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Bikes on Amtrak

Old 02-03-24, 04:37 AM
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Originally Posted by robow
I've probably taken Amtrak with my bicycle in tow a dozen times or more and I swear, each experience is never the same, even making use of the same rail line or route and only a few years apart. That being said, I have never had someone take a tape measure to my bike or tires as generally they're in a hurry to get that train a movin'
This has been my experience also. If the bike is reasonably close to the spec's it will ride, they aren't going to measure the bike, but I suppose if you go on with a really big fat tire bike it may be a problem. If you have a reservation for the bike they will want to load it and move on. The train personnel have more to worry about...most of the time.

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Old 02-03-24, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by irwin7638
but I suppose if you go on with a really big fat tire bike it may be a problem.
It very much can be if the bike needs to be hung. The hooks have limited capacity.

I have had to deflate my rear, 37c tire while hanging a bike on the Vermonter, which has roll-on service. Had to re-inflate the tire before riding to the hotel.

When I took the Pennsylvania (train-side checked) to Pittsburgh, I was sure the baggage handler was going to break a spoke as she struggled to get the bike down from the hook.
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Old 02-03-24, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz

I have had to deflate my rear, 37c tire while hanging a bike on the Vermonter, which has roll-on service. Had to re-inflate the tire before riding to the hotel.
Could you carry with you a small piece of rope or a couple feet of 1" web strap that you could run thru your wheel and then hang that on a hook ? Or would that be against regulation 24 B176. Section 138 and paragraph 12

Last edited by robow; 02-03-24 at 11:12 AM.
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Old 02-03-24, 11:41 AM
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I said something incorrect and deleted it after the fact.

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Old 02-03-24, 12:19 PM
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The thing with the hooks that you hang your rear wheel on in the Amtrak cars with roll-on bike service is that they are in what is otherwise a large luggage storage area (with a shelf in the middle you flip out of the way). The hook is a bit less than 5 feet up, 3 feet inside that luggage box thing, and designed by a person who did not care if it worked very well.

It is just plain awkward, and a huge pain, both putting the bike on, and also getting it back out, and then putting the front wheel back on so you can leave the train. The latter especially fun when your train has taken on the passengers from the previous train that had some problem, and the aisle next to the luggage/bike rack is thus packed with grumpy people.

I have had no issue with various 40-something x 700c tires getting on the hook with air in them. It is definitely a two-handed process getting the bike on, or off, the hook. There is no way you could easily hang your wheel from something else instead of the hook, that would just make it worse, and the hook is already quite low (which is why you have to remove your front wheel).

As far as knowing what trains take bikes, and on what terms, when you are selecting trains on the Amtrak site, click on the name of the train service, like Vermonter or whatever. There will be a services menu in the pop-up describing that train, and it will list what ways of getting a bike onboard are available. These days there nearly always is some way of doing so, although they may limit the number of bikes per train. Roll-on is best because it works for boarding and exiting at every stop. Bike in a box, and luggage-car roll-on services are only available at some stops, which obviously must include your starting and stopping points. The train services menu will tell you which stops are checked baggage stops.

When you buy your ticket, if there is a check box for "Add bike", you check it, pay $20, and do what the conductors tell you to do with the bike. If there is no check box, either you have picked a train that has no bike service, or all the bike slots are sold out already. If you are traveling between two checked-baggage stations, and if the station you are starting at has bike boxes, you can still do bike-in-a-box, which is also $20, including the box.

Last edited by ignant666; 02-03-24 at 12:30 PM.
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Old 02-03-24, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by ignant666
The thing with the hooks that you hang your rear wheel on in the Amtrak cars with roll-on bike service is that they are in what is otherwise a large luggage storage area (with a shelf in the middle you flip out of the way). The hook is a bit less than 5 feet up, 3 feet inside that luggage box thing, and designed by a person who did not care if it worked very well.

It is just plain awkward, and a huge pain, both putting the bike on, and also getting it back out, and then putting the front wheel back on so you can leave the train. The latter especially fun when your train has taken on the passengers from the previous train that had some problem, and the aisle next to the luggage/bike rack is thus packed with grumpy people.

I have had no issue with various 40-something x 700c tires getting on the hook with air in them. It is definitely a two-handed process getting the bike on, or off, the hook. There is no way you could easily hang your wheel from something else instead of the hook, that would just make it worse, and the hook is already quite low (which is why you have to remove your front wheel).

As far as knowing what trains take bikes, and on what terms, when you are selecting trains on the Amtrak site, click on the name of the train service, like Vermonter or whatever. There will be a services menu in the pop-up describing that train, and it will list what ways of getting a bike onboard are available. These days there nearly always is some way of doing so, although they may limit the number of bikes per train. Roll-on is best because it works for boarding and exiting at every stop. Bike in a box, and luggage-car roll-on services are only available at some stops, which obviously must include your starting and stopping points. The train services menu will tell you which stops are checked baggage stops.

