The conclusion of the Civil War marked the beginning of the cycling’s golden age. Races and racers captivated the United States public. Decades before Jackie Robinson broke Baseball’s color barrier there was Major Taylor.
About a year ago, during Black History month, my 10 year old son chose to write about a champion cyclist named Major Taylor. I was so moved by the essay that, with his permission, I posted it here. I had not heard of Major Taylor which saddened me to know that such a presence on the international sports scene had been forgotten. Now comes a book that documents the life of this exceptional cyclist.
Todd Balf’s Major: A Black Athlete, A White Era, and the Fight to be the World’s Fastest Human Being documents that lost era of cycling and the heroes that were lost with it. What makes this a fascinating book is that it is not about cycling, race, post civil war reconstruction. And yet it is.
Balf uses all of these lenses to tell us about an era of our Nation’s history which does not take up a lot of space in history books. During this time, there was a perfect storm for cycling. The advent of the pneumatic tube, lightweight bikes, bad roads, good lights, a public craving competition all led to the explosion of track racing.
From the 1870’s to just after the turn of the century, the bicycle ruled the sporting world. Balf captures this era with an easy style that follows Major Taylor’s life from his youth in Indianapolis to his ascendancy to the world stage.
Every good story nees a villan which came from the Virginia-born Floyd McFarland. Each man pushed the other to new heights. In the end, Major Taylor transcended sport to become a role model for generations to come.
I hope you read this fascinating book that revives a lost era and a lost hero.