Bicycling Through History: Retracing The Route Of An 1897 Buffalo Soldier Bicycle Expedition

Erick Cedeño


Erick Cedeño, also known as the “Bicycle Nomad,” is an explorer who travels by bike. He was born in Panama City, Panama, moved to Miami as a child, and graduated from Bethune-Cookman University with a degree in travel and tourism management. Fourteen years ago, he decided he wanted to see the country by bicycle and rode from Vancouver to Tijuana. His next trip was from Miami to New York City. He then decided to combine his love for exploring by bicycle with his passion for history by cycling from New Orleans to Niagara following a 2300-mile Underground Railroad route, using the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd” as a reference. In places like New Albany, Indiana, Ripley, Ohio, and Columbus, Ohio, he met locals who helped him identify historic landmarks generally known only to the people of the region. Frequently “trail angels” helped him along the way, providing food, water, and places to rest when he needed them most. He then decided to recreate an 1897 Buffalo Soldier bicycle expedition from Ft. Missoula, Montana, to Saint Louis, Missouri, a 1900-mile route that crossed the Continental Divide and traversed inhospitable terrain. The Buffalo Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment were testing the viability of using bicycles for Army transportation. (Initially, in 1866, six regiments of African American Soldiers were organized. In 1869, the Army was reorganized, leaving the 9th and 10th Cavalry alongside the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments.) This was the third expedition, and the most arduous (two other expeditions were completed in 1896). The 1897 Buffalo Soldier expedition, led by Lieutenant James Moss (USMA 1894), consisted of 20 hand-picked volunteers, and averaged 50 miles per day for 41 days with just two days of rest. The route generally followed existing railroads. The Soldiers rode single-speed bicycles weighing between 58 and 60 lbs., carrying two days of rations, their equipment, and rifle. Private John Findley’s bike weighed 75 lbs. because, as the mechanic, he carried extra tools and parts. Along the route, they had some very positive experiences, including a Civil War veteran buying them a drink in Big Timber, Montana, and participating in a 4th of July parade in Crawford, Nebraska. Unfortunately, they also received poor treatment in some areas, such as receiving incorrect directions in one town, and being told they could not camp in another town. Overall, the mission was a great success, and it was documented by Edward Boos, a journalist who submitted daily newspaper articles. When they arrived in St. Louis, Missouri, 10,000 people welcomed them and they camped in the town for nearly two weeks. Later, many of the expedition’s riders served in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, and two were wounded at San Juan Hill. Reflecting on what he considers to be an extremely strenuous ride, Erick Cedeño describes the sense of pride he felt following their route and honoring their memory. Looking at photos of the expedition, he can identify some of the faces, but not all of them. His goal is to give them the dignity of matching the known names to their faces and continuing to remember their service.


topics Camaraderie Leadership Teamwork African American Military Experience Race in the Military
interviewer David Siry
date 27 October 2022


name Erick Cedeño
institution Bethune-Cookman University
specialty Cycling and History