When you buy your ticket, if there is a check box for "Add bike", you check it, pay $20, and do what the conductors tell you to do with the bike. If there is no check box, either you have picked a train that has no bike service, or all the bike slots are sold out already. If you are traveling between two checked-baggage stations, and if the station you are starting at has bike boxes, you can still do bike-in-a-box, which is also $20, including the box.
Thank you for the time it took to write a good description.
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Old 02-03-24, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
I do not know what the hooks look like in Amtrak luggage cars, but if they are like the hooks in my basement that I hang bikes and wheels from, I am using my two arms to hold the bike up when I hang it from the hook that is well above my head.
For what it is worth, in over a dozen times using Amtrak trainside luggage, I have never been the one in the baggage car hanging the bike. Instead, I've been the one lifting the bike up and handing it to a staff member in the car - or on the reverse receiving my bicycle handed down from a staff member. This accounts for my Amtrak travel on:
- Sunset Limited
- Texas Eagle
- Empire Builder
- Southwest Chief
- Capital Corridor
- Cascades (though that may have changed after I used it)
All fairly similar but handing things to staff in all my experiences...

So these questions about alternate ways of hanging things in an Amtrak baggage car, one needs to keep in mind that most likely you are *not* the person hanging the bike. Also as I mentioned before, the staff doesn't always hang my bicycle. Probably half the time, they lean the bike with other luggage in the car.

That is different from train cars where I bring my bike into the car with me - either in special location in a cafe car - or hanging in an area in the same train car that I travel. In that case, I have been the one placing my bicycle. It has also been slightly different exactly where/how. This accounts for trips on:
- Wolverine
- Pacific Surfliner
- Downeaster
Where each has been slightly different.

There are also trains like the Coast Starlight where I have only boxed my bicycle and understand didn't have roll on/roll off service when I checked them four months ago to travel from Seattle to LAX. In that case, rather than box my bike, I took the Empire Builder to Chicago and Texas Eagle to Austin.
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Old 02-03-24, 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by robow
Could you carry with you a small piece of rope or a couple feet of 1" web strap that you could run thru your wheel and then hang that on a hook ? Or would that be against regulation 24 B176. Section 138 and paragraph 12
The cubbies on the Vermonter are nit that tall, and I think they differ slightly depending on the car. The first time I took it I had to remove the front wheel to get my long wheelbase bike to fit easily.

This was during my 2022 ride from St. Albans, VT back to Brattleboro. A bit hard to see, but the rear tire is partially deflated. Walked the bike a relatively short distance back to long term parking.

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Old 02-03-24, 06:50 PM
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I understand now why that wouldn't work. The last time I had to hang my bike was in an open baggage car in DC in route to Pittsburgh and we had much more room as the hooks were along a wall with no dividers and a cinch to stabilize them. Also they were held much higher. Below is the way the River Runner route has worked the last two times I have taken it and I'm hoping it will be the same this fall as I plan on making use of it again. On only one car, they have left out a single seat so as to accommodate their 4 bike maximum.

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Old 02-03-24, 07:40 PM
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This "Taking Your Bike on Amtrak Webinar" was created since this thread's inception:


Survey, tips and links:

https://bikeleague.org/take-action/p.../bikes-amtrak/
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Old 02-03-24, 08:08 PM
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Originally Posted by robow
On only one car, they have left out a single seat so as to accommodate their 4 bike maximum.
Whats frustrating about the Vermonter is that there are 3 cubbies on the train, which is more than 3 cars, and each cubby is in a different car. Unless youre boarding at the origin or destination, you have to look for a car with a bike symbol as it pulls into the station. But since the cubbies are not assigned, the one on the car you choose might be occupied. If it is, you have to leave your bike, walk to find a vacant one, then go back for your bike and walk through the narrow aisles. Not easy.
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Old 02-03-24, 09:43 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs
This "Taking Your Bike on Amtrak Webinar" was created since this thread's inception
Big Brother is watching us.
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Old 02-04-24, 10:26 AM
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If you have a private room/cabin on an Amtrac train, is there room for a bike and can you bring it in with you?
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Old 02-04-24, 10:59 AM
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My educated guess, based on lots of Amtrak riding, and reading their rules (which don't mention that this is allowed): Probably not, and almost certainly not.

