Reconnecting with the Iron Riders, 125 years later

Griffen Smith

The road to downtown Missoula was only dirt then.

It was decades too early for an interstate or permanent bridge to exist. But that didn’t stop the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps, which took off through the mud and creek beds of the Rocky Mountains one early June morning to complete one of the first long-distance bike rides in the world.

Exactly 125 years later, roughly 30 riders appeared out of the hazy first light at Fort Missoula to relive that historical event. They were part of a flurry of history lessons, ceremonies and movie screenings commemorating the “Iron Riders,” a groundbreaking unit made up of Black soldiers.

A trumpeter played reveille as the riders bunched up behind Bobby McDonald, the anniversary organizer and avid historical reenactor. In full historical garb and replica frontier bicycle, he’d been waiting for this moment for years.

“This is so historic, so important, so positive,” McDonald said. “Buffalo Soldiers helped build this community.”

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