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Rinko Bikes on Amtrak

Old 03-28-17, 09:30 AM
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Rinko Bikes on Amtrak

Inspired by Bicycle Quarterly's use of the Japanese "Rinko" system, I just got one of my bikes set-up to break down this way. There are a few differences (threadless stem, disc brakes), but overall it packs down in a similar fashion to what is shown in Jan Heine's blog . I am pretty much ready to go, with the exception of the Rinko Bag, which I plan to sew over the next couple days out of some lightweight, rip-stop nylon.

I have seen a couple posts from Jan and other folks on the west coast taking their bicycles rinko-style as carry-ons onto the train. However, I just don't trust amtrak, and it seems this kind of thing is totally up to the discretion of the conductor. Amtrak's policy states: "Folding bicycles under the dimensions of 34" x 15" x 48" (860 x 380 x 1120 mm) will be allowed onboard all trains in lieu of a piece of carry-on baggage....Only true folding bicycles (bicycles specifically designed to fold up into a compact assembly) are acceptable. Generally, these bikes have frame latches allowing the frame to be collapsed, and small wheels. Regular bikes of any size, with or without wheels, are not considered folding bikes, and may not be stored as folding bikes aboard trains."

Technically bringing a bike onboard in this way is against their policy. My bike packs down under these dimensions, but it is not a true folding bike. In practice, are they going to care that my bike is not a true folding bike? I am an experienced and relatively frequent multi-modal traveler, often taking the greyhound, with one of those larger bicycle bags in which I only need to remove the handlebars and front wheel. I have always avoided Amtrak with my bike, as their policies seem to be more strict. Also, the size of the bike is visible, taking up room inside of a passenger car, rather than inside the luggage area of a bus. Anyone have experience bringing a bicycle in rinko form onboard as a carry-on?

I'm planning on riding a permanent outside of Rochester, NY this weekend and might take an Empire Service or Lakeshore Limited train from Buffalo.
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Old 05-30-18, 10:01 AM
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Dang, no replies?

I see a possible end-around on this policy. It says unless it's a real folding bike it can't be brought aboard as a folding bike.

So... you're golden! You're bringing it aboard as luggage. What are the max luggage size specs? Can a PLAYPEN be brought aboard? If your bike is bagged it's no longer a bike but is luggage of a size. Whattathink? We need some beta!

I would think if your luggage fits into the luggage bins at the front of the car that you're good to go. (Can't stick out into anyone's way, etc.)

PS: So far in googling I see one link where Jan puts a Rinko bike aboard Amtrak...
Michigan has two trains that occasionally have bike racks for 4 bikes. It was part of a test program begun maybe 5 or more years ago. I think the bike racks often sell out way in advance. So they are not actually providing a bike option for normal passengers. And they are not responding to demand.

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Old 05-30-18, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Rudomanski View Post
Inspired by Bicycle Quarterly's use of the Japanese "Rinko" system, I just got one of my bikes set-up to break down this way. There are a few differences (threadless stem, disc brakes), but overall it packs down in a similar fashion to what is shown in Jan Heine's blog . I am pretty much ready to go, with the exception of the Rinko Bag, which I plan to sew over the next couple days out of some lightweight, rip-stop nylon.

I have seen a couple posts from Jan and other folks on the west coast taking their bicycles rinko-style as carry-ons onto the train. However, I just don't trust amtrak, and it seems this kind of thing is totally up to the discretion of the conductor. Amtrak's policy states: "Folding bicycles under the dimensions of 34" x 15" x 48" (860 x 380 x 1120 mm) will be allowed onboard all trains in lieu of a piece of carry-on baggage....Only true folding bicycles (bicycles specifically designed to fold up into a compact assembly) are acceptable. Generally, these bikes have frame latches allowing the frame to be collapsed, and small wheels. Regular bikes of any size, with or without wheels, are not considered folding bikes, and may not be stored as folding bikes aboard trains."

Technically bringing a bike onboard in this way is against their policy. My bike packs down under these dimensions, but it is not a true folding bike. In practice, are they going to care that my bike is not a true folding bike? I am an experienced and relatively frequent multi-modal traveler, often taking the greyhound, with one of those larger bicycle bags in which I only need to remove the handlebars and front wheel. I have always avoided Amtrak with my bike, as their policies seem to be more strict. Also, the size of the bike is visible, taking up room inside of a passenger car, rather than inside the luggage area of a bus. Anyone have experience bringing a bicycle in rinko form onboard as a carry-on?

I'm planning on riding a permanent outside of Rochester, NY this weekend and might take an Empire Service or Lakeshore Limited train from Buffalo.
I frequently travel on AmTrak (2x a week) with a folding bike (Brompton). If it fits the guidelines they probably won't care. If you have it in a bag, even better.

