Buffalo Soldiers Bicycle 800 Miles to Yellowstone


An amazing chapter in the history of cycling for your Bike Month reading pleasure

ABOVE: The 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps at Minerva Terrace in Yellowstone National Park.

An amazing chapter in the history of cycling for your Bike Month reading pleasure.

If you were a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army stationed at Ft. Missoula, Montana, and you were looking to test the military viability of a new-fangled contraption called the “safety bicycle,” what would you do?

When Lt. James A. Moss found himself in that exact situation in 1896, he equipped his entire regiment—the 25th, one of four all African American regiments enacted by Congress soon after the Civil War—with bikes of the latest model and led an 800 mile ride to Yellowstone National Park and back.

Why Yellowstone? Probably for the scenery. Afterwards recalling the trip, Moss wrote, “Again and again would we stop along the road to look at paint pots, pools, springs, geysers, etc.” and “Riding through the Gibbon Meadows, we then turned off into Gibbon Canyon, deep, sinuous and picturesque. For miles we fared along the windings of the road, with the ever beautiful waters of Gibbon River at our side, now admiring this, then admiring that. Indeed, this was the very poetry of cycling.”

The 16-day jaunt to Yellowstone was merely a practice run. The true test for both the bikes and the unfathomably intrepid men riding them was a 1,900 mile, 34 day trek from Missoula to St. Louis. The journey took them through wildly diverse weather and terrain—they endured rain, hail, punishing heat, they muscled through the Rockies and struggled through Nebraska’s “notorious sand hills.” Each bike, fully loaded with gear and rations, weighed 76 pounds. Keep all this in mind as you pedal to work this week in celebration of Bike Month.

For much, much more on this curious spoke in the wheel of U.S. history, head to historynet.com, urbanvelo.org, and tubulocity.com.


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