You are correct. You end up carrying your bag with you. I didn't have a problem with this because the duffle folded up small enough to fit in with the rest of my gear. The backpack is also fairly light and frequently travels with me because I like to have one piece of luggage that's easy to carry off of the bike. One pannier generally holds all of the items that I'd like to have easy access to throughout the day. The backpack contains the items that I don't want to leave on the the bike unattended. Lock up the bike, grab the backpack, and go.
But what bag you use is not especially relevant. If you can find one that fits all your gear and folds up small enough to travel, you may be able to make it work. Yes, it's one extra thing to carry, and every item has to be evaluated when you're touring. When I took the duffle and backpack aboard, it did include all of my camping equipment, apart from a few items left on the bike, so it seems like a full touring load can be brought on a carry-on luggage. On the one hand, I did have two bags, not one, but on the other hand, I feel like I tend to carry more gear than many people. I hope, for an upcoming trip, to get all of my gear into one, airline-legal bag, although if I'm going by air, I'll have the option letting a little spill over into a carry on. But really, getting all my gear into one bag would be beneficial all around.
But here's something that's not clear to me: I can see from Amtrak's bike/baggage policies that taking a bike as checked luggage will count against your checked baggage allowance, and taking a folding bike as a carry on will count as one of your carry on bags. But what I don't see is where taking advantage of roll-on bike service means that your bike counts as a carry on. Certainly when I've used the local bike solution, which allows an unboxed bike to be hung on the wall of the baggage car, I've had no indication that the bike counts against any limits. As far as I can tell, I could bring one, unboxed bike, two checked bags, and two carry on bags, as long as I was on a train with roll-on bike service. It may be that, as Lalato says, you can easily get away with bringing two bags with no one questioning you. If carrying a duffle complicates things too much, perhaps you could carry some straps, tie your panniers together into sets, and try to pass off each set as one carry on. I have certainly combined multiple items together, and, as long as the total package doesn't exceed the size limit, no one has questioned me.
My suggestion would be as follows...
At the start of the trip, put everything on the bike (panniers, luggage, etc). Board the bike storage car. This is either the first or last car (ask a conductor to be sure). The middle cars only have one storage well. You'll know it when you board the bike storage car. Lots of space there.
Once on the train, begin your unpacking ritual so that you can put your bike up. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to have your bike completely stowed before the train starts moving. Sure, it's preferred, but it's not absolutely necessary. After your bike is stowed, place your "luggage" next to the bike, if it's not stable, use bungie to to tie it to the rack bars.
About 10 minutes before your stop, begin the reverse process. Pull your bike down off the rack, load it up and wait for your stop to arrive. When you arrive, hop off, without a care in the world... :D
Reading again the Amtrak bicycle policy, I think you are correct. The policy does not say that the roll-on full-size bicycle (on trains which provide bicycle racks for them) counts either as carry-on or as checked baggage. So I should still be able to bring 2 carry-on items onboard with a roll-on "full-size" bicycle. Notice that they say "full-size" for the roll-on service. I know that the bicycle rack in the car I rode on the Capitol Corridor had a hanging hook up where the front wheel of a full-size bicycle would be, and that the hook had no adjustment to lower it for a shorter bike wheelbase. So a 20" folding bike in unfolded state would dangle by the front wheel from that hook, not touching the floor. That may be a problem in securing the bike, which is perhaps why they are explicit about "full-size". (The policy says that you are responsible for bringing the appropriate straps to secure your bike. The rack I saw had a hook to hang the front wheel and a cable to lock the bike with your own lock but no securing straps.) So if you arrive at your station with your full-size bicycle and 2 carry-on bags on a route (or at a station) which does not provide checked baggage, and the bike racks are full, you are out of luck. The conductor has the right (and duty) to refuse your boarding with the bike. But if you plan for that and bring a folding bicycle with your 2 carry-on bags and the bike rack is full, thinking that you're being smart because you could fold the bike and stow it in the carry-on luggage rack, that would be your 3rd item of carry-on, which is prohibited, so you're out of luck. When I travel, I'd rather follow the restrictions than rely upon the chance that someone won't notice or will be lenient.
Originally Posted by Rob_E
So what's the bottom line?
-- If you travel where you can or must reserve a space for your roll-on full-size bike, you do that and you can bring 2 carry-on items and (if checked baggage service is available at your origin and destination stations) 2 checked items. If you're taking this option, I would recommend that you verify the baggage limits on the phone with the ticket agent when you reserve the first time you travel that way.