One rule. Don't do any assembly on the train. Wait till you get off.
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Old 05-31-18, 05:19 PM
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When their folding bike policy has a larger allowable dimension than their generic carry on policy dimension, they clearly are saying that folding bikes are a special case. And to avoid future arguments they explained they must be folding instead of a non-folding disassembled bike. So, good luck if you try to get it on the train. Please do not do anything to ruin it for the rest of us.
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Old 05-31-18, 06:09 PM
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Technically it's against their policy so a conductor who is strict about the rules or just having a bad day would have the right to disallow it on the train. My guess is that if you bag it before entering the station no one will investigate it closely enough to verify that there's no folding mechanism in your frame. I'd also suggest keeping it in the bag until you are out of sight before beginning your reassembly. Let's not make it too obvious to anyone that there are ways around the current rules and therefore encourage stricter size limits in the future.
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Old 12-29-18, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
Technically it's against their policy so a conductor who is strict about the rules or just having a bad day would have the right to disallow it on the train. My guess is that if you bag it before entering the station no one will investigate it closely enough to verify that there's no folding mechanism in your frame. I'd also suggest keeping it in the bag until you are out of sight before beginning your reassembly. Let's not make it too obvious to anyone that there are ways around the current rules and therefore encourage stricter size limits in the future.
I'm coming late to this thread (I'm also out of my area, since I ordinarily inhabit the C&V forum), but it's of interest to me because I'm planning a 3-4 week tour this winter which will involve Amtrak on at least the outbound leg.

I don't see anything in the Amtrak policy that disqualifies a rinko bike as a folding bike, provided that it comes in under the maximum size. The policy states that the bike has to be specifically designed to fold up into a compact assembly. Good, because that's precisely what a rinko bike is designed to do--that's the purpose of many of its features, including slotted cable stops, sealed-bearing headset, etc. The policy also states that folding bikes generally have frame latches and small wheels, but saying that folding bikes "generally" have such features just another way of saying that some folding bikes don't have small wheels or frame latches. If it were otherwise, some bikes that clearly meet the standard--think of a bike equipped with Bilenky couplings--would be excluded since they have connectors that unscrew. They clearly don't have latches.

And yet....I do wonder about the possibility of running into a conductor who will not listed to reason or heed what seems to be the clear language of the policy. I plan to ring a bunch of phones at Amtrak and see if I can get some clarification on all this. I am thinking of making a set of custom "Folding Bike" decals to put on my bike's tubing (there are no existing decals) in hopes of convincing any reluctant Amtrak types that the bike is what it purports to be.

I'll post again if I learn anything more about the policy when I talk to Amtrak.
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Old 12-29-18, 10:22 PM
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To me, taking the fork out is awfully lot like a folding bike, what more do you need exactly? Sure isn't taking a normal bike on the train. And it fits in their size guidelines. It would be nice if someone would push this with the Amtrack rule makers.
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Old 12-30-18, 12:14 AM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
And it fits in their size guidelines. It would be nice if someone would push this with the Amtrack rule makers.
Seems risky. Current Amtrak rules on the size of folded bikes as carry-on are very generous (48"x34"x15") compared to other carry-on luggage (28"x22"x14"). If you convincingly argue that any bike which 'fits in their size guidelines' should be treated the same, regardless of having a folding frame, they might well decide to only allow bikes that fit their regular luggage size limit. My current folder would still fit, but I'd have to do more disassembly - same as I do for airline travel. But those with folders that have bigger wheels would then be out of luck.

I'd still recommend that anyone trying to take a regular but 'rinkoized' bike on Amtrak as carry-on have it neatly bagged before entering the station and keep it that way until out of sight at the destination - and accept that there's a small chance you'll be challenged by a conductor who's a stickler for their rules. Amtrak has slowly been improving their policy with regard to bikes - let's not give them a reason to reverse that trend.
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Old 12-30-18, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
Seems risky. ...
That's just the thing. You prepare your equipment, you rinko your bike and bag it properly, you buy your ticket, you get on your train, and you don't know if the conductor will let you ride.

By this time you have registered for an event, reserved a hotel room, etc; maybe you've paid for all this in advance, and all this is up in the air.

It's gambling. And I don't like gambling.

I'm considering this approach for getting home from a flèche; if the event is already done before I mess with Amtrak, a recalcitrant conductor would not completely ruin my day.
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Old 12-30-18, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
Seems risky. Current Amtrak rules on the size of folded bikes as carry-on are very generous (48"x34"x15") compared to other carry-on luggage (28"x22"x14"). If you convincingly argue that any bike which 'fits in their size guidelines' should be treated the same, regardless of having a folding frame, they might well decide to only allow bikes that fit their regular luggage size limit. My current folder would still fit, but I'd have to do more disassembly - same as I do for airline travel. But those with folders that have bigger wheels would then be out of luck.

