sequoia at home

Shipping bikes with Amtrak Express — good or bad option?

Many bike tours begin or end with the need to transport your bike long distances. Depending on your needs shipping bikes with Amtrak Express may be an economical and effective option for you. I shipped my touring bike back across the US following a tour… how’d Amtrak Express do?

Answer

Amtrak did a great job shipping my touring bike home. See part one to see my thought process on why I went with Amtrak Express in the first place.

Details

Amtrak did a great job with the shipping.1 My bike arrived in excellent shape. You can tell a lot about the handling based on how dinged and dirty your bike box looks after traveling. With a couple of small exceptions the box itself was flawless. That gave me a good feeling as I unboxed, knowing there was a much lower probability of opening up a bad surprise.

Two things to bear in mind when considering shipping your touring bike by Amtrak Express…

  • Don’t expect the delivery forecast to be accurate, particularly if you’re shipping long distances. Shipping bikes with Amtrak Express means you need to have some flexibility. My bike arrived several days after the forecast. Amtrak trains are subject to the whims of Conrail and other heavy rail along certain corridors, so schedules are often hours late. That could mean missed connections. So, a corollary… don’t ship a bike with a need for a date certain. Amtrak will hold onto your bike for days after delivery (with a small charge for more than 2 days) so bake that into your plans.
  • Getting your bike at the station may take longer than you think. I expected to go to some desk and see my bike box somewhere behind the clerk. At DC’s Union Station at least, that isn’t the case. A couple of very nice Amtrak guys spent about 20 minutes in the bowels of the station retrieving the box. So, when shipping bikes with Amtrak Express don’t expect a quick trip when you pick up.
Shipping bikes with Amtrak Express -- Sequoia homecoming
Sequoia’s homecoming – that’s the Capitol dome in the background!

Shipping bikes with Amtrak Express — Conclusions

I like Amtrak an awful lot. The Amtrak Express service worked for me because of a lot of reasons I mentioned before. I suspect I won’t always use Amtrak Express over flying back with my bike, but given similar circumstances, I wouldn’t hesitate to use them again.

Have you ever used Amtrak Express to ship your bike to or from tour? Share with the Pedalshift community here in the comments!


  1. I should mention, thanks to reader Kurt Werstein for pointing it out, that I never mentioned how Amtrak tells you when your package arrives.  They’re old school… no Internet tracking system for them. Shipping bikes with Amtrak Express? Don’t expect scan codes and automated arrival mechanisms. You receive a phone call. Sort of wish we could track when the box changes trains, but I suspect there isn’t a scanning system at all for packages.

6 comments

  1. Jared Hardy says:

    Just finished a tour from Seattle to Portland (by way of Astoria) with 3 other fellas. The end of the trip we hung out in Portland for a couple days. This post helped out a TON. We decided rather than figure out a way to box up our bikes and take them back to Denver via Airplane to just ride them up to Union Station and ship them home via Amtrak.

    It worked like a charm. Took about 15 minutes to pay and have them boxed up and out of our hair. Really only had to remove the handlebars. AND, when I picked them up at Denver’s Union Station it was a breeze, too. They had them nearby. They let me pull my car up to their back entrance. I had bikes in my car within 10 minutes of walking into the station.

    This is all to say that I’m super glad you made this post. It saved me (and my buddies) a ton of time, money and effort. I’ll for sure be using Amtrak again for future rides and would even consider sending my bike TO a destination (giving my bike a few days to get there before me) and then just taking a taxi from the airport to a train station.

    • Tim Mooney says:

      Great to hear! Amtrak is (often) friendly to bicycles and bike touring. I’d definitely consider using Amtrak Express again for shipping a touring bike to or from a tour endpoint.

  2. Arlene Maddux says:

    I saw this site, while looking up Amtrak express shipping for bikes. Going to ship my beloved touring bike via Amtrak from Denver to Pittsburgh. I hope it’s not delayed. Shipping 8 days before I get there. Will keep you posted with my results. I really think this is best because I’m flying back out of DC. Can’t wait to ride!

    • Tim Mooney says:

      Is Amtrak charging you for the longer hold time in PGH? My recollection is they charge a small fee if the item isn’t picked up within 2 days of arrival (unless that’s changed since I last used it). Good luck and have a great ride!

  3. smith says:

    glad ;to find this site, Smith family will be riding the MLK anniversary route from Montgomery to Selma in march, amtrak looks like the very best way to get the bikes from D.C. there!!
    thanks again!!

    • Tim Mooney says:

      Let me know how shipping from DC goes… it’s a well-staffed station so I suspect it will go smoothly. With Amtrak Express I always recommend having plenty of time to get things settled at the dropoff station (especially if you’re packing the bikes up there) and flexibility on the other end so if it’s a day delayed it doesn’t ruin plans. “Right tool for the right job” 🙂

What do you think?