Checking a bike on an Amtrak
September 22, 2015 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone successfully checked a bicycle on a long distance train (the Crescent) at New York Penn?

How difficult was it? How early would I need to get to the station to be safe?

Was your bike in good condition when you picked it up at your destination?
posted by thecaddy to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
I took the Crescent from Penn Station to Charlottesville, Va. I did not check my bike, but a friend I met on the train apparently did. He also got off in Charlottesville, was given his bike and he rode away with no issues. I think he got on at 30th St station in Philadelphia. I do not know how early he had to get there to check it, but in Cville, it was not a big deal.
posted by AugustWest at 10:01 AM on September 22, 2015

Wait--he got his bike in a box and had to put it back together, right?
posted by thecaddy at 10:04 AM on September 22, 2015

Not in NY, but I've checked bikes on Amtrak before. It is not a big deal and much more pleasant than any other method. Some routes allow you to check unboxed bikes, but not the Crescent.

They sell bike boxes, which are much bigger than the kind you'd use on an airline. All you need to do is buy their bike box, turn the handlebars sideways, remove the pedals, and drop your seat - you don't even need to remove your wheels. I've never had any issues with damage. I think it helps that your bike is mostly intact inside the box. I'd plan to arrive about two hours before departure to buy the box, put my bike in it, and get it checked without stressing. I think you can check your bike 24 hours before departure, so if you really want to make life easy, box it and check it the day before.
posted by ssg at 10:04 AM on September 22, 2015

I've done Amtrak with the bike box before. You have to take the pedals and the front wheel off and turn the handlebars sideways.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:20 AM on September 22, 2015

thecaddy: "Wait--he got his bike in a box and had to put it back together, right?"

I don't think he had a box, but I saw him about 5 minutes after we arrived and he rode off. Maybe he put the pedals back on quickly?
posted by AugustWest at 11:31 AM on September 22, 2015

I bought a bike bag (wheels, pedals, and handlebars off) and plan to pack the bike up and carry it on to an Amtrak traveling BOS-NYP (maybe even an Acela!). It will be roughly the size of a medium suitcase, and I figured I'd just plonk it into one of the luggage closets they have on the train.

I'm curious about the box option but don't need to cycle it away from the station, so don't need to assemble it until later that day.
posted by onetime dormouse at 2:28 PM on September 22, 2015

Transported my bike between Chicago and New York three times this way.

I brought my multi-tool and my bike to the train station about two hours before boarding and asked where to drop off my bike. They sent me down to the basement where someone gave me a giant box (I could have provided my own, if I wanted to save the $10) and some luggage tags. I took off the pedals, loosened the stem enough to turn the handlebars sideways, and removed the seat, then rolled the bike in and taped everything up. I ended up with an hour to spare, and would have had more if I weren't so slow about packing the bike.

The bike was fine all but once. That time, one of the saddle rails bent in transit. :-(
posted by d. z. wang at 6:51 PM on September 22, 2015

I've done this at NYP, although not for the Crescent. Above advice about the box is correct; you can buy it from the checked luggage counter and all you need to do (for an upright, single-person bicycle) is remove the pedals and turn the handlebars. Amtrak advises arriving an hour early to deal with all of this. I'd advise some extra time because Penn Station is such a pit of angry people and sadness and you're unfamiliar with the process. I'd further advise making sure you know how to, and can, remove your pedals and turn your handlebars before you try it at NYP.

You won't have to go down into a basement; that's at Chicago (and no other Amtrak station where I've checked a bike, although I haven't done it everywhere).

You'll want to make sure that your destination station has checked baggage service. If it doesn't, Amtrak won't take your "checked baggage" (bicycle) and you'll be left making other travel plans.

Amtrak's advice is here.
posted by yomimono at 3:44 AM on September 23, 2015

I see I missed one of your questions! I've traveled with my bicycle checked in the Amtrak-provided bicycle box about a dozen times with no damage, although they did once forget to remove it from the train at the appropriate station. I had to wait around for a few hours to get it from the return train.
posted by yomimono at 3:46 AM on September 23, 2015

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