Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Touring
Reload this Page >

Bikes on Amtrak

Notices
Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

Bikes on Amtrak

Old 02-14-23, 12:37 PM
  #76  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 11,172

Bikes: 1961 Ideor, 1966 Perfekt 3 Speed AB Hub, 1994 Bridgestone MB-6, 2006 Airnimal Joey, 2009 Thorn Sherpa, 2013 Thorn Nomad MkII, 2015 VO Pass Hunter, 2017 Lynskey Backroad, 2017 Raleigh Gran Prix, 1980s Bianchi Mixte on a trainer. Others are now gone.

Mentioned: 47 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3450 Post(s)
Liked 1,449 Times in 1,130 Posts
Originally Posted by tcs
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.
....
In the photo below, our bikes are on the rack in front of the bus going across the Bay Bridge on the way to Amtrak station from Fisherman's Wharf bus stop.



A third cyclist was bummed that his bike had to ride in luggage below instead of on the rack. I think he was worried it would slide around during corners and braking.
Tourist in MSN is offline  
Likes For Tourist in MSN:
Old 02-15-23, 10:04 AM
  #77  
Senior Member
 
jonwvara's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Washington County, Vermont, USA
Posts: 3,769

Bikes: 1966 Dawes Double Blue, 1976 Raleigh Gran Sport, 1975 Raleigh Sprite 27, 1980 Univega Viva Sport, 1971 Gitane Tour de France, 1984 Lotus Classique, 1976 Motobecane Grand Record

Mentioned: 77 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 760 Post(s)
Liked 650 Times in 345 Posts
Originally Posted by tcs
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.
I think you are correct about Amtrak not caring how a particular bike gets small. They shouldn't care, and as far as my experience goes, they don't care. The key wording in the Amtrak quote about folding bikes is "Generally, these bikes have frame latches allowing the frame to be collapsed, and smaller wheels." What they mean by "generally speaking" is that latches and small wheels are typical of folding bikes, but--as that clearly implies--there are exceptions. My standard frame, with its full-sized wheels, rinko'd and packed in a bag that falls withing the size and weight limits, is one of those exceptions That's my position, and I am sticking to it.. My advice is not to overthink this.
__________________
www.redclovercomponents.com

"Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long."
--Ogden Nash
jonwvara is offline  
Old 02-15-23, 11:22 AM
  #78  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 11,172

Bikes: 1961 Ideor, 1966 Perfekt 3 Speed AB Hub, 1994 Bridgestone MB-6, 2006 Airnimal Joey, 2009 Thorn Sherpa, 2013 Thorn Nomad MkII, 2015 VO Pass Hunter, 2017 Lynskey Backroad, 2017 Raleigh Gran Prix, 1980s Bianchi Mixte on a trainer. Others are now gone.

Mentioned: 47 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3450 Post(s)
Liked 1,449 Times in 1,130 Posts
Originally Posted by jonwvara
I think you are correct about Amtrak not caring how a particular bike gets small. They shouldn't care, and as far as my experience goes, they don't care. The key wording in the Amtrak quote about folding bikes is "Generally, these bikes have frame latches allowing the frame to be collapsed, and smaller wheels." What they mean by "generally speaking" is that latches and small wheels are typical of folding bikes, but--as that clearly implies--there are exceptions. My standard frame, with its full-sized wheels, rinko'd and packed in a bag that falls withing the size and weight limits, is one of those exceptions That's my position, and I am sticking to it.. My advice is not to overthink this.
I suspect that most of the time, your bike in a bag would pass. But I have met some Amtrak employees with authoritarian complex. Those of us on this forum are not the ones you have to convince, it is the Amtrak employee that wants to show how much power he has that can block you, and they have some of them.
Tourist in MSN is offline  
Old 02-15-23, 11:38 AM
  #79  
Senior Member
 
jonwvara's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Washington County, Vermont, USA
Posts: 3,769

Bikes: 1966 Dawes Double Blue, 1976 Raleigh Gran Sport, 1975 Raleigh Sprite 27, 1980 Univega Viva Sport, 1971 Gitane Tour de France, 1984 Lotus Classique, 1976 Motobecane Grand Record

Mentioned: 77 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 760 Post(s)
Liked 650 Times in 345 Posts
Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
I suspect that most of the time, your bike in a bag would pass. But I have met some Amtrak employees with authoritarian complex. Those of us on this forum are not the ones you have to convince, it is the Amtrak employee that wants to show how much power he has that can block you, and they have some of them.
That's a good point. I understand that conductors have broad discretion. A rogue one, I suppose, could refuse to let a person board for any reason, or no reason. But how common is that? I ask that in perfect ignorance, never having run into such a person, although it sounds like you haven't been so lucky. Rightly or wrongly, I tend to regard that risk as roughly comparable to that of an unseasonable blizzard or a flash flood that undermines a stretch of tracks--in short, as one of those unavoidable but low-probability risks of traveling anywhere. Possibly I am a fool.
__________________
www.redclovercomponents.com

"Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long."
--Ogden Nash

Last edited by jonwvara; 02-15-23 at 11:44 AM.
jonwvara is offline  
Old 02-15-23, 01:11 PM
  #80  
Senior Member
 
robow's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 3,866
Mentioned: 14 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 595 Post(s)
Liked 281 Times in 192 Posts
And after all is said and done, isn't it a wonderful feeling when you've got your bike and all your bags on board, and you're seated, and that train just starts to roll. I'm sure I'm not the only one on here that has experienced that sigh of relief.
robow is offline  
Likes For robow:
Old 02-15-23, 01:35 PM
  #81  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 11,172

Bikes: 1961 Ideor, 1966 Perfekt 3 Speed AB Hub, 1994 Bridgestone MB-6, 2006 Airnimal Joey, 2009 Thorn Sherpa, 2013 Thorn Nomad MkII, 2015 VO Pass Hunter, 2017 Lynskey Backroad, 2017 Raleigh Gran Prix, 1980s Bianchi Mixte on a trainer. Others are now gone.

Mentioned: 47 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3450 Post(s)
Liked 1,449 Times in 1,130 Posts
Originally Posted by jonwvara
That's a good point. I understand that conductors have broad discretion. A rogue one, I suppose, could refuse to let a person board for any reason, or no reason. But how common is that? I ask that in perfect ignorance, never having run into such a person, although it sounds like you haven't been so lucky. Rightly or wrongly, I tend to regard that risk as roughly comparable to that of an unseasonable blizzard or a flash flood that undermines a stretch of tracks--in short, as one of those unavoidable but low-probability risks of traveling anywhere. Possibly I am a fool.
The closest Amtrak station, the first time I took a bike on the train, I got there two hours early to make sure I had time to pack my bike in the box, needed to buy the box. The station manager (sole employee at that station) said he was busy prepping for an IMPORTANT conference call, would help me later. An hour and a half later I found him, he said that he did not have time to look for a box. Then he looked at his watch and said I needed to get there 45 mintutes before the train if I needed help, and it was only 30 minutes. Before he could tell me I could not get on the train, I pointed out to him that I had been waiting for an hour and a half because he refused to help me earlier. That of course pissed him off, but he no longer had an excuse to block me. Found the box. I packed the bike. I strapped two panniers together to be a carry on. He said I can't do that because the strap might not hold. He said I would have to pay for baggage for one of the panniers. I found a duffle in my vehicle that I did not plan to bring, put both of my panniers in that duffle. He then picked it up and said it was too heavy. I said my luggage scale said it was not. He then said he would let it pass this time.

Yeah, I am not kidding.

On other trips, I have seen him be that obnoxious with others too. I do not know where he is now, but no longer worked at that station as of about six years ago. I had trouble with him on several other occasions, I just tried to avoid pissing him off and never got any more threats of being blocked from boarding the train.

I have also had very good luck with some Amtrak staff. Their website blocked us from carrying bikes on a bus that we bought the bus ticket from Amtrak. The conductor let us use her phone to call a special number, not a number that the public has access to, to get that straightened out so we could get our bikes on the bus to get home after we got to Chicago on the train.
Tourist in MSN is offline  
Old 02-15-23, 01:37 PM
  #82  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 11,172

Bikes: 1961 Ideor, 1966 Perfekt 3 Speed AB Hub, 1994 Bridgestone MB-6, 2006 Airnimal Joey, 2009 Thorn Sherpa, 2013 Thorn Nomad MkII, 2015 VO Pass Hunter, 2017 Lynskey Backroad, 2017 Raleigh Gran Prix, 1980s Bianchi Mixte on a trainer. Others are now gone.

