Not entirely unlike grade school, I am writing this report before finishing the book. But the time seems right. We're pumped about track racing, race is the 800 lb gorilla in the news, scandal in cycling is alive and well now (as in the 1890s) and riders who ride and live clean are being celebrated again (finally).
This is a darn fine book about Major Taylor AND about track racing (U.S. and international) in the 1890's and 1900's. An era of six day races where the riders did their best to ride for 6 days straight, until succumbing to hallucinations or falling unconscious from the bike. An era with over 300 US bike manufacturers. An era that saw both quint-bike pacers and newfangled steam motor-bike pacers. An era where fatal crashes on the track were becoming ever-more common, especially in motor-paced races for speed records. An era when track cycling was THE major US sport.
Even with the full context in place, it's hard to explain or believe how fantastically good Taylor was.
So, buy the book.
It does Taylor's exploits justice. (Ladies, while there are not very many pictures, it also does justice to the man himself. The most famous picture is only average hot, but Major Taylor? Seriously stunning. From a French newspaper of the time: "it is difficult to imagine a human being endowed with a more perfect balance of strength, flexibility and elegance.") It puts the racial climate into context, in Australia and Europe, as well as the US.
This book also contains the single most graphic description of...let's call it "preparing to ride while injured"...that I would ever care to read. (Yes, I peeked at the ending).
Buy it. Buy it. Buy it.