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Old 02-27-09, 05:45 AM   #1
cdale56
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Amtrak

Hello,

I have no experience with traveling on trains with bikes, but want to go to DC via AMTRAK and maybe take my folding bike, a Giant Halfway. It comes with only a thin vinyl cloth bag and the only trip I took was on a bus and I just lined the sides with cut cardboard pieces.

Will this be enough for a 6 hour AMTRAK ride? Does anyone have any travel tips?

Thanks,

John
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Old 02-27-09, 06:52 AM   #2
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I traveled from Trenton to DC with my Downtube Mini once. I don't recall whether I brought the bag or not, but I know I did not use it. The rules are you have to stow the folding bike in the luggage racks at either end of each car and that you may not, under any circumstances, stow a bike in the overhead luggage racks. So when I got on, the racks being full, I pushed my bike down the aisle until I found an empty seat, gracefully tossed the bike into the overhead luggage rack, and sat down. There was plenty of room for it, and I don't think the conductor even saw it, though he had seen me get on the train.

On the way home I meant to get to the station early enough to use the appropriate luggage rack, but due to subway wierdness I got on the train only moments before it left the station, and I was forced to repeat the morning's experience. No problem.

I don't know, of course, whether the Halfway folds small enough for this purpose. But I'm pretty sure it will fit in the luggage rack by the doors, provided they're empty enough. Don't worry about the bag; no one will handle the bike but you.
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Old 02-27-09, 08:24 AM   #3
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I've taken my Giant Halfway on Amtrak many times without any problems. All I ever used was the bag that came with the bike... no extra padding required.

As rhm notes, the Amtrak rules state that the bike should be stowed with luggage. However, most conductors don't have a problem with putting the bike in the overhead bins (if it fits and you're strong enough to get it up there and down again safely).

Enjoy the train ride. :-)
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Old 02-27-09, 12:42 PM   #4
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Amtrak's policy is that any folding bike is allowed on board in the "luggage racks." On the trains I've taken along the Pennsylvanian line, the luggage racks are just spaces behind the seats at either end of the car. Plenty of room for my Xootr Swift. Amtrak defines folding bikes as bikes specifically designed to fold, having both hinges and small wheels. If an Amtrak conductor wanted to be a dick, he might refuse to allow a Dahon Cadenza or something because it doesn't have small wheels.

As far as I recall, they don't require a carrying case of any kind. I didn't use one.
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Old 02-27-09, 01:20 PM   #5
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No problems on Amtrak here as well. Do remember that the Acelas do not allow folding bikes on board, so you'll have to take the slower trains if you want to bring your bike.
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Old 02-27-09, 01:36 PM   #6
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I've only taken my Swift on Amtrak once, but I found it helpful to have a bungee along.
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Old 02-27-09, 02:11 PM   #7
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I took my Curve on Amtrak from NJ to DC and back once last year in an Ikea bag. I left it in the luggage closet in the quiet car, and had no problems.
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Old 02-27-09, 04:53 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by K6-III View Post
Do remember that the Acelas do not allow folding bikes on board, so you'll have to take the slower trains if you want to bring your bike.
I think this may not be correct. Acela only allows carry-on luggage, and as of 2007 Amtrak accepts folding bicycles as carry-on luggage for all trains. Or that's what it appears to say anyway.

Last edited by feijai; 02-27-09 at 11:35 PM.
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Old 02-28-09, 07:25 PM   #9
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I think this may not be correct. Acela only allows carry-on luggage, and as of 2007 Amtrak accepts folding bicycles as carry-on luggage for all trains. Or that's what it appears to say anyway.
Yup. Take the Birdy on Acela all the time.
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Old 03-26-09, 06:48 AM   #10
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Thanks everyone

From what I have since learned from AMTRAK people: that folding bikes are not allowed (no space on these cars, that is what I am told) and even though I might get away with it I don't have enough confidence to take it: my nightmare scenario is getting stuck in DC, on a train platform with bike and wife watching the train head away.......

I might try the same train a different day, go down one station and ride back, just to see if what I have learned is true.
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Old 03-26-09, 07:05 AM   #11
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After reading the document feijai linked to, if it were me I'd give it a shot, bringing a printout along. I also wouldn't try to prove a conductor wrong by showing them a printout, but I'd ask the conductor for clarification of the policy so I'd understand it for the future. Being friendly goes a long way! I carry the NJ Transit bike policy with me in my backpack every day.

Conductors may well have the authority to make exceptions when the train is very crowded. I'd also show up early and be prepared to either take a later train, or possibly have the bike shipped.
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Old 03-26-09, 07:31 AM   #12
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Trust me on this. If you bag the bike, you will never be asked about it. It won't even come up in conversation... unless you mention it.

Generally speaking, you will never be told to get off the train because of your bike. Here are the two scenarios where I've seen conductors balk regarding the folding bike...