Mentioned: 47 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3450 Post(s)
Liked 1,449 Times in 1,130 Posts
Originally Posted by robow
And after all is said and done, isn't it a wonderful feeling when you've got your bike and all your bags on board, and you're seated, and that train just starts to roll. I'm sure I'm not the only one on here that has experienced that sigh of relief.
And you can stretch out your legs, unlike most airplanes. And you reach for the seatbelt and there is none.
Tourist in MSN is offline  
Old 02-15-23, 01:39 PM
  #83  
mev
bicycle tourist
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Austin, Texas, USA
Posts: 2,294

Bikes: Trek 520, Lightfoot Ranger, Trek 4500

Mentioned: 13 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 470 Post(s)
Liked 261 Times in 176 Posts
Originally Posted by jonwvara
A rogue one, I suppose, could refuse to let a person board for any reason, or no reason. But how common is that? I ask that in perfect ignorance, never having run into such a person, although it sounds like you haven't been so lucky.
For what it is worth - in my Amtrak interactions I haven't noticed a larger percentage of authoritarians in that role than in other customer service situations. There are and will be people in situations where they see the most important part of their interaction as enforcing the rule than of specifically meeting customer needs. My approach when I encounter them is typically the same:

1. Figure out if this is a common issue or more an interpretation of a boundary condition.
- If it is a common condition - e.g. everyone is trying to bring on bicycles that don't fit
- it can be more difficult than if it is a one-off condition, e.g. this is a rare time they encounter a bicycle disassembling and the instinctive response is "no"

2. Recognize early when it becomes futile to challenge their authority to make a decision...
- If you turn a confrontation about handling a bicycle into one where you are challenging their authority to make and choose rules - you've lost. Folks get defensive and the situation doesn't improve
- Always remain polite, but insistent. At times use quiet cues of your insistence. For example, rather than getting a rejection and going away - I would still be there with my bike since I still have the issue.
- Be slightly clueless if it helps

3. Turn things into a problem solving exercise and enlist their help
- While you can't over-ride their authority - you can appeal to their sense of helping to solve a problem. For example, if not getting on board means you won't be able to get home, I would point that out and ask for advice on how to avoid being stranded. I might turn slightly clueless and have them help me figure things out, e.g. perhaps ask if this could be done on the next train or it not why not, etc.

I'm not sure I will be successful but I can illustrate the techniques in using an entirely different experience I had in trying to do something "against the rules" but still getting through. In this case, what I was trying to do is cross the border from Poland to Kaliningrad on my bicycle...

1. I came up to the Russian border station with my bike and the immediate response was "no you can't cross the border with your bike..."
2. I stayed polite but also a little clueless, "why?" and using less Russian than I otherwise knew...I also stayed right there rather than going away.
3. As that conversation seemed to be stuck, the guards summoned back to their superiors and someone drove up in a car to the gate station
4. The supervisor carefully explained in English that this crossing was for vehicles and no pedestrians (or bicycles) were allowed...
5. I asked why once more but then quickly pivoted into problem solving mode. I pointed out that I was trying to get to Kaliningrad and didn't know how I could do this if the border was closed.
6. They tried to be a little helpful and made some suggestions, e.g. I could cross via train or with a car...
7. I was a little more clueless and explained I wasn't sure how I would do this or for example where I would find a car to cross...
8. At this point the supervisor became even more helpful in problem solving mode...they essentially went to the next mini-van driver in line and told him he needed to take me across the border.
9. The driver grumbled but as we introduced each other and I explained my goals (cycling across Russia including via Novosibirsk, his home town) we were best of friends two kilometers later when he let me off past the border.
10. In none of this was I ever impolite, visibly angry or challenging their authority. I stayed calm, insistent and appealed as someone who had a problem and they could help.

Now those aren't exactly the same situation but if I encounter an Amtrak conductor or others with their rigid approach to rules and particularly interpretation of them - I'll try a similar approach. It may not work, but hopefully it doesn't make things worse.
mev is offline  
Likes For mev:
Old 02-15-23, 02:44 PM
  #84  
tcs
Palmer
 
tcs's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Parts Unknown
Posts: 8,599

Bikes: Mike Melton custom, Alex Moulton AM, Dahon Curl

Mentioned: 37 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1657 Post(s)
Liked 1,803 Times in 1,050 Posts
I very much encourage every American cyclist who has dropped the coin for a coupler or 'rinko' bike to take just a minute and a half to contact Adventure Cycling Association...

https://www.adventurecycling.org/advocacy/train-travel/

"We know how hard it can be to travel with your bike on Amtrak and we want to hear what issues are important to you. "

...explain the issue and work on getting a written policy/letter from Amtrak ok'ing any bike packed into 34" x 15" x 48" (860 x 380 x 1120 mm) for carry-on.

A rogue conductor might argue with you, but I have a suspicion they won't argue with a letter from Secretary of Transportation Buttigieg.

