Why do couriers smell so bad?

Well.

You get dressed. If it’s cold outside, you’ll need to be wearing most of your clothes on top of each other. Few couriers are organized or wealthy enough to have enough clothes that there will always be an entirely clean outfit in the wardrobe. In fact, few couriers have wardrobes.

So, you sort through the pile on the floor. No clean shorts? Well yes, there are some, but you didn’t get round to washing them till late last night, and they’re still damp. Yesterday’s aren’t too obviously putrid. They’ll do.

Baselayer? Well, you’ve been wearing the same one for three days in a row… oh OK, five. But it’s made of merino, and that’s smell-proof, right? Besides, you’ll be covered in sweat anyway, within 10 minutes of getting on the bike, so what difference does it make?

Baselayer number two: same rationale.

Outer layer: well, you’re wearing so many baselayers it’s barely going to touch your body, so might as well wear the nicer, newer, nattier one, and ignore the threadbare second-best one, even though the latter is technically cleaner, and has been sitting untouched in your drawer for two weeks.

Trusty Swrve Hoodie: holds it all in. But smells quite bad itself. It’s the combination of stale sweat seeping out from the inside, and rain water seeping in from the outside, and never being allowed to dry properly overnight.

Socks: well, it’s going to rain, so obviously you’ll be needing the Sealskinz, even though you haven’t had a chance to wash them for… never mind. And the nice long woolly ones to go over them. Yes you wore them yesterday too, but they’re the only ones that keep your calves properly warm – and anyway, the smelly bit’ll be hidden in your shoes. Yes.

You leave the house. It’s raining. And you know how kit smells after a day in the rain? If you don’t, try not to find out. You race into town (sweating furiously), and then spend an hour drinking coffee and waiting for jobs. The sweat cools down and dries off. You get a job. Hurrah! The coffee makes you ride about 4mph faster than you usually would. You get hot. The sweat from an hour ago is brought back to life by the second wave of sweat.

The process repeats itself, perhaps about 30 times. 30 waves of sweat. If it’s rainy, or windy, or especially hot, all your exposed skin will get covered with road grime, condensed traffic fumes, or that itching powder pollen that the plane trees start vomiting in May.

You do your laundry. After a fashion. Being a bit of an eco-warrior, and an owner of overpriced Assos kit that doesn’t like being boiled, you’ll be using Ecover and washing at 30°c. And being totally knackered, and perhaps the worse for a couple of beers, you’ll probably fall asleep before the washing machine’s finished. And will then forget all about it till you get home the following evening, by which time the clothes will smell nice and musty. I’ve been told this smell becomes a permanent feature if you make this mistake often enough.

You lose your sense of perspective. I used to be almost obsessive about personal hygiene. As a teenager, I showered morning and evening, cleaned my teeth at least five times between breakfast and bed, and washed my hair every single day or I would die. Now I measure myself by slightly more lenient standards. I smell better than tramps. And than some of the other couriers. (I’m pretty sure.)

You become self-righteous. This smell? It’s the scent of an honest living! It’s a sign that my body’s functioning at the peak of its physical fitness and ability! It’s a sign that I eschew your Hugo Boss, your Calvin Klein, your Body Shop, your Molton Brown. (Well, actually I do sometimes smell of Molton Brown – it’s the handsoap of choice in the posh toilets I sneak into.)

You have other things to worry about. Like paying the rent. And the state of your knees. And finding your next meal. And whether your bike’s going to fly apart while you’re riding along at 20mph.

And getting enough sleep – which I’m definitely not doing at the moment! Good night.

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One Response to “Why do couriers smell so bad?”

  1. Sweaty Betty: The Blogspedition Looks for Answers to that Special Glow | Bike Style Spokane Says:

    […] And if all else fails you can think to yourself, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. At least I don’t smell like a bike messenger!” as explained by thatmessengerchick in “Why do couriers smell so bad?“ […]

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