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Bikes on Amtrak

Old 02-08-23, 03:51 PM
  #51  
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Originally Posted by adventurepdx
So if your only experience with bringing a bike on Amtrak is from 10 years ago or more, things are now different.
My most recent experience is from the summer of 2022. Total fubar from Amtrak.
I've ridden almost every Amtrak route over the past 40 years - including some no longer operating.
I've taken my bike on long-haul overnight trains and state-supported day trains.
I know the schedules of nearly every intercity train almost by heart.
And I have strongly supported Amtrak over the years - but - my support is waning.

All this even though there is zilch, zero service in the state where I live - Wyoming.
Nor is there any longer any service in southern Montana - 400 miles away in Havre is closest.
I almost was not able to take my bike - finding out when I got to the Havre station -
because the Vancouver, Washington station uses a track that doesn't allow for baggage on westbound trains.
(Odd, because for 100+ years before the pandemic it did.)
Of course, "Julie" or the Amtrak app could easily have had that information.
Not to mention that the Havre station agent has been demoted from agent to gopher by Amtrak planners.
(BTW - It was the Havre station agent who worked out something with the conductor to get my bike on the train.)

Are you aware that Amtrak execs awarded themselves millions in public money bonuses?
https://transportation.house.gov/new...ch%20in%202021.
Meanwhile, they ask people like the Havre agent (I mean gopher) to do the same amount of work for less money.
And you wonder why Amtrak has an employee problem?

And, yes, I have written my two senators and representative asking them to withhold support for Amtrak.
Transportation dollars could be spent far more effectively for intercity busses - which are also disappearing.
And provide service to far more locations at a fraction of the cost.

The management structure of many state-supported trains is different.
Often equipment, staffing, and scheduling is autonomous and has state-mandated goals.
So - - yes - - taking state supported trains like the Surfliners is a safer bet.

On long-distance trains between 2019 and 2022, my success rate was 50-50.
(I include a train 12 hours late as one of the "successes".)
YMMV.
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Old 02-08-23, 04:00 PM
  #52  
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Originally Posted by jamawani
Are you aware that Amtrak execs awarded themselves millions in public money bonuses?
https://transportation.house.gov/new...ch%20in%202021.
Meanwhile, they ask people like the Havre agent (I mean gopher) to do the same amount of work for less money.
And you wonder why Amtrak has an employee problem?
YMMV.
Yes, you mentioned this further back. Yes, that's not good. But that's Standard Operating Procedure of the corporate world so singling out Amtrak probably isn't fair, quasi public entity or not. (I'm wondering how big of a bonus Southwest is going to give themselves.)

And yes, it is bad that Wyoming does not have any Amtrak service, along with southern Montana. I know that they did some half-arsed studies a few years ago about reinstating the Pioneer and North Coast Limited that went absolutely anywhere. I don't know the long-range practicality of reinstating a transcontinental passenger route through Wyoming, especially since Union Pacific does not care for sharing their tracks with Amtrak. The better option would probably be some Front Range corridor service that would link Cheyenne to Pueblo or something like that and connect with the Zephyr and maybe the Chief for long-distance service.
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Old 02-08-23, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by mev
It is frustrating they no longer have PDF timetables on the web page. ...
Thanks for warning me, I was unaware of this. In early stages of working on a tour that would use Amtrak.
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Old 02-08-23, 08:05 PM
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Amtrak lunacy....
Once, I was actually told to place my bike in the over head compartment, and when I said there was no way it would fit, the conductor said, well then just stand it up between seats because we need to get rolling right now !
Ha, and so I did.

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Old 02-08-23, 08:25 PM
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Originally Posted by adventurepdx
Here's our Bromptons in the baggage rack on the Pacific Surfliner...
And here's my tikit and SWMBO's Dahon Mu on the Texas Eagle:



Caveat: technically, couplers or rinko don't count as a folding bike on AmTrak.


If it fits inside their allowed space, why do they care how it got that small?
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Old 02-08-23, 08:40 PM
  #56  
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Originally Posted by mev
It is frustrating they no longer have PDF timetables on the web page. I typically look at either:

- Dixieland - which has maps like this one where you can hover over or pick trains - Amtrak Status Maps - West
- Railrat - where you can see how current trains are doing - https://railrat.net/routes/PacificSurfliner/ If there is an active train and the planned arrival/departure times match your future trip, you can at least get an idea of when major stops are planned.