1. They don't fully understand the policy and want you to pay for a bike ticket. In these situations, it's good to have a print out of the policy so you can show them that a folding bike is accepted as carry-on luggage. I had one conductor who was adamant about me paying for a bike ticket. In a situation like that because he refused to believe my print outs were real. The guy was being extra surly, and I played nice until he let me on board. I think he was just having a bad day.

2. I was running late once and didn't have time to fold the bike until I got onto the platform. A conductor saw the unfolded bike and said... "We don't have enough room for a bike... sorry." I quickly folded the bike, and the conductor then said... "Oh, that's pretty cool, get on board."

In my experience, even the most crowded Amtrak trains have a luggage storage area on each car. You will never have a problem fitting your folded bike into that area... even on the most heavily populated trains.

Good luck with your test. :-)
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Old 03-28-09, 11:39 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by cdale56 View Post
Hello,

I have no experience with traveling on trains with bikes, but want to go to DC via AMTRAK and maybe take my folding bike, a Giant Halfway. It comes with only a thin vinyl cloth bag and the only trip I took was on a bus and I just lined the sides with cut cardboard pieces.

Will this be enough for a 6 hour AMTRAK ride? Does anyone have any travel tips?

Thanks,

John
Be sure to use your bag each time you board any public transit vehicle to avoid unnecessary problems or delays caused by bike hating personnel. Some people prefer to line the bag with cardboard for additional protection on trains. I think it is a good idea, though I never felt the need to use it in the five years of using folding bikes on buses and trains. The problems lie more in creating and drawing too much interest in your little bike by the general public or transit personnel than in damage concerns. If I was going overnight (where you are required to check in luggage) or flying, I would purchase something more hefty (a hard sided proper suitcase) for using it on public transit.
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Old 03-28-09, 11:59 AM   #14
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i'm going to boston in 2 weeks on acela. i know u can take a folding bike on acela if u bag the bike. but will they allow it or do they have room in certain train just like the regular train w/o bagging the bike? i dont want to bag the bike if it is not necessary. thx in advance.
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Old 03-28-09, 01:02 PM   #15
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Acela does not have a baggage car: everything is carry-on. Amtrak's rules for carry-on is that folding bikes are allowed but only if they are bagged. Whether folding bikes are allowed on Acela is still an open question, but *if* they're allowed (and they probably are), they have to be in bags.
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Old 03-28-09, 02:41 PM   #16
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The main issue with Acela when it comes to folding bikes is that Acela has less room for all kinds of luggage than the conventional trains.

The conventional overhead racks were replaced with Airplane-style racks, so the only racks than can be used for bulkier luggage are at the end of the coach, and can be occupied. Likely, you'll find one that's empty if you walk the train.
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Old 03-28-09, 05:08 PM   #17
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...The conventional overhead racks were replaced with Airplane-style racks, so the only racks than can be used for bulkier luggage are at the end of the coach, and can be occupied. Likely, you'll find one that's empty if you walk the train.
i have been on regular amtrak train and seen conventional overhead racks...no way i'm putting my folder in the overhead rack w/ or w/o airplane-style rack. i walk thru some some amtrak train and notice at the end of the car of some train...there is a hugh gap between the seat and the door...so i can put my folder there w/o any bag. so does acela have some car that are like that?
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Old 03-28-09, 06:37 PM   #18
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tikit and MuP8 bedded down for the trip home in a Superliner Coach:



Official policy.

tcs

Last edited by tcs; 03-28-09 at 06:40 PM.
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Old 03-28-09, 07:49 PM   #19
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tikit and MuP8 bedded down for the trip home in a Superliner Coach:



Official policy.

tcs

yes, i have seen that...but does any1 know if acela have this at the end of the car? if yes, i may get away of not bagging my bike.

here is the official rules and i agree with them about not allowing bike on the overhead compartment.

"You must fold up your folding bicycle before boarding the train. You may store the bike only in luggage storage areas at the end of the car (or, in Superliners, on the lower level). You may not store bikes in overhead racks.
You must fold up your folding bicycle before boarding the train. You may store the bike only in luggage storage areas at the end of the car (or, in Superliners, on the lower level). You may not store bikes in overhead racks."

Last edited by vincentnyc; 03-28-09 at 07:53 PM.
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Old 03-29-09, 04:45 AM   #20
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The Acela rack is about 60% of the size of the one on the superliner, but then again, most business travelers on Acela aren't bringing all that much.
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Old 03-29-09, 06:08 PM   #21
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Thank you for the info and for the picture.

The person who answered the phone at the AMTRAK number told me that was no room for any (large) carry on luggage at all-never mind bikes.

I don't think I want to run the risk of being stranded on a DC train platform, my good wife has patience but not that much.

I am going to trial it anyway just for the heck of it.

