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?
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.
Amtrak did a great job with the shipping.[footnote]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.[/footnote] 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 — 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!