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A motorcycle courier, also known as despatch riders, or motorcycle messengers are couriers operating via a motorcycle or motor scooter. Motorcycle couriers are common in major urban centres, primarily in Europe, South America (especially Brazil) and Asia, but increasingly in North America.
At the end of the First World War in 1918, many British Army motorcycle despatch riders of the Royal Corps of Signals were demobilized and found employment difficult to come by. As a result, they purchased military surplus motorcycles, and began couriering in central London. Traffic at that time moved at about 8 miles per hour.
Radio controlled couriers came about during the 1971 Royal Mail dispute (strike) when motorcycles were fitted with radios similar to those that equipped mini-cabs. London businesses were pleased with the results and the courier industry took off. Pioneers included Mercury Despatch, Addison Lee and City of London Courier Company. The advent of the facsimile machine in the 1980s, and electronic mail in the 1990s saw a significant decrease in the volume of work for London's motorcycle couriers.
Types of motorcycle couriers
There are two main types of motorcycle courier, those that specialize in mainly inner city deliveries, and those who specialize in urgent deliveries over longer distances, mainly between cities, but sometimes even internationally.
Inner city motorcycle couriers tend to favour smaller machines, usually 600cc or smaller, which are ideal for weaving through traffic in urban areas. Couriers specializing in long distance work normally prefer larger machines, usually 900-1300cc as these are more suited to travelling at high speed for extended periods of time.
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