The Amtrack website says it well; “Part of the joy of a journey by train is the ability to explore the stops along the way, and what better way to do that than by bike?”
If you have a “regular bike”, there are plenty of opportunities for adventure, as long as you’re willing to follow the rules about when and where bikes are allowed:
- Carry-on Bicycle Service: You can carry your bike on one of eleven trains, as long as the 3-10 spaces per train are not taken. A nominal feel of $5 to $20 applies.
- Trailside Checked Bicycle Service: At selected stations and seven allowed routes, you can have an Amtrack employee store your bike in the baggage car for $20.
- Boxed Bicycles as Checked Baggage: You can disassemble your bike and pack it in a box for $10. (Amtrack suggests advance planning: “It may be helpful to disassemble and reassemble your bike before your trip to avoid any surprises. Some parts, especially pedals, may be especially difficult to remove.”)
Or, you could have a CHANGE bike, and ignore all these limitations and fees. Just fold up your bike and bring it along as carry-on baggage. (And no, CHANGE bike owners with pop-off pedals have no issue removing their pedals).
So, of the 36+ Amtrack routes, less than half are accessible with an unboxed regular bike. Said another way, using a folding bike opens up half the country’s routes to you–and having a CHANGE bike as your folding bike makes longer exploration rides possible.
Now add some clock-watching.
Thanks to a couple of conversations with Jens in Ontario, we learned that Metrolinx/GOTransit in Toronto has similar issues. But the complexity there is about the clock. They are serious about rush hour!
When you CAN take a regular bike:
Weekdays anytime—except during rush hour times (refer to CAN’T section below )
Saturday, Sunday, and statutory holidays
When you CAN'T take a regular bike:
Rush hour time:
Trains arriving at Union Station between 6:30 – 9:30 a.m.
Trains leaving Union Station between 3:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Even the busiest transit hub in Canada–Union Station–shuts down for regular bikes during rush hour.
Don’t want to follow the rules? Here’s how to have special privileges:
“If you have a foldable style bike, you can bring your bike
onboard a GO Train at any time—as long as it’s folded up.”
How do you maximize your ability to explore?
Ultimately, you have two ways to maximize your ability to get a bike on a train. Box it and unbox it at every stop…
…or get a folding bike that rides great on long trips, and takes a lot less time to get on and off the train. Enjoy your freedom!