Cycling in Honor of Marshall W. "Major" Taylor
By, Viva Yeboah (Outdoor Afro Chicago)
“There are positively no mental, physical or moral attainments too lofty for the Negro to accomplish if granted a fair and equal opportunity.”
— Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor, World Champion Cyclist
In honor of Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor, famous Black cyclist, Outdoor Afro Chicago joined Red Bike & Green-Chicago (RBG) for their July family ride. Major Taylor was the first African American cyclist to become a world cycling champion in the early 1900s. Major Taylor competed throughout the US as well as internationally, including races in Germany, Australia, England and New Zealand. His popularity gained him several nicknames such as Major, the Worcester Whirlwind, and the Black Cyclone.
Our 15 mile ride began at the Wabash YMCA , where Major Taylor resided up until his passing in 1932. From there we cycled South along the lakefront trail to Chicago Velo Campus, an outdoor track cycling arena similar to the ones Major Taylor raced in. This was the first visit to a velodrome for myself and several others.
Velodromes are outdoor or indoor arenas that host track cycling. Chicago Velo Campus is the only one in the city, with an additional campus located in the suburb of Northbrook, IL. The campus is outdoors, but there are plans to develop it into an indoor arena. Chicago Velo Campus hosts many great activities including youth programs, elite training, and cycling clubs (including Major Taylor Cycling League).
Sydney Jones, a volunteer at the campus, gave us the rundown on opportunities offered at the track and told us about her experience volunteering. She showed us her skills on the track, and two Outdoor Afro members were bold enough to test it out for themselves!
This ride reminded us of the paths created by those before us. We honor and appreciate Major Taylor for his strength and perseverance. He was full of purpose for his cycling and showcasing his talent, continuing to race even with great setbacks due to racism of the time. Major Taylor is celebrated and acknowledged with cycling clubs, trails, and even a velodrome in Indianapolis dedicated to his name. Major Taylor is also a prominent figure in the U.S Bicycling Hall of Fame.