RideApart has previously mentioned the heroic crosscountry trips of riders like Erwin “Cannoball” Baker and the Van Buren sisters, but the tale of George A. Wyman goes back even further.

In 1903, Buffalo Bill Cody was touring the country with Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane. Chief Joseph was still alive. Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, New Mexico and Oklahoma were not yet U.S. states. And in mid May of that year, Wyman set out to ride from San Francisco to New York.

George Wyman being interviewed by a reporter

George Wyman being interviewed by a reporter

The journey would end up taking Wyman 50 days and would prove to be a tremendous test of his endurance and ingenuity.

Wyman’s California Motor Company “motor-bicycle” was little more than a bicycle with a 1.25-hp engine strapped to it. Apart from a handful of wagon trails that pioneers had used only a few decades earlier, there were no routes crossing the country. In fact, according to Wyman’s accounts, some covered wagons were still using those wagon trails.

Wyman primarily used railroad tracks. They were bumpy but at least provided a reliable route and more solid riding surface than the surrounding sand and mud.

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George A Wyman

George A Wyman

Crossing over the Sierra Nevada mountains he trundled through the desert of Nevada, across Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, then across New York state from Buffalo to Albany and south. He suffered every kind of breakdown imaginable and actually ended up having to pedal the last 150 miles.

We know a lot about Wyman’s adventure because he wrote about it for a publication called Motorcycle Magazine. I personally find it amazing that there was such a thing as Motorcycle Magazine at the time, considering there was hardly such a thing as a motorcycle. One almost wonders if the magazine somehow came first.

Certainly it was Wyman’s experience that the vehicle he was riding was totally unknown to everyone who saw it.

“In every place through which I passed, I left behind a gaping lot of natives, who ran out into the street to stare after me,” he wrote.

Wyman's mud-caked bike in Nevada

Wyman's mud-caked bike in Nevada

Wyman’s account is charming and offers a view of an America that is effectively foreign to modern citizens of the country. The George A. Wyman Memorial Project website has gone to the trouble to transcribe his tales to make them more easily accessible.

Wyman’s story is told in five parts:

The project has also gone to the trouble to research Wyman’s route and put together a number of GPX files and rider’s guides that allow modern riders to retrace his steps as accurately as possible.

Welcome to your next big road trip. It probably won’t take you 50 days, though –– unless you want it to.

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