The autobiography of world champion Marshall "Major" Taylor is a compelling story for any cycling fan, and particularly pertinent for Americans.
Many American cyclists know the name Major Taylor, the world champion and multi-time world record setter who broke the color barrier racing more than 120 years ago. But most cyclists in the U.S. probably don’t know the details of the life or specific racing accomplishments of Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor, who detailed his racing career and the persistent bigotry he faced in his autobiography, “The fastest bicycle rider in the world.”
I recommend Taylor’s 1928 autobiography to current American cycling fans for a few reasons. Taylor paints vivid a picture of bike racing in the United States at the turn of the century, and highlights his mental process in dealing with racism — from event promoters, track owners, other competitors, racing leagues, hotel owners, restaurant manger, the media, and more — all while becoming, indeed, the fastest bike racer in the world.
Taylor got into bike racing as a teenager. American segregation barred him from entering the local Y.M.C.A with his white friends, but he was able to ride bikes with them. He got a job in a bike shop, and won his first race — the first bike race he had ever seen — at age 13.
The wins — and the racist roadblocks — came thick and fast from there. He was banned from racing on any track in his hometown of Indianapolis, for instance, after he set a […]