Long before the golden age of six-day racing in Canada; the 1930s, there was a Canadian endurance racer that made a name for himself during the late 19th century and the early 1900s. Burns W. Pierce was born in East Sable River, Nova Scotia in 1868, one year after Nova Scotia joined Confederation. The story is told that as a young man he traveled to the "Boston States", New England to seek fame and fortune. One day on his way to work he was challenged by a group of riders from the local cycling club. With his old second hand bike he handily left them watching his rear. Burns started to win the local amateur races. He was especially adept at endurance races. In 1896 at the age of 28 years old Pierce entered his first professional 6-day bicycle race at Madison Square Garden. He came in third place.
The six-day races of the 1890s came at the end of a century when bicycling was gaining prominence as both a mode of transportation and commerce as well as for recreational and leisure time activity. The safety bicycle with its pneumatic tyres and fixed gear and chain helped to open new horizons for the general public. Also during the 1890s cycling competitions became a huge spectator sport where cycling fans would flock to the outdoor and indoor cycling tracks to witness the epic displays of heroic cycling that pushed the limits of human performance.
Between 1896 and 1900 Burns Pierce participated in four solo six-day events. On December 5, 1898 Pierce established a world record for the greatest distance covered in 24 hours, 457miles. He again bettered the world record during the San Francisco Individual Six-Day Bicycle Race in 1899 covering 467miles in 24 hours.
Pierce was a well known on the cycle racing circuit and participated in many motor-paced events from 20 miles to 100 miles. He was a well known racer at the Charles River Park Cycling Track in Cambridge and had a large following of fans. It would not be unusual for Pierce and his racing compatriots to race at speed over 30 miles per hour around the cycle track. Pierce displayed great speed and endurance on the track and held many USA records for the ˝ mile, two, three, four and five mile distances.
Perhaps Pierce’s greatest cycling performance was the 1900 New York City Six-Day race at Madison Square Garden when he was partnered with the Canadian cycling prodigy Archie McEachern from Toronto. This all-star Canadian team was an ideal combination as McEachern was young, fast with excellent savoir faire for such a young rider. Burns Pierce on the other hand had immense endurance and track experience with excellent bike handling skills. The Maple Leaf Team came in second place losing by half a wheel to Elkes and McFarland. This was only the second team six-day race with only one prior to that in 1899.
Newspaper article from NewspaperArchives.com.