I'd still recommend that anyone trying to take a regular but 'rinkoized' bike on Amtrak as carry-on have it neatly bagged before entering the station and keep it that way until out of sight at the destination - and accept that there's a small chance you'll be challenged by a conductor who's a stickler for their rules. Amtrak has slowly been improving their policy with regard to bikes - let's not give them a reason to reverse that trend.
Fully agree. I think that Amtrak has been more than generous, they have expanded their baggage car service to include racks for bikes and at many non-luggage stations they will load or unload a bike from the baggage car. And they have gone out of their way to allow folding bikes even though they are larger than other carry on bags.


Originally Posted by jonwvara View Post
...
And yet....I do wonder about the possibility of running into a conductor who will not listed to reason or heed what seems to be the clear language of the policy. I plan to ring a bunch of phones at Amtrak and see if I can get some clarification on all this. I am thinking of making a set of custom "Folding Bike" decals to put on my bike's tubing (there are no existing decals) in hopes of convincing any reluctant Amtrak types that the bike is what it purports to be.

I'll post again if I learn anything more about the policy when I talk to Amtrak.
It took a lot of cyclists to get Amtrak to expand their luggage policy for regular bikes in baggage cars on most routes by adding bike racks instead of having to box them and to get Amtrak to allow bikes to be loaded in or unloaded from luggage cars at stations that do not otherwise allow checked luggage in or out of a baggage car. Is your destination on a route that does not have bike racks in the baggage car? Or some other special case where they will not allow you to take your non-folding bike off of the baggage car?

The little bit that I have read about Rinko bikes is that you are removing the wheels, handlebars, fork, pedals and maybe some other parts from a full sized bike. Then calling it a Rinko bike. And that some parts have been developed to make assembly and dis-assembly easier and faster, like using the quick release removable pedals that are common on folding bikes. ​​​​It is pretty clear to me that Amtrak has decided to allow folding bikes as carry on luggage as a special case, regular carry on luggage must be under 28 x 22 x 14 inches but if it is a folding bike they will instead allow a larger size of 34 X 15 X 48 inches. So what you are saying is that you want them to expand their special case to cover full size bikes too.

When Amtrak says:
You must fold up your folding bicycle before boarding the train.
and:
Only true folding bicycles (bicycles specifically designed to fold up into a compact assembly) are acceptable.
It is pretty clear to me what is and is not allowed as a folding bike.

Why not just check the bike in the baggage car? It sounds like all you really are trying to do is avoid the bike luggage fee of $5 to $20 instead of putting your bike in the baggage car. Or does the specific route you want to ride not have a baggage car? Or is it one of the rare routes that lack baggage car?
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Old 12-30-18, 12:33 PM
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The reason why is that bikes on Amtrack are practically not allowed as far as most of us are concerned.

And I guess nobody is going to address the fact that taking the fork out is a pretty extreme measure, it's certainly not just taking the wheels off. A small regular bike will fit in the same size bag as an S&S bike if you are careful. See: https://www.orucase.com/products/62-case
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Old 12-30-18, 01:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Fully agree. I think that Amtrak has been more than generous, they have expanded their baggage car service to include racks for bikes and at many non-luggage stations they will load or unload a bike from the baggage car. And they have gone out of their way to allow folding bikes even though they are larger than other carry on bags.




It took a lot of cyclists to get Amtrak to expand their luggage policy for regular bikes in baggage cars on most routes by adding bike racks instead of having to box them and to get Amtrak to allow bikes to be loaded in or unloaded from luggage cars at stations that do not otherwise allow checked luggage in or out of a baggage car. Is your destination on a route that does not have bike racks in the baggage car? Or some other special case where they will not allow you to take your non-folding bike off of the baggage car?

The little bit that I have read about Rinko bikes is that you are removing the wheels, handlebars, fork, pedals and maybe some other parts from a full sized bike. Then calling it a Rinko bike. And that some parts have been developed to make assembly and dis-assembly easier and faster, like using the quick release removable pedals that are common on folding bikes. ​​​​It is pretty clear to me that Amtrak has decided to allow folding bikes as carry on luggage as a special case, regular carry on luggage must be under 28 x 22 x 14 inches but if it is a folding bike they will instead allow a larger size of 34 X 15 X 48 inches. So what you are saying is that you want them to expand their special case to cover full size bikes too.

When Amtrak says:
You must fold up your folding bicycle before boarding the train.
and:
Only true folding bicycles (bicycles specifically designed to fold up into a compact assembly) are acceptable.
It is pretty clear to me what is and is not allowed as a folding bike.

Why not just check the bike in the baggage car? It sounds like all you really are trying to do is avoid the bike luggage fee of $5 to $20 instead of putting your bike in the baggage car. Or does the specific route you want to ride not have a baggage car? Or is it one of the rare routes that lack baggage car?
You make some good points. I understand your point about not wanting to screw things up for those with Dahons and Bromptons and such. It does appear that Amtrak set an upper size limit consistent with most if not all folding bikes, but wants to exclude disassembled non-folding bikes, even if they meet the size requirement. That is presumably to limit the numbers of those sorts of bikes they will be asked to handle.

