HE Believed in Marshall Taylor

I am so remiss readers...Up to this point I have pointed out the accomplishments of Marshall Taylor, Wendell Scott, Debbie Thomas and others and I failed to mention those people, coached, trainers, teammates and others who believed in them enough to stake their reputations on the line by supporting these black athletes who were ground breakers in their respective sports. The first coach I will give tribute to is Marshall Taylor's coach and mentor...one Louis 'Birdie' Munger. Munger was the Lance Armstrong of his day in that he rode and raced the old English 'High Wheel Bicycles' long distances and was one of the few fellows to complete a cross country ride on a bicycle.

This feet was so extraordinary because in the 1880s, the nations road system (excluding some of the East Coast) was...well, WAGON TRAILS! An interesting little fact about Birdie Munger is that he was born in the same small town-county I was...Black Hawk County, Iowa in 1864! Birdie Munger was one of the many whites at the time who sympathized with the cause of blacks, keeping in mind that black slaves freed only 1 year after his birth, but he was one of the few sympathizers who put his reputation on the line to do what few others would do, and that was coach a black athlete (Taylor) at a time when, legally, black weren't even supposed to be on the same fields of athletic competition as whites.

Now let me back up for a hot second. Munger didn't decide to believe in Taylor AFTER seeing his prowess on the bicycle, he believed in, mentored and cared for a 16 year old Taylor because Taylor reminded Munger of himself in many ways. Young, hungry, and willing to do whatever it took to be the best in the world. As Munger started to coach Taylor, it became evident that his faith was well placed. At 16 years of age, Taylor was only 1 second shy of the world record as clocked by Munger on a Track in Indianapolis! Munger's coaching and belief took Taylor to the top of the track racing world from at least 1898-1905. In between those years, Taylor won 3 bicycle track Championships and even had a country, France, change their race days from Sundays to mid-week because the French wanted to see this 'Le Negro Valante' as they called him.

This is translated into 'The Flying Negro'. (This was in 1903-1904 yall). Taylor made a promise to his mother before she died that he would never race on Sundays due to the fact that she was a very religious woman. Munger tried to talk Taylor out of his commitment to his moms even though the largest racing days around the world were Sundays back then. French officials offered Taylor $10,000 in the year 1900 to race on Sunday and he refused! Dollar conversion scales from 1900-2008 say that $10,000 in 1900 is worth about $111,000 TODAY! To race for several days!
Not only was Munger a great High Wheel Racer and a great coach, this guy was the hottest bicycle designer in the late 19th Century (see above design if you think I am lying)

Were there no Louis 'Birdie' Munger, you or I may have never heard of the Greatest Sprint Bicycle Racer of all time, Marshall 'Major' Taylor.


Clean...just flat out CLEAN

Pilen Concept Bicycle;
by Eric Therner

I am not a huge fan of these types of designs. But I do like the 'Track Bike' lean forward look presented here. Aesthetically there is much to be desired but just the PURE FORM OF IT almost makes me say DAAANNNNG! Like I said...almost...but not quiet. Enjoy :)


80 Years afte Taylor...Enter Nelson Vails

Story Courtesy of http://www.telegram.com/ and writer Mark Conti

Quicker than a kangaroo, Nelson “the Cheetah” Vails jumped at the opportunity to race in Australia. When the Harlem native was invited to compete in a series of track cycling races Down Under in 1985, more than 80 years after Marshall W. “Major” Taylor made his first trip to Australia, he was more focused on winning races than succeeding the 1899 world champion. “I was told I was following in his footsteps,” said Vails, the first black cyclist to compete at the world-class level since Major Taylor. “It was cool. It was good. I can appreciate that now, but at the time I was just a kid racing.” In 1984, Vails, who was called “the Cheetah” because he was the fastest cat on the track, captured the silver medal in the individual 1,000-meter sprint at the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. A promoter subsequently invited him to Australia to race at velodromes across the country, much like Major Taylor had done at the turn of the 20th century.

