Author Topic: Getting to Your Starting Point  (Read 4086 times)

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Offline jamawani

Getting to Your Starting Point
« on: October 16, 2022, 12:17:33 pm »
One of the most challenging things about getting started on a long bike tour is getting there.
Not a weekend out-and-back, but a months-long trek.
It ain't easy - and it seems to be getting harder.
And more expensive, for sure.

Just curious how y'all prefer to get there.

The biggest problem is that you have a lot of stuff.
Bicycle, panniers, tent, sleeping bag.
Hard to schlep around and sometime quite expensive as baggage.

Or course, it matters where you start.
If you are heading to another continent, driving there is tough.
But for the purposes of discussion, let's say you are sticking to the same continent.

I like to start on an ocean - not a bay, not an inlet - the ocean.
Which sometimes adds a complicating factor.
Westport rather than Seattle. Yet, getting to Westport is a lot harder.

In a perfect world my private pilot, Lars, would fly me there.
In an imperfect world I have a range of imperfect choices.

1) Spouse, Significant Other, Parent, or Friend driving you there.
No question, that is the #1 best way of getting there. And more fun, too.
All your stuff is with you and you get it all the way to the starting point.

2) Driving yourself.
Either in your own car - and then you have to find long-term safe parking.
Or in a one-way rental - which is increasingly hard to fin and expensive.
Still - both let you take all your stuff all the way to the starting point.

3) Amtrak or Railroads.
Amtrak service is great for inexpensive bike shipping and taking your gear.
But it varies which stations take what - and is increasingly unpredictable.
Some long distance trains have roll-on bike service, others require packing.
But Amtrak trains are often late - very late - 8, 10, 12 hours at times.
Plus they take a long time to get there.
Via Rail isn't much better. The UK, EU, and Japan are way better.

4) Airlines
The main advantage of flying is getting there quickly.
The two main drawbacks are cost, especially baggage fees, and connections.
Bike fees have increases dramatically over the past decade.
More and more airlines limit baggege and charge exorbitantly for extra bags/weight.
Then there's the problem of connecting to surface transportation to your starting point.
(Although there are some people who start their tours from the airport baggage carousel.)

5) Bus
Someone who used to post here called it "Riding the Dog". Greyhound
For many parts of rural America, it's the only option.
And bus service has been declining rapidly. For good reason.
Bus travel is often the transportation for the most marginalized in society.
I've had a bus stop for hours because someone overdosed in the back.
I've had a bus stopped and searched in the middle of the night by the ICE for illegal immigrants.
I've had a driver quit mid-route because of drinking and obscene language.
It's the very last option when there are no others.
Regional public bus services - like the Point busses in Oregon are different.


What's been your experience?
Is there some secret bike tour fairy that I don't know about?
(That last sentence is VERY risky to include.)

Pic - Cape Lookout Lighthouse - Not Easy to Reach


  • Guest
Re: Getting to Your Starting Point
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2022, 07:56:13 am »
On past tours, I've used one-way rentals. In my home state of Florida, finding a rental car in the spring - that needed to go north - wasn't too difficult. Things may have changed, prices certainly have. I liked the security of a one-way rental. I knew that my kit would arrive at the starting point safe and sound. That method worked out well for a TransAm tour starting in Virginia.

Very many years ago, my bike and I took Greyhound to the starting point of a tour. No crazies back in those days. If I remember correctly:

•Shipped bike from Florida to family in Pennsylvania
•Flew from FL to PA
•Took Greyhound from PA to Maine
•Cycled from Maine to PA
•Picked up by family
•Shipped bike home
•Flew home

At this point in my life, I would prefer starting - and ending - at my front door. If not that, then asking family members to help out with the logistics and such.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Getting to Your Starting Point
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2022, 09:28:14 am »
This year I have gotten to start points by:

1.  Walking down my front steps to the sidewalk.

2.  Driving my own car to Brattleboro, VT.

3.  Driving a rental to Vienna, OH.  (It was not that much more expensive than pre-pandemic.)

In 2020 and 2021 I did No. 1 above and also took Amtrak to the start of a tour. (Once to Pittsburgh and once to St. Albans, VT.)

This year I also took Amtrak back to the start (and my car) after starting the tour from Brattleboro.  (There is garage parking in town.  $5/night.  Sundays are free.)  For overnight and long-weekend trips from my home in Philly to S. Jersey, I leave from my sidewalk and eventually get back into town using New Jersey Transit train service from Atlantic City to the PATCO train.