Fun fact: Adventure Cycling claimed to have been the driving force behind more bike space on Amtrak's refreshed/updated rolling stock on the Vermonter,
Northeast Regional routes, the Keystone Service, Downeaster, and Hartford Line routes.
tcs is offline  
Old 02-15-23, 02:54 PM
  #85  
tcs
Palmer
 
tcs's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Parts Unknown
Posts: 8,599

Bikes: Mike Melton custom, Alex Moulton AM, Dahon Curl

Mentioned: 37 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1657 Post(s)
Liked 1,803 Times in 1,050 Posts
Originally Posted by mev
There are and will be people in situations where they see the most important part of their interaction as enforcing the rule than of specifically meeting customer needs. My approach when I encounter them is typically the same:
"It's a bribe to offer money to get someone to do something they shouldn't. To offer money to get someone to do something they should is tipping." - advice from a business ethics training course
tcs is offline  
Old 02-15-23, 03:26 PM
  #86  
Cantilever believer
 
RCMoeur's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2021
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 1,524
Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 519 Post(s)
Liked 1,783 Times in 809 Posts
Originally Posted by jonwvara
I think you are correct about Amtrak not caring how a particular bike gets small. They shouldn't care, and as far as my experience goes, they don't care. The key wording in the Amtrak quote about folding bikes is "Generally, these bikes have frame latches allowing the frame to be collapsed, and smaller wheels." What they mean by "generally speaking" is that latches and small wheels are typical of folding bikes, but--as that clearly implies--there are exceptions. My standard frame, with its full-sized wheels, rinko'd and packed in a bag that falls withing the size and weight limits, is one of those exceptions That's my position, and I am sticking to it.. My advice is not to overthink this.
Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
I suspect that most of the time, your bike in a bag would pass. But I have met some Amtrak employees with authoritarian complex. Those of us on this forum are not the ones you have to convince, it is the Amtrak employee that wants to show how much power he has that can block you, and they have some of them.
Originally Posted by jonwvara
That's a good point. I understand that conductors have broad discretion. A rogue one, I suppose, could refuse to let a person board for any reason, or no reason. But how common is that? I ask that in perfect ignorance, never having run into such a person, although it sounds like you haven't been so lucky. Rightly or wrongly, I tend to regard that risk as roughly comparable to that of an unseasonable blizzard or a flash flood that undermines a stretch of tracks--in short, as one of those unavoidable but low-probability risks of traveling anywhere. Possibly I am a fool.
That was my experience on Amtrak (several years ago). All it takes is one conductor or baggage / service person saying "That bike might fold, but I say it doesn't meet the criteria, and it ain't going on the train." I was able to prevail after some effort and stress (and having a printed copy of the current rules), but it's an experience I would prefer not to repeat. Note that this was Northeast Corridor, with no roll-on / roll-off or other special bike service as used on the Coaster and other routes.
__________________
Richard C. Moeur, PE - Phoenix AZ, USA
https://www.richardcmoeur.com/bikestuf.html
RCMoeur is offline  
Old 02-15-23, 04:20 PM
  #87  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 11,172

Bikes: 1961 Ideor, 1966 Perfekt 3 Speed AB Hub, 1994 Bridgestone MB-6, 2006 Airnimal Joey, 2009 Thorn Sherpa, 2013 Thorn Nomad MkII, 2015 VO Pass Hunter, 2017 Lynskey Backroad, 2017 Raleigh Gran Prix, 1980s Bianchi Mixte on a trainer. Others are now gone.

Mentioned: 47 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3450 Post(s)
Liked 1,449 Times in 1,130 Posts
Many months ago, someone asked specifically what size my folding bike will get down to, as they were considering buying one. I was not busy at the time so I dug it out to measure, if anyone is curious to see it folded, it is at:
folding bike versus road bike

That bike when folded is bigger than my Ritchey Breakaway when the frame is split. But my Ritchey (badged as a Raleigh) is not a folder, so I would be hesitant to try to take that on Amtrak.
Tourist in MSN is offline  
Old 02-15-23, 06:04 PM
  #88  
Senior Member
 
jonwvara's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Washington County, Vermont, USA
Posts: 3,769

Bikes: 1966 Dawes Double Blue, 1976 Raleigh Gran Sport, 1975 Raleigh Sprite 27, 1980 Univega Viva Sport, 1971 Gitane Tour de France, 1984 Lotus Classique, 1976 Motobecane Grand Record

Mentioned: 77 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 760 Post(s)
Liked 650 Times in 345 Posts
I have been both enjoying this thread and learning from it. My preference for train travel has much to do with the fact that I'm pretty tall--which makes long flights an ordeal--but I also just like trains.

A few additional observations:

1. If you plan to take a rinko bike on the train, pack it up in the park outside, or somewhere else out of sight, and only bring it into the station once it's fully packed and ready to go. If Amtrak personnel see you using tools to make your bike smaller, that could potentially call into question whether it is a "true folding bike."

