Trail Ramblings: Bringing Bicycle History To And Through Lincoln In Three Stages.

With guest contributor Jesse Poore

Stage 1 – History at the Kitchen Table

A small lunch crowd gathered July 9th for soul bowls, cornbread, and to hear a 125 year old 
Black history tale at JuJu’s Vegan Cajun and Creole Cuisine.  Interested Lincolnites from every
corner of the bicycle community welcomed Erick Cedeño, the Bicycle Nomad, to town. Erick
welcomed us into his journey to connect more people with the true stories and the people of the
historic 1,900 mile bicycle adventure of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps from Missoula, Montana
to Saint Louis in 1897. Those who sneaked away from work to hear and ask questions about his
reenactment were not disappointed. To hear comparisons of the original journals with Erick’s
own experiences was riveting. It is somewhat easier to imagine doing it today, but 125 years
ago? The land remains the same but the roads obviously differ. Yet, Erick managed to find
some challenging thick gravel, lest you think it has been all too easy. If you think of following the
route, or parts of it yourself, Erick will make it available at some point in the future. Segments
had to be edited, as the Corps had crossed a river on a railroad trestle, meaning if a train would
have been coming, they would have had to jump into the water! Erick wisely chose an
alternate route. Also, some of the route is now on private property. A few navigational
challenges were shared as well, such as people seeming to intentionally give both Erick and the Bicycle
Corps the wrong directions. Intentional? Maybe. But, negative experiences such as those were
balanced by acts of kindness also, such as a rancher bringing Erick water when he had run out,
and then giving him a lift when he got a flat. Needing new tubes etc. the rancher put him in
contact with a bike shop in Scottsbluff. Someone from the bike shop drove 90 miles one-way to
deliver his supplies. 

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Erick Cedeno speaks during lunch at JuJu’s Vegan Cajun and Creole Cuisine. Informational
posters showed the Spalding bikes ridden by the Buffalo Soldiers of the 25th Infantry.

Having vicariously lived what is called the Iron Ride experience through the commander’s
journals, the journalist’s photographs, and the route itself, Erick is now trying to find out the
identity of all the Buffalo Soldiers that participated. No, they are not all known. He has sleuthed
out nine of the twenty riders from photos and cross-references. He has raised funds to provide
headstones for the graves of two he has found in unmarked graves in Chicago. The entire story
of the historic bike ride can be read about, but Erick’s note of caution is important to remember.
The impression we will have today is almost completely told through the eyes of the White
officers, their journals, and the articles from newspapers along the route. The real experience of

the Black soldiers, free citizens, may never be uncovered because it was never captured; a
caution not to imply that everyone’s experiences are the same as what is written about in history
books. There is no doubt that all these men were truly the original bike campers and we owe
them to be inspired and challenged by their efforts. Erick welcomes any support for his historical
endeavors with donations of any amount via CashApp $BicycleNomad or Venmo

Stage 2 – A Local History Bike Tour

When the Iron Ride stopped in Lincoln July 14, 1897, the local Black community was small but
growing. Ed Zimmer, retired historic preservation planner of Lincoln and a cyclist, volunteered to
lead around a dozen locals on a bike tour of notable destinations that would have existed at the
time of the expedition. Stops included churches which served as houses of worship and the
cultural centers of the community, residences owned by the very few Black residents that could
afford or were allowed to buy their own homes, and the Capitol grounds where the Corps had
set up to rest but were regaled by questions from “interested citizens” before packing up to ride
on to Firth. The 8-mile tour also included a stop at Wyuka Cemetery, where Black Soldiers who
fought in the Civil War were buried. Riders learned more about the lasting influence of Fredrick
Douglas, and the ties to naming of North Star high school. There was no one better to lead this
tour than Ed. He literally helped write the book. You can check one of the 14 copies from
Lincoln Library; Lincoln in Black & White. He has also published a Walking and Driving Tour of
Wyuka Cemetery, available at the Cemetery offices. Do yourself a favor and make time to learn
this rich history, imagine how it has influenced what we experience today, and then take steps
to make sure everyone in our community is welcome, heard, and valued. 

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Ed Zimmer led and narrated a Black History Bike Tour that extended from the South Bottoms to
Wyuka Cemetery. The tour was attended by a dozen local riders and Erick
Stage 3 – The Ride Rolls to Clyde Malone Center

The final stage was hosted by Ishma Valenti, director of teen programming at the Clyde Malone
in Lincoln. Isham is an avid Buffalo Soldier history buff, but admits he did not know about
the Iron Ride event until recently. He recognized immediately that the accomplishments of the
25th Infantry Bicycle Corps and the efforts of Erick Cedeño needed to be shared with the local
Black community. While the history tour was concluding, the staff at the Malone Center were
busy hosting a community picnic with food and games, bounce houses, and conversations
about this inspirational adventure. A welcome that Erick will not soon forget was being prepared.

Erick joined up with four Black members of the Lancaster Composite Mountain Bike Team who
have ties to the Malone Center. Erick spoke encouragement with them for their personal bike
journeys and to take advantage of every opportunity they can; a sentiment shared by Ishma.
One student, Nassir Pierson, relayed his impression of the interaction with Erik saying, “What I
really took from our time together is that you can do anything but you don’t know until you do it,
with drive and effort anyone can do anything! That’s what is inspiring about the ride from Erick
Cedeño and the inspirational story behind The Iron Riders!” With this inspiration, the group rode
from JuJu’s up 11th Street to the N Street Cycle Track and down the Billy Wolff trail where they
were welcomed at the Malone Center by more than 200 attendees to celebrate the
reenactment. A plaque to commemorate the event was given to Erick and one hangs today at
the Center.

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Erick spoke with four Black athletes from the local mountain bike team before riding along the
City’s bike lanes and trails from JuJu’s to the Clyde Malone Center.
For Ishma, the power of this moment cannot be overstated for the Black community (or for any
of us). He shared that, “History is living on and it’s important to see ourselves in it when it is
positive. So many times little Black children always get the same story of their ancestors running
away from slavery or enduring horrible racial mistreatment at the hands of the Country that they
currently reside in. This experience, the celebration and commemoration of the 125th
anniversary of Buffalo Soldiers completing what would be known as the Iron Ride highlighted a
positive notion in history that showed Black people innovating and curating their own paths in
this Country. Young, little Black children were able to communicate and connect with their living
history when meeting Eric Cedeño. Erick Cedeño is a treasure.”

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Ishma Valenti, Director of Teen Programming at the Malone Center, provided a gracious welcome and hand of friendship to Erick Cedeno. A plaque will commemorate the event and Erick’s profound efforts. 

This series of events has opened a new door for Black youth in Lincoln a crack. As many of us know, the bicycle is a tool for adventure and countless opportunities. With our knowledgeable bicycle community in Lincoln making intentional investments of time and resources, the number of Black youth that see a bicycle as a positive tool can grow quickly. Clyde Malone Center will be organizing a bike giveaway this fall and an even bigger one is planned in 2023 that will need resources. Youth receiving new bikes will also need safe and fun spaces to ride and to feel welcomed anywhere along the trail that they go. How do we help new riders learn the rules of the road and the trails? Do we expect them to come to us, or do we go to them? Lancaster Composite and DEVO will provide youth with on-the-bike skills training and a team environment. Finally, bike maintenance clinics are needed periodically that the Malone Center can help promote. No volunteer effort will likely be turned away or go unappreciated. Contact Ishma to offer any help, [email protected]. Just don’t read this post and fail to take some action that widens the circle and diversity of cyclists in our community. Bicycling is more amazing when it is open to everyone!