Even among the rough-and-tumble breed of bike messengers, Austin Horse stands out. The New York City rider excels in courier-style street races, where pedal-pushers employ speed, endurance and brains to hit numerous checkpoints on the way to the finish line.
The biggest comp on this continent is the North American Cycle Courier Championship, which Austin won in both 2006 and 2008, and again in 2015. What’s his secret? His day job. “I just work, I don’t really train,” he explains. “Between messengering and food delivery, I’m on the bike seven to 13 hours a day.”
Still, it’s been a winding road to the top for Austin, who grew up in Fullerton, California, and Houston. Originally a mountain bike fiend, Austin got exposed to the road scene while working at a Houston bike shop in his teens. A couple years of college in Portland, Oregon, took that interest up a notch, and soon Austin was biking through Alaska and Canada with a friend.
After stints fighting fires, working on a fishing boat, and campaigning for Ralph Nader, he headed to New York and found his true calling as a messenger, which came with its share of adventure -- he’s been run over by a taxi and thrown into a storm drain by a livery cab -- and racer.
“These races are the realisation of all that’s enjoyable about messenger work,” he says. “Sometimes they’re scavenger hunts, sometimes it’s about speed, sometimes it’s routing. A good course maximises the decisions you have to make.”Read more