THE CONVENIENT CYCLIST

Don’t box your bike to travel by train

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).

Bikes in Carry Bag
Carrying two bikes to the Seattle Bike Show. I did the same during rush hour on Manhattan’s F Train to Bike Expo NY.

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.

You can bring a regular bike into Toronto’s Union Station now, but at rush hour, it better be a CHANGE bike!

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.”

Locked Bike
Have bike, will travel. Anywhere.

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…

Um…no thanks.

…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!

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Bob Forgrave
President, Flatbike.com

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425-985-6219

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4 thoughts on “Don’t box your bike to travel by train

  1. Bob,
    I read your blog and enjoyed the reference to our conversation. As per our discussion please let me know if Change Bike decides to offer the DF 611 hybrid model with an option to upgrade to a 650b or 700c wheel size. I would prefer a larger wheel size and the upgrade would save me having to order a second wheel set or getting the 26″ wheels converted at my local bike shop.
    Thanks and have a great Thanksgiving in a few weeks.
    Jens

    1. Absolutely, Jens! The first step would be to build and test a reference model. As we get the time to experiment with that, we’ll make sure to keep you informed.
      Bob

    1. Hi, Rick. A CHANGE bike folds into a large carry bag. It’s like getting on the metro with baggage on the way to the airport.

      The racks on the front of Seattle buses are super-convenient, and allow you to sit anywhere—unless they’re full and you have to wait for the next bus. Then they’re a pain. So I generally leave my bike unfolded at low commute times (and use the rack), but fold it for rush hour. You’ll want to get familiar with which seats or areas of the bus have a little extra room for a large shoulder bag or standing package on the floor.

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