Update: Apparently Dixieland also has schedules now - Amtrak Schedules Summary
They've always had them for the Pacific Surfliner regional train line here in Southern California, even with the big problem of the track almost falling into the PAcific OCean at the south end of the City of San Clemente. This is the 'modified' schedule in use until the track gets fixed (late February last I heard). FWIW: The track problem also screwed up folks who do a popular day ride from the Los Angeles/Orange County area to San Diego (or vis-versa if you like headwinds!); ride either direction then take the Pacific Surfliner back to your home destination area.

https://www.pacificsurfliner.com/glo...ed-to-slo.pdf/

The schedule also changes in the summertime to accomodate tourists.
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Old 02-09-23, 12:04 AM
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Last year I took Amtrak from Portland OR to Seattle WA and had to get their bike box. I think it was 20 bucks' total.
The box is huge, you have to remove the pedals and turn the handlebar and roll the bike into the box - they had tapes and eve 15 wrench.
Even big bikes should fit nicely - if the weight is above the limit, then not sure what the outcome will be.

The downside is that I had to wait long to retrieve the bike and had to throw away the box into a garbage bin around.
I had a ticket with carry on bike (5 bucks) that got cancelled and the train I got was all sold out, so I had to check in as one piece of luggage.
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Old 02-09-23, 12:48 AM
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Originally Posted by robow
Amtrak lunacy....
Once, I was actually told to place my bike in the over head compartment, and when I said there was no way it would fit, the conductor said, well then just stand it up between seats because we need to get rolling right now !
Ha, and so I did.
Was this on a short-distance line in the Midwest? I had a similar experience in 2005. I bought a "bike ticket" for my trip from St. Louis to Chicago. And when boarding the train I realized pretty quickly that a) there was no special equipment for bike storage and b) bikes were seen very infrequently, as the staff had no clue what to do. The conductor wanted me to wait until everyone else had gotten on, and then directed me to put the bike in an overhead rack. This was pure folly as a) I'd be lifting the bike over the heads of nonplussed fellow passengers and b) those nonplussed passengers had already filled up the rack. The conductor then just let me lean the bike up "somewhere".

Later that year I took my bike on Amtrak from Champaign to Chicago. Not wanting to deal with that nonsense again, I got in first and put my bike in the rear-most vestibule. After doing that, the conductor said "That's where I would have told you to put it!"
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Old 02-09-23, 11:27 AM
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On the Vermonter last summer. Roll On service. Didnít bother removing the tent.



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Old 02-09-23, 01:04 PM
  #60  
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Originally Posted by jamawani
And, yes, I have written my two senators and representative asking them to withhold support for Amtrak.
Transportation dollars could be spent far more effectively on intercity buses - which are also disappearing.
And provide service to far more locations at a fraction of the cost.
COVID relief money (from the US Transportation Department website):
Airlines: $14,000,000,000
Amtrak: $1,690,000,000
Intercity buses: $0

Estimate for 2019:
Amtrak: 6.5 billion passenger-miles
For-profit intercity bus common carriers: 117 billion passenger-miles
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Old 02-13-23, 06:08 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs

Caveat: technically, couplers or rinko don't count as a folding bike on AmTrak.
I don't think that's quite correct--rinko'd bikes inhabit a gray area where no one can tell you for sure whether they're legal or not. But coupled bikes are absolutely okay, subject to size and weight limits.

I took a deep dive into this a few years ago, and after many email exchanges things were only a little clearer than they had been. Long story short: You have to meet the size and weight limit, which most rinko bikes do (at least I assume so, given that my 25" framed bike does). Amtrak also recognizes that the broad "folding bike" category includes both bikes with hinges and latches--that is, bikes that literally fold--as well as "separable" bikes, where the frame parts can be "unplugged" or unscrewed from one another, as in a frame with S&S couplers. That doesn't seem to be written into the rules anywhere, but when I specifically raised the separable vs. folding question in an email , I was told that they amounted to the same thing.

The thing is, nobody can say (or will say, which is pretty much the same thing) whether separating the fork from the rest of the frame puts a rinko'd bike into the "separable bike" sub-category. I stoutly maintain that it does. Just in case, I scraped the Surly decals off of mine and replaced them with decals that identify it as a "Rinko Folder" brand bicycle. "Look, Mr. Coductor! it says right there that it's a folding bike, and it meets the size and weight requirements."

