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.
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.
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…