Track racing was once as popular as baseball or boxing in the United States. Between 1890 and 1910, few athletes were as well-known as track cyclists, especially Indianapolis-born cycling legend Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor.
The first African-American athlete to be a member of an integrated professional team and the first black world record holder, Major Taylor is the namesake of Indy’s only velodrome, built in 1982. Learn more about this successful and talented world champion who overcame many challenges to be one of the most successful athletes of his time.
The Major Taylor Velodrome celebrates its 30th Anniversary in 2012 as a part of the growing Indy Cycloplex. Riders and spectators will continue to enjoy racing at this venerable Indianapolis venue, which will host eight Fast Fridays throughout the summer months and numerous other cycling events.
Timeline of Major Taylor’s life:
- Born in Indianapolis in 1878
- At 13, wins first road race
- At 16, wins a road race in Indianapolis in horrible weather conditions, is the only rider to finish
- At 17, breaks current world mile record by over eight seconds
- At 18 (1896) begins his professional career at a six-day race at Madison Square Garden in New York and finishes in the top 10
- In 1898, sets the fastest mile world record, beating an international champion and skyrockets to fame
- In 1899, Major Taylor rides one mile on a trainer in 43 seconds, at a speed of roughly 82 miles per hour
- In 1901 he travels to race in France and finds success among the best of the best in Europe, winning 18 of his 24 races, including a world championship sprint title
- Retires from professional racing in 1932
- Delivered newspapers via bicycle as a boy
- Started working in a bike shop at 13 when downtown Indianapolis’s Washington Street was lined with bicycle shops due to the interest and excitement for bicycling as transportation
- Earned the nickname “Major” because he performed tricks on his bicycle while wearing a military outside the bike shop
- World champion in 1899
- American sprint champion in 1899 and 1900