-- If you travel where bike reservations are not available and checked baggage is not allowed (such as Capitol Corridor and routes not listed in the bicycle policy), to be sure you can board with your bike and all luggage, you need to bring a folding bike and only 1 carry-on baggage item (some small carried items being excepted of course).
-- If you travel where bike reservations are not available but roll-on bikes are allowed first-come-first-served and checked baggage service is provided, and you bring 2 carry-on baggage items, you should arrive at least 1 hour before scheduled departure time, check with a conductor about an available space for your bike in a roll-on bike rack, and if no space then go to baggage check, buy a box, fit your bike into the box, tape it with the package sealing tape you brought, check the bike and optionally other baggage, and board the train with your carry-on items, hopefully before the train departs without you.
-- If you travel where roll-on bikes are not allowed but checked baggage service is provided at your origin and destination, then plan to box the bike and check it and pay the bicycle fee ($10 plus $15 for the box). You could also check up to 1 other item without extra charge since you are allowed 2 checked items without extra charge but the bicycle box may count as one of them. (It's not clear whether you can pay for the bike and still check 2 more items for free since you paid for the bike as a 3rd item although not at the full checked baggage fee. See * below.) You can also provide your own box, such as one of those fancy re-usable bike shipping cases, but you're stuck with it at the destination. If you have a small enough folding bike, you might consider using a Bike Friday travel trailer/suitcase, which is a re-purposed hard-side suitcase that converts into a bike trailer, instead of buying the Amtrak cardboard box at each boarding station on a multi-station trip.
* -- The baggage policy says "Each passenger can check up to 4 bags - 2 free of charge and 2 for $20 per bag, each not to exceed 50 lbs. (23 kg), 75 linear inches (length + width + height)."
Consult the Amtrak bicycle policy for the list of routes which provide for roll-on bicycles and which routes require reservations or not. It's not clear whether you actually are allowed to reserve a space on routes where not required to do so, which of course would be best if possible. You also need to consult the list of stations to see if yours provide for checked baggage. And if your trip involves an Amtrak Thruway bus, you need to check with that particular bus company to determine if your bicycle is allowed in the under-bus storage area and whether it must be boxed.
There, now, wasn't that simple?!
Even among "full size" bicycles you get variation in wheelbases, so I can't imagine that every bike would hit the floor, and I've ridden some small-wheeled bikes with wheelbases to rival my full sized touring bike, so it might be worth asking around to see if there's really any reason to worry that your bike might pose a problem.
Of course space considerations are always a concern, and it might also be a good idea to figure out how likely the route is to be at capacity for roll on service. The regional forums might be the best source of that information.
I agree that the best, catch-all, scenario is to show up with all your gear in one carry-on-legal bag and one carry-on-legal folding bike. The problem is getting your gear to fit into one bag. If you can do that, you'll be in great shape. That's a goal of mine, as well, because is really opens up your options for travel. I am right now trying to set up a folding bike that can fit in a suitcase along with a duffle of all my gear along with the towing parts needed to tow the suitcase. Then I can do it all Bike Friday-style and build my bike from suitcase which I then fill with the rest of my gear. We'll see how it goes.
But for you, if getting your gear into one bag is unlikely to work, then you're back to using roll-on service and two bags. In that scenario, apart from the possibility of there being problems with your bike being too small for their set-up, your situation might not differ from a non-folding bike traveler. So if you really want to collect all possible data and feedback, you might ask the question on the Touring section.
Here's a video showing the Bike Friday travel trailer, which is a suitcase containing the extra parts to convert it into a bike trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwStL94Xudo . The first half of the video shows re-assembling a Bike Friday Tikit that was transported in the suitcase, and the second half shows converting the suitcase into a trailer for carrying the carry-on bags. The outer dimensions of the Bike Friday suitcase meet the 62 linear inches maximum of airlines, but since the length is over 28" it doesn't meet the Amtrak carry-on restriction. It could be checked as baggage on Amtrak since Amtrak's lineal maximum is 75" without oversize charge. Bike Friday sells just the trailer kit (regular and heavy-duty models) so you could provide your own suitcase and adapt it to the kit, assuming the parts would fit in your suitcase: https://store.bikefriday.com/product...roducts_id=972. The longest piece is the towing arm, which might have to be modified into a 2-piece with coupling to fit a shorter suitcase.
Here's a video showing a home-made suitcase trailer with a Brompton: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCs1tkdQA3E .
