25th Infantry Buffalo Soldiers Bicycle Corp at Fort Missoula in 1897
In 1897 the 25th Infantry Army Bicycle Corps journeyed from Missoula, MT to St. Louis (1,900 miles) in just 34 days – an average of about 56 miles per day. While by today’s standards this may not seem remarkable, it was a more than double the speed of a typical cavalry or infantry unit. The bikes were single speed rigs (natch) and weighed more than 70 pounds fully loaded which makes most downhill rigs seem like featherweights. In the late 1800s roads in the west were largely unpaved or non-existent meaning the buffalo soldiers spent lots of time in the mud (and a good bit of that time was spent pushing rather than riding). Sadly the Bicycle Corps was disbanded shortly after the epic 1897 demonstration – it turns out the internal combustion engine was a bit more effective at moving troops and supplies.