Haven't flown to a tour start since 2019.  Because of time constraints, my trips have little flexibility.  I simply don't trust airlines these days to get me there on time or at least with enough time to spare that I don't have to start altering plans on the fly

Offline OHRider

Re: Getting to Your Starting Point
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2022, 09:55:39 am »
In my Southern Tour section last year I flew with my bike on AA to San Diego.  They were only charging $50 (or maybe $30) for the bike. I think I had the rest of my gear in my two pannier's and carried them on board- one being a carry on and one a personal item.  I do stuff a lot of the small light stuff in the bike box (got a bike box from the LBS).

Met my traveling buddy at the airport in San Diego.  We rented a luggage cart and then assembled the bikes on the departure lodge and rode away.  We left our bike boxes next to a recycle bin with the hope that they'd recycle them.
On the return from El Paso I dropped the bike at a LBS who boxed it and then BikeFlights (or the other one??) picked it up.  I bought the cheapest duffle I could find at Walmart and packed my gear in it for the trip home.

You can also use a bike box, ship it to a LBS, and ask them to assemble it and ride from there.  A bit pricey but a lot less hassle than checking it on the plane.  If you're doing a loop trip they'll hold the bike box and then ship it back for you, or you can ask them to ship it to another shop at your destinations. 

Transporting the bike always seems to be the biggest hassle of the trip.  And then sometimes it costs more for shipping and assembling the bike than it does for airfare!  Helps to fly to an airport that you can ride out of as well.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Getting to Your Starting Point
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2022, 01:58:49 pm »
It's a big country...

Travel by land gets tedious; I prefer not to drive more than a day, although I may stretch it to two days.  That'll take me to the Atlantic coast, but even Wyoming is pushing three days' drive from home.  Train isn't a real option (two hours' drive to catch the one train a day).  Buses, the last time I had to ride one, doubled driving time.  That leaves air travel for most of my potential trips.

There's a lot of complaining about luggage costs on airplanes, some of it justified.  I just try to figure out what the total cost is going to be to get me and my luggage from here to there.  I don't believe the cheap flight fares that are advertised because I've never found one going where I want to go when I want to go.  So after I add $100 for taxes and fees, the extra cost for checked bags is a minor irritant.  If I can't get bike plus gear into two containers ($75 for a bike and large duffle) and a carryon, Shipbike or Bikeflights can usually get the bike from here to there for less than a third bag. 

I've had a couple of business trips in the last half dozen years that were delayed overnight.  Aggravating, surely, but on the time scale of a month (or more) bike trip, it's not too bad.  I'll take that risk over the likelihood of a train delay, or the aggravation of a seat mate on a 14 hour bus ride that smells like a drunken bicycle tourist.  ;)

Offline canalligators

Re: Getting to Your Starting Point
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2022, 07:49:36 pm »
I like starting from home, but have only done that a couple of times.  My normal means is Amtrak, bringing my bike along in baggage.  (You can't hang up a recumbent, it must be boxed.)  I have flown with bikes, once from Rochester NY to SeaTac, once with a recumbent tandem from JFK to Marseille, France.  The logistics on that one are a story in themselves...

This year my plan was to use Amtrak to Williamsburg VA, ride the TransAm, then take the train home from Eugene OR.  But there was a glitch.  The only train to Williamsburg with a baggage car was cancelled due to staffing shortages.  So i'd either have to go two days early and ride from Richmond, take the bus or ship the bike.  I chose to ship with BikeFlights.  That added $150 to my costs, but the service was straightforward to use and they delivered on time.

Return was as I'd planned.  First was Amtrak Eugene-Sacramento, then a layover to see the rail museum, then home from SAC.  The SAC-CHI train was 6 hours late, but we just made the connection in Chicago.  I didn't mind 2+ days in a sleeper; I like the train, besides my son rode back with me so we had some good times.

Amtrak is generally more careful with boxed bikes than airlines.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Getting to Your Starting Point
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2022, 06:34:47 am »
I have generally flown to my tours, but some of them end close to home.  I typically have flown with my bike as checked baggage on the way to tours, but tend to let a shop pack it and ship it home.  I have used Amtrak for one leg of a trip and rental cars here and there.  I wanted to like Amtrak, but it was kind of a hassle and not all that comfortable.  For the same trip a rental car would have been faster, cheaper, and IMO more comfortable by the time you factored everything in.

