125 years ago the 25th Infantry, an all-Black regiment of U.S. soldiers (also known as Buffalo Soldiers) stationed at Ft. Missoula, Montana, rode single-speed bikes 1,900 miles to St. Louis, Missouri over 41 days. Their objective was to test the feasibility of replacing horses with bikes in military operations. While the trip was fairly well-documented, upon completion the soldiers received little recognition for the massive accomplishment. Several of the soldiers were eventually buried without gravestones and their names remain unknown.
“If I wasn’t paying homage to the Buffalo Soldiers, I probably would have quit this trip. And I’ve never quit a trip before. That’s how hard this trip was.”
In an effort to bring truth and dignity to the Buffalo Soldiers, Erick Cendeño (aka Bicycle Nomad) set out on the same 1,900 mile journey this summer. While some elements remained the same for Erick – such as the grueling, humid heat and long distances each day – others were quite different. Erick wasn’t denied entry into restaurants based on the color of his skin. He didn’t have to sit outside in 105 degrees eating a lunch of canned beans and bacon. His bike had gearing and his tires had tread. Despite all the advances made in civil rights and cycling technology, Erick - a cyclist who has been traveling the world by bicycle for 12 years - reflects on the trip as the most challenging ride he has ever completed.
“My mom would say - regardless of your skin color, regardless of how you speak or how you look - you can do anything you want.”
Erick’s aim with this project was not only to bring recognition to these forgotten soldiers, but also to help create a world in which all people feel represented and inspired to ride bikes. By completing this journey, Erick hopes the same inspiration he had found deep in the pages of history is more easily accessible to his son Gabriel and others who come after him.