2. Put the bike in a bag. I use a big 3- or 4-mil industrial poly bag (I bought a roll of them years ago, and now can't remember the thickness) . It's durable enough to let me use the same bag going and coming for each tour. It protects the bike pretty well, assuming that the frame and wheels are tightly strapped together. Since you can see the bike through the bag, it would be easy to take a tape measure to it and confirm that it is within the size limits (no one has ever asked). The "Rinko Folder" decal on the down tube--something that I just made up--could also be useful as a way of confirming that it is, in fact, "true folding bike". Again, no one has ever questioned me on this point.. It's inconceivable to me that someone would ask me to unpack the bike looking for--what? Some kind of smoking-gun evidence that it's not a "true folding bike?" In any case, they would not find such evidence--it does not exist.

3. For ease in carrying, I use a pencil or some other convenient object to poke a couple of small holes through the plastic bag next to the head tube, and knot a short loop of parachute cord through the frame. Then I clip a shoulder strap to the loop. It makes carrying the packed bike very convenient. It would otherwise be troublesome to get a grip on it anywhere.

4. I second what others have said or implied about keeping a low profile. Don't ask anyone at the station for help or information (other than ordinary questions about where the train boards, etc.). As the say in Japan, "the nail that sticks up is hammered down." The impression you want to convey is that you have things well in hand, are doing something that you have done many times before, and that it's manifestly correct and aboveboard. Project an air of quiet competence.

5. One potentially unsolvable problem that could in theory arise would be if the train pulls into the station and there are already seven folding bikes on board, and no room left for yours. Not sure how Amtrak would handle that one. It could happen, I guess, but it doesn't seem very likely. This would be getting into Act of God territory.

6. I started traveling by train with a rinko bike because the Northeast routes I was likely to travel on didn't have racks for assembled bikes. That was just half a dozen years ago. Now they do have racks, and that's the option I used in traveling from New York Penn Station to Newark, Delaware and back last fall. Not having to break the bike down was convenient. My only reservation about traveling with an assembled bike is that the station stops (on the route I was on, at least--not sure if this is true everywhere) were really brief, like a minute or two at most. I was okay because I anticipated the coming stop, left my seat and unstrapped my bike from the rack, installed the front wheel, and crouched in the open area next to the aisle in back until the train stopped, then scrammed. If I had waited for the train to stop before getting the bike off the rack and installing the wheel, I would never have gotten off in time. With a folded-up bike, you just pick it up at the last minute and saunter off--much less stressful.


__________________
www.redclovercomponents.com

"Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long."
--Ogden Nash

Last edited by jonwvara; 02-15-23 at 07:21 PM.
jonwvara is offline  
Likes For jonwvara:
Old 02-15-23, 06:50 PM
  #89  
tcs
Palmer
 
tcs's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Parts Unknown
Posts: 8,599

Bikes: Mike Melton custom, Alex Moulton AM, Dahon Curl

Mentioned: 37 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1657 Post(s)
Liked 1,803 Times in 1,050 Posts
Originally Posted by jonwvara
One potentially unsolvable problem that could in theory arise would be if the train pulls into the station and there are already seven folding bikes on board, and no room left for yours. Not sure how Amtrak would handle that one.
A 'smaller than 34" x 15" x 48" (860 x 380 x 1120 mm)' bike is just another piece of carry-on luggage. What would they do if the eight of you had your folding bikes stowed and subsequently a theater troop boarded with their packed sets, costumes and props? Too much carry-on luggage on every car on the train? Hmph. Wonder if that's ever happened in Amtrak's 52 years?


Fun fact: system-wide, in December 2022 Amtrak transported 80% of the passenger-miles that it did in December 2019 (pre-pandemic baseline). (Federal Transit Administration)


Off the Texas Eagle and waiting on the Red Line.



Last edited by tcs; 02-15-23 at 07:05 PM.
tcs is offline  
Old 02-15-23, 07:25 PM
  #90  
Senior Member
 
jonwvara's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Washington County, Vermont, USA
Posts: 3,769

Bikes: 1966 Dawes Double Blue, 1976 Raleigh Gran Sport, 1975 Raleigh Sprite 27, 1980 Univega Viva Sport, 1971 Gitane Tour de France, 1984 Lotus Classique, 1976 Motobecane Grand Record

Mentioned: 77 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 760 Post(s)
Liked 650 Times in 345 Posts
Originally Posted by tcs
A 'smaller than 34" x 15" x 48" (860 x 380 x 1120 mm)' bike is just another piece of carry-on luggage. What would they do if the eight of you had your folding bikes stowed and subsequently a theater troop boarded with their packed sets, costumes and props? Too much carry-on luggage on every car on the train? Hmph. Wonder if that's ever happened in Amtrak's 52 years?
Yeah, and add a couple of guys with tubas and bass viols. My guess is that the first person to try to board after all the storage space is filled up is out of luck--the musical chairs principle, so to say. But that's just a guess. And I don't know how often that happens, if it ever does.
__________________
www.redclovercomponents.com

"Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long."
--Ogden Nash

Last edited by jonwvara; 02-15-23 at 07:29 PM.
jonwvara is offline  
Old 02-16-23, 06:24 AM
  #91  
Senior Member
 
staehpj1's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Tallahassee, FL
Posts: 11,865
Mentioned: 7 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1250 Post(s)
Liked 753 Times in 560 Posts
Originally Posted by jonwvara
I have been both enjoying this thread and learning from it. My preference for train travel has much to do with the fact that I'm pretty tall--which makes long flights an ordeal--but I also just like trains.
IME long rides on either can be an ordeal. I was kind of surprised just how uncomfortable I found the Amtrak seats. At least you can get up and walk around, but I felt pretty beat up and tired after a long amtrak ride, worse than a similar length flight. Also a train ride will inevitably be MUCH longer. I have tried to use amtrak mostly because I want to like train travel, but somehow it manages to disappoint even on shortish routes. I can only imagine what an ordeal 3 days on a train to get coast to coast would be unless you spend $$$ for a roomette.
staehpj1 is offline  
Old 02-16-23, 07:36 AM
  #92  
mev
bicycle tourist
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Austin, Texas, USA
Posts: 2,294

Bikes: Trek 520, Lightfoot Ranger, Trek 4500

Mentioned: 13 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 470 Post(s)
Liked 261 Times in 176 Posts
Originally Posted by staehpj1
IME long rides on either can be an ordeal. I was kind of surprised just how uncomfortable I found the Amtrak seats. At least you can get up and walk around, but I felt pretty beat up and tired after a long amtrak ride, worse than a similar length flight. Also a train ride will inevitably be MUCH longer. I have tried to use amtrak mostly because I want to like train travel, but somehow it manages to disappoint even on shortish routes. I can only imagine what an ordeal 3 days on a train to get coast to coast would be unless you spend $$$ for a roomette.
Complete opposite comparison for me on Amtrak seating vs airline seating.

This past summer I took a trip to Timor Leste where each direction was ~23 hours of flying time on four hops (Austin/LAX/Manila/Bali/Dili) + layover time. Timor-Leste has the world's shortest average population (https://www.insider.com/shortest-peo...country-2019-6) and airline seats on flights to/from were literally spaced too close for me to sit without slanting my legs (I'm 6'4"). Fortunately flight crew noticed this and moved me to an exit row. Fourteen hours in a window seat across the Pacific fits but is a lot more claustrophobic when everyone slants down the seats.

I would much rather have 23 hours of train travel where I can walk around, and seats are both wider and spaced far enough apart that I can have use the tray table if person in front reclines. Not the most comfortable sleep, but I can also sleep better in a train overnight than I can on an airline flight. Often some of the train route parallels a ride I've either done or am about to do - so during the daytime interesting to see the landscapes again or get out a book and read.
mev is offline  
Old 02-16-23, 08:43 AM
  #93  
tcs
Palmer
 
tcs's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Parts Unknown
Posts: 8,599

Bikes: Mike Melton custom, Alex Moulton AM, Dahon Curl

Mentioned: 37 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1657 Post(s)
Liked 1,803 Times in 1,050 Posts
Originally Posted by staehpj1
IME long rides on either can be an ordeal.
State of the art (start @ 3:45):

tcs is offline  
Old 02-16-23, 12:02 PM
  #94  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 11,172

Bikes: 1961 Ideor, 1966 Perfekt 3 Speed AB Hub, 1994 Bridgestone MB-6, 2006 Airnimal Joey, 2009 Thorn Sherpa, 2013 Thorn Nomad MkII, 2015 VO Pass Hunter, 2017 Lynskey Backroad, 2017 Raleigh Gran Prix, 1980s Bianchi Mixte on a trainer. Others are now gone.

Mentioned: 47 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3450 Post(s)
Liked 1,449 Times in 1,130 Posts
Originally Posted by jonwvara
I have been both enjoying this thread and learning from it. My preference for train travel has much to do with the fact that I'm pretty tall--which makes long flights an ordeal--but I also just like trains.

A few additional observations:
...
...
...
I think you have it figured out. Very good post for this topic, thanks for writing it.

I would like it if they were more clear that the bike does not have to have a folding mechanism, it just has to be small enough to fit the dimensions. I could see my Ritchey Break Away looking even more compact than yours if it was wrapped up in a sheet of thick plastic and some packing tape.

