A Closer Look At Cycling's Black Pioneers

Early cycling icon Kitty Knox.

To celebrate Black History Month, we wanted to focus on the Black innovators and enthusiasts who’ve helped establish cycling as the global phenomenon it is today. We have them to thank for making it possible to do what we love.

Many of them have been unfairly overlooked by history. For some, their memory lies mostly in the patents they filed and the products they inspired.

As market leaders in the world of mobility, we're excited to use our platform to elevate their legacy and pay tribute to the impact they’ve made on our industry!



Want to learn more? 


Isaac R. Johnson

“By means of this invention, the frame of a vehicle, such as a bicycle or velocipede, can be made separable or dismountable so that it can be compactly stored -- as, for example, in trunks or compartments or other small places, or conveniently carried, as in elevators, cars or the like.” -Isaac R. Johnson

Read Isaac. R Johnson's full patent


Jerry M. Certain 

“This invention relates exclusively to that class of bicycle attachments known in the art as ‘parcel-carriers;’ and my present invention consists in the combination, with one of its forked (wheel) bars, of a pair of symmetrically-formed basket-receptacles, located on opposite sides of said bar, and a means of attaching and detaching the same.” - Jerry M. Certain

Read Jerry M. Certain's full patent.


Kittie Knox

When Miss Knox, whose appearance and dress had been objects of admiration all day, walked into the committee-room at the local clubhouse and presented her League card for a credential badge the gentleman in charge refused to recognize the card.” - The San Francisco Call, 1895

Knox's experience was far from easy. After being accepted, the league adopted language restricting membership only to white cyclists. Over 125 years later, the league’s modern-day incarnation recognizes her influence with the Katherine T. “Kittie” Knox Award, which recognizes “champions of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the bicycling movement.”
For a deeper dive into Knox's life and legacy, check out VeloNews.


Major Taylor

“In a word I was a pioneer, and therefore had to blaze my own trail." - Major Taylor

After completing his cycling career, Major Taylor penned an autobiography detailing his amazing life story. It's aptly titled "The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World." 

Today, Taylor’s legacy is honored by riders across the country who’ve joined bike clubs that bear his name. Frequent Rad collaborator the Cascade Bicycling Club also launched the Major Taylor Project, a youth bicycling program. 
History is still being made and barriers are still being broken. In 1993, Bicycle Hall of Fame inductee Nelson Vails became the first African American cyclist to win an Olympic Gold Medal. In 2011, South African cyclist Yohann Gene became the first Black rider to compete in the Tour de France. And in 2020, cycling icon Ayesha McGowan became the first African American woman in professional road cycling

Next week, we’ll be shifting our focus to the modern day with an in-depth look on the importance of inclusion in cycling. We hope you’ll join us!



By Justin Duckham and Be Russell. Graphics by Nick Proctor.


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