By Kate Agathon
Celebrating Black History Month
With Black History Month coming to close here is an article by Kate Agathon of Campus Cycles which highlights the achievements and contributions of black inventors, athletes, community organizers, soldiers, and outdoor enthusiasts, etc. to cycling.
Additionally, through a photographic journey, we underscore how bicycles have been utilized by the black community since the late 1880s to present.
From panniers to the tricycle, black inventors in the late 1800s made significant contributions to cycling.
While not the first person to invent the bicycle frame, Isaac R. Johnson (pictured bottom left) was the first black to invent and patent a bicycle frame in 1899 that could be folded or taken apart for easy storage.
After the Civil War, the United States military formed several all-black infantry units, commonly known as “Buffalo Soldiers”. This included the creation of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps who were tasked with riding 1,900 miles from Montana to Missouri by bicycle.
While several European armies had already established the bicycle’s value for reconnaissance and courier services, the United States lagged behind.
The U.S. Army did not attempt any official experiments in bicycle transport until 1896, when the task was assigned to the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps.
In the summer of 1897, the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps started a 1900- mile trek to St. Louis on single speed bikes made by Spaulding Bicycle Company. Although the bikes were the most modern available, loaded with gear and supplies they weighed almost 60lbs! In addition, each rider also carried a 10lb rifle along with 50 rounds of ammunition.
The 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps conquered some of the roughest terrain in the country by bike, and completed the longest military bicycle training drill in U.S. history.
Bicycles for work and for fun
By the 20th century, the bicycle provided ample mobility opportunities for work and play.
Bicycles for athletes and activists
In the 20th and 21st centuries, the bicycle has been used as vehicles of empowerment by athletes, activists, and others.
Celebs who go by bike
Bicycles remain a source of transportation and recreation for contemporary celebrities.
With nearly 100 chapters nationwide, Black Girls Do Bike (BGDB) promotes cycling among women of color who share a passion for bikes.
BGDB champions efforts to introduce the joy of cycling to all women, but especially, women and girls of color. The Denver chapter can be found here.