Perhaps you were told the same tale of the birth of mountain biking as I. The tale goes something like this: the sport began in the 1970s when Gary Fisher left the road riding scene to outfit beater bikes with more rugged parts—some coming from motorcycles—for riding on the fire roads in California’s famous Marin County. Well, that’s not quite the birth of mountain biking, but it certainly prompted the surge in off-road cycling that we know and love today.
In the National Parks Conservation Association article, “Wheels of Change,” Amy Leinbach Marquis explains that in 1866, Major General Nelson A. Miles, a commanding officer in the U.S. Army, tested his idea of arming soldiers with bikes. “Miles set out to test his idea on a small group of ‘Buffalo Soldiers’—African-American men tasked with keeping the peace on the frontier and, in some cases, serving as America’s very first national park rangers in places like Yosemite and Sequoia.” These men first made an 800-mile journey to Yellowstone National Park. Their longest journey was a grueling, 1,900-mile journey across the Rockies.
The next time you hear someone argue that mountain bikers don’t belong on the trails because they’re just another radical, new user group, set ‘em straight: the 25th Infantry Buffalo Soldiers started mountain biking in 1866. Possibly radical, but definitely not new.