Author Topic: Big bikes on Amtrak?  (Read 359 times)

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Offline eorogers

Big bikes on Amtrak?
« on: August 13, 2022, 05:27:52 pm »
What kind of luck have people had loading large bikes on the Amtrak roll on roll off service? 

I ride a custom 29+ (29x2.6 tires) rigid mountain bike set up for upright riding and need to go from Fayetteville NC to Chicago to Grand Junction CO.  I tried to put it in an Amtrak bike box, but the steerer tuber is 2 in too high unless I take the front wheel off and the rear axel too wide unless I take the mounts for the Old Man Mountain Rack off. 

Do I take a chance or bite the bullet and take the bike apart?

Thanks

Eric

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Big bikes on Amtrak?
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2022, 06:19:38 pm »
That is a tough one.  Any chance you live near an Amtrak station so you can take the bike to them an just ask? 

Offline eorogers

Re: Big bikes on Amtrak?
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2022, 10:21:25 pm »
I asked the station agent, but they don't make the decision.  Bought a bike box to see if fit.  Official roll on / roll off policy is 2 in wide or less.

Eric

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Big bikes on Amtrak?
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2022, 11:48:49 pm »
If it is just the tire size, see if a local bike shop will give you a set of tires that meet the criteria they are throwing away and pack the 2.6 tires.  After looking at images of the bikes on Amtrak trains, I would think your bike would work as the bikes just hang from a hook on the wall.  Tailwinds, John

Offline staehpj1

Re: Big bikes on Amtrak?
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2022, 07:05:27 am »
If it was me I think I'd just take the front wheel off and maybe the rear rack mounts if necessary.  Is it really that big of a deal?  I am not that familiar with the OMM rack mounts, but spending a little time prepping and then reassembling shouldn't be that huge of a deal.

BTW, you say the steerer tube is 2" too high.  Is it still too high if you deflate the 2.6" front tire?

Offline eorogers

Re: Big bikes on Amtrak?
« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2022, 09:42:34 am »
Thanks guys - both good ideas.

John, I had to double check the requirements on the Amtrak website - there is a length limit of 70 inches also.  My bike is 76 in long.  I know Adv. Cycling is working to get some of that federal transportation money to Amtrak to accommodate larger bikes like tandems and recumbents.  One can only hope.

staephj1, good point.  I was so excited by the height limit I did not even think to measure the length of the box to see if the bike would fit that way.  Unfortunately not.  The box is only 69 in long.  It looks like I remove the front wheel and tie it to the body of the bike.

Eric

Offline staehpj1

Re: Big bikes on Amtrak?
« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2022, 10:12:21 am »
So it sounds like the wheel needs to come off if using the Amtrak box for your bike.  Still, it doesn't sound like a huge deal.  We deal with the same hurdles to pack a bike for flying with smaller bikes.  I know that I never found it a big hardship and generally was able to ride out of the airport 20 minutes or so after grabbing my bike from the baggage drop.  It should be the same with the amtrak box.

OTOH, John's suggestion of putting on some 2" tires would work for roll on service if you don't want to chance rolling on with the 2.6" tires.  I'd imagine they'd fit in any rack if defalted enough to squeeze in though (just enough air to allow rolling the bike around).  So it is a question of whether some zealous Amtrak agent stopped you more than whether it fit.

If using 2" tires just for the roll on, there are such tires as cheap as under $10 if you can't find some used junk for free.  Alternately you could use decent tires and mail them home.

Offline aggie

Re: Big bikes on Amtrak?
« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2022, 11:13:50 am »
On a recent trip on Amtrak I had to remove the front wheel so it would fit in the bike box.  When I removed the wheel it lowered the stem so I just had to turn the handlebars.  I wrapped my pedals and zip tied them to the frame.  Same with the front wheel.  There were no issues shipping it and because Amtrak charges a bike fee for each train it was actually cheaper to by the box and pay the baggage fee than using the roll-on service.  Bike has 2.25 inch tires.  On the trip out i no problem using the roll-on service. 

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Big bikes on Amtrak?
« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2022, 04:25:04 pm »
My two cents:

  • 2.6" wide tires would be pushing it for the hooks in the baggage car, but may still work, esp. if you've deflated the tires a bit. I've used 2.35" wide tires on the hooks before and they'll fit. However, my bike has 26" wheels instead of 29"
  • The length of bike may be more critical to fit into the hooks. I haven't had a chance to look at the positioning of the hooks in the baggage cars up close to see.
  • One thing often forgotten in the conversation is weight of bike. There is a 50 pound limit on bikes, and if you are doing the unboxed bike service, you'll need to be able to lift the bike to the baggage handler in the baggage car. The baggage car's floor is usually about five feet from the ground, meaning you'll need to lift the bike over your head. (Some stations that see a lot of bikes, like Portland OR, will make it easier by having a baggage trailer (about three feet off the ground) between you and the baggage car. But don't count on it.)

If this was me, I'd "bite the bullet" and box the bike.
  • Use the Amtrak provided box, as it's the roomiest bike box you'll ever find.
  • It may actually be cheaper to box the bike. The current fee for an Amtrak bike box is $15, and the checking fee is $10. You should be able to check the bike from Fayetteville to Grand Junction, and that means you'd just pay $25 total. (Mind you, you would not have access to the bike again until Grand Junction.) If you do "roll-on" service, you'll be paying the bike fee for each segment of the trip. If you are using three train segments (Fayetteville-DC/DC-Chicago/Chicago-Grand Junction) you'll most likely be paying $20 per train, which adds up to $60. (And you'll have to physically retrieve your bike from the old train and load to the new one, twice.) I'd check with your local station first about if they can check the bike from Fayetteville all the way to Grand Junction.

Offline eorogers

Re: Big bikes on Amtrak?
« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2022, 04:57:07 pm »
Thanks guys, I think you are right.  The length of the bike combined with the height and large tires make the bike box the reasonable decision.  Hopefully, someday soon, they will expand to tandems and fat bikes :-)

Eric