Cycling Significant Figures

Cycling in Dayton, Ohio


by Phillip D. Scott


From 1897 to 1902, the professional bicycle circuit moved from city to city in the United States. Earl Kiser, known as the “little Dayton Demon,” was one of the top leading names in bicycling, along with Arthur Zimmerman, Major Taylor, Tom Cooper, Eddie Bald, and Nat Butler.


Kiser’s strength (he was 5’6” tall and 155 pounds of muscle) and his courage were always a factor when he was breaking records in bicycle racing. He had one of the best “jumps” in the business, being able to get out of pockets and sprint to victory, winning by inches.


Earl Kiser held the one-half mile and one-mile world records. He raced for the Dayton Bicycle Club and later the Stearns Bicycle “Yellow-Fellow Team” which toured Europe and competed in the 1900 World Championship in Paris. The Manhattan Beach Track in New York was Kiser’s favorite track, and he won professional races there.


Among the men who formed the American Racing Cyclist Union was Earl Kiser. One of the issues of the day was that African-American Major Taylor was not allowed to enter many races. Kiser and several other cyclists petitioned to reinstate Taylor in racing. Taylor went on to win the 1899 World Championship Sprint title after that.


A.C. Mertens and Kiser established one of the great tandem teams of bicycle racing. They also traveled together and raced successfully individually. From a New York newspaper in 1897:


“Earl Kiser and Mertens were the ephemeral hordes of the hour, and the Napoleon of the final days’ racing was cheered on by the greatest assemblage of spectators gathered in the history of the sport in the United States. The black haired youth from Dayton carried off both the great races of the day, the half-mile professional championship, and the one-mile open professional which was considered the star feature of the meet. The spoils of the victory were $250 in cash and a gold medal.”


From a Philadelphia clipping:


“Fast times were made at the National Circuit meet of the Associated Cycling Clubs of this city today. Ten thousand persons saw Earl Kiser win the great race of the day, for which a purse of $500 was offered. The men qualified in 5 heats, only first and 2nd being allowed to start the final.  For the final Sanger had gained a lead twenty yards from home. Kiser jumped from the rear of the big fellow and in a few well-timed jumps won by a foot. The time, 2.04.4/5’s, is the State competition record.” 


Kiser also held the one-half and one-mile world records at that time.


Later Kiser became interested in automobile racing when an old friend, Carl Fisher, promoted Barney Oldfield’s first race held at the Dayton, Ohio, Fairgrounds Track. Kiser also met Alexander Winton of the Winton Automobile Company. 


Driving the “Winton Bullet,” Kiser began racing for Winton. After a few seasons, Kiser became the World Champion, beating Barney Oldfield’s record at that time. One year later, in an unfortunate racing accident, Kiser lost a leg and retired from the sport. He then became involved in real estate with Carl Fisher.


Earl Herbert Kiser is buried in Dayton’s Woodland Cemetery, a few steps from the Wright brothers, an appropriate place for such a gentleman and champion.


Janelle Parks

Janelle Parks participated in the women’s 79.2 k road race and attained 10th place in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.  In 1986, she attained 2nd place in the women’s World Cycling Championships.