amtrak bike box

Trying Amtrak Express to ship my touring bike home

Yesterday, I entrusted Amtrak with my prized touring bike, Sequoia (if you hadn’t learned I named the bike, check out Pedalshift Project 006), yet I’m not riding Amtrak back home. How am I doing this? Amtrak has a lesser-known shipping service I’m trying called Amtrak Express. Here’s why I went that route…

Bike box drought in San Diego

For whatever reason, the local bike shops (LBSs) were all tapped out of bike boxes from the shiny new toys they were selling. Nada. Zip. Zilch. First time I ever ran into that, and I called a bunch. That sort of precluded me from flying the bike back as United (or UnTied as I frequently misspell it on my iPhone) sort of insists on a box. Once I remembered Amtrak sold bike boxes ($15!) I went with them. Once I was there, I thought… hey, I can just give them my larger business!

Easier boxing

Never mind the fact I had an early morning flight and a rental car shuttle to handle. Ever try to lug a bike box on a bus? Yeah, no bueno (as the kids say). Amtrak boxes are a little special… you can basically roll your whole bike inside once you remove the pedals and twist your handlebars around. That is SO much easier than a “standard” sized bike box, trust me. One complication to “should I ship or should I fly” with an Amtrak box is it’s almost certainly oversized for airline dimensions… that could mean even more fees on top of the usual $75-$100 tacked on, so be aware that Amtrak boxes are awesome, but could cost you if you use it to fly as is.

No lugging

The best part of Amtrak Express shipping is you roll the bike right up to the ticket window and often can box up right there. That means a lot less lugging around. On the other end, it’s easy to pull the bike out and ride off.

Price for service

For $76 dollars, I was able to ship Sequoia all the way to DC with insurance of its real value. Compare that to airlines which pretty much think my gear is no different than the dude’s suitcase behind me in line. Don’t believe me? Read the fine print on the back of your ticket next time you fly. Disclaimers and liability limits abound.

Downside with Amtrak Express

BREAKING… rail takes longer than air. I’m halfway home right now on a layover, but I’ll beat the bike by a comfortable 3 days. Also, my bike will be delivered to Union Station in DC, not home. That means sometime on Thursday when the Capital Limited rolls into DC, I’ll need to trek over to get my prized bike. Not ideal. However, considering the delays and rerouting I’m getting on UnTied today (see what I did there? mockingly misspelling? ha!) I am beyond happy I won’t be having to shove a bike box in the back of a cab from (gag) Dulles versus my original destination of National Airport (long story… thanks to fog and UnTied).


I’ll post an update here when I go and retrieve Sequoia. My hope is to take transit there and ride back… that puts a little pressure onto Amtrak to make sure the bike arrives undamaged, which frankly, is my expectation. Stay tuned…

UPDATE… check out the results here!

Amtrak Express Surfliner
Hey, it’s a train!