Major Taylor, ‘who in the early 1900’s, was the fastest bicycle rider in the world’, wrote this list for healthy living and fast riding. It makes sense, even today. I’m not saying follow all of them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make sense.
1. Don’t try to ‘gyp.’
2. Don’t be a pie biter.
3. Don’t keep late hours.
4. Don’t use intoxicants.
5. Don’t be a big bluffer.
6. Don’t eat cheap candies.
7. Don’t get a swelled head.
8. Don’t use tobacco in any form.
9. Don’t fail to live a clean life.
10. Don’t take an unfair advantage of an opponent.
11. Don’t forget to play the game fair.
12. Don’t forget the practice of good sportsmanship.
This list is all well and good, and we can look and sneer easily at how quaint and simple it sounds. Until we look at who Major Taylor was, and what he dealt with, and that he still held fast to these principles, to the ridicule of other riders and often the detriment (at least in terms of winning and the money associated therein) of himself.
As a black athlete at the turn of the century, Taylor was banned from racing important races in Indiana, and had to move east to make his mark as a professional. In 1898 he placed first in 29 of the 49 races he entered. By the next year he set no fewer than 7 world records, while dealing with racial epithets, ice water being thrown at him in the middle of sprints, nails in front of his bike, and being boxed in by rival teams during field sprints. His autobiography tells of another rider tackling him in the middle of a race, holding him down, and choking him into unconsciousness. The rider received a 50 dollar fine.
Taylor’s willingness to work through the hatred and partake and dominate a sport he loved blow me away. He finally quit, at age 32, after years of dealing with racism. His legacy and tenacity didn’t help him through the stock market crash, dashing his earnings from racing; roughly 700,000 yearly in today’s money. He died a pauper, buried in an unmarked grave in Chicago. Frank Schwinn later had Major Taylor moved and properly buried, with a marked commemorating his remarkable life as the first international black athlete.
The past week was a bit of a drag for cycling. Rain rain and more rain, with a side of heavy winds kept many off the bicyclette, and we were no exception. Quite a few made it out to the Seagull Century, so kudos to them and that. I heard tales of serious headwinds and riders leaning against side winds at 30 degree angles.
We made it out for a Saturday leaf peeper ride up into the Frederick Watershed, despite the headwinds. Lots of dirt, and a tricky stream crossing that soaked John’s shoes. Even so he proceeded to wear them out to get food and then drinks and then to go see a Band and then for more beer, so I guess he just likes wet cold feet. That probably smell.