Author Topic: Getting to your start with all your stuff  (Read 6428 times)

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Offline staehpj1

Re: Getting to your start with all your stuff
« Reply #30 on: February 07, 2021, 07:42:26 am »
The days of checked-baggage-stations-only are over.
Yes but for bikes as checked baggage that has not changed.  Right?

Quote
They have been adding bike services over the years, which can be a trick on equipment not designed to carry bikes.  The latest innovation is a luggage rack on one end of certain cars that can be converted to a bike rack, you remove your front wheel and hang the bike by its rear wheel.
I have not yet seen that on Amtrak, but have seen a rack like that on a light rail system somewhere.  It worked pretty well.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Getting to your start with all your stuff
« Reply #31 on: February 08, 2021, 12:20:11 pm »
The days of checked-baggage-stations-only are over.
Yes but for bikes as checked baggage that has not changed.  Right?

Quote
They have been adding bike services over the years, which can be a trick on equipment not designed to carry bikes.  The latest innovation is a luggage rack on one end of certain cars that can be converted to a bike rack, you remove your front wheel and hang the bike by its rear wheel.
I have not yet seen that on Amtrak, but have seen a rack like that on a light rail system somewhere.  It worked pretty well.

Correct. You can only check boxed bikes between stations with checked baggage service. From the link I posted above:

"Bicycles may be checked on Amtrak between all cities where checked baggage is offered. Not all trains or locations are equipped to handle checked baggage. Find your station(s) to see if this service is available."

As for trainside checked bike service (i.e., unboxed bikes) where it is offered, the answer is not clear from the website:

"Standard full-size bicycles may be transported in bicycle racks located in the baggage car. This service is only available at select stations. Advance reservations are required."

You basically need to go through a two step process:

1. Determine which, if any type of bike service the train you are looking at offers.

2. Determine which stations you can travel between with your bike.

The roll-on racks have been around a while, at least on the Vermonter and on the Ethan Allen before they were done away with. I took the former to the start of a tour five or six year ago. The important upgrade has been the relatively new baggage cars that replaced equipment from as far back as the 1950s. They have allowed the expansion of trainside checked service. That service was recently added to the Pennsylvania. I used it back in September to get to Pittsburgh to start a tour home to Philly. Worked perfectly. Prior to that, there was not even checked baggage service so it was not possible to take that route with a full-size bike. Gone is my need to rent a car and pay the very high toll on the PA Turnpike, which is currently $31.40 if you bring your own E-Z Pass transponder.  It's a whopping $64.10 if you don't.


Offline TCS

Re: Getting to your start with all your stuff
« Reply #32 on: February 08, 2021, 09:22:02 pm »
True folding bikes are allowed on any Amtrak train, any station.  But it has to be a real folding bike, with folded size less than specified dimensions (which are generous).  A 26" wheel folder probably won't fit.

Changebike, Dahon, Montague and Tern 'big wheel' folding bikes can all pack up under the Amtrak folded bike size limit.

A 'rinko' bike does not meet the letter of Amtrak's folded bike guidelines.
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline Saburo

Re: Getting to your start with all your stuff
« Reply #33 on: February 11, 2021, 02:29:09 pm »
Thanks to all who have responded.  I've been busy at work and haven't had time to check on replies.

I knew about shipping the bike to a shop at my start.  That part seemed straight forward.  The harder issue was how to get panniers and gear to the start.   Panniers are a bit of a pain (sometimes literally) to carry around in an airport.  The idea of getting a used duffle bag to bring on the plane was great.  Your idea of putting a sleeping bag in with the bike is interesting too.

I don't have the option to drive or take a train to my start so air travel is my only option.  All of your suggestions have given me great insights into how to get there with my stuff.

Peace

Saburo,
This is not a stupid question.  As you can see from the responses, cyclists have many different ways to get to the start of their trip.  I usually try to balance cost, possible damage to the bicycle, and convenience.  I have done at least 20 trips where I needed to get my bike to the start.  Here are my assessment of the options.

Having your bike packed by your LBS and shipped to an LBS at the start of the trip is probably the safest for your bicycle.  I usually don't do this, especially if I am flying because I don't want to take the extra time at the beginning of the trip to shlep to the LBS with my gear to pick up my bike.  This usually costs me an extra day since I arrive late in the day. 

A hardshell bike case is a great option, but you need to make some arrangements as to what to do with it while you're cycling, which can be a little problematical if you are not ending your trip where you began.

If  the start of my tour is "near" to home, a long one-day drive, I prefer to drive.  If my tour does not return me to my staring point, I will rent a car.  I have found that I can fit my bicycle in the back seat of an intermediate size car by removing the rear wheel.   f the tour ends where I began, I ask the motel owner or the camp ground if I can leave my car with them for a few weeks if 'm driving my own car.

