Author Topic: Bike/train travel  (Read 1949 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline AngrybirdP

Bike/train travel
« on: December 03, 2020, 10:43:24 am »
Has annyone done a bike to train travel trip? What or where is the best way to find these train routes and/or places of interest? I went to amtrak website and found it hard to navigate and little insight.

Offline jcostanz

Re: Bike/train travel
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2020, 11:46:04 am »
I have looked at Amtrak several times as a way to get to a start point, but found them to be unusable due to restrictions, lack of information ect. 

I have used VIA Rail in Canada for over 5 tours including last year's trip of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.  Via rail will take a almost any bike (including recumbent trikes) on any train with a baggage car to any station with baggage service.  This combined with GO Train (Toronto area commuter) summer weekend service between Niagara Falls and Toronto that allows bikes on the modified cars (just roll on the bike no box or disassembly required), it works quite well(except this year with Covid closing the Border).

Offline adventurepdx

  • World Traveler
  • *****
  • Posts: 546
  • Riding bikes in and around Portland, Oregon
Re: Bike/train travel
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2020, 02:09:04 pm »
I've done bikes with Amtrak many times. Here in the Pacific Northwest it's pretty easy: On the Cascades line (Eugene-Portland-Seattle-Vancouver BC) one just needs to reserve a bike spot in the baggage car, and wheel the bike to the baggage car when boarding. Some other routes offer "roll-on" service, where other routes (mostly the long-distance ones) require the bike to be boxed.

The best place to start is this Amtrak page. It'll tell you what routes have bike service, so you can get a feel for where you can go:
https://www.amtrak.com/onboard/bring-your-bicycle-onboard/bike-faqs.html

To the OP: What part of the US do you live in, or want to travel to?

Offline TCS

Re: Bike/train travel
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2020, 04:16:34 pm »
I have used Amtrak as a leg of a cycle tour on several occasions, but, and it's a big but, with my folding bike.  With a folding bike, you fold it up on the platform, schlep it onto the passenger car and put it in the luggage racks.  Any place the train stops you can get on/off with a folder.

Amtrak's dimensions on folding bikes are pretty generous: 34x15x48 inches (86x38x112cm).  This is a large enough envelope to encompass a Montague Navigator or Changebike DF-702.

'Rinko' bikes do not qualify for folding bike status per Amtrak.

FWIW my own folding tourer is a sturdy little Dahon Curl:

"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline TCS

Re: Bike/train travel
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2020, 04:41:51 pm »
So, yeah, Amtrak & non-folding touring bike: 

https://www.adventurecycling.org/advocacy/train-travel/

Adventure Cycling refers you to amtrak's web page for the most up to date info:

https://www.amtrak.com/plan-your-trip.html

So you figure out which train goes where, or somewhat near, where you want to go.  Click on the city/town/station you want to leave from and the city/town/station you want to go to.  Amtrak will calculate the trains you need to take.

Then click on the 'Station Info' button and the suitcase icon to see if that station offers checked baggage service - because you need checked baggage service to check any non-folding bicycle as baggage.

Then go to

https://www.amtrak.com/bring-your-bicycle-onboard

and click on 'Trainside Checked Bicycle Service' to see if you can roll your bike to the train and hand it off to an Amtrak crew member.

If the answer is 'no', then click on 'Boxed Bikes in Checked Baggage' and be prepared to follow the guidance there when you arrive at the station.

But wait!  Amtrak doesn't offer thru-checking, so if you change trains during your journey, you have to reclaim your bike from the first train and checked it back in on the second.

Okay, got all that, your trip looks accomplishable, then make reservations and buy tickets.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2020, 04:35:27 pm by TCS »
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline adventurepdx

  • World Traveler
  • *****
  • Posts: 546
  • Riding bikes in and around Portland, Oregon
Re: Bike/train travel
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2020, 04:49:12 pm »
But wait!  Amtrak doesn't offer thru-checking, so if you change trains during your journey, you have to reclaim your bike from the first train and checked it back in on the second.

Amtrak does offer through checking, as long as the bike is boxed.
From the web page I mentioned previously:
"You can still box and check your bike to and from stations that offer checked baggage service if you like. This is a good option if bicycle space is sold out on a train where checked service is available. It's also convenient if you're changing trains since our baggage handlers will move your bicycle box for you between connecting trains."

I'd urge anyone interested in using Amtrak with a bike to check out this page:
https://www.amtrak.com/onboard/bring-your-bicycle-onboard/bike-faqs.html
I agree that bike info via Amtrak isn't always the easiest to decipher. But this page does do a good job of sorting out the info.

Offline jamawani

Re: Bike/train travel
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2020, 08:17:59 pm »
I have used Amtrak many times as part of a bike tour.
On my summer tour thru 11 western states in 2019, I used Amtrak twice.
Once towards the end - skipping eastern Washington when it was almost 110 degrees.
Then at the end of the trip from Albany, Oregon to the Bay area.

FYI - Many train schedules have been reduced to every other day because of Covid-19.
So it makes it even harder and you have to plan even more carefully.

There are basically two types of Amtrak trains.
1) Long-distance, overnight trains - Most have baggage cars which accept bikes in boxes.
Recently, nearly all now accept unboxed bikes stripped of all pannier, etc.
The problem - this service only is possible at stations with baggage service - which are limited.
2) Short-distance day trains - Many, but not all, accept a limited number of roll-on bikes.
Again, you have to strip the bike of any panniers, etc.

The long-distance routes are usually one train per day. (Every other day now)
And the times of arrival or departure can be ugly - for ex. 4:15 a.m.
Not to mention that long-distance Amtrak trains are almost always late.
(Except when you are late getting to the station - then they are on time.)

It takes some planning, but once you know how to do it, it really is easy.
Amtrak has a very generous baggage allowance - so you can just load up and relax.
Also, they have always treated my bike well in baggage.
Except for the one time they left one station too soon (75 miles away) - which delayed me a day.
Only really big mess-up in 30 years.

And it's usually way cheaper than flying when you add the airline baggage fees.
Don't even think about Greyhound unless you enjoy torture.

Offline aggie

Re: Bike/train travel
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2020, 08:52:20 pm »
I've also used Amtrak many times for my bike trips.  I figure out where I want to ride first then I find the Amtrak trains that run closest to where I want to start and end.  Since the Amtrak long distance trains carry the bike in the baggage car you have to select a stop that has baggage service.  I usually have to ride for a day or two to get to my start/stop point.  As jamawani  mentioned the schedule isn't always very convenient.   I've had several trips where I caught or got off a train after midnight.  The sleeper cars are more comfortable than the coach cars especially for overnight trips plus I can put all my stuff in the room.  It does add to the cost but the room includes meals.  If you take multiple trains Amtrak charges a bike fee for each train unless you boxed your bike.  Also as jamawani mentioned the long distance routes are only running 3 days a week.  Who knows when they will be able to run their regular schedule again.