In the land of marsupials — kangaroos, koalas and wombats — the Cheetah was the star. Vails went from track to track, racing the champion of each venue. The tour promoted Vails as the next Major Taylor and described the event as retracing Taylor’s footsteps, including a race in Sydney, where Taylor’s wife, Daisy, gave birth to a daughter. She was named Sydney, after the city. As he traveled from Queensland to Tasmania, Vails heard Australian cycling enthusiasts talk about the achievements of Major Taylor and he was amazed how much they knew about “the Worcester Whirlwind.” Vails had heard comparisons to Major Taylor since he began winning races at T-Town, the Lehigh County Velodrome in Trexlertown, Pa., but the significance would not sink in for years to come. “People would always say, ‘Do you know of Major Taylor? You could be like that someday,’ ” said Vails, who will be attending the Major Taylor statue dedication with many other cycling legends Wednesday at the Worcester Public Library. “I was an African-American cyclist hearing stories about someone before me. People were saying you could follow in his footsteps.

I was young, I thought, yeah, that’s great,” Vails said. “It was really hard for me to harness until I realized I could be good at this.” Vails, a former New York City bike messenger who played a messenger in the 1986 film “Quicksilver” with Kevin Bacon, began to realize his world class abilities in the early 1980s, when he went from New York state sprint champion to a national championship contender. Vails would go on to win a gold medal at the Pan American Games in 1983, a silver medal at the ’84 Olympics, national championships in ’84 and ’85, and a silver medal at the ’85 world championships in Italy, among other cycling achievements. Though he was competing at a level Taylor dominated, Vails would never face the widespread racism confronted by the “Colored Cyclone,” as Taylor was sometimes called. “He did it before anyone. He accomplished something that black athletes won’t touch,” Vails said. Taylor, who was given the nickname “Major” because he wore a military uniform while performing bicycle stunts outside an Indianapolis bike shop as a teenager, moved from Indianapolis to Worcester with his employer and racing manager Louis “Birdie” Munger in 1895. Munger planned to establish a bicycle factory in Worcester but the move was also made because Massachusetts was considered a more tolerant region in the era of Jim Crow segregation. In his autobiography written in 1929, Taylor wrote: “I was in Worcester only a short time before I realized that there was no such race prejudice existing among the bicycle riders there as I had experienced in Indianapolis.” Taylor was refused entry in some races, and experienced threats and assaults from white riders, but he refused to get dragged down by the bias. He went on to set seven world records and win the 1-mile world championship in Montreal in 1899, not long removed from the Civil War and decades before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947. “I can see him excelling in that because he could. It was naturally easy for him because he seems to have been strong-minded,” Vails said of Taylor. “I never had to deal with any hurdles like that in all my travels,” he said. Though he didn’t face the racism of Taylor’s era, Vails said he was the only black competing at the national and international level when he was racing. After competing in races with other black cyclists at Central Park and Prospect Park in Brooklyn, Vails found he was the only black racer at the world-class level. “It was never a black and white thing for me,” Vails said. “I wasn’t raised that way. I never had that issue. I never had a racial issue the entire time I was racing.” “People would say ‘doesn’t it feel strange to be the only black cyclist,’ but I never looked at it that way,” Vails said. Vails said he has learned a lot about Major Taylor over the years, especially when he raced in the Major Taylor Velodrome in Indianapolis. He is looking forward to seeing the statue of Major Taylor unveiled in Worcester and considers any comparison to him a great compliment.
“It’s pretty neat to be mentioned in the same sentence as Major Taylor. It’s an honor,” Vails said. “I did it for the love of the sport not because I was trying to follow in his footsteps. If he was alive at the time, it would have been nice to have him see me compete.” In returning to Central Massachusetts, Vails recalled that he competed in the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic at least three of four times and believes he won it as a Category 3 racer in the early 1980s. The statue dedication will take place at noon Wednesday at the Worcester Public Library at 3 Salem Square. Also attending the event will be three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, former “Raleigh Boys” Bill Humphreys and John Howard, three-time Olympic medalist Edwin Moses, some of Major Taylor’s relatives, as well as state and local officials. There will also be a panel discussion at 7 p.m. at the library on “Race, Sports and Major Taylor’s Legacy.”