I admit finding this irksome and arbitrary. It's precisely as if they decided to limit numbers by decreeing that only bikes with yellow or orange frames are acceptable. Also, as a former editor, it bothers me that the language they use is unclear and doesn't seem to accomplish its purpose. As I said, most cyclists (and probably Amtrak itself) would consider a bike equipped with Bilenky couplings to be a true folding bike, but by Amtrak's definition, it's not a folder, but a disassembled bicycle. It doesn't fold up, does it? Don't you have to undo some threaded fittings and take it apart?

The route I will be traveling does accept bikes as checked baggage, and I could go that route. My objection to doing so is just that it's less convenient. I also feel better about stowing my own bike than handling it over to a baggage handler who probably cares about it much less than I do.

But I would certainly not set foot in the train station until the bike was fully dismantled (or as I prefer to call it, "folded up") and packed in its bag. I'd rather avoid an argument than risk losing one.
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Old 12-30-18, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by jonwvara View Post
You make some good points. I understand your point about not wanting to screw things up for those with Dahons and Bromptons and such. It does appear that Amtrak set an upper size limit consistent with most if not all folding bikes, but wants to exclude disassembled non-folding bikes, even if they meet the size requirement. That is presumably to limit the numbers of those sorts of bikes they will be asked to handle.

I admit finding this irksome and arbitrary. It's precisely as if they decided to limit numbers by decreeing that only bikes with yellow or orange frames are acceptable. Also, as a former editor, it bothers me that the language they use is unclear and doesn't seem to accomplish its purpose. As I said, most cyclists (and probably Amtrak itself) would consider a bike equipped with Bilenky couplings to be a true folding bike, but by Amtrak's definition, it's not a folder, but a disassembled bicycle. It doesn't fold up, does it? Don't you have to undo some threaded fittings and take it apart?

The route I will be traveling does accept bikes as checked baggage, and I could go that route. My objection to doing so is just that it's less convenient. I also feel better about stowing my own bike than handling it over to a baggage handler who probably cares about it much less than I do.

But I would certainly not set foot in the train station until the bike was fully dismantled (or as I prefer to call it, "folded up") and packed in its bag. I'd rather avoid an argument than risk losing one.
I do not know what a Bilenky coupling is. I thought that the only coupled bikes used S&S couplings or the Ritchey Breakaway system. I was unaware that there was a third coupling system out there. I have both an S&S bike and also a bike that uses the Ritchey system. Both would take only a few more minutes to pack than what you describe for a Rinko bike. The S&S couplings or the Ritchey coupling that hold the frame together are fast to uncouple.

But if I was traveling on Amtrak again, I would rather just use the baggage car, as disassembling a bike that much is rather time consuming.

If you really want to pursue this, I suggest you send them an e-mail that clearly states that your bike in the bag would be XX inches long, YY inches high and ZZ inches thick which is within their folding size criteria. If you could explain why removing the fork is comparable to folding a bike, that may strengthen your argument. And explain that being in a bag, the chance that the bike could damage any other customers bags is greatly diminished compared to an unbagged folding bike, etc. If they say yes, keep the e-mail as that would be your insurance policy later - print off spare copies.

My seven Amtrak trips with a bike were in the days when only boxed bikes were acceptable on the baggage car, except the one I mentioned in Missouri when our bikes consumed a couple passenger seats. I have not been on Amtrak since they installed bike racks in the baggage cars.

That said it is my understanding that when you use the racks in the baggage car, you hand your bike to the Amtrak employee at the baggage car. And later you go to the baggage car to retrieve it. Thus, not a lot of handlling by Amtrak. I could be wrong on that, perhaps someone will say if I am right or wrong.

Amtrak employees have been a bit rough on bikes in boxes in the past, I got a few holes in boxes but nothing was actually damaged, as you can see in the photos.



Above, brake lever. Below, a bar end shifter.



I have not carried my folding bike on Amtrak (photo of bike folded below). I can collapse the seatpost more and disconnect the stem riser, but for storing my bike in the motel room where I took the photo I did not bother to make it more compact.

I considered using the folding bike this coming summer on a trip on a train where there is no baggage car, thus the folding bike would be the only option. But, in the end I decided instead to fly, I will be taking my S&S coupled bike on the plane with me. It is to a foreign country so I need to take the bike with me instead of shipping it.



When Amtrak added bike racks to the baggage cars, they stopped accepting tandem bikes. My point here is that if Amtrak is pushed, they might respond in a way that causes more losers than winners.

