An interview with Mike Morell, Chicago’s fastest bike messenger

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Mike Morell with his dog Walter at the Cycle Messenger World Championships.

[This article also appears in Time Out Chicago magazine.]

Earlier this month hundreds of bike couriers from four continents converged on Chicago for the 20th annual Cycle Messenger World Championships, a PBR-fueled gathering of the tribes with competitions, arts events and parties celebrating the delivery lifestyle. The centerpiece of the weekend was a checkpoint race held in the vast parking lot south of Soldier Field, simulating a day of Loop courier work. Seattle’s Craig Etheridge and Josephine Reitzel from Lausanne, Switzerland were crowned the world’s fastest messengers. We caught up with Mike Morell, 35, co-founder of Four Star Courier Collective, who was the top-ranking local at 17th place out of a field of 258.

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Message of cameraderie: the courier championships come to Chicago

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Nico Deportago-Cabrera and Christina Peck.

[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets in print on Wednesday evenings.]

Mayor Daley’s campaign to host the 2016 Olympics in Chicago failed, but local bike messengers are realizing their dream to bring the Olympics of two-wheeled delivery to town. As the athletic action heats up in London, this weekend hundreds of couriers from around the globe will converge in our city for the 20th Annual Cycle Messenger World Championships, with a packed schedule of races, arts events and parties celebrating their unique lifestyle.

Championships-related events have been taking place all week, with the main competitions happening all day Saturday and Sunday, starting at 10 am, in the south parking lot of Soldier Field, 18th Street and the Lakefront Trail, next to the sled hill. Other highlights include track racing at the Ed Rudolph Velodrome in Northbrook, a nighttime “alleycat” (messenger-style race in live traffic), a movie night with courier-themed films, an opening party featuring punk-rock legends Agent Orange and the infamous Messenger Prom. Check out the full schedule of events here.

Continue reading Message of cameraderie: the courier championships come to Chicago

Gangster rap: an interview with bike style icon Lorena Cupcake

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[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets in print on Wednesday evenings.]

In a Midwestern town where folks dress conservatively, bike style icon Lorena Cupcake (her legal middle name) Caiazzo stands out like a handful of Skittles scattered across the Wall Street Journal. Easily spotted by her candy-colored outfits, rainbow-and-lollipops tattoo and messenger bag emblazoned “Cupcake Gangster,” she’s also an astute commentator on the local cycling, drinking and foodie scenes via her frequently updated, often hilarious Twitter feed.

But Caiazzo, 25, is far from just a hipster gadfly. A frequent participant and volunteer at “alleycats,” underground, messenger-style checkpoint races, she runs the bike event Twitter calendar @chicagoholdup and helps stage the annual Bicycle Film Festival. Last year she and a few other petite fixed-gear enthusiasts formed Tiny Fix, a bike gang especially for women under 5’2”, which organizes bar nights, dance parties and now their first alleycat, last weekend’s Tiny Fix Ace Race.

I recently caught up with Caiazzo, fresh off her day job as a bank teller, over $3 cheeseburgers at the Blue Frog, a messenger bar at 676 N. LaSalle in River North. She gave me the skinny on Tiny Fix, the upcoming race, and the things she loves and hates about biking in Chicago.

Continue reading Gangster rap: an interview with bike style icon Lorena Cupcake