I have driven to backpacking trips a number of times and ever since I retired I would consider doing the same for tours if the start and finish were close enough together., but for my tours they usually aren't  I kind of like the drive and it can give the option of hitting a few destinations, like doing a day hike, bagging a peak, wetting a fly line. hitting a hot spring, or whatever to break up a multiday drive.

Offline LouMelini

Re: Getting to Your Starting Point
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2022, 03:35:05 pm »
Jamawani: You have said in other posts that you are from Wyoming, and I am assuming western Wyoming. There is a bus service, Salt Lake Express that I have used several times on tours here in the west. The bus serves Las Vegas and Reno, northwest to Boise, north to Ketchum, Idaho, Jackson Wy., Butte, Great Falls Montana, Seattle and Spokane, and of course most of Utah including Moab. Great service. Call to let them know you have a bike ($10 surcharge). I have not had a problem loading my unboxed bike onto the back of the bus in in a trailer they will pull if the bus service knows that you have a bike.

Offline canalligators

Re: Getting to Your Starting Point
« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2022, 06:17:06 pm »
Thanks for that info.  I almost had to abandon in Jackson and investigated that bus, but didn’t get to the point of calling to confirm bike carriage.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Getting to Your Starting Point
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2022, 10:20:58 am »
Depends on the tour.  I have used most of your methods but the most is probably driving a rental minivan or pickup one-way since I usually tour with 1-3 others and then it is more cost effective.  Plus I tend to check out future routes along the way. 

I tend to book a rental car as far out as possible then about once a week or so, check to see if the price drops which it frequently does.  I have learned to check the price difference between airport and neighborhood locations as the price difference can be substantial (with neither location always being the best deal).  I sometimes slightly change the dates, i.e. leave on a Friday vs. a Tuesday if the price is a lot better.  I avoid major holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc. when rental cars are more in demand. 

Sometimes, I will ship the bike direct to a local place (bike shop, hotel, etc.) and then just fly in.  Basically, it all depends since there never seems that no method is always best.

Tailwinds, John

Offline j1of1

Re: Getting to Your Starting Point
« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2022, 07:53:59 pm »
To date:  One way car rentals.  Not sure that will hold up in the future as the start points of desired tours is further and further away.   Best advantage of this approach:  You have total control of everything vs letting someone else move your bike and equipment.

Offline CoMandy

Re: Getting to Your Starting Point
« Reply #11 on: October 26, 2022, 10:21:00 pm »
For my Eastbound TransAm Trip, I flew to Portland then took a public bus to Tillamook. I shipped my bicycle via Bike Flights to the LBS in Tillamook, OR. I packed all my gear in with the bicycle, with the exception of one pannier with a few essentials that I took as a carry-on for my flight and bus ride. It meant starting from Tillamook instead of Astoria. But that still worked out fine because I could dip my bicycle in the ocean at Pacific City, OR. For the return home (next week!), I live in Washington DC, so from Yorktown I have a friend who will greet me at the finish line, celebrate with me, load me up, and drive me the 3 hours home.

For trips in the northeastern US where Amtrak is available, I pre-position my bicycle and gear at my starting point near an Amtrak (friend or LBS). I drive my car with bicycle rack to my destination at an Amtrak station with long-term parking. Then I take Amtrak one way back to where I prepositioned my bicycle & gear. When I finish the ride, then I drive home. Maybe a little complicated, but it works in areas well-serviced by train and when you're only going a few hundred miles (instead of a few thousand). And it avoids having to lug the bike and gear on the train (an awful experience when I travel solo).

But those are the epic trips that I only do every few years. Mostly I do weekend loops from home (or somewhere I can park a car) so I can spend more time riding than on the logistics.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Getting to Your Starting Point
« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2022, 11:34:10 am »
And it avoids having to lug the bike and gear on the train (an awful experience when I travel solo).
Some service is easy.  The Pennsylvanian between NYC and Pittsburgh has trainside checked service.  No lugging the bike.  You give it to a member of the train crew and they do the rest, both on and off.  Ther Vermonter has roll-on service.  Just took it for a 3rd time in June.

Offline David W Pratt

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Re: Getting to Your Starting Point
« Reply #13 on: November 06, 2022, 07:56:19 pm »
If you opt for one way car rentals, I've had good luck at airports.  They are open 24 hrs, 7 days a week and some small ones may even have free longterm parking (e.g. Lebanon, NH).