Regarding seating, I have spent a lot of time in the lounge car. And if on the train overnight, a sleeping bag liner can help.
Tourist in MSN is offline  
Old 02-16-23, 01:48 PM
  #95  
Senior Member
 
adventurepdx's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Portland, Oregon
Posts: 1,027
Mentioned: 4 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 164 Post(s)
Liked 78 Times in 50 Posts
Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
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.
I think the confusion lies in the differences between roll-on/roll-off and trainside checked. Amtrak has improved their bike service so that most lines offer some way of bringing a bike without boxing it, and that's good. But roll-on/roll-off means you roll the bike on and roll it off. The bike hook is in a passenger car, like the California cars I've referenced or the Vermonter that indy depicted.

But roll-on/roll-off typically happens on the shorter distance lines. The longer distance lines have "trainside checked", where you bring the bike to the baggage car and an Amtrak employee loads and unloads the bike for you. And unfortunately that generally happens at stations with baggage service. I was hoping that when Amtrak instituted this service it'd be available anywhere, but it hasn't yet.

There are exceptions, and Amtrak has on their website where you can do trainside checked at stops without baggage service. Amtrak Cascades is a short-distance line that has the bikes in the baggage car, but you can get on/off with the bike at unstaffed stations like Mount Vernon, Washington. It's probably because the Cascades is state funded and Washington and Oregon made sure that bikes can get on and off anywhere on the line.
adventurepdx is offline  
Old 02-16-23, 04:58 PM
  #96  
mev
bicycle tourist
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Austin, Texas, USA
Posts: 2,294

Bikes: Trek 520, Lightfoot Ranger, Trek 4500

Mentioned: 13 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 470 Post(s)
Liked 261 Times in 176 Posts
For what it is worth, on Amtrak's bicycle page - https://www.amtrak.com/bring-your-bicycle-onboard they have listings of trains under two general headings:

"Carry-on Bicycle Service" where "Bicycles must be stored in the designated racks/areas inside Coach passenger cars." and

"Trainside Checked Bicycle Service" where "Passengers are not allowed in baggage cars, so you will hand your bicycle up to an Amtrak crew member inside the baggage car when boarding and they will store and secure your bike in the bike racks."

I have used the term "roll-on/roll-off" to include both Carry-on Bicycle Service and Trainside Checked Bicycle Service. Amtrak might use the term to apply to either as here is an example from 2015 when they initiated service on the Capitol Limited - https://bikepgh.org/2015/09/15/amtra...rvice-is-live/ and you'll find the Capitol Limited in the list for Trainside Checked Bicycle Service.
mev is offline  
Old 02-16-23, 05:29 PM
  #97  
Senior Member
 
adventurepdx's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Portland, Oregon
Posts: 1,027
Mentioned: 4 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 164 Post(s)
Liked 78 Times in 50 Posts
Originally Posted by mev
For what it is worth, on Amtrak's bicycle page - https://www.amtrak.com/bring-your-bicycle-onboard they have listings of trains under two general headings:

"Carry-on Bicycle Service" where "Bicycles must be stored in the designated racks/areas inside Coach passenger cars." and

"Trainside Checked Bicycle Service" where "Passengers are not allowed in baggage cars, so you will hand your bicycle up to an Amtrak crew member inside the baggage car when boarding and they will store and secure your bike in the bike racks."

I have used the term "roll-on/roll-off" to include both Carry-on Bicycle Service and Trainside Checked Bicycle Service
Yeah, the term "roll-on/roll-off" is confusing. It should probably be called "unboxed bike service" in general. Breaking it down between carry-on and Trainside Checked makes more sense.
adventurepdx is offline  
Old 02-17-23, 09:18 AM
  #98  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 11,172

Bikes: 1961 Ideor, 1966 Perfekt 3 Speed AB Hub, 1994 Bridgestone MB-6, 2006 Airnimal Joey, 2009 Thorn Sherpa, 2013 Thorn Nomad MkII, 2015 VO Pass Hunter, 2017 Lynskey Backroad, 2017 Raleigh Gran Prix, 1980s Bianchi Mixte on a trainer. Others are now gone.

Mentioned: 47 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3450 Post(s)
Liked 1,449 Times in 1,130 Posts
Originally Posted by adventurepdx
I think the confusion lies in the differences between roll-on/roll-off and trainside checked. Amtrak has improved their bike service so that most lines offer some way of bringing a bike without boxing it, ....
That is exactly where the confusion lies. All of my Amtrak trips involved boxing a bike except one trip in Missouri where the conductor said to put the bikes in the front row seats. Those trips were all in or before 2014.

And reading various comments on this forum about the new improvements to Amtrak several years ago apparently were about two different kinds of service which I apparently did not grasp at that time.

