New York City-based cycling club, Major Taylor Iron Riders, is raising money for the Legal Defense Fund with Black Lives Matter kits.

The Major Taylor Iron Riders (MTIR) focus on opening doors and welcoming athletes of all kinds, regardless of race, gender, or creed, through camaraderie and support. 

Named in honor of Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor, the first African American professional cyclist and 1899 World Champion, and the U.S. Army’s Bicycle Corps known as “Iron Riders,” the club is one of the most diverse cycling clubs in New York City.

Over the years, the club has created The Legends Ride to Montauk, nurtured Josh Pro Hartman as he becomes one of the most anticipated Olympic hopefuls, and sends a development team to compete at the Haute Route.

“We are definitely a hard riding club, and there is no mistaking that. Our reputation is that we do long, hard rides, and if you aren’t fit, you won’t be able to keep up. We have a saying, “We eat our young.” However, those who want to step to the plate will be supported and guided on how to become a better cyclist, if they want to,” Dereka Hendon-Barnes, MTIR Club President, says to describe the club’s culture.

Through riding hard, a little bit (okay, a lot of) trash-talking, and supporting everyone who shows up, MTIR creates a culture of inclusion. All while recognizing the sport of cycling is stratified by race, and BIPOC athletes continue to face adversity.

The Namesake: Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor 

“The point of fact is that our namesake, Major Taylor, rode through the same adversity. Right? So, it’s kind of how we were born. It’s what we’re about. It’s riding through those same adversities and helping each other through these things,” said MTIR board member Darrell Tucker in a podcast with VeloNews.

Not only was Major Taylor the first African American cyclist, but he was the world’s fastest cyclist setting seven world records. However, his story isn’t well known.

Major Taylor came into cycling during the Jim Crow Era, ne of our nation’s most segregated times, and faced open hostility and racism. In 1896 he entered the Six-Day Bicycle Race in Madison Square Garden stage race, completing a record of 1,732 miles on the 0.1-mile track.

“He was a Black man riding his bike, so there was no one helping him, at 18-years-old, riding for six days straight. Think about that. The sheer strength it took to ride his bike for six days straight, and as a Black man. It’s mind-boggling that he was able to walk out there,” says Chris Hasfal, MTIR Club Vice President.

The Creation of the Collection

Staying steadfast in the climate of racial unrest throughout the country, MTIR wanted to harness their voices to push for meaningful change worldwide.

So, they designed a cycling kit collection.

“The kit says it all. I want to see it go to newer heights and bigger heights. If someone supports the change that’s happening in our country and they’re a cyclist, they can be a part of this,” shares Dereka Hendon-Barnes.

MTIR is donating the proceeds of kit sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to support their work in combating the lack of and accessibility to legal support, advocacy, and public education for BIPOC citizens.

“The kit is just a small piece for the voices across the world that need to be heard, and if this kit and donations can make a difference, then we want to do that,” said Dereka Hendon-Barnes.

Major Taylor Iron Riders would like to thank their board members for their support, and Andrew Harris and Seitu Barnes for co-designing the kit collection.