Have you ever wondered where the exact roots of mountain biking are? It is a question that came across the mind of world class Swiss marathon downhill racer René Wildhaber.
René was more interested about how bikes went off-road rather than how the sport started to take off in the 1970s.
René found out that the mountain bike had its origins in how the US Army used bikes for military purposes back in the 1890s.
His research revealed that that one American army unit had been experimenting with bikes for military purposes and this included using the bikes on off-road trails and unsecured roads.
“Their lieutenant was an avid biker. He asked the army for permission to test a bike for military purpose. His soldiers didn't have a choice, he simply made them do it."
René's research has since turned into a video series project that has a working title of Buffalo Soldiers.
René adopted the name Buffalo Soldiers for his project as many of the soldiers who were used to test the bikes were Afro-Americans and this was one of the slang terms given to Afro-Americans in the army.
René has been out in the US with a film crew aiming to retrace the achievements of those soldiers and of course using an original army issue bike of the time to try out tours, routes and trails that the Buffalo Soldiers rode 120 years ago.
The Buffalo Soldiers video series is due to come out early next year but René has already put together some "making of" videos and an image gallery on the project's website - www.buffalo-soldiers.ch. René is also blogging about the project at that website.
We feature some exclusive images in this article and will also show the video series of René's Buffalo Soldiers when it is completed.
While out in the States, René also took time to tackle the classic “Whole Enchilada” trail in Colorado though thankfully on a modern mountain bike. The trail has a vertical height of over 2,000 meters and is known to have very high technical difficulty.