First African-American man to cycle across North America, Africa - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

First African-American man to cycle across North America, Africa, and Asia to visit VT

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David Sylvester, author and accomplished cyclist, will come to Virginia Tech to recount his experiences of cycling across North America, Africa, and Asia and the lessons he learned along the way.

Sylvester planned his first cross-continent bicycle ride after Kevin Bowser, a childhood friend and mentor, died during the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. To honor Bowser’s memory, Sylvester cycled across the United States in 2002 to raise money for charity.

“On the road across the USA, there were so many moments that made me who I am. These moments motivated me to make myself better,” shared Sylvester in a column he wrote for ESPN.

After the trip, he decided to explore more, cycling across Africa from Cairo to Cape Town, South Africa in 2004.

In 2006, he was hit by a drunk driver in the United States. Doctors surgically removed a two-inch knob from his truck out of his knee. Sylvester was told he may never be able to cycle again, but proved that wrong just one year later by cycling across Asia from Istanbul, Turkey, to Beijing.

Sylvester chronicled his experiences in a memoir, “Traveling at the Speed of Life.”

“While other cyclists have journeyed across the United States and even other continents, Sylvester is among the few African-Americans participating in this type of endurance cycling,” said Jill Sible, assistant provost for undergraduate education, professor of biological sciences, and organizer of Sylvester’s visit. “During his trips, he encountered unique instances because of his race. I’m excited for him to be able to share this enlightening perspective with Virginia Tech and the community.”

The public is invited to hear Sylvester speak on Tuesday, April 8, from 5-6:45 p.m. in the auditorium of Fralin Hall.

"Dave has been a tremendous resource as we organize Velo Hokies, a transcontinental bike tour for Virginia Tech students in the planning stages for summer 2016," said Sible. “I reached out to Dave because of his accomplishments as an athlete, but I’ve come to admire him most for the depth of compassion he expresses for every individual with whom he comes in contact.”

Sylvester’s visit is sponsored by the Women and Minority Artists and Scholars Lecture series, which seeks to increase the number and diversity of scholarly voices and artistic expressions at Virginia Tech. The Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost ( supports the series by providing modest grants to cover the costs of bringing a guest lecturer or artist to campus.

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