Marshall “Major” Taylor was unquestionably the most dominant track cyclists of his era, and one of the greatest of all time.
A prolific track rider with multiple world championships and world records, Major Taylor earned his nickname as a kid performing bike stunts wearing a military uniform outside an Indianapolis bike shop. Just a few years later, still in his teens, Taylor was already a world-class bike rider but had to move to Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1895 to escape Indianapolis’ “whites only” tracks. In 1898 alone, Taylor would score 29 wins, nine seconds, and 11 third places to add to the seven world records he already owned.
Winning the World Sprint Championships in 1899 and 1900, Taylor became the first Black man to win a cycling world championship and only the second Black athlete to win any sporting world championship after boxer George Dixon won the bantamweight world title in 1892. Following those World Championships successes, Taylor went on to win 113 races and racked up another 48-second place from 1901-1903, a truly outstanding return.
The Indiana State Museum is set to open an exhibition looking at the life of the great Major Taylor (1878-1932). The “Major Taylor: Fastest Cyclist in the World” exhibition will take visitors on an exploration of the world champion and record-breaking Indianapolis native’s life and career. The US Bicycling Hall of Fame was kind enough to send over a pile of photos of one of Taylor’s bikes, specifically a track bike from 1903, which will be at the Indiana State Museum.
The exhibition opens on March 5 and runs through October 23. In the meantime, we thought we would take a look at a bike Taylor raced in Europe in the first decade of the 20th century. The bike is owned by the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, which is lending the bike to the Indiana State Museum for the duration of the exhibition.