It would be risky to generalize too much from half a dozen trips, which is the limit of my rinko-on-Amtrak experience. That said I very much doubt that anyone will raise any questions about exactly how an individual bike gets small. As others have noted, station stops are usually brief, and the priority is just getting the train moving again.
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Old 02-13-23, 08:14 PM
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Correct.

Originally Posted by Pratt
Perhaps go to the station and talk to the baggage and ticket people in person. My experience with the Amtrak web site is that it is cleverly, and effectively designed to withstand all attempts to get it to divulge useful information.
I agree , I tried to look at going from Chicago to Colorado, which I did once about 20 years ago , but the sight is just designed to no be used. Further proof car industry buys out everything ..
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Old 02-13-23, 08:37 PM
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From the Amtrak website:

Only true folding bicycles (bicycles specifically designed to fold up into a compact assembly) are acceptable. Generally, these bikes have frame latches allowing the frame to be collapsed, and small wheels. Regular bikes of any size, with or without wheels, are not considered folding bikes, and may not be stored as folding bikes aboard trains.

I said upthread I didn't know why Amtrak cares how your bike gets into their 34" x 15" x 48" (860 x 380 x 1120 mm) "folding bike for carry-on" envelope. Seems arbitrary. But based on what Amtrak's website says, I can not assure cycletourists that their coupler or rinko'ed bike will be accepted as a carry-on by each and every one of Amtrak's conductors.

Last edited by tcs; 02-14-23 at 08:58 AM.
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Old 02-14-23, 07:32 AM
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I have suddenly become much less enthusiastic about Amtrak. I have been talking to an old touring buddy about another tour for almost a year. I was under the belief that all long distance middle-America Amtrak routes had added some form of roll on/roll off service or had dedicated bike racks in the baggage cars where your bikes could be handled my Amtrak personnel at all stops, did realize that this option only worked at luggage stops. Perhaps my mis-understanding was because all of the Amtrak routes I have traveled in the past offered some option for bikes where we wanted to travel.

Got together with my touring buddy to finalize plans yesterday. We were looking at a tour to take place for most of the month of April, roughly 25 days with driving and train time. Got on the Amtrak website to see if the bike racks were available for the days we needed them, and ... ... discovered that we were on a route (City of New Orleans) where Carry On Bike Service is not offered and Trainside Bike Service is limited to luggage stops. And neither of our two train stations offered either option. The third person that was going to drive us half way across a state to drop us off at an Amtrak station would have to double that distance to get to an Amtrak station that that handled luggage, for her it would have become a two day trip to drive us to a luggage station and get back home.

The Amtrak PDF versions of their schedules that conveniently included notations on which stations were baggage stations are no longer published so it took us a lot of effort just to figure out where the few baggage stations were. That resulted in a lot of additional lost time while were trying to figure out which stations were luggage stops.

I have a folding bike but my touring partner does not, so that is not an option either.

So, our plans collapsed. Tour probably canceled unless we can come up with other options, which is unlikely. All we needed was a few bike hooks on one of the cars on this route, but apparently that is too much to ask. Not a happy camper.
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Old 02-14-23, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
So, our plans collapsed. Tour probably canceled unless we can come up with other options, which is unlikely. All we needed was a few bike hooks on one of the cars on this route, but apparently that is too much to ask. Not a happy camper.
I have almost always found rental cars a better option any way especially with more than one person sharing the cost. I always found it best to book through an aggregator online rather than walk up to a rental desk. Walking up to the rental desk always seemed to result in a refusal to let a car go out one way or a huge one way fee. I also found going airport to airport seemed to go smoother. The problem I see is that the whole rental car business has kind of gone to hell since covid and as far I I know is not yet back to normal. Prices are way high and cars scarce. They tend to promise and then not have them when you show up even though you prepaid. Avoiding high air travel times may help with the car availability. Absolutely don't count on getting a car on a big travel weekend.

Maybe buses can fill some of the gaps. I know greyhound sucks, but it might be better than cancelling the trip if they serve the area you need.
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Old 02-14-23, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
I have almost always found rental cars a better option any way especially with more than one person sharing the cost. I always found it best to book through an aggregator online rather than walk up to a rental desk. Walking up to the rental desk always seemed to result in a refusal to let a car go out one way or a huge one way fee. I also found going airport to airport seemed to go smoother. The problem I see is that the whole rental car business has kind of gone to hell since covid and as far I I know is not yet back to normal. Prices are way high and cars scarce. They tend to promise and then not have them when you show up even though you prepaid. Avoiding high air travel times may help with the car availability. Absolutely don't count on getting a car on a big travel weekend.

