The Bicycle Nomad: Riding to Honor the Buffalo Soldiers
Erick Cedeño, aka the Bicycle Nomad, has joined the STP Ambassadors program to share his adventures training for and riding the Kaiser Permanente Seattle to Portland Presented by Alaska Airlines.
When not bikepacking, Cedeño shares the story of a legendary Army unit of Black soldiers who completed one of the most arduous bikepacking trips in U.S. history.
For bicycling adventurer and STP Ambassador Erick Cedeño, bikes are more than just tools for exploration: they are passports to history.
In addition to riding the route of the Underground Railroad twice, Cedeño is a storyteller and motivational speaker who for the past year has devoted much of his life to rediscovering and sharing the legacy of the 25th Infantry Regiment Bicycle Corps.
“I want to help give them the dignity that wasn’t given to them while they were alive,” he says, “and celebrate them as heroes of our history.”
Known as the Buffalo Soldiers, this legendary Army unit of 20 Black men completed one of our nation’s greatest bike adventures while serving in the racially segregated military in 1897. Riding heavy, singlespeed Spalding bikes laden with 59 pounds of gear and a rifle, they pedaled and pushed their bicycles 1,900 miles on unpaved roads through forests and deserts, over mountains and across rivers, enduring both frigid temperatures and oppressive heat.
It was a military mission to test the efficacy of bicycles as troop transportation in the era before automobiles. The journey from Missoula, Mont., to St. Louis, Mo., took 41 days.
In 2022, on the 125th anniversary of the expedition, Cedeño pedaled the same route as closely as he could, retracing the journey across Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Missouri.
While the mission of the Buffalo Soldiers is known to bicycle historians, and the writings of the white commanding officer, the white doctor, and the white reporter who joined the trip are represented in the historical archive, the stories of the individual Black soldiers have been lost.
That bothers Cedeño, a Black man. His goal now is to match the names of the Black soldiers with the existing photographs of the expedition participants. “We know their names but we couldn’t match their names and faces,” Cedeno says. “That’s what I’m doing now. I’ve gotten eight of the 20.”
The descendants of these men deserve a fuller historical record, he says. “These men are somebody’s grandparents, somebody’s great-grandparents. They don’t know how badass they were,” he told the New York Times. “I want everyone to know.”
The Bicycle Nomad: STP Ambassador
Cascade is proud to announce that Cedeño has joined the STP Ambassadors program, an effort to celebrate the diversity of our bicycling community–and share the message that everyone is welcomed on the Kaiser Permanente Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic Presented by Alaska Airlines.
Read about our other STP Ambassadors, including a car-free Portland TikToker, the founder of Best Side Cycling, a Jiu Jitsu black belt, and a Tlingit Cherokee Filipino American riding for his late father, in our story “Bicycling Saved My Life.”
You can see stories, videos, and photos from our STP Ambassadors by following @CascadeBicycle, #STP2023, and #SeattleToPortland on your favorite social media platforms.
Cedeño had a long resume of adventure rides prior to undertaking the Buffalo Soldiers expedition. He began bike touring in 2009 and has ridden in every state except Alaska. He has ridden from Vancouver, B.C., to Tijuana, Mexico, and from Miami to New York City in addition to his two Underground Railroad bike trips from New Orleans to Niagara Falls.
Map of the Underground Railroad bike route courtesy of Adventure Cycling Association.
Cedeño has never had the opportunity to ride STP but he is eager to participate this July 15-16, completing the 206-mile ride over two days. “It’s a ride I’ve always wanted to do. STP is iconic and it has been around for 44 years. I’m happy to be supporting STP and participating in the ride.”
Cedeño, who lives in Santa Monica, Calif., with his wife and their two-year-old son, plans to share his training tips for pedaling two consecutive 100-mile days on his Instagram page.
When not bikepacking, he stays fit by running, lifting weights, and pulling his son around in a bike trailer. “We commute everywhere by bicycle and barely ever drive.”
During his stay in Seattle, Cedeño hopes to do a presentation about his Buffalo Soldiers expedition. He frequently travels to colleges and universities to present the story of the Buffalo Soldiers and their bicycling adventure. Cascade hopes to help him find a venue in Seattle, so contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if your organization would like to host a speaking engagement.
Cedeño re-created the route using historical maps and newspaper clippings from 1897, and he encountered harsh weather and 105-degree heat during the journey.
“It was important for me to start the same day, June 14, at the same hour, 5:30 a.m., and do the ride over 41 days, trying to experience and feel what those men did.”
Colorized archival photo from Livingston, Mont., that Cedeño recreated during his journey.
Learn more about the Bicycle Nomad and the Buffalo Soldiers
Watch the short documentary “Truth and Dignity” about Cedeño’s re-creation of the Buffalo Soldiers’ bike route.
Watch the PBS story about his experiences riding the route of the Underground Railroad.
Read the New York Times article about Cedeño’s quest to revive the Buffalo Soldiers’ legacy.
Register for the Kaiser Permanente Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic Presented by Alaska Airlines. Revenues from STP and all of Cascade’s paid rides support our bicycle advocacy, education, and community initiatives.