzle so all in all it was a good run and the job was completed in record time.

I came back the same way and turned off into South Mimms services for a bite to eat, now if you don't already know there is a great place to eat at these services that doesn't rip you off at all.

If you enter the services and carry on past the BP garage on your right you will come to a roundabout, go straight over this roundabout and you will come to another one where you will find a smashing hot dog, burger and bacon butty wagon. If you want good quality food at a price that doesn't eat into your profits then this is place, jumbo hot dog with onions in a crusty french stick £2.20, you would be hard pushed to buy a sandwich in the services shop for that.

Anyway, half way through my nosh the wind really picked up and then the rain followed and it was like this all the way back to Stamford, it was a little hairy by the Black Cat roundabout on the A1 because it's so exposed, I alwasy find it interesting riding at a 20 degree angle and yet still going in a straight line.

70 odd miles later I arrived at Stamford, they have built a new bridge over the A1 which you have cross to get into Stamford, at the top it felt somthing like being on top of a mountain in a force 9 gale, anither bit of road that has been built without any consideration for the wheeled traveller.

Well that's me for the day but one bit of good news, I just got a contract for the next 8 weeks providing 2 jobs a week, thats a nice way to end the day.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Need To Insure Your Bike For Courier Work

Finding the right insurance for your motorcycle courier business can be a nightmare to say the least, so I thought it might be helpful to suggest the place where I arrange mine.

Introducing Coversure Stamford, this insurance business is run by Kevin Lomas and he really understand the needs of the motorcycle courier, he had no problem setting mine up when I went to him last year for my renewals.

I have my motorcycle insurance including the courier extension through Norwich Union and the Goods In Transit insurance is also through Norwich Union and it very convenient to have all with the same broker.

My bike is insured fully comprehensive, with unlimited mileage and the courier extension, the Goods In Transit covers me up to £10,000.

Anyway here is Kev’s web site with all contact details:

give him a call I am certain he can help you.

Safe Riding