Maybe buses can fill some of the gaps. I know greyhound sucks, but it might be better than cancelling the trip if they serve the area you need.
Thanks, earlier today I priced U Haul and Enterprise. The cost of gas would probably be the same as we planned to pay for two Amtrak tickets. Drop charge was $200 for a one way before taxes.

Now I need to find out if our bikes can fit in a Pacifica. The Enterprise nearest me does not appear to have that model in stock but I plan to go over there with a tape measure and find out. April is still a month and a half away, so we have some time to check alternatives.

My Lynskey with front wheel removed, but with Tubus Tara installed is almost 5.5 feet long.

I did not plan to use my S&S bike on this trip, but if I need to I can. Splitting the frame in half would make that fit into a lot of vehicles. It would not have to be packed in an S&S case, so I could leave the fork on, water bottle cages on, etc. Would take less than five minutes to remove the wheels, disconnect rear brake and split the frame.

But my touring partner has an uncoupled bike, so that might be the deciding factor on size.

We both would have four panniers.
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Old 02-14-23, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
Thanks, earlier today I priced U Haul and Enterprise. The cost of gas would probably be the same as we planned to pay for two Amtrak tickets. Drop charge was $200 for a one way before taxes.

Now I need to find out if our bikes can fit in a Pacifica. The Enterprise nearest me does not appear to have that model in stock but I plan to go over there with a tape measure and find out. April is still a month and a half away, so we have some time to check alternatives.

My Lynskey with front wheel removed, but with Tubus Tara installed is almost 5.5 feet long.

I did not plan to use my S&S bike on this trip, but if I need to I can. Splitting the frame in half would make that fit into a lot of vehicles. It would not have to be packed in an S&S case, so I could leave the fork on, water bottle cages on, etc. Would take less than five minutes to remove the wheels, disconnect rear brake and split the frame.

But my touring partner has an uncoupled bike, so that might be the deciding factor on size.

We both would have four panniers.
One problem can be not getting the car they say they will have. It happens pretty often. That said, I have crammed multiple regular diamond framed bikes in some pretty small cars. It may require more twisting/removing bars, removing both wheels, and disassembly than you want, but...
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Old 02-14-23, 09:52 AM
  #68  
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
Now I need to find out if our bikes can fit in a Pacifica.
...
But my touring partner has an uncoupled bike, so that might be the deciding factor on size.
For what it is worth, something I've done at least twice with rental cars is buy a basic trunk rack and donate it at end of my one-way car rental. Often the cost of the rack is less than the difference needed to get a larger vehicle.
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Old 02-14-23, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
One problem can be not getting the car they say they will have. It happens pretty often. That said, I have crammed multiple regular diamond framed bikes in some pretty small cars. It may require more twisting/removing bars, removing both wheels, and disassembly than you want, but...
I have not rented a car since I retired, I used to rent a lot for travel for work. But family often have rented, I have heard lots of stories. This past christmas my niece rented an SUV that was over a decade old from Hertz or Avis or one of the other majors. But it worked well for them. That made it pretty clear that the rental companies still have a vehicle shortage. Their rental had a trailer hitch and I thought all rental cars specifically did not have hitches.

I was surprised to see if I make the reservation on AARP Travel (Expedia) instead of directly with Enterprise, that the cost dropped by over $100. That said, Expedia said that Enterprise has vehicles that the Enterprise website says are unavailable, so I would expect some hiccups. My last flight was thru Expedia and it was a disaster when they got the layover mixed up.

I think we will stew on options for at least a week before we decide what to do. But I suspect we will end up renting a mini-van.

The rental vehicle would shorten the trip somewhat. Original plans were to bike about 700 miles, now the plan would be about 450 miles. Long story that I do not want to get into.
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Old 02-14-23, 10:03 AM
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Back before COVID, the German intercity bus company Flixbus looked into the business side of bus+bike:

https://docplayer.net/104534988-Flix...e-tourism.html

Bottom line: this could be a competitive advantage and make money.



Fun fact: Flixbus recently purchased US intercity bus giant Greyhound.