One more option you might want to consider if you are traveling domestically (not foreign), BikeFlights.com is very affordable for shipping a bike. Costs more than Amtrak but far less than airlines. I have not used BikeFlights, but friends of my have and have had very good luck with them.
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Old 12-30-18, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I do not know what a Bilenky coupling is. I thought that the only coupled bikes used S&S couplings or the Ritchey Breakaway system. I was unaware that there was a third coupling system out there. I have both an S&S bike and also a bike that uses the Ritchey system. Both would take only a few more minutes to pack than what you describe for a Rinko bike. The S&S couplings or the Ritchey coupling that hold the frame together are fast to uncouple.

But if I was traveling on Amtrak again, I would rather just use the baggage car, as disassembling a bike that much is rather time consuming.

If you really want to pursue this, I suggest you send them an e-mail that clearly states that your bike in the bag would be XX inches long, YY inches high and ZZ inches thick which is within their folding size criteria. If you could explain why removing the fork is comparable to folding a bike, that may strengthen your argument. And explain that being in a bag, the chance that the bike could damage any other customers bags is greatly diminished compared to an unbagged folding bike, etc. If they say yes, keep the e-mail as that would be your insurance policy later - print off spare copies.

My seven Amtrak trips with a bike were in the days when only boxed bikes were acceptable on the baggage car, except the one I mentioned in Missouri when our bikes consumed a couple passenger seats. I have not been on Amtrak since they installed bike racks in the baggage cars.

That said it is my understanding that when you use the racks in the baggage car, you hand your bike to the Amtrak employee at the baggage car. And later you go to the baggage car to retrieve it. Thus, not a lot of handlling by Amtrak. I could be wrong on that, perhaps someone will say if I am right or wrong.

Amtrak employees have been a bit rough on bikes in boxes in the past, I got a few holes in boxes but nothing was actually damaged, as you can see in the photos.



Above, brake lever. Below, a bar end shifter.



I have not carried my folding bike on Amtrak (photo of bike folded below). I can collapse the seatpost more and disconnect the stem riser, but for storing my bike in the motel room where I took the photo I did not bother to make it more compact.

I considered using the folding bike this coming summer on a trip on a train where there is no baggage car, thus the folding bike would be the only option. But, in the end I decided instead to fly, I will be taking my S&S coupled bike on the plane with me. It is to a foreign country so I need to take the bike with me instead of shipping it.



When Amtrak added bike racks to the baggage cars, they stopped accepting tandem bikes. My point here is that if Amtrak is pushed, they might respond in a way that causes more losers than winners.

One more option you might want to consider if you are traveling domestically (not foreign), BikeFlights.com is very affordable for shipping a bike. Costs more than Amtrak but far less than airlines. I have not used BikeFlights, but friends of my have and have had very good luck with them.
Thanks for the thoughtful response. First, what I have been calling Bilenky couplings are actually the S&S couplings. The only bike I have ever seen with them was made by Bilenky, so I somehow conflated the frame maker with the coupling manufacturer, although I know better.

Your suggestion about having a written response from Amtrak is a good one. I will give it a try, although knowing something of how the bureaucratic mind operates I would be very surprised if anyone at Amtrak would be willing to commit himself or herself in that way.

When all is said and done I may well end up putting the bike in the baggage car. Still, I would prefer to just show up for my 6:02 AM train with the packed-up bike in hand and carry it on instead--it just seems like one less complexity to deal with at that hour. Maybe I'm making it seem harder than it is.

Amtrak doesn't work so well for me on the return trip north, so I may end up flying back to Vermont from Memphis or Baton Rouge. I'm going to try sending it through packed down as small as I can get it and wrapped in a 6-mil plastic bag. I have been told that sending a bike on a plane that way is in some ways preferable to dismantling it and boxing it, since it's very easy for the baggage handlers to throw a boxed bike on the bottom of a luggage cart and pile other stuff on top of it. A bike in a plastic bag, on the other hand, more or less has to be placed carefully on top of the load. A properly packed rinko bike doesn't rattle at all, and there's almost no metal-to-metal contact--only the tires really contact the frame--so a little jostling shouldn't hurt it, provided that it's not dropped or really bashed on something hard.

I did use bikeflights once a few years back, when a friend and I rode the Southern Tier route from San Diego to St. Augustine (there's a concise account of that trip at Notes on a Cross-Country Tour - Red Clover Components) but I'm not sure I would do that again. My goal for this trip is to do minimal route planning and remain flexible in terms of my destination--more a ramble than a straight-line ride.
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Old 12-31-18, 04:35 PM
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I thought I'd go into a little more detail about my reasons for wanting to carry my packed-up rinko bike onto the train rather than just putting it into the baggage car in a fully assembled state, which several have suggested would be the easiest course of action.

It's like this: to start the trip, I have to get a ride to the train station in Montpelier, about 20 miles from here. If I put the assembled bike on the rear-mounted bike rack on my car for that, it's going to get sprayed with sand and salt and slush. I could then hand the dirty bike to the baggage guy and hope he accepts it. Alternatively, I could pack the bike for carrying, bring it to the station inside my car, then reassemble it on the freezing cold train station platform (there's no indoor waiting area in Montpelier) and then hand it over to the baggage guy in its assembled state.

