I have been in a blogging slump lately, so in an attempt to get the gears turning again, here’s a quick book review…
Ben recently gave me a book titled Major about Marshall “Major” Taylor, a professional bike racer at the turn of the century. At that time, cycling was the most popular sport in America — it wasn’t unusual for 20,000 or more people to attend a major race. And as the most famous athlete of his time, Major was often the main attraction. Not only was he a dominant racer, but he was a black man in a white sport at a time when segregation was the norm and lynchings still happened fairly regularly in the south.
Overall, Major was a pretty good read. But the thing that struck me most is how little cycling has changed in the past 100 years. Today’s sleek carbon fiber bikes are really only incremental improvements over the steel machines that Major rode. The basic frame shape and components haven’t fundamentally changed. And the best cyclists of that era had pretty big engines. The speeds and times quoted in the book are impressive even by today’s standards.
In contrast, my other hobby, climbing, has seen radical changes in technology and athletic standards over just the past few decades. Cams and sticky rubber shoes, both of which revolutionized the sport, weren’t invented until the late 1970’s. The hardest climbs in the world a few decades ago would be considered “moderate” by today’s standards.
I guess that’s one of the things that makes cycling a neat sport — it’s simple and timeless.