This is Paul Rance.

By photographer and Paul’s friend, Paul Davy

He’s a bike messenger or was until 06-08-14. This is the day he became free.

People wax lyrical about how being a bike messenger is being free, being your own boss. Well it is part of the time – mostly summer time – but when it becomes time to pay the bills and win the bread so to speak it can be a different story. 

I’ve worked with Paul “the grump” Rance now for over 6 years, in which time I have learnt many things from him, but one thing I have learned is that family comes first – without a doubt he is a family man. If it wasn’t for his son Joe and partner Justine he would have quit this game long ago. Unlike most bike messengers Paul works as an in-house messenger and although it offers a certain amount of security it comes with the corporate bullshit which I have also had the pleasure of enduring. Some would say well just give it up, but if you can ride a bike for a living and be paid a salary would you?  

People have come and gone, some good some not so. This one though is special, he’s had some pretty tough times in his life, but you would never know. As the name suggests he can get grumpy but that’s as far as it goes. Some would be surprised by this statement, when it comes to others he can be the most optimistic person in really crappy situations and would be the person at your side when the time came.

I remember the first two weeks when he started as a messenger in Manchester he looked like death, white face, black eyes and positively chubby having already done a stint in Leicester and spent three months in San Francisco. The Manchester winter had taken its toll, but gradually his legs grew and he learned how to feed himself the right food to sustain such a demanding work day. In fact 6 years on, he probably looks younger now than he did when he started.

I only see Paul on the inside, now and again I spot him out on the street but very rarely do I get to see what a typical day is like. Until I was asked to cover. Paul was on holiday (most messengers don’t get holidays) and Paul’s cover Mark had an altercation with one of our customers so I was asked to step in. It was the middle of summer and the weather was fantastic. For three days I got an idea of what it was like. It was the best three working days of my life and I couldn’t believe I was being paid to do this. I was soon reminded of what it is like in the depth of winter when you only get six hours of day light and it’s battering down with freezing rain and dripping down your neck. Hmm! not for me thanks.

Looking over at the back of the kitchen while I type this I noticed that 50% of the components on my bike I have acquired are from Paul. Seat post, brake callipers, crank, handle bars and there are countless more in the garage: saddle, chain rings, tools and even wheel sets – some bought but very few, that’s the kind of person Paul is. I would be riding a bike of some description but certainly not this one. My bike is mine, was put together by me and has my personality in it, but if you look closer it has a little bit of Paul in there too.

I hope he’s not too embarrassed by this but whether he likes it or not Paul has been a big influence in my life. Everybody has shitty times in their life but with Paul’s infinite wisdom and advice or bullshit as he likes to call it, I’ve come to this point in my life. I spend most of my time photographing bike races which I would never have done without the help of Paul, so it’s your fault that I’m doing this J  

After six long years of moaning about one thing or another, a good thing has happened to a good person finally. He was first of all asked to interview by Alex of Carhart – who he is pretty good friends with – for a role at Rapha. He said he was perfect for the role, he must have known it was time to move on. Notice dropped on the boss’s desk, I’m leaving for better things an opportunity like this can’t be passed up. Initially he was shocked but when its time its time. Having read a little about Paul you can imagine how the last four weeks must have been: hell. Crankiness gone into over drive, expletives flying around the studio I wouldn’t dream of repeating – my wife would kill me.

Three days to go before D-Day and the mood has changed, why so? Kit list, uniform and some Rapha ride info comes through I won’t go into detail but happy is not the word.

As Alex said this is perfect for you, he was not wrong.

Good on ya Paul you did it.

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