Iron Rider exhibit will be on display through October
JEFFERSON CITY, MO, SEPT. 22, 2022 – In June of 1897, the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps, an all-Black army regiment known as the “Buffalo Soldiers,” embarked on a 1,900-mile, 41-day bicycle ride from Fort Missoula in Montana to Forest Park in St. Louis. The daunting trek was part of an experiment by the U.S. Army to test the effectiveness of using bicycles, rather than horses, for troop movement. The route for this experiment closely followed the Northern Pacific and Burlington railroads through Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Missouri.
Nicknamed the Iron Riders because of the heavy one-speed bicycles they pedaled and for the troops’ iron-hard constitutions, the soldiers experienced conditions along the route that would have intimidated even the most avid of modern-day cyclists – severe weather and extreme heat, food and water shortages, illness from contaminated water, along with racism and hostility from local residents. In spite of these challenges, the Iron Riders successfully reached Forest Park July 24, 1897, and were welcomed by a cheering crowd.
To commemorate the 125th anniversary of this historic ride, Missouri State Parks is partnering with the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center at 3700 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Kansas City to host an event honoring the historic Iron Riders. From noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, there will be food trucks, entertainment, programs and presentations, local business and community organization booths, and kids bike helmet giveaways. There will also be exhibits about the soldiers and their ride, including a model bike and replica soldier uniform. The exhibits, model bike and replica uniform will be on display at the center until Oct. 31.
Other planned activities include bike rodeos and activities for kids, live music, historic demonstrations, exhibits of the route and riders, programs and presenters. Information about the historic ride and the anniversary events can be found at mostateparks.com/ironriders.
For more information on Missouri state parks and historic sites, visit mostateparks.com. Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.