AMTRAK still gets me mad, I live 6 miles from an AMTRAK station and my old job was just a couple miles away from another station, it would have been a perfect commute but with no commuter times and the cost was prohibitive, never mind the BS.
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Old 03-29-09, 07:37 PM   #22
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Be sure to use your bag each time you board any public transit vehicle to avoid unnecessary problems or delays caused by bike hating personnel. Some people prefer to line the bag with cardboard for additional protection on trains. I think it is a good idea, though I never felt the need to use it in the five years of using folding bikes on buses and trains. The problems lie more in creating and drawing too much interest in your little bike by the general public or transit personnel than in damage concerns. If I was going overnight (where you are required to check in luggage) or flying, I would purchase something more hefty (a hard sided proper suitcase) for using it on public transit.
I can't speak to the original posters run but your sentiment fits my experience taking the train from Seattle to Klamath falls. The ticket person said I had to check my bagged Friday, the baggage person said I could carry it on. The Amtrak employees on the platform didn't mention it at all. Plenty of room at the end of the coach car. Pack it up quickly out of the way and get in line with your ticket.
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Old 03-30-09, 10:34 AM   #23
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I can't speak to the original posters run but your sentiment fits my experience taking the train from Seattle to Klamath falls. The ticket person said I had to check my bagged Friday, the baggage person said I could carry it on. The Amtrak employees on the platform didn't mention it at all. Plenty of room at the end of the coach car. Pack it up quickly out of the way and get in line with your ticket.
Covering the bike does pretty much eliminate the mass confusion you experienced on the train. I observed that you the bike owner/user is the one to suffer the consequences of being possibly stranded somewhere- not the train personnel or the public when different interpretations of official company codes & rules, personal opinions or personal aesthetics collide. Yet in the case of checking for possible terrorist weapons, my bikes could be instantly be checked by simply lifting the cover to view it (never had to do this yet!).

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Old 05-23-09, 06:06 PM   #24
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Well, I went to DC as planned and sure enough, as reported by the many good people on this thread, there was indeed plenty of baggage room on both trips. It didn't really end up being a trip where there was much time for riding anyway, so it wasn't a big deal except for the rude, lying misinformed people who answer the official AMTRAK phones.

One of the highlights of the trip was on our walk back from the C and O: we saw three mudcovered riders go by in Georgetown, two MTBs with trailers, one with pannier
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Old 07-18-09, 07:01 PM   #25
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Acela does not have a baggage car: everything is carry-on. Amtrak's rules for carry-on is that folding bikes are allowed but only if they are bagged. Whether folding bikes are allowed on Acela is still an open question, but *if* they're allowed (and they probably are), they have to be in bags.
As far as bags are concerned, Amtrak's folder policy makes no mention of them.

As far as which trains permit folders as carry-on baggage, the only thing mentioned is "certain passenger cars". Reading between the lines, this would include

Amfleet I coaches - NE Regional service and a few other NE trains, e.g., Adirondack.
Amfleet II coaches - east of the Mississippi overnight trains
Superliner coaches and sleepers - mostly west of the Mississippi + the Capitol Limited - Chicago to DC
Talgos - Pacific Northwest (I believe these also have bike racks for regular bikes)
California bi-levels (these also have bike racks for regular bikes)
Horizon coaches - midwest corridor service.

The only thing it would seem to leave out are Viewliner sleepers used on east of the Mississippi overnight trains since they don't have luggage racks. However, I'm sure a folder would fit in a bedroom (formerly called deluxe bedroom). As for a roomettes are concerned, I'll find out next month when I take the Lake Shore Limited to Buffalo, bike the Erie Canal path, and return from Albany.

As far as Acela is concerned, my guess is that folders are ok. Since Acela is Amtrak's feature attraction, they tend to mention it if there is anything different.

The above being said, rule number one among old Amtrak hands is that, whether you are dealing with phone reservations or on-board personnel, they can give you wrong answers (compared to published policy); and if you don't get the answer you want, try again with someone else. Cases in point:

I recently boarded what used to be called the Missouri Mule for a ride on the Katy trail with a regular bike ($10 ticket). The conductor instructed me to put it in the overhead rack.

Even more recently I boarded the Illinois Zephyr with a folder without a bag. No problem with the folder. But as we were about to board, an employee approached my son who had a regular bike plus the required ticket and reservation and said he would not be able to take it on board unless there were room. My son played it cool; and of course there was room. But I blew my stack because for 20 years my wife and I had taken regular bikes on this train on the first leg of 2-3 week bike tours with no problem. I could see us left on the platform, our tour ruined. Turned out this was a supervisor or trainer, not a regular conductor (who have always been more than cordual when confronted by a bike). I later had a long talk with Amtrak's Customer Relations (a good number to know), who agreed that I had a beef.
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