Marshall “Major” Taylor was “the fastest bicycle rider in the world.” Bicycling was the rage in the 1890s and early 1900s — before team sports, boxing, horse racing, alpine sports, and certainly NASCAR, became the sports theater it is today.
By 20, Major Taylor had broken the world record and was winning races on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. His career record is riding the mile in 1:21 minutes. Minutes! You can barely go that fast in a car. In all likelihood, that record is still good. I can’t find evidence that it has been broken. But bike races are measured in kilometers now. So his accomplishment is largely forgotten, except by cycling and history groups that have websites dedicated to his memory and track the growing number of honors, races, statues and books dedicated to Taylor. (see below).
And they should be in awe. Because it cannot be repeated. Taylor consistently dusted his competition 100 years ago — when they didn’t discriminate and actually allowed him to race — on raw athletic ability. This is before STEROIDS. He also did this without a coach, a real grasp of training, dietary supplements, a superlight aluminum bike with 10 gears and — as you can see — he wasn’t wearing Speedo. The brother was just bad.