I actually managed to fit all of my bike-camping stuff into one rolling duffle, including clothing, cooking, Eureka Apex Solo tent with its fly and ground tarp, an extra tarp for a sheltered overhead in rain, first-aid kit, tools & Mora knife in sheath, 4-panel solar charger, water bottles (flat folding Nagene Canteens), water bucket, fire starters, a 1-gallon paint can filled with food items as critter-proof container, etc, and a summer-weight sleeping bag. If I have to take a winter bag, I'd have to carry it as my allowed blanket on board (tightly compressed in its compression bag) which is small enough to fit the overhead bins, and then it wouldn't count as excess carry-on. Here's the duffle: http://www.luggagepros.com/olympia-2...FRRufgod3Y8ATg
Originally Posted by Rob_E
I compressed as much as I could. I used a compression sack for the tent and fly instead of the simple drawstring bag it came with. I used "space bag" plastic zip-lock-style baggies that are made for compressing stored clothing for space saving. I packed things inside of things where it would save space, such as fuel canister inside of metal cup, small backpacker burner inside of cooking kit. I figure I'll be wearing or carrying some outer clothing onboard.
It's an Olympia Sports 26" rolling duffle (nominally 26"x12"x13"). The interior bottom has a zippered divider separating the pull-out handle mechanism framework from the clothing section. I put my tent poles in there between the tubes of the handle and put the bag of pegs next to the tubes, then zipped it closed and loaded the main compartment. I'll be able to unzip the small side door where the handle is concealed and pull out my tent parts without unloading the duffle contents. The tent and tarp go in the bag last, on top of everything else, so I can set it up first. Fully packed it weighs 43 pounds. Not light, but easily rolled on its built-in little wheels. I also have another one of these bags from which I removed the pull-out handle but left the plastic base with the wheels, to lighten the load a little, but I don't think it made much difference in the total scheme of things. I might put the mechanism back. My idea was to add some aluminum strips as an inside frame and attach hooks to the outside bolted to the frame through the flexible plastic base stiffener of the bag so I can hang it as a tall narrow pannier. I put 2 empty front panniers in my bike carrying bag with the folded bike, and can carry a rear pannier strapped to the duffle, so at destination I can unload into panniers to better distribute the weight on the bike. I also have a 28" non-rolling duffle, but the rolling feature really helps when boarding a bus down its narrow aisle. I had a hard time handling the 28" duffle with the shoulder strap and side handles alone when I took my trip to Davis on Capitol Corridor with my folding bike on a non-camping trip. loaded with too much stuff. (I got all of these duffles quite cheaply at a local discount department store which sells mainly clothing but has a selection of random luggage at great prices, that's the Ross store.) This is an experiment in progress.
Thanks for pointing that out. I'm aware of the BF system, and actually have the heavy-duty trailer that I'm planning on using with an old, large suitcase I have at home (although I'm considering getting the same one BF uses as it looks a little more robust). But I hadn't thought about how Amtrak provides actual dimensions, not just sum of the dimensions like the airport does. My suitcase is 30 inches, so also too big to carry on to Amtrak. That doesn't matter for the trip I'm currently planning, but it will be something to keep in mind in the future.
Originally Posted by overbyte
Your duffle solution sounds interesting. I hope you get some pics of it attached to the bike. I just used an all-cloth one that could fold up into a pannier or on to the rear rack. I agree that without wheels, it was a bear to handle, but being able to fold it up empty made it more useful to me. In fact, since I kept it empty most of the time, the only time I had to move around with it was when I got to the train station and loaded it up. I should have checked it into the luggage car at that point, but I was worried I might need something from it on my long train ride. Next time, as long as checked baggage is an option, that's what I'll do.
Rob_E: It's darn hard to find any of the old-style hardshell suitcases which had a flatter form factor than the currently popular rolling luggage. I happen to have one in my attic, which I pulled out the other day. It's only 9" thick, rather than the 11" allowed on the Pacific Surfliner and much less than the 14" maximum generally, but at least it fits the most restrictive Amtrak carry-on maximums in all 3 dimensions and comes under the 75" maximum for checked baggage. All of the newer rolling hardside luggage is tall and narrow, with width well below the Amtrak maximums. Even if you get a 28" long one, the width is usually around 18", not 22" as the Amtrak carry-on limit would allow. So you lose some potential volume. I also looked online at tool chests, some of which have wheels like luggage, as possible cases for a trailer conversion project.
I'll post photos when I have the kinks worked out and it's ready for my first use.
Originally Posted by Rob_E