Urban Velo

25th Infantry Bicycle Corps

The tale of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Division back in the 1890s is an important piece of bicycle and African American history. Meant as a test of the bicycle as a replacement for walking or more expensive horses, the 25th Infantry Division completed a number of long distance excursions and are perhaps one of the earliest examples of bikepacking long distances in this country. Historynet.com recently published an excellent historical piece on the the division, The Buffalo Soldiers Who Rode Bikes.

Boos painted a colorful picture of the procession—”hot and flashing storms” beset the men, “mud covered wheels until they were discs of gumbo,” and “rumors of rattlesnakes broke up uncomfortable camp and started the line in the middle of the night.” Moss also kept a journal on the trek. Each soldier strapped his knapsack, blanket roll and tent to the head of his bike, his haversack to the horizontal bar. Every other soldier carried a carbine, strapped horizontally to the bike’s two upright bars, while the alternating riders hauled canvas-covered boxes with extra supplies. Quartermaster units had placed food drops every 100 miles, but the riders soon discovered that two days’ supply of rations provided just four meals, not six—which often left the “Handlebar Infantry” with hunger pangs. From camp on June 24 Moss reported the men had ridden 42 miles on “a cup of weak coffee, partially sweetened, and a small piece of burnt bread.”

On the rainy morning of July 24, the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps rolled across a railroad bridge on the Missouri River at St. Charles. The clouds soon broke, and they covered the last few rough miles to St. Louis under a broiling sun. On the city outskirts hundreds of local cyclists pedaled out to greet them and form an escort. At 6:30 that evening, after 40 days and 1,900.2 miles, the trek officially ended. Moss was pleased with the results—the troop had averaged 6.3 mph and more than 50 miles each day. Over the next week bicycle clubs feted the buffalo soldiers, and the color barrier seemed to evaporate.

Read the entire article at www.historynet.com

One Comment

  1. TonyDecember 10, 2012 at 11:07 am

    More like this, please.

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