Interesting email exchange about a post (An Urban Entrepreneur after my own heart)

Scraper Bike Fan says:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "An Urban Entrepreneur After My Own Heart":

I reiterated my message to him and remind ALL OF YOU.....

My response;

Thanks for the comment on my blog! I want to encourage you to forward the link to everyone you know who loves to roll on scraper bikes. The reason is although Da Champ and I have different areas of design focus as it concerns bicycles, (Champ does wheel covers-me the whole bicycle) our goal is the same I believe, and that is to introduce the world to the way WE do it! Da Champ and his concept reminded my mid-30s year old mind that honest hustlers and urban entrepreneurs (legal) don't see what is around them, only that which is in front of them.

Champs story of where he grew up (poor neighborhoods,etc like me) further reminded me what I used to know, and had apparently forgotten, and that is, no matter what is going around you, ask yourself this question; what do you have that can make a difference that is right in front of you? With Champ, it was stuff from relatives back yard, and look where he is today? RYDZ by Marshall Taylor (my company) is rolling out our 1st proto-type bicycle design (called 'Illuminati') in 2 weeks and will have 5 (all hand built) by April 2009.

Names of the other 4 are as follows:

1) Low Down; A kind of inner-city dirt bike design I guarantee you have never seen.

2) Red Monkey; Mix between a .... and .... Bike. Rear wheel base is..well..CRAZY!

3) Iron Riders; Dedicated to the memory of the 25th Infantry Buffalo Soldier Brigade of 1892 (Google it, you may find it interesting)

4) Le Major Valante (French for 'The Flying Major) which was the nickname for the greatest forgotten American Sports Hero of all-Time, Marshall 'Major' Taylor (Google it)

With what Champ is doing and what I am doing, we will bring a inner-city vision to the bicycle industry. Sadly enough, the minority youth market is being totally ignored by bicycle companies and it makes me sick! IPODS, nice sneakers, hair styles, clothing, designer cell phones.....And they are riding around on junk?!

One reason Da Champ's concept has caught fire is because he knows, I know, and you know that in whatever we do, we like to look good, floss our RYDZ, and make them unique to us. How do you think Sean John clothing is doing $500 Million a year? BABY PHAT is doing $1 Billion a year? GMC is using MOS DEF to sell their cars to black folks? A Company I helped launch, Banneker Watches, has partnered with Jostens to sell High School Rings, etc? Jostens did this deal because they know that minorities have flair and style as well as BIG $$$ to spend and they don't have the flair to reach that market!


I promise you my designs are going to represent what I call 'Urban Funk'!


Fighting the Good Fight Part #3

I have found him! Who you ask? Someone I have come to know as ‘The Fabricator of Funk’. Over the last 7 weeks or so, I hinted at the fact and posted a raw frame picture, concerning the fact that I was working on one of (the 1st) of my prototype designs. I posted on craigslist in an attempt to find someone who could fabricate some of my designs. I got a response from 2 people and both of them referred me to the same person (one gave me his email address) who I only knew as ‘Casey’. I contacted Casey and the rest (when our launch comes) you will be able to say is history! I will not give you details, contact information and such about him because he is launching his own machine shop dedicated to building and creating original works of art (you may know them as custom designs) to remind the world that originality is king! Although I love design and talking about bicycle design, where aesthetics is concerned), there is much I don’t know and Casey my friends, IS the ‘Missing Link’.