Where I had read that some people put their bikes inside the car and others handed the bike to Amtrak personnel to put in a rack, I did not realize that those services were different, I assumed that different Amtrak staff did things differently for the same bike service.

I did start planning a trip about five years ago, and it appeared that there was no baggage service and no bike service on one of the trains I would ride, so I started to plan for using my folding bike as carry on, but that trip was getting two complicated when it involved three different trains with needing a motel for one layover. Instead I used an airline for that trip with my S&S bike.

Thanks for your post.
Tourist in MSN is offline  
Old 02-02-24, 10:05 AM
  #99  
Newbie
 
Join Date: May 2019
Location: Berkeley, CA
Posts: 28
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 17 Post(s)
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Sunset limited / Texas eagle

Hi Mev, thanks for posting about your experience! I'm planning to take the sunset limited west from Houston to New Mexico and I'd like to bring my bike with 2.8" tires. Based on your experience, would I need to box it or could I do the trainside checked baggage service? According to amtrak's bike page, the routes through Texas don't allow carry-on bikes, have you found that to be accurate?

Thanks!

Originally Posted by mev
Yes Amtrak has it's problems, but I wouldn't put it in the useless category either for bike touring. Every once in a while I need to anticipate a delay but otherwise it serves a purpose.

I've used it in two general models:
(1) Long distance one-way for not too much when it connects where I want to travel. In last five years I've had five of those trips:
2018 - train from Austin to El Paso. Cycle home.
2018 - train from Minot to Chicago to Austin after driving to Abilene and cycling to Minot
2018 - train from Austin to Texarkana. Cycle to Memphis. Rental car to Memphis and train back to Austin
2019 - train from Austin to Tucson. Cycle to El Paso. Train back to Austin.
2021 - rental car Austin to Albuquerque. Around ABQ a few days with my bike. Train to Chicago. Around CHI for a few days. Train back to Austin.

(2) When I was in a city with a regional route to cycle on part and take a train the other part. When in Portland, I did all the variations of Seattle to Portland, Vancouver to Seattle, Eugene to Portland, Salem to Portland many times on the Pacific Cascades. When I lived in San Jose, I did the SLO back to San Jose four or five times.

I haven't had much issues with employees or customer service in my travels. I've seen occasional long delays (more on long haul routes than short ones) but generally structured my travels so they adjusted.

For most all those trips, Amtrak was a better alternative for me than others either because of cost or ease (e.g. packing/unpacking for airlines - or ability to make short term tickets or one way). In return, I structured my trip keeping in mind Amtrak routes and anticipated some uncertainty in schedule.
adlu is offline  
Old 02-02-24, 12:45 PM
  #100  
mev
bicycle tourist
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Austin, Texas, USA
Posts: 2,294

Bikes: Trek 520, Lightfoot Ranger, Trek 4500

Mentioned: 13 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 470 Post(s)
Liked 261 Times in 176 Posts
Originally Posted by adlu
Hi Mev, thanks for posting about your experience! I'm planning to take the sunset limited west from Houston to New Mexico and I'd like to bring my bike with 2.8" tires. Based on your experience, would I need to box it or could I do the trainside checked baggage service? According to amtrak's bike page, the routes through Texas don't allow carry-on bikes, have you found that to be accurate?

Thanks!
I haven't tried to carry on my bike on Amtrak, only used the trainside baggage service. On the Sunset limited trainside checked baggage only works at stations with baggage service. For example, the Sunset limited stops in Deming, Lordsburg and Benson (AZ). However none of these are baggage stops. The nearest are El Paso TX and Tucson AZ. I used both in 2019 on a trip where I took Amtrak from Austin to Tucson, cycled to El Paso and took Amtrak back from El Paso. So if you want to take your bike on board then I would follow advice of others as far as having a folding bike, etc.

If instead, you want to bring the bike in checked baggage service, then the tires seem to me to be within specs. In any case, the ticket offices open somewhat in advance of the train departure and to use the trainside service I have always reserved a bike slot at the same time I book my ticket. So I show up around the time the checkin happens since (a) I want to check a duffel bag of luggage with my panniers and (b) I need a baggage tag on my bike to hand it to folks doing trainside luggage. I doubt this happens but if there were somehow an issue, the conductor would tell you at time you check in - so I would bring tools to take off pedals and turn handlebars and lower seat just in case. A little later when the train is about to arrive and everyone lines up for boarding, I go out with my bike and most all the time, they already direct me to go to baggage car. I hand my bike to someone in the baggage car. There are hooks in the car, though they don't always hang the bike by the hooks and sometimes just put the bike in the baggage car.
mev is offline  
Likes For mev:

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service -

Copyright © 2024 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.