Subject: Spoke Cards
Great Site. Been following it for awhile, sort of waiting to find out what is with the spoke cards. I assume this was a popular trend in the past as when I was a kid I used playing cards to make some noise but how about a little history on it? Know you are busy so when you can spare a moment. Would love to get my sub 13 pound road bikes on your site but they have too many gears & that's another site. Thanks, Barry Gregg
Bike Messengers hold races called alleycat races and these cards are issued to participants. They are usually tarot cards with the racers number on the back. Gregory Fetterolf
Hi,
you posted a request for information about the cards often seen in the spokes of bikes that look as though they might belong to messengers (there are a lot of look-a-likes out there nowadays).
Nominally, they are used in alley-cat races to facilitate smooth checkpoint stop-offs. However, as many people never actually bother to write their race numbers on them, and many alley-cat organizers don't bother to give out numbers for smaller races, they primarily function as souveniers.
This trend seems to be abating among the messengers I know, the style had gotten a litle bit ridiculous, with people's entire wheels covered (a poor man's disc wheel, I guess).
I think that the practice of spoke-card use is fairly emblematic of the messenger mindset in action. There is a functional need for racer identification, but a desire to make alleycats procedurally separate from more mainstream racing. Thus, instead of using the more practical and legible rider numbers pinned to jerseys or hung from frames (which require having safety pins or zip ties handy for everyone racing), messengers use spoke-cards, which also bear a youthful reference to using playing cards to simulate the sound of a motorcycle. In doing this, messengers are able to create a conceptual parallel to the racing organized by larger bodies.
This is not to say that all alleycats are disorganized, many are rigorously planned and executed, they just take on different sets of symbols...
Will Benton PS: once my camera is working again, I will send you pictures of my Spicer. Number 1001, perhaps...