We are closing in on completion of my 1st design in a few weeks. This design is called; ‘Illuminati’ which means; Someone possessing or claiming to possess a higher level of enlightenment. This name is very appropriate although I know that I do not have a higher level of enlightenment, but I certainly do claim so, do I not?! I think where bicycle design is concerned, enlightenment is ‘Relative’ to what you like and think is HOOOOOOTTTT! I saw some heavy weight ‘TREK’ Beach Cruisers in a shop not long ago, and I must say that I thought they were VERY NICE. Not HOOOTTTT (ala the Nuvinci by Ellsworth) but nice all the same. Someone else may look at that same ‘TREK’ and be like ‘YUK!’ Anyway, Casey has viewed a few of my designs and saw fit to refer to me as ‘Eccentric’. The purpose of the 1st design, Illuminate, was to not only build but for me to get a feel for Casey’s fabrication\alteration style and for him to feel where I was coming from. In my opinion, I couldn’t have found a better Fabricator-Machinist than he! Standby my dear readers for the roll-out of the 1st Signature Line of ‘RYDZ’ by Marshall Taylor in the spring of 2009….. REMEMBER THIS TERM… PROVOLUTION; Bringing the best of the past, forward to the present, and carrying that ideal into the future.


Being continually AMAZED!

I came across the below story and picture (The best I have seen of Marshall Taylor) while researching a 19th Century Inventor. The below story and picture are courtesy of;

The New York Post
Writer: Harry Siegel

For a brief moment in America, the bicycle was king, and Major Taylor was king of the bicycle, one of the country's first black sporting heroes. As author Todd Balf notes, the papers dubbed him "the colored champion" and "the Worcester Whirlwind."In 1897, at the peak of its popularity, there were two million bicycles in the US, sharing the road with only 4,000 cars. It was the dawn of the era of individual speed, and men pedaled themselves to previously undreamable velocities: In 1898, the fastest car managed 39 miles per hour, while the bike record was 45 mph.

The men who rode these machines attracted tens of thousands to great new velodromes to watch them fight through nearly week-long endurance affairs that left the surviving riders literally hallucinating. While baseball at the time had capped salaries at $240, "Taylor had earned nearly that in a single two-minute-long exhibition race at Madison Square Garden," Balf writes.

Major Taylor's father was a former Kentucky slave who moved the family to Indianapolis. Major, the first member of the family born in the North, was adopted by and lived with his father's white boss, a railroad man, for three years. By the time his new "family" moved, he'd already been exposed to a culture that often excluded blacks, and to bike riding, at which he excelled from the start. After a few years of amateur racing, Taylor came to the attention of inventor Birdie Munger, a Jewish speed and biking enthusiast who became Taylor's friend, mentor and manager. Major first made a name for himself as a 16 year old when he set a new world speed record, lopping a full seven seconds off the previous best time. His reputation grew, and Taylor and Munger actually tried, unsuccessfully, to bleach his very dark skin, to ensure he could compete in Chicago's prestigious, whites-only Pullman Road Race. "For days and days we poured it on the lad," Munger later recalled, but "the mixture was poisonous in the extreme and we had to stop it."

Though unable to race in the South, and treated poorly throughout the country, Taylor became famous for his incredible bursts of passing speed, and held an amazing 200-12 record in high-stakes race matches. Teddy Roosevelt was a fan. Taylor set about constructing a public identity, a strict Baptist who refused to race on Sundays, even as his opponents colluded to move championships to exclude him, and the press called him racist names and mocked what they deemed his holier-than-thou posture. When he married, he and his wife concocted a fake past for her, so she could publicly match his upright standing in birthright as well as conduct.
The book culminates, along with Major's career, in Australia, 1904, where Taylor raced against his longtime foe, the racist rogue Floyd McFarland, who'd once appeared for a race against him to the strains of "All Coons Look Alike To Me." Badly injured in an earlier race, Taylor left his hospital room to race, even though he has to slice open his own badly injured leg just before mounting his bike to even complete a pedal stroke. Taylor won against a field of 10 racers, with eight of them colluding against him. Think Curt Schilling times 50.