Once I get to New York, where I will be staying overnight, I would have to haul the fully assembled bike out of the baggage car, then break it down again so I can fit it in a taxi for the trip to my son's place in Brooklyn.

In the morning, I could take the still-packed-up bike back to Penn Station, reassemble it, and hand it to the baggage guy for the ride to Savannah. When I arrive there, at about 9:30 PM, I'd have the choice of riding it in the dark to a yet-to-be-determined overnight lodging somewhere near the train station, or going through the packing process again so I can fit it in a taxi. After a night in Savannah, I could reassemble it and start riding west on the actual tour.

All that is obviously a lot of effort. On the other hand, if I leave the house with the disassembled bike already packed in its bag, the whole process is a snap--I just carry the bag from car to taxi to train and only reassemble it when I'm ready to start riding. I just don't want to put myself to so much effort and inconvenience when the packed bike seems so clearly (to me, at least) to comply with the spirit, and even the letter, of Amtrak's vague and poorly-worded folding bike policy. What a sorehead, right?
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Old 12-31-18, 07:45 PM
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Originally Posted by jonwvara View Post
I thought I'd go into a little more detail about my reasons for wanting to carry my packed-up rinko bike onto the train rather than just putting it into the baggage car in a fully assembled state, which several have suggested would be the easiest course of action.

It's like this: to start the trip, I have to get a ride to the train station in Montpelier, about 20 miles from here. If I put the assembled bike on the rear-mounted bike rack on my car for that, it's going to get sprayed with sand and salt and slush. I could then hand the dirty bike to the baggage guy and hope he accepts it. Alternatively, I could pack the bike for carrying, bring it to the station inside my car, then reassemble it on the freezing cold train station platform (there's no indoor waiting area in Montpelier) and then hand it over to the baggage guy in its assembled state.

Once I get to New York, where I will be staying overnight, I would have to haul the fully assembled bike out of the baggage car, then break it down again so I can fit it in a taxi for the trip to my son's place in Brooklyn.

In the morning, I could take the still-packed-up bike back to Penn Station, reassemble it, and hand it to the baggage guy for the ride to Savannah. When I arrive there, at about 9:30 PM, I'd have the choice of riding it in the dark to a yet-to-be-determined overnight lodging somewhere near the train station, or going through the packing process again so I can fit it in a taxi. After a night in Savannah, I could reassemble it and start riding west on the actual tour.

All that is obviously a lot of effort. On the other hand, if I leave the house with the disassembled bike already packed in its bag, the whole process is a snap--I just carry the bag from car to taxi to train and only reassemble it when I'm ready to start riding. I just don't want to put myself to so much effort and inconvenience when the packed bike seems so clearly (to me, at least) to comply with the spirit, and even the letter, of Amtrak's vague and poorly-worded folding bike policy. What a sorehead, right?
Understood. I have often commented that half of the reason I like the S&S couplers on a bike is so that I can put the bike in the trunk of a taxi along with other luggage. Two of the taxi companies in my community use Prius cars, my S&S case fits just fine in a Prius trunk. If I was taking a bike in a bike box, instead of being able to use a taxi I would have to get a friend with a mini van to take me to airport, which might be inconvenient if I have to get to airport at 4am or leave airport at 12:30 am (those were the times of my last trip to and from airport).

My luggage from my last overseas trip in the photo, the black case is my S&S Backpack case with most of my bike in it (checked as regular luggage), the olive green bag was a bunch of other stuff (also checked), the yellow Ortlieb duffle was my carryon bag, my handlebar bag was my "personal item", and my helmet was worn onto the plane so that there was less chance of damaging it.



My S&S Backpack case also exceeds the Amtrak carry on size for regular carry on bags (it is 26 x 26 x 10 inches). So, that would not be allowed under Amtrak policy as a carry on for anything other than a folding bike. Thus, my S&S case if used for any other purpose would have to be checked, meaning only travel to and from Amtrak stations that handle luggage, because some Amtrak stations are not luggage stops.

And for the heck of it, I had to show off the bike that was in that black S&S case, photo below.

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Old 01-01-19, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Understood. I have often commented that half of the reason I like the S&S couplers on a bike is so that I can put the bike in the trunk of a taxi along with other luggage. Two of the taxi companies in my community use Prius cars, my S&S case fits just fine in a Prius trunk. If I was taking a bike in a bike box, instead of being able to use a taxi I would have to get a friend with a mini van to take me to airport, which might be inconvenient if I have to get to airport at 4am or leave airport at 12:30 am (those were the times of my last trip to and from airport).

My luggage from my last overseas trip in the photo, the black case is my S&S Backpack case with most of my bike in it (checked as regular luggage), the olive green bag was a bunch of other stuff (also checked), the yellow Ortlieb duffle was my carryon bag, my handlebar bag was my "personal item", and my helmet was worn onto the plane so that there was less chance of damaging it.



