Anyone who’s spent time as a hobbyist in cycling knows how much the sport looks the same as it always has. Not only does cycling have inherent barriers to entry for people of color, but most of the issues are systemic, running all the way up the tiers to the highest levels of competition.
But despite the many of the obstacles that have stood and continue to stand in their way, Black athletes have a rich heritage in the sport. The documentation of these stories in Desire Discrimination Determination–Black Champions in Cycling, published by Rapha, is likely the most comprehensive collection to date, with captivating insight from Black cyclists young and old.
UK author Dr. Marlon Moncrieffe uses British cycling as the book's eye-opening backdrop, allowing Black athletes to recount a range of racially motivated challenges, including having to switch national affiliations just to ride professionally.
The 240-page book also includes rare photography and lesser-known aspects of cycling's history across Europe and North America.
These stories touch every part of the sport, including what happens off-bike. British BMX legend Charlie Reynolds recalling his troubles gaining a full factory sponsorship from a bike maker while regularly winning races is just another far-too-recent blemish in cycling's homogenous past. (He eventually would have a bike named after him—a first for a black BMX cyclist—but at a much lower compensation rate than his peers.)
One overarching theme throughout is the intense struggles non-white riders have endured to make their presence known in global competitive cycling—echoes of which still, unfortunately, ring true today. While Black Champions in Cycling serves as a reminder of how far cycling has come, the stories inside also illustrate how far the sport has yet to go.