If I am flying, I take my bike in an "airline" bicycle box.  This is a box that you can buy from most airlines at the airport (although always check ahead of time) and it usually costs about $25.  It is a one time use box.  It is much bigger than a typical bicycle box, but packing is simpler.  You take off your pedals and turn the handle bars.  Since the boxes are big when packed, I usually do this at the airport because i can't fit them in my car or even a van. To save me the time of standing in an airport line simply to purchase the box on the day of the trip, I will purchase ahead of time, and bring it with me to the airport.  Make sure you have tried to loosen the pedals before you go.  When you turn the handlebars you may need to release break or derailleur cables to turn the handle bars.  I put a pannier bag lightly stuffed with soft things like clothes n the derailleur side of the rear rack to help cushion it. I also try to put a sleeping bag in the box to reduce luggage on the plane.  Remember to take scissors and tape with you to cut the tape and secure the box.  Also, note that you can't take the scissors on the plane with you.  At the other end I re-assemble by bicycle at the airport.  I have put together bicycles at many major airports of the world:  Gatwick, DeGaulle, Hamburg, Amsterdam, SFO, Missoula, Portland, Green Bay.  Portland's airport actually has a special room with a bike rack and tools to reassemble your bike.  Make sure you know how you are leaving the airport.  Some are easy:  Portland and Washington Reagan both have a bike path right out of the airport.  Others you will need to find surface routes.  Others, like O'hare, you will need to get on the local train/subway or hire a service.

Depending, Amtrak is an option.  Always check with Amtrak ahead of time.  In some cases, you can walk your bike in the luggage car.  The Pacific Surfliner allows you bring the bike on the train, but you have to make a reservation for your bike, which is free.

As a side note, I have had lubricants and degreasers confiscated from my luggage and you can't take them on board, so I now plan to purchase at the beginning of the bike trip.  Good luck on your trip.

Offline PNWRider92

Re: Getting to your start with all your stuff
« Reply #34 on: February 11, 2021, 03:28:43 pm »
I throw most of my gear in the box with my bike. I only carry the stuff I need from the time I leave the house until the time I get my bike. Even with all my gear in the box it stays under the maximum weight for the cost of the shipping.
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Offline John Nettles

Re: Getting to your start with all your stuff
« Reply #35 on: February 11, 2021, 05:18:03 pm »
I don't have the option to drive or take a train to my start so air travel is my only option.
Forgive me my forwardness in asking but why are you not able to drive since you just bought  a bike 2 hours away.  I assume you drove but maybe you had a friend help you.  Just curious. 

Offline canalligators

Re: Getting to your start with all your stuff
« Reply #36 on: February 12, 2021, 11:33:09 am »
I throw most of my gear in the box with my bike. I only carry the stuff I need from the time I leave the house until the time I get my bike. Even with all my gear in the box it stays under the maximum weight for the cost of the shipping.

Make sure your box is sturdy, and zip tie everything to the bike.  And BTW, technically Amtrak disallows anything in the box besides the bike.  If the box gets opened or they decide to inspect, you’ll have to do some explaining.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Getting to your start with all your stuff
« Reply #37 on: February 12, 2021, 11:44:26 am »
Using the Amtrak box was one of the advantages of traveling amtrak for me.  It is huge!  Just take off the pedals, turn the bars, and put the bike in.  Be sure to bring tape.  I strapped panniers together to make pairs into single pieces of luggage.  They were fine with it, but some baggage clerks may balk at that.

Offline Saburo

Re: Getting to your start with all your stuff
« Reply #38 on: February 12, 2021, 08:34:46 pm »
I don't have the option to drive or take a train to my start so air travel is my only option.
Forgive me my forwardness in asking but why are you not able to drive since you just bought  a bike 2 hours away.  I assume you drove but maybe you had a friend help you.  Just curious.

The start of my tour is in Astoria, Oregon.  I wouldn't have the time to drive from Kentucky to Oregon for my start. 

I live in Kentucky but had to travel to Ohio to buy my bike.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2021, 08:39:30 pm by Saburo »

Offline jamawani

Re: Getting to your start with all your stuff
« Reply #39 on: February 12, 2021, 09:10:51 pm »
Saburo -

I've been bike touring for 30+ years.
My first X-USA was back in 1987 - starting in Astoria.
I flew from Raleigh into PDX then hitched to Astoria.
(I don't suggest hitch-hiking any more.)
Shipped my bike out ahead of time to a bike shop there.

As I wrote earlier, I prefer driving out with all my stuff.
Then, next, I would take Amtrak.
(Either way tends to give you time to get a mental reset.)
But if time is a factor, then you need to fly.

I've had both airlines and Amtrak "misplace" my bicycle.
With Amtrak they had it at the previous station.
But it took 24 hours for the bike to arrive on the next train.
With airlines it has taken a whole lot longer.
There's more to go wrong and less incentive to respond quickly.

So, I strongly suggest that you ship your bike - bike shop to bike shop.
The cost is comparable to airline fees and your bike will be waiting for you.
PROVIDED that you send it with sufficient time for delivery.
(Which means you won't have your touring bike for a week before the trip.)