An opportunity! Could intercity bus transportation for US cycletourists improve? Oh, yeah. Will it? Probably not. 1) Lawmakers and regulators in the US don't seem to be aware there is an intercity bus industry in America, or if they are, they treat it like a nuisance. 2) I haven't found anyone in the US cycletouring scene who's reached out to Flixbus US (or any other US intercity bus company) to partner, encourage and mentor them. 3) Many of the cyclists I've mentioned this to quietly admit in so many words they "don't want to ride in a bus with 'those' people".

Well, back to Amtrak.

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Old 02-14-23, 10:20 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
I know Greyhound sucks...
Yeah, but Jet, Napaway, Red Coach and Vonlane don't!

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Old 02-14-23, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by mev
For what it is worth, something I've done at least twice with rental cars is buy a basic trunk rack and donate it at end of my one-way car rental. Often the cost of the rack is less than the difference needed to get a larger vehicle.
I had never considered that. You might even find something used at Play it again sports or something. I have a Saris "Bones" type rack that had $12.99 stickers on it that looked lke they came from a second hand store. It was in perfect shape when I picked it up from the curb for free.

Any way the Bones rack easily breaks down into small pieces that would pack small and easily mail ahead or home. I could see using this rack by mailing it to yourself by general delivery mail in a city where you needed to travel from or mailing it home or ahead from the start of a section your tour.
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Old 02-14-23, 11:52 AM
  #73  
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As far as rental cars go, I don't own a car and with a separate vacation home, I rented at least 10 times last year as well as preceding years.

From my experience, the worst extremes have worked their way through the system:
- In 2020, at start of the pandemic there was a glut of vehicles. I ended up with not very expensive vehicles when spent a month in Lubbock and later that year with a month in Colorado.
- In 2021, was the sharpest increases in price and largest drop in availability. This seemed to be particularly concentrated at some airports or most popular places but was widespread. Coincident with start of this period, Hertz happened to also commission box trucks as rental vehicles at rates that were less than normal passenger vehicles. Fortunate for me because I used them as moving vans to move large things to my vacation property.
- In 2022, Hertz stopped classifying box trucks and rented them at more expensive rates. Prices for rental cars were less than the peak in 2022 but also more than 2019 before the pandemic. Also fewer promotional discounts.
- In 2023, I'm seeing a few more promotional discounts. General rates still seem pretty similar to 2022 but occasionally see a deeper discounting.

Most of my renting is *not* at the airports but instead at retail outlets for Hertz, Avis/Budget, Enterprise. It is a slightly different market than airport travel. In particular, it seems to overlap with replacement cars when people have maintenance repair and that type of thing. Both the insurance agents and the clients have an incentive to not rent over the weekends so often deals are better those times than more standard week-day rates. That doesn't come into play with airport destinations as much where there also seem to be additional service fees.
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Old 02-14-23, 12:20 PM
  #74  
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN

Now I need to find out if our bikes can fit in a Pacifica.
.
You won't have any issues with a Pacifica. We rented one for a post-GAP/C&O ride from Wash DC Reagan National back to Pittsburgh International. This was in 2021..they had several available once we got there. We booked it in early 2021 for a Sept. pickup date. The price was mildly inflated from previous norms. No drop fee. Your touring bike is about the same size as mine. My GF's bike is a little smaller, but there's plenty of room. We both had 4 panniers and I had a 35L waterproof bag on top of the rear rack. You might have a bungee cord or two available to secure the bikes. Have the mid-rear cabin passenger seat up and all others stowed away. Bungee the bikes to that up seat. You may need to drop your seat level for easier loading. Beyond that, no issues with full sized bikes, intact.
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Old 02-14-23, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by fishboat
You won't have any issues with a Pacifica. We rented one for a post-GAP/C&O ride from Wash DC Reagan National back to Pittsburgh International. This was in 2021..they had several available once we got there. We booked it in early 2021 for a Sept. pickup date. The price was mildly inflated from previous norms. No drop fee. Your touring bike is about the same size as mine. My GF's bike is a little smaller, but there's plenty of room. We both had 4 panniers and I had a 35L waterproof bag on top of the rear rack. You might have a bungee cord or two available to secure the bikes. Have the mid-rear cabin passenger seat up and all others stowed away. Bungee the bikes to that up seat. You may need to drop your seat level for easier loading. Beyond that, no issues with full sized bikes, intact.
This is most helpful with plenty of detail. Thank you.
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