Black Pioneers Who Paved The Road

Recognizing the determination and grit of the 25th Bicycle Regiment

By Christy Cowley, Executive Director

It doesn’t take a genius to know who is going to win at a lane grab driving down the highway at 80mph next to an 18-wheeler with blinkers rapidly flashing. I learned this lesson early on a 4-day cross-country journey with my son. We headed out in his well-worn SUV packed with a mattress, clothes, and his beloved bike on our way to Pittsburgh to get him settled into graduate school. This was my third college drop off trip, but the first to take me across America. As we crossed the northern states, passing and being passed by countless vehicles, I imagined the millions of people who had made the same trek before us on foot, wagon, and bicycle – especially on bicycle.

Our first stop was Missoula, MT and it reminded me of a fascinating bicycling American history story I once heard. In 1896 the 25th Infantry, an all-black company based out of Missoula, MT, were volunteered by their white commanding officer to study the practicality of bicycles in the military. Most of the soldiers had no biking experience, and the 2000 mile journey they were ordered to make on 60 pound, gearless, steel- rimmed bikes surely tested their strength, but might also prove that bicycle-mounted troops have a place in the military.  These soldiers were the predecessors of the modern-day gravel riders; avoiding roads, carrying 55lbs of gear, camping on the land, albeit for duty rather than recreation.  Their arduous journey from Missoula to St. Louis on bicycle is well documented in short videos and articles and is worth a read if you are not familiar with the story.

Sharing Wheels has plenty of bikes and accessories to equip a modern-day cyclist, so don’t start your next journey without first stopping by our shop and having a look at all our biking equipment. And, if you happen to be traveling east by car, rather than a bike, just remember to always give way to the colossal steel on wheels with the flashing lights moving towards your lane.