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Bike safe on Amtrak?

Old 05-23-22, 01:42 PM
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bikeme
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Bike safe on Amtrak?

I'm heading to Monterey from OC and I'm not sure where my bike will be stored for transport (in-car near an entry/exit--like Metrolink, or in a baggage car or area?) Am I safe to leave my packs on the bike? Of course, I will have stuff like cash, CC, ID, and phone on my person but is the rest of my gear safe? If it's stored at the end of a car, I have a Ottolock I can use to secure the bike itself from an "unscheduled" departure. Your advice appreciated.
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Old 05-23-22, 08:50 PM
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skidder
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The 'commuter' line, the Surfliner, only goes as far as San Luis Obispo, so you'll be taking the Coast Starlight train. That's considered a long distance train so you'll have to pack your bicycle and check it as luggage. Look on the Amtrak site for details on what you need to do and how much it might cost. The Surfliner has spaces on one of its cars for bicycles (about 6 IIRC), you just bring them aboard and put them in the racks, and its free if you reserve a bicycle spot when you buy a ticket. .
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Old 05-24-22, 11:23 AM
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bikeme
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Originally Posted by skidder View Post
The 'commuter' line, the Surfliner, only goes as far as San Luis Obispo, so you'll be taking the Coast Starlight train. That's considered a long distance train so you'll have to pack your bicycle and check it as luggage. Look on the Amtrak site for details on what you need to do and how much it might cost. The Surfliner has spaces on one of its cars for bicycles (about 6 IIRC), you just bring them aboard and put them in the racks, and its free if you reserve a bicycle spot when you buy a ticket. .
Uh oh! I had no idea I had to pack the bike!! I'll call them to get squared away. As for the two trains--I catch the Surfliner in OC and then transfer to the Coast Starlight in LA. The bike was included in my ticket cost but as I mentioned, I'll look into it more--thanks for heads up.

Update: Amtrak says I have train-side checked bike service for the Coast Starlight. I just remove my packs (that was my security concern) and take them with my into the car. They load the bike in a rack in the baggage car and give me a claim ticket--whew!! On the Surfliner, I just load the bike in the car with me (as you mentioned). They say you can box a bike and check it as baggage too. Anyway, thanks for making me consider stuff I didn't before--I'm riding to and from stations so boxing would've been an issue!!

Last edited by bikeme; 05-24-22 at 11:38 AM.
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Old 05-24-22, 05:01 PM
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Amtrak has a faq on bicycles on trains:
https://www.amtrak.com/bring-your-bicycle-onboard

You can buy boxes from Amtrak. they often need a few days notice. Not all stations stock them. Their boxes are huge. Like big enough for a tandem. Remove or fold pedals, turn the bars, roll it in from on end. tape the end shut up. Write your name/phone on the top and apply the baggage tag they provide.. That's it. Nothing else allowed in the box. $15 for box plus the fee (0-$20). Also not all Amtrak stops have baggage handling so there is no getting a bike on/off at those stations.. I'd say about 1/3 do. all the major stations do. They would take your bike in a standard bike box for just the fee but then you have to pack/unpack/reassemble your bike. Hardly worth it to save $15.

The roll on service is rather limited and depending on where, sold out months in advance. No box cost but there is usually a cheap fee. The on line systems don't show open dates for roll on. You have to try 1 day at a time. Probably better to call and ask about that.The phone reservationists have more computer data access than the public. I found the WDC outbound trains roll on bike hooks are all taken by local daily commuters for as far as they make reservations..

Safety? I departed from Wash DC one time and was told they didn't have a baggage car that day. I was too miffed to ask why not. Lost it? Stolen? Broken? Forgot it? Anyhow they promised our bikes would be delivered to Mt Pleasant Iowa (nearest station to home). The bikes went from wdc, to chicago, xfered to another train, went to Colorado xferd to the east bound train and back to Iowa. The Iowa station is a one obnoxious man operation. He sticks to his contracted hours even if a train is late. The west bound train got there when the station master wasn't there so they continued to Colorado. Put on an east bound train. It took about 5 days before I finally got a phone message they were there. I drove there asap and found a 'out to lunch' sign on the front door. I sat right in front of the door and read for an hour, then noticed the sign was gone. the weasel had snuck in the back door and very quietly unlocked the door. I got the 3 bikes, all boxes were crushed (being so huge, they are rather weak boxes) but the bikes were okay. The turd was more concerned that I take the boxes with me and not leave them there as garbage for him to dispose of. I carry a box knife in the van I cut them up to fit in between the bikes for the 70 mile drive home.

Theft safety? Never had any issues on Amtrak. Most rides have been pretty sparsely occupied so taking my bags to my seat works. They have baggage shelves on the lower level by the doors. When traveling with panniers, I use my cable bike lock to attach them to each other. That makes them so awkward no on wants to mess with them. The only sold out train I ever rode I only had a small backpack which I kept between my knees.

Bike theft? I've found most Amtrak passengers couldn't care less about your bike. A very few are in awe your traveling by bike. Never seen anyone give my bikes a second look. Airline workers would just as soon smash your bike as treat it carefully. They advise you arrive hours in advance so your larger item can be loaded first and crushed under 10,000 pounds of baggage. Amtrak doesn't have those endless conveyors and ware houses and back room workers with sticky fingers. Airlines have made it very clear they don't want our bikes so I never fly with them anymore. TSA usually has to open large (bike) boxes to swab for explosives and fat chance if they close it up properly. Amtrak doesn't do that. I suppose you could put a tracker on the bike. The latest dog collar trackers work in real time and use cell towers and aren't too expensive. Far better coverage than the wifi app types.

I took Amtrak from LaCrosse to Portland Or. No issues. At Portland and another time at Chicago, the workers were happy to take the barely used box so someone else could reuse them.

Small folding bikes can just be carried on as personal baggage. For my folder(s), I take extra toe straps to help keep them folded up tight. Surly used to sell the "Junk Strap", a 3 or 4 foot long toe strap that is very handy for that and for carrying 2 sets of panniers over my shoulders. Straps are far more adjustable and secure than bunge cords.

Last edited by rickpaulos; 05-24-22 at 05:14 PM.
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