View Full Version : Bikes on Amtrak - Coast Starlight

Bent Bloke
09-14-2009, 12:51 PM
I'm planning to take Amtrak down to Davis this fall, and I'm wondering about the different bike options. Amtrak's website doesn't provide enough details to decide whether I'll need a bike box or not. Has anyone checked their bike without using a bike box? What was your experience? Should I avoid checking it with the tie-down service? And what do they mean by tie-down? Do I bring my own bungies?

I'll be taking the Trek, a hybrid. Not my recumbent.

Thanks for any advice!

09-14-2009, 08:35 PM
I just came back from San Diego on the Pacific Surfliner and the Coast Starlight. The Surfliner had racks, but I couldn't use them due to the fact that I would then need to check my boxed bike in Los Angeles for the Coast Starlight. I was not told anything about having it shipped just tied down. Regardless, I don't know if I would trust them with my bike back there unprotected for so long. Even in a box, my bike came out with one scratch more than when I left it.

Just box it and box it well. Bring your own box and save $15. Either way, handling of your boxed bike is $5.

Have a good trip!

Bent Bloke
09-15-2009, 06:44 AM
Thanks for the advice, JR. I was planning to ride to the station, so taking my own bike box isn't an option.

If it's going to be too hard to safely take my bike, I'll probably just leave it at home. I'm not sure my bike will fit into the boxes they describe as having. 41" tall? With 700x35 wheels I think my handlebars will be taller than that. And I don't really want to have to remove my pedals, then re-assemble once I reach my destination. I'm installing some new pedals this weekend, I'll use that experience to determine if it's worth taking the necessary tools with me to box up the bike.

09-15-2009, 07:24 AM
BB, you might want to swing by Union station and talk to the baggage folks in person - as you noted, the Amtrak website is vague on these matters. But for the Coast Starlight (points south of Eugene) you do need to box your bike.

Bent Bloke
09-15-2009, 08:51 AM
Thanks bikieboy. At least I know I'll need to box it. Good idea on checking with the baggage folks at Union. I can see if the box will fit my bike. I'm pretty sure with 700mm wheels my handlebars are taller than the 41" height of Amtrak's box, but I do have an adjustable stem, so it might work.

Maybe I can have my friend meet me at the station in Davis, and stash the bike box in her car for use on the way back. But the money isn't a big deal, anyway.

09-15-2009, 08:51 AM
The bars on my 700c bike top out at 37".


I always pop the bars/stem off and lay them against my well-padded frame. Brake levers are left pretty vulnerable if bars are just turned.

I'm pretty sure you'll need to remove pedals for just about any bike box.

Tools needed:

-allen wrench for stem bolts (add mallet if quill stem)

-15mm wrench for pedals (some have allen heads on the inside, in which case leave the 15mm at home)

-allen wrench for seatpost binder if it's not QR

-end wrenches for axles if not QR.

Packing needed: foam pipe insulation for frame protection, fork block (check with bike shops for a plastic one, some need to be taped in place)

Bent Bloke
09-15-2009, 09:06 AM
Thanks Lester,

Removing the bar/stems is a good idea. That's probably what I'll do. I'm pretty sure my seat bag tool kit will have the right size allen wrench, but I'll double-check. The 15mm wrench for the pedals should be all I'll need. QR's on all the other components. The Amtrak website mentions you must leave the wheels attached, for some reason.

I guess I should take some bubble-wrapping and tape, too!

09-15-2009, 09:09 AM
The Amtrak website mentions you must leave the wheels attached, for some reason.

Hmm, that's curious. I'm glad they didn't look inside my box, I took the front wheel off.

09-15-2009, 08:14 PM
I'm 6'2", and as such, I've got a 60 cm Trek 520, which is the largest size that they make. I was a bit worried that it wouldn't fit into Amtrak's box, but it was actually just barely large enough in each dimension. I didn't even need to lower the seat. All I had to do was remove the drop handlebars from the stem and then remove the pedals. Four bolts and that was off and resting around the frame. The pedals were off with a few quick turns of a pedal wrench. Make sure your pedals aren't on your bike too tightly, or you may have some trouble.

I had to take the 6:10 am train out of San Diego, with the baggage department opening at 5:30. It was my first time boxing up my bike, and I had just enough time to get everything in there before hopping on the train. I was also unable to bring my own bike box, and therefore was stuck buying their $15 one.

09-16-2009, 06:40 PM
Just be aware that the Coast Starlight (Starlate) can be slooooow. I once took it from LA to Seattle and when I went to sleep in Northern Cali the train was merely 1 hour behind schedule. When I woke up we were still in Cali and 6 hours behind. The freight trains get all the priority south of Oregon.