Following this triumph and his subsequent retirement, the speed craze moved on to motorized vehicles and Taylor quickly receded from the public eye. There is little documentation of his post-racing life. We know that his business endeavors did poorly and his wife left him, and that he was buried, like his father, in an unmarked grave (though he was later interred and reburied by his racing comrades). Happily, his story has resurfaced, and numerous black racing clubs in his name have sprung up in places as South Central Los Angeles.


First African American Heisman Trophy Winner

(Story and photos courtesy of 'The City of Elmira' Website)

Ernie Davis moved to Elmira, New York at the age of 12. He went on to become Elmira's favorite son both as an outstanding athlete and as a respected and well-loved citizen.Ernie was born on December 14, 1939 in New Salem, Pennsylvania. He soon moved to Uniontown, PA where he lived with his grandparents until relocating to Elmira to permanently live with his mother and step-father.Ernie's talent in sports bloomed early. In Uniontown, where sports were everything, Ernie excelled at every sport he played.He played for the Superior Buick team in Elmira's Small Fry Football League and was chosen as a Small Fry All-star in 1952 and 1953. He played basketball at the Neighborhood House and was a grade school all-star.

Ernie's prowess in sports further developed in high school at Elmira Free Academy. They chose Ernie first team All-Southern Tier Conference in all three varsity seasons - football, basketball, and baseball. He was selected as Elmira Player of the Year and high school All-American in his junior and senior years. Ernie also excelled in the classroom.Ernie's athletic ability was closely watched by colleges coast to coast. Scholarship offers came from over 50 schools, including Notre Dame, Air Force, and UCLA.It is important today to remember this accomplishment in relation to the times. Recruiting in 1958 was not as sophisticated as it is today. Plus, many colleges, particularly those in the South, did not offer scholarships to black players.Fortunately for Syracuse University, Ernie chose to stay close to home. Syracuse University enjoyed its greatest football success while Ernie played for them. The team's record was 24-5 plus two bowl victories.Ernie's accomplishments are notable during his college career

He became eligible for the varsity squad in his sophomore year. The season ended with Syracuse earning its first national championship and Ernie led Syracuse to its first bowl victory, for which he was voted the game's most valuable player.It was Ernie's performance against the University of Pittsburgh that year which inspired the nickname "The Elmira Express." The phrase was coined by Elmira Star-Gazette sports writer Al Mallette.

During his junior year, Ernie set a record of 7.8 yards per carry average and was the third leading rusher in the nation with 877 yards. He rushed for over 100 yards in 6 of 9 games and was named All-American. Winning the Heisman Trophy is a significant accomplishment regardless of the year or player. However, in 1961, Ernie Davis' receipt of the esteemed award was historical and unprecedented. He was the first black athlete to win the Heisman Trophy.

Ernie was the number one pick for the 1962 National Football League draft following his senior year. He signed with the Cleveland Browns to a three-year no-cut, no-trade $65,000 contract with a $15,000 signing bonus - setting a new record for a rookie. This was less money than the AFL Buffalo Bills had offered him. However, it was reported that Ernie picked the Browns because they were part of the more established NFL, and because of Coach Modell and player Jim Brown.To celebrate Ernie's success and to honor him, Ernie's hometown held "Elmira Salutes Ernie Davis Day" on Saturday, February 3, 1962. Special guests included: NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Jim Brown, Art Modell, and Ben Schwartzwalder. The community gave him a brand new 1962 Thunderbird convertible.And President John F. Kennedy sent the following telegram:
"Seldom has an athlete been more deserving of such a tribute. Your high standards of performance on the field and off the field, reflect the finest qualities of competition, sportsmanship and citizenship. The nation has bestowed upon you its highest awards for your athletic achievements. It's a privilege for me to address you tonight as an outstanding American, and as a worthy example of our youth. I salute you."
Ernie was diagnosed with acute monocytic leukemia on Monday, July 30, 1962. He died on Saturday, May 18, 1963 and was mourned by the nation.Though Ernie never played a game for the Cleveland Browns, they retired his number 45, worn only in practice.Both houses of US Congress eulogized Ernie.


