Some years ago I was a receptionist in a publishing company in Covent Garden. The highlight of my day was the visit from a gorgeous cycle courier who wore extremely tight cycle shorts and T-shirt. It was then I realised it hadn't been my charm that had made the reception area such a popular place.

After shooting this story all day in the pouring rain, I have finally realisd there's more to being a courier than sexy legs and cycle shorts. Wearing the right gear is pretty high on the agenda. The most sported outfit is leggings with shorts over the top for extra cushioning and warmth, with a Gore-Tex jacket and proper cycle shoes. This lot can set you back quite a few bob: a decent Gore-Tex jacket can cost pounds 150 and combat shorts with special padding in the seat area about pounds 50, cycle shoes pounds 50 and helmet anything from pounds 40 to pounds 100 - although most couriers choose not wear them as they get in the way.

Then there's the right label to be seen in: Endura, Freestyle, Pearl Izumi and Shimano are all pretty hip. But most of the couriers I spoke to were not really concerned about being ultra-trendy; they preferred to be warm and dry. If you work for the right company, like Metro Photographic, they will usually supply the essential pieces; the rest is normally available at a reduced cost.

Then, of course, there's a bike to think of. Some couriers will have their backsides parked on wheels worth pounds 1,000, but you can get a decent, fast bike for about pounds 400. Tyres cost from about pounds 25 a pair, which is something you have to think about as couriers can cover 50-60 miles a day and have anything from one puncture in a week to three in a day. If this isn't a good reason to forgive them immediately when they nearly knock you off the pavement, I don't know what is.

Thanks to Greg at Condor Cycles

Clockwise from main picture, left

Paul. Courier "on and off" for two and a half years. Wearing a Lycra all-in-one, Vans trainers, Storm top, Nike thermal top and Oakley sunglasses. "We have to wear one piece of clothing with the Cyclone (the courier company Paul works for) logo on it. I'm not really bothered about particular labels as long as it's practical. I'd rather spend money on upgrading my bike - I've spent about pounds 200 on mine to make it faster."

Steve. Courier for five years. Wearing Endura Gore-Tex jacket, lycra shorts and Cannondale gloves. "I wear normal Gore-Tex walking shoes or boots. I don't like cycle shoes with cleats (teeth which attach to the pedal) as it's difficult to release your foot if you want to get off your bike quickly."

Mike. Courier for two years. Wearing a sweatshirt from an Australian production company and combats "which I like because, although they're really loose, as it gets hotter I just roll them up."

Jason. Courier for four years. Wearing Berghaus waterproof jacket, Endura lycra leggings, Shimano cycle shoes, Timbuktu bag. "I don't care how I look, as long as I'm warm and dry and I earn the money that pays for my beer."

Black neoprene shoe covers about pounds 20. Ideal for keeping your feet dry and warm.

Stanley. Courier for 3 years. Wearing a cheap waterproof jacket, sunglasses from a flea market, Team shoes and Mercatone Uno socks. "I'm not in a good mood as I've got to change this tyre; the last thing I want to talk about is my clothes. I'm not concerned about the right labels. I want to look good but more than that, I want the clothes to be practical."

Yoann. Courier for a year and a half. "I don't really think about what to wear in the morning, I normally put on the first thing I find. So I don't even know what I'm wearing to be honest!"