The urban bike magazine

Spoke cards – the secret of ominous cards in your bikes spokes

There’s something mysterious about spoke cards. A secret code for bike couriers? What is it about those colourful cards stuck in the bike spokes? A glimpse behind the curtain of the courier scene.

karen Greiderer_square
Karen runs the Urban Independence Magazin since 2017. The passionate pedal pusher has already travelled plenty of miles on her bike. Today she combines either a folding bike and a bike trailor for kids or a Compact Cargobike with the railroad in Berlin and Brandenburg, touring mostly with her daughter. Her approach to riding a bike is multilayered with a love of detail, but always practical, going back to the days of her youth spend in Austria.
Foto © Yulia Chinato / Unsplash

Spoke cards originate in the bike courier scene. They are laminated cards which come in colorful designs and are wedged between the spokes on your back wheel.

Alley cats – the paper chase for bike couriers
The spoke cards first appeared in the 1980’s with Alley Cats – a race for couriers similar to a paper chase, which was held in cities all over the world. These Alley Cats events were often not approved, as the reckless road behaviour of all the couriers taking part completely ignored the rules of the road (for a whole race). For this reason, the competitors did not wear any start numbers on their shirts, but they had spoke cards in their spokes. The video of the “25th Halloween Alley Cat” is not for the faint-hearted and we don’t recommend you try to imitate it!

The secret of the cards
Fabian Baumann, a long-time bike courier in Zürich reveals the secret: “Spoke cards are a kind of trophy, that prove which Alley Cats you’ve taken part in. They don’t have any other meaning. No secret signs. No hidden meaning.” Some people collect their cards too.

“I’ve got a whole wheel full of spoke cards at home” says Fabian. “Souvenirs, nothing more.” You can also see these collections online today.

Spoke Cards

The more or less artistically designed cards… Photo © Richard Masoner

 

Bike Messenger

…are wedged into the spokes on your back wheel!
Photo © Richard Masoner / Flickr

spoke card obama

The Obama “Spoke Card” © Jonathan Maus / BikePortland

And then came Barack Obama
The cards were used by sharp operators for campaigns. For example, Barack Obama spoke cards came into circulation in the American election campaign in 2008. Bike Citizens are also bringing individual spoke cards to urban bike people with the Finn. But this has absolutely nothing to do with Alley Cats and the courier scene anymore.

 

 

But they still seem a little mysterious…

Don’t they?

karen Greiderer_square
Karen runs the Urban Independence Magazin since 2017. The passionate pedal pusher has already travelled plenty of miles on her bike. Today she combines either a folding bike and a bike trailor for kids or a Compact Cargobike with the railroad in Berlin and Brandenburg, touring mostly with her daughter. Her approach to riding a bike is multilayered with a love of detail, but always practical, going back to the days of her youth spend in Austria.

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