My S&S Backpack case also exceeds the Amtrak carry on size for regular carry on bags (it is 26 x 26 x 10 inches). So, that would not be allowed under Amtrak policy as a carry on for anything other than a folding bike. Thus, my S&S case if used for any other purpose would have to be checked, meaning only travel to and from Amtrak stations that handle luggage, because some Amtrak stations are not luggage stops.

And for the heck of it, I had to show off the bike that was in that black S&S case, photo below.

Wow! Where is that--South America somewhere? Evidently a place where self-sufficient touring involves hauling a lot of stuff. You're lucky in terms of frame size when it comes to travel. My bike would pack a lot smaller than it does if I didn't have to ride a 63cm frame.

The S&S couplers certainly make for a neat package when broken down. I once thought of going that route, but I don't travel with a bike frequently enough for it to be anywhere near worth the cost.

I just re-read the Amtrak baggage rules. A smarter and less argumentative person than I am would probably have spotted this long ago, but there seems to be a middle ground between my preferred carrying-on-a-folding bike scenario and the awkward breakdown-for-taxi-and-assemble-for-baggage-car scenario I outlined in my previous post.

It appears that Amtrak has a classification for what it calls "general sporting equipment," which can be checked without charge if it measures 75 combined inches or less. My rinko bike exceeds that by about 10 inches, but it's far under the 100-inch upper limit for oversized sporting equipment. So it will apparently incur a $20 oversize charge, but can be shipped in the baggage car in its packed-up state.

No complaints from me about the extra $20. Checking it that way is slightly less convenient than simply carrying it on, and it does restrict one to stops that handle baggage. But that should not be a problem for my trip this year. Also, checking the packed bike appears to be a practical fallback in the event of a failed attempt to carry on a rinko bike as a folding bike. If the conductor rules that the packed-up rinko bike is not a "true folding bike" under the rules, I would assume that it would then be possible to check it as oversized sporting equipment. That's a lot better than being left standing on the platform, packed-up bike in hand, as the train pulls out of the station without you.

Again, I'm going to make a good-faith attempt to confirm all of this with Amtrak before I leave.

I meant to mention that I love the mental image of you wearing your bike helmet onto the plane. Your seatmate must assume that you're unusually concerned about safety.
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Old 01-01-19, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by jonwvara View Post
Wow! Where is that--South America somewhere? ...
...
The S&S couplers certainly make for a neat package when broken down. I once thought of going that route, but I don't travel with a bike frequently enough for it to be anywhere near worth the cost.
...
It appears that Amtrak has a classification for what it calls "general sporting equipment," which can be checked without charge if it measures 75 combined inches or less. My rinko bike exceeds that by about 10 inches, but it's far under the 100-inch upper limit for oversized sporting equipment. So it will apparently incur a $20 oversize charge, but can be shipped in the baggage car in its packed-up state. ... No complaints from me about the extra $20. Checking it that way is slightly less convenient than simply carrying it on, and it does restrict one to stops that handle baggage. But that should not be a problem for my trip this year. Also, checking the packed bike appears to be a practical fallback in the event of a failed attempt to carry on a rinko bike as a folding bike. If the conductor rules that the packed-up rinko bike is not a "true folding bike" under the rules, I would assume that it would then be possible to check it as oversized sporting equipment. That's a lot better than being left standing on the platform, packed-up bike in hand, as the train pulls out of the station without you.
..'
I meant to mention that I love the mental image of you wearing your bike helmet onto the plane. Your seatmate must assume that you're unusually concerned about safety.
Middle of Iceland a couple weeks after the road had opened in the spring. At the time of the photo, I think I had a bit over two weeks of food on the bike too.

I bought my S&S frame and case in 2013, I think later this year (2019) I will finally get to the point where the cost savings paid for the case and couplings. But the convenience of being able to fit it in a car trunk is a non-monetary advantage that is almost as important to me as cost savings. Photo below, I am wearing the backpack case coming out of an airport, a friend of mine took the photo. On the trip in the photo below, I had my folding bike instead of my S&S bike, case works great for both. On that trip I took Southwest air, they give you two free checked bags, thus my bike flew for free in the S&S case. My friends shipped their full size bikes to a motel ahead of time by BikeFlights.com.

GREAT solution on the Rinko bag by calling it sporting equip. I suspect that 90 percent of the time you can carry it on as a carry on, but the sporting goods option means that you do not have to worry about not being able to travel at all. I agree that trying to carry it on the train initially as a carry on is a good idea, then if they say no, politely ask how to check it as sporting goods equipment? And if it was me, I would also carry a printout of the luggage rules for sporting equipment. Conductors have great authority, they can be very helpful but they can kick someone they deem troublesome off a train. So, being polite and friendly is best.

