Exodus is thrilled to be partnering with bicycle advocate, cyclo-tourist, and the one-person show behind Bicycle Nomad, Erick Cedeno on his upcoming cycling expedition Dignity & Truth: The Buffalo Soldiers Project. This 1900-mile expedition by bike will take him along the route of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps, a unit of Black soldiers formed in 1896 by the US government to test the combat viability of bicycle-mounted troops. Buffalo Soldiers was the nickname of the colored Calvary Regiments by Native American tribes and became synonymous with all African American regiments formed after 1866.
Erick is no stranger to tracing important historical routes linking to African American history in the United States. In the past 12 years, Erick has traveled over 50,000 miles across the U.S by bicycle, including 2 expeditions in 2014 and 2020 along historic paths of the Underground Railroad, a network of routes and safe houses established in the 19th century to help enslaved African Americans in the South escape into Canada and “free” states in the North.
Photo taken by Josh Caffrey
This 32-day bike ride in 2020 took him along a 1,997.1-mile corridor from Congo Square in New Orleans up to Niagara Falls, though the Underground Railroad consists of many different routes. For this particular expedition, Erick wanted to experience what it was like for enslaved people to “Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd,” an old song that was sung on plantations that helped to pass on the valuable secret directions of the route to freedom. The song tells you to follow the banks of the Tennessee River, which connects to the Ohio River, and then continue on by following the North Star. As he traced the route, Erick slept in Underground Railroad safe houses and gained an intimate understanding of what enslaved people on the run had to endure to find their freedom.
Bicycle Nomad was born out of Erick’s passion for cycling, travel, and cultural immersion – a passion that both Exodus and Erick share. A bicycle to him is not only the simplest form of transportation, but also a tool for exploration and the fostering of different cultures, people, and connections. This passion project has become the medium for Erick to empower people of color, regardless of their ability, to explore the world by bike.
This upcoming journey following the path of the Buffalo Soldiers embodies the spirit of Erick’s Bicycle Nomad. Curiosity drives him, it fuels his insatiable desire to know what’s beyond the next bend of the road, to discover what’s there beyond the edges of the map. His mindset is “If it’s my muscles that propel me to move forward physically, it’s my curiosity and the hope to reclaim dignity and truth that propels me mentally.”
June 14, 2022 will mark the 125th anniversary of the historic all-Black bicycle-mounted infantry whose mission was to test bikes for the army as a potential replacement for horse-mounted cavalry. Erick will be covering this route over 41 days in the summer, documenting his experience along the way.
Erick’s goal is to uplift Black voices, encourage respectful heritage, and share the truth behind the historic and monumental ride of the 20 Black soldiers. Having been fascinated by the history of the 25th Infantry’s expedition since he first learned about them over 12 years ago, Erick wants to shine a light on their journey and help share their story with more people. He will be retracing their steps, hopefully providing the legacy of the honorable men with the dignity they have always deserved.
Erick will be using this expedition as an opportunity to acknowledge the role these Black soldiers played in the nation’s history, again using his bicycle as a conduit to another era, drawing upon curiosity and a desire to surface stories that have yet to be told.
Photo taken by Kavan Lake
To follow along with Erick’s 1,900-mile journey stay tuned to our social media for regular updates.