Note that folding bikes can go on any train at any time as regular luggage, and probably would fit in the compartment.
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Old 02-04-24, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by WaveyGravey
If you have a private room/cabin on an Amtrac (sic) train, is there room for a bike and can you bring it in with you?
I've used the sleeper cars in Amtrak and this is my experience:
  1. Roomette, the smallest/cheapest: Ain't no way a full-size bike is going to fit in there. A folding bike in folding mode may, but it's moot point since you can store it in the baggage area in the car.
  2. Family bedroom: Since this car spans the width of the car, a regular size bike should be able to fit. But you won't have room for other people (maybe two people max) and you'll be tripping over it a lot. Plus, the sleeping car attendant will need to get into the room to convert from day use (seats) to night use (beds), and the bikes will have to be moved somewhere. You can't leave it in the hallway, too narrow and would block other people's cabins. Putting it in the vestibule may block access to the bathrooms. Etc.
  3. Other bedrooms: Never used them, maybe enough room for a bike, but see number 2 above.
  4. And this is all dependent whether you can get a bike on.
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Old 02-06-24, 05:36 AM
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I haven't read most posts. Took amtrak with bike in 2021. Bike in checked baggage would have cost $10, not bad at all, but not able to be checked at smaller stations. You might be able to get off at a smaller station, I think I recall someone notifying the conductor beforehand and they were able to pull their bag off. Thus, I did this:



That view of the baggage shelf in the passenger car was on the way back. Outbound I was running a bit late and arrived at the station after bag check had closed, took the panniers off and folded the bike, got on board and put all in open (no-seats) area normally reserved for wheelchairs, never got hassled. Outbound was in "normal" passenger cars, return trip was on the taller cars with roof windows, supposed to be better, not really, AND, and the luggage area was at door level down the stairs, so at every stop I went down and kept an eye on the bike, lest someone quickly offload and make off with it.

Regarding luggage, I had both rear panniers strapped together as (#1) checked or carryon bag, both front panniers strapped together as (#2) checked or carryon bag, and a backpack as (#3) bag. I think you are allowed two checked bags and one carryon, that was my plan outbound but too late to check, and there was plenty of room in the car for all. Coming back I checked both sets of panniers and brought the bike and backpack on board.

Really easy, much easier than flying, requiring taking apart (even my folder) to meet checked bag size, put it in a bag, and then at my destination, if touring, figuring some place to stash the bike shipping bag. Problem is, about a half-day on the train was all my butt could handle on those hard seats. I'd like to do a train trip, with some train sections, broken up by days of biking, but may not be economical, versus flying.

Also, for both outbound and return, I had a shuttle bus out to the coast (incredibly cheap), checked beforehand that their bike rack could do a 20" wheel bike, yes. Get there, no. The bike rack holds the bike by the front wheel, and my front rack blocks that. No problem, folded the bike, brought on the shortbus with my bags, put in the wheelchair section, though could have also held it near my knees.

Last edited by Duragrouch; 02-06-24 at 05:42 AM.
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Old 02-06-24, 09:11 AM
  #117  
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Originally Posted by WaveyGravey
If you have a private room/cabin on an Amtrac train, is there room for a bike and can you bring it in with you?
No space in a rooomette. The entire dimensions are 3.5ft by 6.5ft (https://www.amtrak.com/difference-be...ette-a-bedroom). In that are two seats facing each other and above a bunk that folds down.

Logistically there will be a problem with the "can you bring it" question. When I've traveled, there is one attendant for each sleeping car. That might have 10 roomettes in one half, five or six bedrooms in the other and then downstairs an end room, a set of bathrooms/showers and some luggage space. That is their entire domain and they tend to be present when you check in, helping convert seats to beds, etc. So you can't expect to sneak on a bicycle onto such a sleeping car. I suspect most attendants would discourage/redirect you to carry the bicycle somewhere else. So we're back to the folding bicycles can probably work but something larger I wouldn't expect to bring into a sleeping car - even if technically speaking you might be able to collapse things to fit in a family bedroom...
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Old 02-06-24, 10:03 AM
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Thanks so much for all the tips! I really appreciate the voice of experience.

My plan is to do the Great Divide offroad route, so I want to take my Surly Ogre, no folding bike on this trip. Since none of the NM stops are baggage stops, it looks like my only option is to get off at El Paso and bike to the route. It's about 150 miles on pavement, hopefully there's a route that's not too bike-unfriendly.
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Old 02-06-24, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
I haven't read most posts... I did this:
For folding bikes on Amtrak, see also posts 36, 42, 50, 55, 61, 63, 77, 78, 79, 84, 86 and 89.

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Old 02-06-24, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by mev
No space in a rooomette. The entire dimensions are 3.5ft by 6.5ft (https://www.amtrak.com/difference-be...ette-a-bedroom). In that are two seats facing each other and above a bunk that folds down....
Heh. I splurged for one on the way to Seattle to start my first tour. Im 62 and could not stretch out fully on the bunk. It was still nice to be able to take weight off the spine for the ride from Chicago.

Our attendant was a young, aspiring actress. She told me she had been in an AT&T TV ad. As soon as she described it, I recognized her.

During the tour, we had a short day to Havre, MT, where there is a train break to take on supplies and let people stretch their legs. I had the schedule with me and went to the station to meet the train. The attendant was standing on the platform.
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Old 02-06-24, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
Im 62 and could not stretch out fully on the bunk
??
I am 6' 4" and (barely) fit on the downstairs when the seats are folded down and mattress is placed on top and can stretch completely. I sleep poorly in airline seats, OK in Amtrak seats and better on an Amtrak roomette on the bottom level. If I have multiple days of train travel I will sometimes splurge for a roomette. For example in 2023 I started with Amtrak from Austin to Chicago (roomette) and Chicago to WashingtonDC (seat). I finished with Amtrak from Seattle to Chicago (roomette) and Chicago to Austin (seat). A single night in an Amtrak seat is fine but two or three not as much.
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Old 02-06-24, 02:41 PM
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I get the impression if your bike is boxed and checked baggage (with all that entails), Amtrak will transfer it on and off their Thruway coaches. Folder? You're probably good. Otherwise?

I've searched the Amtrak website and can't find a written policy for bikes and various journey permutations of train→bus→train. Maybe I'm missing something. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

While writing your senator or emailing your favorite cycle advocacy organization, see if you can get a favorable written policy on Amtrak Thruway buses + bikes.
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Old 02-06-24, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs


I get the impression if your bike is boxed and checked baggage (with all that entails), Amtrak will transfer it on and off their Thruway coaches. Folder? You're probably good. Otherwise?

I've searched the Amtrak website and can't find a written policy for bikes and various journey permutations of train→bus→train. Maybe I'm missing something. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

While writing your senator or emailing your favorite cycle advocacy organization, see if you can get a favorable written policy on Amtrak Thruway buses + bikes.
All my Amtrak experience is when boxed bikes was the only option.

When I did GAP and C&O in 2013, we boxed the bikes (that was the only option then) and at Chicago station Amtrak moved our bike boxes from the Empire Builder to whatever train we took to Pittsburgh for us. Same on the return, we bought boxes and boxed the bikes in DC for the return.

When I came home from Pacific Coast in 2014, we bought boxes and boxed the bikes in San Francisco for the California Zepher (spell?) and then since the train was late to Chicago, Amtrak put us up for the night and the next morning we had to find an Amtrak employee to find our bike boxes and bring them to us for the bus driver to load onto the bus. It was up to us to take our bike boxes out to the sidewalk for the bus. Bus was pretty full, the bus driver was not in a good mood when he saw the bike boxes that he had to load into the bus.

/For the start of that Pacific Coast trip, we rode Empire Builder to Portland and at Portland train station we had to haul our bike boxes out to the bus area. I do not recall if we put the bikes in luggage are or if the bus driver did. Bus area in the photo below. The bus took us to Astoria.




In Astoria the bus stop was just a sidewalk. We found a cardboard recycling bin at a pizza place a block from the bus stop to put our bike boxes into.
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Old 02-06-24, 03:40 PM
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After sleeping on the Empire Builder in a coach seat for each way when I did the Glacier Waterton loop, when two of use rode that train to Portland for Pacific Coast, we got a roomette to share. I got lucky in the coin toss and got the lower bunk.

But on our return trip from San Francisco to Chicago, we were in coach. I had learned my lesson from my first trip sleeping in a coach seat. I brought a sleeping bag liner in my carry on bag, plus a stuff sack for clothing to serve as a pillow. They allowed me to sleep on the floor in the lounge car. I think they woke me up at either 6am or 7am, I do not recall which. That time in the morning was when they wanted people to use the chairs instead of the floor. I also do not remember if I used an air mattress on the floor or not, I might have.
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Old 02-06-24, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs
I get the impression if your bike is boxed and checked baggage (with all that entails), Amtrak will transfer it on and off their Thruway coaches
I expect it to be determined by the tag that is put on the bike/box when it is checked in. For example with some train-to-train connections I have done...

1) I traveled from Portland to San Diego using two trains; Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliner. My bike was in a box (Coast Starlight didn't have carry-on/trainside service). The bike was tagged "SAN" so in LAX Amtrak took responsibility of transferring my bike to the second train.

2) I traveled from Austin to Washington DC using two two trains: Texas Eagle and Capital Limited. I used the trainside service. The bike was tagged "CHI". This meant, I picked up my bike in Chicago and checked it back in for my next train to get a new "WAS" tag.

I had to transfer my bike, but also had a five hour layover and went for a bike ride. If I had wanted to I could have boxed the bike and gotten a "WAS" tag when I checked into at Austin.

I expect train-to-bus and bus-to-train connections to happen in similar fashion. If they can't transfer it for you, you'll know when you get your tag...but I would be surprised if they can't transfer a boxed bicycle (or other checked luggage) for you. The reason is Amtrak also offers a shipping service where they can ship small packages - and those aren't always attended.
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