Outside in MN

Spirit of Major Taylor lives on bringing African-American cyclists together

Members of the Major Taylor Bicycling Club set off for a ride.
Members of the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota set off for a ride on July 6, 2019. Major Taylor is primarily made up of African-American riders but it's also open to anyone who isn’t, co-founder Walter Griffin says.
Courtesy of Walter Griffin

At almost 80, you can find Louis Moore out biking most days of the week. It’s what he loves to do and he isn’t planning on slowing down anytime soon.

Moore is president and co-founder of the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota. Named after the first African-American world champion cyclist, Marshall “Major” Taylor, the group aims to honor his legacy by getting more African-Americans out on a ride.

“The idea was to get camaraderie, people meeting people and getting outdoors,” Moore said.

Louis Moore before a recent Major Taylor ride in Minneapolis
Louis Moore before a Major Taylor ride at the Freewheel Bike Midtown Bike Center on July 3.
Simone Cazares | MPR News

Reed Hart of Minneapolis is in his third season riding with Major Taylor. Being a member of the group, Hart has experienced that camaraderie. He’s enjoyed having a group of other bikers to ride with and he appreciates the wealth of knowledge Moore and another co-founder of the club, Walter Griffin, have about the black neighborhoods they ride through and their history.

“I’m not from around here and so I’ve learned a tremendous amount about Minneapolis and St. Paul history, especially about black history from riding with [Moore] and [Griffin],” Hart said “All that stuff they lived through — I would have no idea otherwise.”

There’s a reason why it’s important for the leaders of Major Taylor to keep that history alive. Although Major Taylor is now a cherished part of the Twin Cities biking community, Moore remembers a time when it wasn’t.

“We were riding down Park Avenue, and there were about a dozen of us. A Minneapolis police car drove up alongside us and the cop rolled down the window, looked over at us and looked at his partner and he said, ‘Boy, that’s a different looking kind of gang,’” Moore said.

“That was during the beginning of a time where gangs were starting to come to Minneapolis, so he equated us as cyclists and being black as a gang. And he laughed, rolled up the window and drove off. He thought it was funny and we all just looked at him like, ‘What are you talking about?’ But that was the population’s image of us in the beginning.”

Members of Major Taylor gather before a ride.
Members of Major Taylor gather before a ride at the Freewheel Bike Midtown Bike Center in Minneapolis on July 3, 2019.
Simone Cazares | MPR News

Most of Major Taylor’s riders are in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Moore said they even have a group within the club called “The Geezers,” for the riders who are 70 and older. For Moore, the secret to being one of “The Geezers” is simple — just keep riding.

“I tell people that because it makes a difference in what you do and how you feel. If you are dormant and spend a lot of time on the couch with the channel changer you are cutting down on your ability to live till old age,” said Moore.

To get involved, all you have to do is show up, said Griffin. Everyone is welcome to come out on a ride.

“We accommodate anyone who comes. We make sure there’s always someone with that person,” Griffin said. “That’s really important because that’s how you grow a club. Everyone doesn’t want to go far, everyone doesn’t want to go fast but it’s important that everyone gets a chance to be part of the group.”

And when Griffin says everyone, he means everyone. Although Major Taylor is primarily made up of African-American riders, the group has plenty of members who aren’t. Jerry Ciardelli of Minneapolis is one of them. He has been with the club for several years and sees the group like a family.

“After a while you don’t hardly think about it. They’re just buddies. I joke around with them and they do the same with me,” Ciardelli reflected. “But I take pride in being a member of the club and being in a mixed group like this.”

Get involved:

The Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota is one of the original Major Taylor groups around the country. The group is also a member of the National Brotherhood of Cyclists, the League of American Bicyclists and other bike clubs around the country.

Riders who want access to all of the club’s organized rides, activities and gear can become members on the Major Taylor website. The Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota is also being featured in an exhibit at the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery.