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#1 2013-10-09 22:47:47

badgnome
Member
Registered: 2012-01-26
Posts: 50

Has anyone taken a bike on an Amtrak train?

Looks like only select trains allow the bike on without it being disassembled and boxed.

http://www.amtrak.com/bring-your-bicycle-onboard

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#2 2013-10-10 07:51:04

RedFalcon
Member
Registered: 2013-10-10
Posts: 192

Re: Has anyone taken a bike on an Amtrak train?

Yes.  Last year I cycled from Corpus Christi to the Guadalupe Mountains and took the train home to Austin from El Paso.  Here's what I learned:

You are supposed to box your bike on all but the east coast commuter type trains.   Amtrak will sell you a big box for $15.   Call ahead to make sure they have one in stock!   You are not supposed to put anything in except your bike, but I stuffed my pannier bags in too since I couldn't take on any more carry on luggage. 

NOT ALL of the Amtrack stops let you on with a bike.   Be sure to check this on your route!  My plan was to ride across Texas, which I did, but if I had run into troubles, my Plan B was to bail out at Alpine or Sanderson.    Amtrack passes through Alpine and Sanderson, but does NOT pick up bike boxes.   If someone has found otherwise, PLEASE let me know.   I would love to take the train out to Alpine, tour for a bit, and come home same way.

The box was so big all I had to do was loosen the bars and turn them to line up with the frame.   Plenty of room.  I didn't even have to take off the seat or wheels.  So, no, you don't need to disassemble your bike.    When I got to Austin, I just turned to bars, tightened the bolts and was on my way home a few minutes later.  I just left the box at the station.

Traveling by Amtrak was great!  My train was right on time, although I have heard horror stories.  I did allow an extra vacation day in case we got stuck on a siding in the desert somewhere for an extra 12 hours or so.  Apparently, it does happen.    The train was clean and comfortable and the food was pretty decent.

After cycling, the train is the second most civilized way to travel.

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#3 2013-10-10 19:11:39

badgnome
Member
Registered: 2012-01-26
Posts: 50

Re: Has anyone taken a bike on an Amtrak train?

Great 1st post and thanks for the advice. 

It may be hard to take my bike with me this time as I will be in Phoenix (from Maricopa) for some time and then Tucson for at least a day.  Unless there is a way to leave the box at each station perhaps. It's also interesting that not all stops let you on with a bike.  I'm assuming they let you disembark with bike at your station so why not the reverse. I don't mind schlepping the bike myself but that probably doesn't fit into their scheme of things.

I was hoping there were some racks on board but I'm guessing not on these particular trains:

"Bicycles Stored Onboard in Bicycle Racks
Reserve Space Early

For trains with reserved bicycle space, bicycle racks may be reserved when booking travel; service fees may apply. Tickets must be supplied when tickets are collected onboard."

I think it's great that Amtrak doesn't overcharge for bikes but still more options/accommodations would be nice.

Glad you hear you had an excellent experience.

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#4 2013-11-19 00:06:29

badgnome
Member
Registered: 2012-01-26
Posts: 50

Re: Has anyone taken a bike on an Amtrak train?

I found that Red Falcon's experience pretty much matched my own.  In addition to the bars I did remove my pedals, as Amtrak calls for, but probably does not check. I did have a small problem in that at my destination I found a blown front tube.  It had a long tear in the tube so I'm thinking it was jostled around a bit too much.  Seeing how they load the bikes on the trailer with the bike/box perpendicular to the ground I'm not surprised. I put only my helmet in the box along with the bike. They transferred the bike in San Antonio both times without incident. I was able to fold and reuse the bike coming back saving me $15.  The boxes are bigger than the ones for new bikes found in shops which would have required further disassembly.

Definitely a must to check which stations have baggage service in advance.  Surprisingly stations like Oklahoma City do not have this.

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#5 2014-04-12 14:40:39

RedFalcon
Member
Registered: 2013-10-10
Posts: 192

Re: Has anyone taken a bike on an Amtrak train?

Old train of posts here, but in case anyone comes across it I wanted to add one more thing.   

I just did a 400+ mile Hill Country tour starting in San Antonio.  I took Amtrak from Austin.   Last time I took the train I was unclear just how many pieces of luggage I could check.  When I came home from El Paso a couple of years ago I read the rules to mean my bike box took the place of any other checked luggage.  I was a naughty boy and broke the rule about ONLY packing the bike in the box.  I emptied both rear panniers into the box along with the bike and carried my two front panniers as carry on luggage.

This time I asked and was told that the bike box is in addition to the two pieces of luggage you are allowed.  So, I checked the bike box AND the two rear panniers this time.  This was better than having to unpack and repack them.  I will add that the Amtrak baggage handlers are a bit rough with luggage.   They literally threw my bags into the cargo hold causing them to hit the wall and bounce off.   Fortunately, the expensive bottle of red wine I had packed in one of them, as a gift to my host in SA, actually survived. 

The bike box itself was stacked on it's side on the top of the luggage cart on the way to the train.  I figured I would be starting my trip with a bent derailleur hanger.   I didn't.    Not sure if the Amtrak handlers would pay attention, but it might be good to mark the box with 'This Way Up' arrows.  Next time I will offer to drag it out to the train myself rather than have them throw it on the top of the cart.

Also, be sure you have pre-loosened your pedals so you can actually get them off with the smaller tools you will want to be carrying on a tour.  You know how they can get pretty tight.

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#6 2014-04-12 16:16:43

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 549

Re: Has anyone taken a bike on an Amtrak train?

I figured I would be starting my trip with a bent derailleur hanger.

The usual wisdom there is to remove the derailleur and let it dangle there when packing the bike up for the trip, and just fix that at your destination.  That prevents that particular problem.

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#7 2014-04-12 20:51:03

RedFalcon
Member
Registered: 2013-10-10
Posts: 192

Re: Has anyone taken a bike on an Amtrak train?

Yes, good idea. I will add this to my list of things to do/pack for my Texas tours that involve trains.

I grew up in Europe and traveled by train/bus/bike all over the place without a problem.  I was spoiled.  When I put my bike on a train they treated it like a bike, not a sack of grain.   It just didn't occur to me that here they would throw my bike on top of a pile of baggage without a thought.  I should have known better.

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