Biking has a rich and diverse history that includes the contributions of many talented Black athletes and enthusiasts. From Major Taylor, the first Black world champion cyclist, to present-day Black biking groups and current cyclists, Black cycling culture is a vibrant and thriving community that deserves recognition and celebration. Let’s take a look at some of the pioneers, present-day cyclists, and community groups as we continue to celebrate Black History Month.
Black Biking Pioneers
Major Taylor-The Worcester Whirlwind
Major Taylor, also known as “The Worcester Whirlwind,” was an African American track cyclist born in 1878. He is considered one of the greatest cyclists of his time and was a trailblazer for Black athletes.
He began his cycling career in the 1890s and quickly made a name for himself with his impressive speed and skill on the track. Despite being subjected to racial discrimination and prejudice from other cyclists, fans, and the press, Major Taylor remained determined to succeed and continued to break barriers in the sport of cycling. He competed in numerous races both in the United States and abroad, and his victories were a testament to his talent and determination.
Major Taylor was particularly dominant in sprints and is considered one of the greatest cyclists in history. He won the one-mile sprint event at the 1899 Track World Championships and was the U.S. National Sprint Champion in 1899 and 1900. His legacy as one of the greatest cyclists of his time cannot be overstated. He broke barriers and challenged the dominant white cycling culture, and his achievements inspired countless Black athletes to pursue their dreams and follow in his footsteps.
Kittie Knox-Pioneering Female Cyclist
Kittie Knox was a pioneering female cyclist who competed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She broke barriers and challenged gender norms by competing in races and becoming the first African American woman to be accepted in the League of American Wheelmen. Despite facing difficulties and discrimination due to her gender and race, Kitty Knox became one of the most well-known and respected female riders of her time.
Knox broke barriers and proved that women were just as capable as men. Kitty Knox’s success inspired countless other women to pursue their passion for cycling and to challenge the gender norms of the time.
Nelson Vails–Olympic Champion
Nelson Vails is a former professional track cyclist who made a name for himself in the world of competitive cycling in the late 20th century. He was born in New York City in 1959 and began his cycling career at an early age, participating in local races and competitions.
Vails rose to prominence as a track cyclist in the 1980s, earning a place on the U.S. Olympic cycling team and competing in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. He won a silver medal in the 1000 meter time trial, becoming the first African American to win a medal in Olympic cycling. After his Olympic success, Vails continued to compete in races and events around the world, earning numerous victories and accolades throughout his career.
Today, Nelson Vails is widely recognized as one of the greatest cyclists of his time, and his achievements and contributions to the sport are still celebrated. He is a role model and inspiration to many aspiring riders, and was inducted into the US Bicycle Hall of Fame in 2009. His legacy continues to inspire and influence the sport.
Roadies Pick: Harri Hollis
Harri Hollis was a black professional sprinter from Panama. During his professional career, he had victories both in his home country and the United States. In 1935, he opened a bike store in Harlem (127 West 135th Steet) and started a cycling club–Hollis Bicycle Club– which went on to sponsor their own annual Labor Day bicycle parade and race.
Present Day Cyclists
Maize Wimbush is a contemporary Black cyclist who has made a significant impact on the cycling community. The 16 year-old has a passion for the sport and a drive to compete at the highest level. Through her dedication and hard work, she has become known for her impressive speed and endurance on the bike, and she has inspired many others to take up cycling and pursue their own passions. The Maryland native became the first African American Female Junior Road National Champion at the 2021 USA Cycling Amateur Road Nationals, and her goal is to become the first African American woman competing in the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games for Team USA.
Reggie Miller is a retired American professional basketball player who had a successful career in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Miller played for the Indiana Pacers for 18 seasons and is considered one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. In addition to his basketball career, Miller is also an avid cyclist and enjoys participating in charity rides to raise awareness for various causes. He has been serving on the USA Cycling Board of Directors since 2020, and his goal is to bring more diversity into the sport.
Dalton Walters is a professional cyclist who has made a name for himself in the world of competitive cycling. He is known for his ability to maintain a high level of speed over long distances, and his exceptional form on the bike has made him a fan favorite. Despite facing tough competition, Walters has remained dedicated to his sport and continues to train hard to reach his goals. With his talent and drive, he has become a force to be reckoned with in the cycling world. He got into the sport through the varsity cycling team at his high school in Dallas, Texas, and attended college for one of the best collegiate cycling teams in the country (Colorado Mesa University). After graduating from college, he started working with Toyota Racing Development and is training for the Paris 2024 and LA 2028 Olympic Games.
Roadies Pick: Serena Thomas
Serena Thomas is a licensed therapist and Black cyclist from Brooklyn. She is known for her strong passion for cycling and promoting the sport on her Instagram account (@serenathomascycles).
Serena Thomas loves the outdoors and biking is one of the ways she continues to explore it. Her journey has taken her from her first solo ride in Cold Springs, NY, to many 100-mile rides with The Century Plus Crew. She inspires those around her to get active and get cycling (including some of our Roadies).
Black Foxes – A Collective of Black Cyclists
The Black Foxes are a collective of Black cyclists who aim to promote and support the Black biking community. The group was founded to address the underrepresentation of black cyclists. It provides a platform for Black cyclists to connect, share experiences, and build a sense of community. The Black Foxes also aim to encourage more Black individuals to take up biking and provide support for those who are already involved in the sport.
The Black Foxes have made a significant impact on the cycling community since their inception. The group has organized and participated in races, rides, and events to increase visibility for Black cyclists. The Black Foxes have also worked to promote cycling in underserved communities and create opportunities for Black cyclists to develop their skills and connect with others who share their passion.
Blood, Sweat & Gears
Blood, Sweat & Gears is a collective that has created a space for Black cyclists to connect, race, and promote a love for cycling. Based in Harlem, the group was formed to bring together Black bicyclists from all over and create a supportive community for those often underrepresented in the sport.
The group also works to educate others about the benefits of cycling, from the physical and mental health benefits to the environmental impact of this sustainable form of transportation.
The Century Plus Crew
The Century Plus Crew is a cycling community that was founded with the goal of helping people become better individuals and making this world a better place one century ride at a time. The crew hosts regular rides in New York City and nearby neighborhoods. They are in the process of becoming a nonprofit organization.
Roadies Pick: Black Girls Do Bike
Black Girls Do Bike is a national organization that promotes and encourages the participation of Black women in the sport of cycling. With chapters in cities across the United States–including New York City, the group is dedicated to creating a supportive and inclusive community for Black women cyclists.
One of the unique features of Black Girls Do Bike is the various events and rides that they organize, including “Newbies Rides,” which are designed for women who are new to cycling and want to try it out with a supportive group. The organization is known for fostering a fun and empowering atmosphere encouraging Black women to embrace their love for biking.
Black Girls Do Bike celebrates the achievements of Black women and provides a platform for them to showcase their skills, abilities, and passion for the sport. The organization also serves as a resource for Black women interested in learning more about cycling and participating in the sport. By highlighting the contributions of Black women in biking, Black Girls Do Bike is helping to raise the profile of Black women cyclists and increase visibility for this underrepresented group.
Black biking culture is vibrant and thriving and deserves recognition and celebration. These pioneers, present-day legends, and community groups have faced and overcome racial discrimination and prejudice to make their mark in the sport. They have broken barriers, challenged gender norms, and brought attention to their communities.
The future of Black cycling is bright and holds great promise. The recognition and celebration of Black cyclists will provide inspiration to future generations and help create a more inclusive and diverse sport.