To Bling...or Not to Bling...Read on!

Due to the many responses concerning my last post entitled 'Cruisin on my Scraper Bike' and my assertion that it wasn't rappers or hip-hop artists who 1st did the 'Bling-Thing' but rather, it was in fact Liberace, I need to deal with this issue further by way of this post. One reader asked "What is the definition of Bling-Bling? How is it one person who has on some jewelry isn't considered to be blingin', while others are?" Let me make this as simple as I can, when someone is blingin', this simply means "One who wears excess and\or expensive jewelry". There you have it! In the 1980's when Run-DMC was the thing, they didn't called it bling, they simple used the phrase "Trucked down excessive".

Another question from a reader was "Do you think there should be a bling-bling bicycle?" I will start from the beginning on that question. Did any of you know that the jewelry company Tiffany's actually took a shot at blingin' a bicycle out back in the 1890's?(See above picture) This bicycle, built by Tiffany's Jewelry Company, was built for Lillian Russell who was an actress and singer WAY back in the day. The detail in this design, especially for this era, was INCREDIBLE. Some things that were added for 'The Look' were; sterling silver, carved ivory hand grips, and jewelry type attachments. The color is, as Austin Powers would say 'Simply Smashing!'

I marvel that bicycle design during this period was in its' infancy and someone came up with not only this FUNK BALL, as it concerns aesthetics (the look), but guess what people...This bicycle was also a FIXED GEAR that a few of you have fallen prey to as the latest 'New Big Thing'. This bicycle is absolutely gorgeous and my heart is truly heavy that very few designs on the market today have this level of aesthetic detail and originality! When any of you get a minute, take a look at some of the designs in Europe, particularly the 'Cruisers' and compare what they say (and many of you bicycle bloggers) is new, as compared to THIS design. You may be shocked.

The last question I will deal with is a picture a reader sent asking me what I thought of this bling bicycle design, and further, what would I do differently? I will preface my comments by saying this.... when I say something about bicycle design, these are my opinions and every picture any of you send me will always be measured against my vision of bicycle design! If what you send lines up with that, you may get posted, if it doesn't, I won't post it! If the design is stupid and idiotic and I feel compelled to say something, it may get posted also. But what will not get posted, is bicycles that don't have anything to do with what I think this blog is about. I will not post stuff on here just to have updated content on my blog! That makes about as much sense to me as having a home phone on a LAN line and everyone in the house has a cell phone. Having something just for the sake of having it or others knowing you have it is flat out stupid.

Back to the fella in the picture below. Hmmm? Those rims POP and the fenders are freak shows! The steering wheel is tacky, the frame color is bland, the seat looks to be black and ordinary but even with all of that, changes I would make to this design to take it to another level are as follows:

- Loose the tacky steering wheel and instead design the handle bars to coincide with the color of the fenders.
- Increase the stem length to 12 inches and since this would make the handle bars sit up REALLY high, position the handle bars to slope downwards as a steep angle.

- The black tires with white walls totally works against everything this design is supposed to stand for which is 'Custom'. If custom colored tires can't be ordered, I would simply throw some powder white tires on here.

-The 'Crank' is not only ordinary, it is to big. This says to me, whoever designed this bike took the time to custom decorate this bicycle, and just settled for a crappy crank. A custom, smaller size crank is definitely in order here.
- The color of the frame.....oh the humanity! I would need a better picture than this to even comment on the color but that forest green thing they got going on there is.......I'll leave that alone.

Now there are a few other things I would do but this isn't a very great picture and I tell you what, even the fenders could have been costumed a bit more. More length, more width, etc. But, like I said earlier, these are just my opinions!