I also strongly suggest that you allocate a buffer day at the beginning of the trip.
Things go wrong - bike, flight, weather, stomach , etc., etc., etc.
A buffer day lets you start your trip far more relaxed and optimistic.
And if you don't need it, you can "spend" it somewhere nice.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2021, 09:12:58 pm by jamawani »

Offline CannonBill

Re: Getting to your start with all your stuff
« Reply #40 on: February 13, 2021, 12:46:02 am »
My next trip will be from my home in San Diego to Scarborough ME. My wife will ship my hardcase to my friend there. I’ll ship the bike home and then visit some family in VA. Hopefully UPS will lose it, so I can justify a new purchase. Lol

Offline JBKlein

Re: Getting to your start with all your stuff
« Reply #41 on: May 27, 2021, 01:13:04 am »
I'm starting in Seattle on Sunday for a cross-country ride that will end in Boston.    I live in Palo Alto, CA.
In a normal year, I would just ship the bike via Amtrak Package Express.   They were charging $85 to ship the bike +$15 for the box.  You can easily pack it at any train station that handles check baggage, then pick it up at any other Amtrak station that handles checked luggage.  Their box is big enough that all you need to do is take the pedals off, turn the handle bars down, roll the bike into the box, Tape it shut, and write your name and phone # on the box.   Then pick it up a couple of days later at a station near your start point.
The bad news this year is that Amtrak's website says: "Amtrak Express shipping is suspended until further notice."
so that's out.
I considered just having a bike shop pack my bike and send as checked baggage, but I'm concerned that because I'm starting on Memorial Day weekend, I won't be able to get it assembled on the other end.  While I have assembled bikes when returning from a trip, I'm concerned about not being able to do it with the limited tool set I carry on the road...
My flight is on Alaska.  They charge only $30 for a standard (small) bike box, which will transport a disassembled bike.  For $100 you can check "oversized" which can be up to 115 linear inches.
So, this year I bought an Amtrak box, which measures 41x70x9 = 120 linear inches.  If I take off the front wheel, I can then carve about 8" off the length of the box, and therefore meet the 115 limit.  Boxcutter and tape.  Wish me luck!
I'm a hotel and credit card cyclist, so beyond the checked box, I only have 2 panniers which can be carried on.
I'm hoping that by late July, when I'm ready to return from Boston, Amtrak package express will be up and running again and I can just ride the thing into South Station, put it in the box, fly home, and pick it up a few days later at the Amtrak station that's a 20 minute commuter train ride from my house.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Getting to your start with all your stuff
« Reply #42 on: May 27, 2021, 07:01:25 am »
Wait, is amtrak charging $100 to check a bike using their regular big bike box?  Last time I travelled Amtrak it was $15 for the box and $10 for checking it (it counted as one of my checked bags).  The Amtrak web site seems to still list this policy.  https://www.amtrak.com/onboard/bring-your-bicycle-onboard.html

You could possibly put your two panniers in a light cheap bag of some sort to make them one bag.  That may work depending on the size.  To make it work sometimes they need to be unpacked and smashed flat on top of each other with the gear repacked on top of them in the bag.  I have used a bag that could be rolled up and mailed home or a thrift store bag that was cheap enough to donate or discard.

Gear in the bike box is a no no, but empty panniers on the bike would probably be okay if necessary.  The gear could be packed in a $5-7 thrift checked bag.  I have used thrift store checked bags for flying and have left them at airports often.  Just ask where to leave them.

Offline John Nettles

Re: Getting to your start with all your stuff
« Reply #43 on: May 27, 2021, 07:27:35 am »
Pete, the way I read his message is that he is shipping the bike ONLY, he is flying.  If he would be on the train also, it would probably be like what you are thinking.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Getting to your start with all your stuff
« Reply #44 on: May 27, 2021, 08:33:29 am »
Pete, the way I read his message is that he is shipping the bike ONLY, he is flying.  If he would be on the train also, it would probably be like what you are thinking.
Maybe, but when he said "I considered just having a bike shop pack my bike and send as checked baggage", I took that to mean he was travelling amtrak.  I guess you can send stuff as checked baggage without travelling with it?  I thought the only way to do that was Amtrak express and he said that was suspend until further notice.

Any way if flying, I always just fly with the bike myself.  I always found that it worked well.  There used to be a bigger problem with $$$ bike fees, but last time I checked most airlines had gotten pretty good about fling with your bike.  Check the policies and choose airlines accordingly.  The thrift store luggage trick works well.  I always found the fun of just riding out of the airport to be a plus.

For those who pack light enough... I even managed to get everything (bike gear and all) into a softcase and still be under 50#.  I did fudge just a bit with some items in a personal item sized bag that I carried, but could have done without it.  The soft case weighs a couple pounds and rolls up pretty small for mailing ahead or home (or carrying along).