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“You're just collateral” — Ultra-cycling legend Steve Abraham on Deliveroo and the gig economy, plus staffers' go-to bike tools on the podcast

He may have ridden 7,000+ miles in a month ... but there's a reason he prefers short hops when delivering food in Milton Keynes...

Episode 40 of the podcast in association with Laka is here, and features a long chat with British ultra-distance cycling legend Steve Abraham, including his candid views on the relationship between the food delivery firms such as Deliveroo and the riders – including himself – who get the items ordered through its app to the customer.

The exploits he’s perhaps best known for – the highest distance ridden in a month, and his attempts at the Year record – take a back seat here, however, with Steve talking to Jack about his work as a food delivery rider in Milton Keynes, where he lives.

It’s a fascinating discussion, covering everything from why, despite Steve’s ability to stay in the saddle for longer than most mortals, short hops are preferable for him to longer trips in this role, the relationship between companies like Deliveroo and the people who ride for them, his thoughts on cycling infrastructure and, the reason he doesn’t undertake deliveries that include alcohol.

There has been a lot of focus on the the gig economy led by companies such as Uber and Deliveroo which sees drivers and riders engaged as independent contractors and paid by the number of jobs they do, rather than being taken on as employees with the benefits that entails – not least, minimum wage, plus holiday and sick pay.

Jack asked Steve what his thoughts were on that, and whether he believed the freedom of acting as an independent contractor, which brings with it the ability to work with multiple providers – in his case, Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Stuart – outweighed the negatives.

Steve said that for him, there is a trade-off in his case between doing a job he enjoys and his employment status, and while he is scathing of the business models of the companies he rides for, it’s one that suits him due to being a job he enjoys doing.

He suggested that those who “want to get a proper job that pays you to ride a bike” should look to companies such as London’s Pedal Me, the courier firm whose riders are employees of the company.

“If you want to work for a good company and have a good, steady income, do that – don’t work for Deliveroo.

“Deliveroo and all the app companies, they’re rotten, dirty businesses. They’re out to make money by sitting around doing nothing, that’s what they are. Alright, they’re technology people, that’s just written a computer program to make money for them, that’s the whole idea.

“And you’re just collateral – they need you to operate, if you stop working, they don’t care about you. They’re not looking out for you. They pretend to, but they don’t care about you. They’re not good companies to work for … I just like the job.”

Steve briefly outlined some of the differences between the companies he rides for – Stuart, for example, paying better but more insistent than Deliveroo or Uber on using company-branded clothing and bag.

“You’re obviously not worried that there’s going to be any comeback from saying they’re not the greatest companies to work for and at the same time I guess that’s the advantage of it – you can say that and they don’t care, as long as you do the deliveries quickly and efficiently,” Jack asked.

In response, Steve pointed out that due to the nature of the business, his contracts with the firms begin with him accepting an order through whichever app it is, and end once he has delivered the food on that order, meaning it is “one short contract after another” – the implication of course being that it’s something that gives him, or anyone else operating in the sector, more leeway to speak their mind than someone under a permanent contract would be able to do when talking about their own employer.

Oh, and the reason he doesn't deliver alcohol? Well, it's nothing to do with abstinence, or personal beliefs – it's simply that the time and hassle it needs when making the delivery to verify that the customer is of an age to buy it, and having to log ID details, take up precious time that in this line of work really is money, and which Steve believes is better spent moving on to the next job rather than taking longer to complete one for which he won't earn extra for that additional tine.

We also have a round-up of staff talking about what their go-to bike tools are – including a heartfelt plea from podcast host George for whoever happens to have his Lezyne Classic Pedal Spanner these days to please reunite him with it forthwith.

The Podcast is available on Apple PodcastsSpotify and Amazon Music, and if you have an Alexa you can just tell it to play the Podcast. It's also embedded further up the page, so you can just press play.

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Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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ktache | 1 year ago

Dear, this one sounds interesting, but I'm not one for podcasts, any chance of sticking it through a (free) program to transcribe it, garbled as the result may be, so that I and hopefully others may read it. Many Thanks.

Secret_squirrel replied to ktache | 1 year ago

I second this. Too old and set in my ways to be a regular consumer of video or audio content.

I'd read it if it were transcribed. 

hawkinspeter replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago


I read faster than I listen and most podcasts/videos don't hold my attention enough for me to focus.

Jack Sexty replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
1 like

Hi folks, Simon has now added some quotes that we thought were particularly interesting and we'll look to do that more in future. I think the pods that we wrap up in longer articles and pick out the best bits are better value all-round anyway, totally understand that some people prefer reading to listening, or want a bit of both. 

We'll probably stick with that for now but as you all asked nicely, here's a link to a full transcript of episode 40 of the Podcast in association with... lacquer. Enjoy!

HoarseMann replied to Jack Sexty | 1 year ago

Did you get Boatsie to transcribe it?! 


So yeah but and no. Thanks bro. That's already. Interesting. Got a learn some things about Latina delivery of it I might and yeah maybe I'll sign up. So then next time I go to the shop I can just deliver someone's someone's take away in the way home like And sit on your chance?

To be fair, you can scan it and get the gist, but I think you're right that it's better to summise it in an article.

HoarseMann | 1 year ago
1 like

Nice to hear Steve's take on the gig economy. I also agree with his assessment of the MK Redway network!

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