ISSUE 011 - IL DISPACCIO DELLA CORSA

ISSUE 011 - IL DISPACCIO DELLA CORSA

By matthew kornberg

ISSUE 011 - IL DISPACCIO DELLA CORSA
Enjoy the ride.
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Listening to the Silence

Erick Cedeno, the Bicycle Nomad, who has twice retraced the route of the Underground Railroad by bicycle, plans to embark on his most significant expedition yet. In a tribute to the 25th Infantry, or 'The Bicycle Corps', Cedeno aims to learn about the Black influence on the origins of bikepacking and restore dignity to the disgraced war heroes who shaped it. 

 

 

What got you into long distance bikepacking? 

I’ve always been curious and an explorer, even when I was a kid. I like to say that I had the perfect mother because she allowed me, without limitation, to push the limits, she even encouraged it. I’ve always wanted to see more, that’s just the nature of my spirit. 

 

Tell us about some of your previous bikepacking journeys?

My first long distance ride was from Vancouver, Canada to Tijuana, Mexico. A solo trip camping out along the PCH. After that I got addicted. In 2014 (and again in 2020) I retraced the Underground Railroad from New Orleans, Louisiana to Niagara Falls, Canada. I’ve also biked the Atlantic Coast from Miami to NYC, as well as several other two to three week trips, like Pittsburgh to DC through the Allegheny Mountains and West Virginia.

 

How did you learn about the 25th Infantry/Buffalo Soldiers?

I love history. So when I began to travel by bicycle, I wanted to learn about the history of traveling by bicycle. “Who was the first to do it? To travel around the country? When?” So I started nerding out about some groups that were doing this around the 1890s. And through this research, I found out about the 25th Infantry, also known as the Bicycle Corps. They were an all Black infantry, and the first American troops sent to the Spanish American War in San Juan Hills, Cuba. Prior to the war, the Buffalo Soldiers became designated bicycle troops and were ordered to travel a historic, and treacherous, 1,900 mile bike journey from Fort Missoula, Montana to St. Louis, Missouri. I was fascinated. I’ve never heard of other Black people traveling by bike. But as a person of color myself, I was like, “Wow. How come I have never learned about this? This is pretty cool.”

 

 

What have you learned about them?

In the past couple of years, I’ve learned a lot about them as a group, but then I wanted to know about them as individuals. “What were their names? Where were they were born, when they died, were they married, and did they have kids?” So I think it’s become a life journey for me to educate myself on these men. It has now become over 10 years of work, starting back when I began traveling by bike. I went to the actual fort in Montana, called Fort Missoula, where they were based, and I plan to go back again in two weeks to continue my research. Because of the extensive research I have conducted in retracing the Bicycle Corps’ route, the museum at Fort Missoula has given me access to parts of the archives mostly unseen by others. People have asked me why I’m working to become an expert on this topic. To me, I feel connected to these guys. The bicycle brought me to them.

 

What is the most shocking part of their story?

After the Spanish American War, they were sent to Brownsville, Texas, and this is where their story took a turn. The locals did not want them there because they were black soldiers. One day, a white bartender was killed during a gunfight, and the locals wrongfully blamed the Buffalo Soldiers for the attack. The matter escalated all the way up to President Theodore Roosevelt and ultimately ended with these Black war heroes being dishonorably discharged without pension, for something they were never responsible for. This ruling was ultimately overturned following a renewed investigation in the 1970's.

 

 

What are you hoping to personally gain from this journey?

I’m restoring their dignity and they are giving me dignity in return. I’ve never done this kind of research or documented something like this before. I’ve been fascinated by this history for many years, and when I realized that it was the 125th anniversary, a milestone number, I asked my wife if I could do it. She said I had to do it because this going to be part of my legacy. “Who else is going to put this story together but you?” she said.

 

What is the most important thing you want the rest of us to gain from your journey?

To do what you love for a living. I’m very fortunate to do something I love for a living. To me, it’s about having freedom and listening to myself. I want to teach my son to go within, and listen to himself. Sometimes you can only REALLY hear when everything else is quiet, and how does that happen in a city? It’s hard. You have to take a trip like this to find that. And I think 13 years of traveling by bicycle has come down to that. I want to have the freedom to be a good husband and father and find ways to channel everything mentally. 

I also hope that other bicycle nomads may one day pay respect to the Infantry’s history. I want to keep it alive. I’m hoping to gain that satisfaction when I finish and trace this route for other cyclists. This is American history, how come it’s not in our history books?

 

 

 

What’s your biggest inspiration? 

On one of my first cross country journeys when I was riding 75 miles day after day, I started thinking about, “what’s the carrot in front of me that keeps me going?” For me it was learning about the history and culture of all the towns I pass through. It’s like I’m traveling through history.

What drives you?

It’s a need inside me, something drives me to go and go and go. It wasn’t until I had my son that I recently realized why. It’s the inner child in me that likes to see new things. For my son, everything is new and observing him experience life so slowly and presently made me realize that’s exactly what I am looking for on my bikepacking journeys.

 

Corsa is all about the Art of Recreation. How is this a part of your life & what does it mean to you?

I don’t want to be like everybody else, I dont really kit up when I ride, I want to be myself and bring my own style. Diversifying the culture also drives me. Like when I get to meet people of color who are like, “I want to do what you're doing.” The outdoor space has, historically, been pretty racist towards people of color, and I don’t want my son to grow up and deal with some of the stuff I’ve dealt with. And I have no animosity towards anybody, because it’s not “normal” to see a black man with dreadlocks camping outside. But it’s my job to “normalize” that. 

 

What's your favorite thing about Corsa?

I like the culture of Corsa. And I always feel great drinking it because it transports me to somewhere else. It’s like a journey.

 

@bicycle_nomad @mr.erickcedeno

 

Rollin’ Rollin’: When your chasing new destinations, don’t forget what’s going to keep you going. Also, a great opportunity to spend a few minutes on mindfulness or meditation.

 

Gravel 'Raven: A unique collection of timeless garments combining hiking and biking.

 

Competitive Advantage: How a positive brain fuels success in work and life.

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