Weekender Special: Touring by Train

Words by Jeffrey Stern

As our population grows, it becomes increasingly clear that alternative modes of transportation are the way of the future – what better way to travel than by combining two of the best ways to get out of your car, slow down and see the relatively close world around you in one trip?

Whether you are going for a long weekend or just an out and back in one day, multimodal travel is becoming a huge hit amongst a wide demographic of cyclists. Touring is fun, but can require huge time commitments for longer trips. With nearly 150,000 miles of train tracks covering the lower 48, the options are endless no matter where you live or how far you want to go. The best part is that if you plan properly and keep yourself within a couple hours distance from the nearest train or metro line, home is never more than a peaceful ride aboard a railcar away.

Another perk of this type of travel is you can switch up the order; instead of riding away from home, you could take the train to a specified stop and distance, then point your compass in the direction of home and pedal away.

Photo: Jeffrey Stern

Photo: Jeffrey Stern

If cycling first and taking the train home, I’d recommend bringing a couple items that can make your trip back more pleasurable.

A frame, handlebar, small backpack or larger seat bag are normally plenty for a day or even two. There are a few essentials you should bring along for your journey to increase your comfort when out of the saddle. Beyond the essentials to get you through any type of mechanical issue, a light pair of shorts (or even athletic pants), sandals and a comfortable shirt should make your journey on the train home exponentially more enjoyable.

Some my best thinking occurs when pedaling away into the distance, so I’ve often found a small book or pad for jotting down notes, anecdotes or thoughts is a great compliment to slower paced journeys like these.

Photo: Jeffrey Stern

Photo: Jeffrey Stern

Another element that can make these trips even more dynamic is inviting a friend or two! It’s amazing the connection you can build with others when exploring new areas and traveling in different ways. The ability to share experiences with friends, family and other bike lovers can only enhance the overall success of the trip. If you first trip is a success that you and your friends can’t stop talking about, the likelihood of planning round two is increased.

Most small hotels carry the essential toiletries and you can wash your kit overnight in the sink, so before you know it, you’ll be planning a two-day multimodal adventure – the freedom you’ll feel away from all your ‘things’ at home will be worth it’s weight in gold and have you gleaming from ear to ear. The best part, is there is little to no planning required and any type of bike setup can work. There is no need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on touring gear and the likes.

The only thing holding you back is your imagination with the trips. Well, I suppose your fitness too. But that will build as your venture to further and further stops along the railways. Imagine all the adventures you’ll have and stories you’ll have to tell!

Photo: Jake Rosenbloum

Photo: Jake Rosenbloum

What about you? Have you ever been on a bike trip that involved the train? What was your experience? Do you have helpful tips for anyone who would like to try it? Tell us in the comments!

Editor’s Note: Different trains and locations have different rules for taking your bike onboard. Research your particular area and train line before making bike trip plans. You can find information on bringing your bike onboard on the Amtrak website



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