American bicycle racer Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor (1878-1932), the “Black Cyclone” was the world’s first black sports superstar. He was world cycling champion in 1899, American sprint champion in 1900, and set numerous track cycling records. Nicknamed “Major” in his youth in Indianapolis and later known as “the Worcester Whirlwind” after his adopted hometown in Massachusetts, he was the second African-American world champion in any sport (after Canadian-born bantamweight boxer George Dixon of Boston won his title in 1891). In the Jim Crow era of strict racial segregation, Taylor had to fight prejudice just to get on the starting line. He faced closed doors and open hostility with remarkable dignity. In his retirement he wrote his autobiography, “The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World.”

Discovering Major Taylor: One Man’s Perspective A documentary on a little-known world champion

The life and career of Marshall W. “Major” Taylor is the ultimate underdog sports story that has never been told. Taylor rose from obscurity and overcame insurmountable barriers to become the dominant bicycle racer on three continents in track cycling’s early years. He was the first African-American world champion (1899) in any sport and broke the color barrier in pro cycling’s heyday (1896) at the height of the Jim Crow era in America.

Taylor’s pro bike racing career included a decade of Australian and European tours and his winnings and endorsement deals quite possibly made him the highest paid athlete in any sport. All this and many more amazing facets of his story leave anyone newly discovering Taylor scratching his/her head and mumbling; “Why haven’t I heard of this guy before now?”.

Produced by Richard & Christie Beattie

We hear from representatives of three Michigan bike clubs and an independent bike shop about how they offer resources and welcome riders to group events and more: Pat Kelley, Tri-County Bicycle Association; Dan Harrison, Ann Arbor Bicycle Touring Society; Marco Speeks, Metro 313 Cyclones/Major Taylor Detroit; Ted Sliwinski, Metropolis Cycles