What is it really like to be a cycle courier in London?

If you’ve been around London, you’ll have noticed a huge number of cycle couriers on the roads. Tasked with moving parcels, food and other goods all around the capital, cycle couriers provide a cost-efficient and environmentally friendly way of taking items from A to B. 

With demand for greener delivery services on the rise, cycle couriers are fast becoming the preferred method of transport for companies all across London. By switching to a cycle courier, companies can dramatically reduce their carbon footprint and show their customers that they’re serious about tackling climate change. 

Couriers can transport a huge range of different goods by bicycle, and they’re surprisingly quick at doing so too. In busy cities like London, where traffic can really slow down a journey, cycle couriers are perfect. Able to beat the traffic and move across busy streets in a matter of minutes, these couriers can often deliver goods faster than traditional delivery services like cars and lorries. 

Providing endless benefits for companies in a wide range of sectors, cycle couriers are the new go to delivery option for shorter journeys. But what’s it really like to be a cycle courier in London? We caught up with Tom Bell, director of our “day in the life of a London cycle courier” video, to find out all about it.

We shot this video back in 2015 and had a great chat with our cycling-obsessed director, Tom Bell. He shares his background around cycling and drones, and highlights some of the events that happened on filming day…



When we set out to film our video, we had a couple of specific things we wanted to include:

  1. It needed to have couriers in it, preferably with beards. (Beards were pretty hot when we shot this.)
  2. It needs to heavily feature London. Ergo, it needs to have drone shots, because everyone knows drones are SO hot right now.

The idea of shooting drone footage really took hold. A friend of ours heard that we were looking for a director and introduced us to Tom Bell. Tom not only shoots with drones, but loves shooting cycling and cycle messenger events. This hit a sweet spot that we never dreamed was possible to hit.

When we spoke to him, we thought we’d still mix stock footage with original footage. But, it quickly snowballed from being just a video background into a proper 3 and half minute thing. Tom cast Mat to star in the video. He wasn’t just picked for his rugged good looks (he features as Mr December along with his brother in a LCEF naked calendar a few years back – have a look at their merch here). But, he also happens to be a very good courier. He’s not the only one either; the guy who high fives Mat at the end is Frank. He’s known for being incredibly fast, and happened to win a bike we put up for a raffle last week to raise money for guys going to the CMWC (not a fix, we promise). My girlfriend is also in there. We checked with the SAG and it turns out our day rates were really cheap.  

Now that we had a proper video, we figured we better sort some tunes out. Our friends from Belfast, Rory and Andy from Rudimentary Records, were kind enough to let us use a few tracks. You can download the main track below and buy it at the end of the video here



We asked Tom a few questions around taking on the work and the shoot itself. Here’s what he came back with: 

Why did you take the job? 

“Bicycles are a big part of my life and shooting for Gophr came as an opportunity to get involved in bicycle-based film projects. You guys had pretty strong ideas of what you wanted to see in the film, some of which I was pretty thrilled at the thought of capturing.”

How did you get involved in the whole cycling scene? 

“I’ve been cycling forever, from city to mountains, but only started to make films around 8 years ago. Bicycle culture related films came naturally. My first commissioned bicycle related film for Don’t Panic Magazine was shot with Fixed Gear London Crew in 2008 when they were building a bicycle for Vans.”

When did you start shooting with drones? 

“I’ve been an amateur drone enthusiast for a few years now and, once those became capable of steadily carrying a high def video camera, I quickly realised the potential. These days, toy size drones have become very popular and now, pretty much anyone can start playing with them. For a professional production though, flying systems tend to be very sophisticated and the operators are trained and licensed professionals.”

What was the best bit of shooting and editing this video? 

“It was very exciting shooting with Mat on the streets, chasing him between the cars. You can be so much quicker on the bicycle in what it feels like stationary traffic! For different angles we’ve used a variety of setups/operators. We shot from the bicycle mounted cameras, with an operator following Mat on a motorbike, shooting with camera stabilisation. We had to go as minimal as possible with our setups, to become fast and agile to show the speed in the tight traffic. This I think was the most exciting part of the project.”

And the worst? 

“The hardest part was controlling the lighting source; the sun. We tried to shoot on sunny days to show London at its best. This caused a lot of trouble with exposure continuity, especially moving from the direct light to the location casted with shadow. 

“The other worst bit was at the end of the video when we were shooting at night around Soho. Mat was behind a rickshaw which decided to take a hard left without any warning. Mat ended up crashing into it and landing inside the cab. I was worried he’d hurt himself, and it all happened so fast neither he nor I were sure who was at fault. Looking back at the footage it’s pretty clear. It’s also pretty funny.”

Any final words? 

“Yes! I can’t stress enough. People get on your bikes! Anyone can ride a bike and there is no excuse for not doing it. It has massive social, health, economical and environmental benefits and I believe it should be native to humanity. Find a comfortable environment for you to ride in (not only a stationary one in the gym – no matter how good your LCD display is). If you’re not comfortable on the streets, do it in the park but RIDE ON!  


Wise words indeed. Thanks Tom. Find him and his brilliant work here. Please comment or tweet us if you have any questions.