I've now been delivering mail for Australia Post, for a week and a half.
My round should take me about four hours to complete. I'm currently spending about five and a half hours on the bike per day and that's with someone else doing a couple of bundles for me. To explain about bundles. When the mail is sorted, it's bundled up with rubber bands and each bundle is numbered. I start my run with bundle number one, then when I finish that, I turn around and grab bundle number two out of my pannier, put it in my front carrier and continue from there until I run out of mail. Then I ride to the nearest drop box and refill my panniers with another eight or nine bundles. All up, there's around 1200 addresses on my round, in about twenty-five bundles.
I started learning the round last Monday by following my mentor, Jodi, around. He's been doing the job now for ten years and seems to know the area like the proverbial back of his hand. The first thing that surprised me is how tiring it is. Bouncing around for five or so hours really takes it out of you. The bike is actually quite comfortable, with a really nice soft seat, but most of our footpaths aren't concreted, so they're uneven to say the least.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, I did half the round while Jodi did the other half, then he came to check and see how I was getting on. The rest of the week, I did pretty much the whole round, with Jodi doing a few bundles here and there. This week it's been more of the same, I'll do most of the round, while someone does a few bundles so that I'm learning the round, but not spending too long getting it finished.
I'll eventually get faster at the job. At the moment I'm spending a lot of time having to do u-turns because I've ridden straight past a letterbox. There's a couple of reasons for this. A lot of people don't seem to see the necessity of having a number on their letterbox, which is okay if you're in a middle of your street and your neighbours either side have big numbers on theirs. If the house is on a corner though, I don't know the number until I get to the next house, then I curse, turn the bike around and ride back.
More annoying than the lack of numbers are the letterboxes that are hidden by hedges, or have garden beds in front of them. The ones that are hidden can't be seen as I ride up to them. I usually see them as I'm going past or when I look around wondering where it is. The ones with garden beds in front of them are just plain dangerous, as I have to either lean right out to deliver the mail, or park the bike on uneven ground and get off, hoping the bike won't fall over. We're actually within our rights to not deliver if we have difficulty getting access to a letterbox, but if we did that every time, we'd be taking a lot of mail back to the depot, and we'd still have to leave a card anyway. It's amazing how many people park their cars in the way of the letterbox too, which is actually illegal if they're blocking the whole footpath. The council could make a fortune in parking fines if they followed me around for the day.
I'm gradually getting used to it all though. I'm certainly less tired at the end of the day and I'm getting to know where all the hidden letterboxes are and what the best approaches are to get to the awkward ones. I'm also getting a lot better at my slow riding. The funny thing is, I can ride slowly around a parked car and between bushes and trees, but if I have to do a tight u-turn in the middle of the footpath, someone's driveway, or the street, where there's no obstacle, I still have trouble and usually end up putting my foot down.
One thing I'll definitely have to do is cut my hair more often. Check out this helmet hair.
This is how I come home from work every day, with three ridges on the top of my head.