Cycle Messenger World Championships
by Joe Hendry
The Cycle Messenger World Championships (CMWC) are the ultimate urban cycling competition. The strongest, smartest and fastest bike messengers from across the planet converge once a year to determine who is the best in a variety of events that test riders’ physical and mental limits. It is a fully insured competition on a closed course that is sanctioned by the International Federation of Bike Messengers Associations (IFBMA).
The CMWC’s originated in Berlin, Germany in 1993 and have been held annually all over the world. The world championships have traveled to a diverse group of cities that include London (1994), Toronto (1995), San Francisco (1996), Barcelona (1997), Washington DC (1998), Zurich (1999), Philadelphia (2000), Budapest (2001), Copenhagen (2002), Seattle (2003), Edmonton (2004), New York (2005), Sydney (2006), Dublin (2007), Toronto (2008), Tokyo (2009), Panajachel (2010), Warsaw (2011) and Chicago (2012).
CMWC is a world championship sporting event but it is also a world festival celebrating messenger culture and its broad influence on modern urban culture. The championships host a variety of related galas, shows, parties and vendor markets where spectators mingle with messengers to get a jump on the latest bike trends and urban utilitarian fashion. The side events showcase the artistic, photographic, musical and literary talents of the world’s hardest working professional athletes.
While most of the competitors are bike messengers, the events are open to everyone with many non-messengers enjoying the challenge of the competition.
In addition to the main race CMWC’s have many side athletic competitions at the discretion of the host city. While these side events may change from year to year they most often include a cargo race, track stand, longest skid, bunny hop, backward circles and bike polo.
The showcase event of the CMWC is the main world championship race. Each race is individually designed by the host city but it generally (although not exclusively) follows a similar style. The race usually consists of a grueling three hours or more of sprinting and navigating through multiple checkpoints on multiple manifests. It is the most complex bicycle race in the world as riders may have to make up to 100 drops and picks. Racers must determine not only the fastest route but also most efficient order of pick-ups and drop-offs of all their packages. After racers finish one manifest they are given another one to complete. The field of racers is reduced after each successive manifest and racers won’t know their series of checkpoints until they receive their new manifest.