One airline employee looked at me with a smile on his face and said - you know, the airplanes these days are pretty safe. I simply replied I did not want to risk damaging it in my luggage. And I put it in the overhead bin once on the plane.

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Old 01-14-19, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
GREAT solution on the Rinko bag by calling it sporting equip. I suspect that 90 percent of the time you can carry it on as a carry on, but the sporting goods option means that you do not have to worry about not being able to travel at all. I agree that trying to carry it on the train initially as a carry on is a good idea, then if they say no, politely ask how to check it as sporting goods equipment? And if it was me, I would also carry a printout of the luggage rules for sporting equipment. Conductors have great authority, they can be very helpful but they can kick someone they deem troublesome off a train. So, being polite and friendly is best.
Polite and friendly is definitely the way to go. That has always been my approach, too.

I've patiently worked my way through the Amtrak system, and have gathered some useful information about their folding bike policy. I still don't have a definitive answer as to whether Amtrak considers rinko bikes to be folding bikes, but the answers I got suggest that they are, and should be treated like any other folding bike.

A couple of calls to Amtrak ticketing clarified that, operationally speaking, any bike that's packed down to smaller than the 48" x 34" x 15" size and under the 50 lb weight limit is a folding bike. In fact, the ticket agents I spoke with seemed slightly annoyed that anyone would consider asking such a question:

"It's a bike? It meets the size and weight limits for a folding bike? Well, duh, yes, it's a folding bike. Do you have any real questions?"

Practically speaking, that's probably the only answer that's needed. But being an inquiring sort, I got in touch with a media relations person at Amtrak (I'm a former journalist and magazine editor) and asked him to look into Amtrak's official definition of "folding bike."

The distinction I specifically asked about is this: There are two broad categories of what the bike industry considers to be "folding bikes." There are Bromptons and Dahons and Montgues and such, which have hinged or pivoting frames that close up on themselves. They are folding bikes--no ambiguity there. But there are also what the industry calls "separable bikes," like those with S&S couplers or Ritchey Breakaways, which can be broken down into a small package by splitting them into two or more unconnected pieces. Are separable bikes also folding bikes? Or are they dismantled non-folding bikes? By the standards of the bike industry and bike users, they are clearly folding bikes, but what does Amtrak say?

The response I eventually got from the media person--which evidently came from some unnamed higher-up in the organization--said this:

"If Jon has a separable bike, he can certainly bring the bicycle on board as checked baggage as long as it does not weigh over 50 [lbs] and is within the dimensions. If the bike is in checked baggage, some rules apply. If the bicycle is apart, it has to be packed away. If the bike is intact, it is simply just another bike. [I take this to mean that if you show up with a folding bike that is not folded up, they'll accept it as they would a fully-assembled conventional bike. Fair enough.]

Unanswered in all this is whether rinko bike with its fork removed is in fact a "separable bike." I am of the opinion that it is. Amtrak doesn't seen to have any basis for saying that it is not.

So things are clearer, although still far from crystal-clear. The media person sent me a pdf of the Amtrak baggage manual, which is supplied to employees to help them navigate the rules about dealing with special baggage. (I'll try to attach it here, but can't promise that it will be openable.) It seeks to define "folding bikes" on page 14, with the following:

"Folding bicycles carried onboard may be stored in baggage storage areas at the end of the car or in the lower level of Superliner equipment. They must be considered a [sic] true folding bicycle; frame or spokes are hinged for easy disassembly."

As a policy, of course, that's nonsense. "Hinged spokes?" I'm going with the explanation offered by both the ticketing people and by the nameless higher-up quoted by the media person: If it's small enough, and light enough, and it's a bike, it's a folding bike.

To make my bike seem as legitimate as possible, I made up a set of "Rinko Folder" downtube decals. Once I install them, I'll try to remember to post a photo of the packed-up bike.
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Old 01-14-19, 11:51 AM
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Thanks for posting. I loaded the PDF just fine. It is 34 pages, almost the whole thing is on bikes. I decided not to read all of it. But you might want to pick and choose a few pages from that manual and print them off just in case you are asked. Then if you say you called Amtrak and they said ...<insert whatever> ... you can say they sent you the manual and here are a few of the pages you printed off, ... ... that might be more convincing if you show you appear to have actually read the manual that they never bothered to read.

I have considered taking my folder on Amtrak for a short trip, perhaps a week or so. But since you only get two checked bags, if one was my bike, I might struggle to get all my stuff on the train as carry on luggage in a second bag. So I am flip flopping on whether or not I want to try it. If I went to a location where they handle baggage, I would probably instead check my bike. Coming home after I have eaten my food, it would be a lot easier to get all my stuff in one bag so then I could carry the bike on as carry on baggage to come home. (The trip I am thinking of has minimal options to buy groceries.)

The local station manager used to literally make up rules that did not exist. And once when I questioned him on it, he said that he could deny me from getting on the train. He no longer works for Amtrak, but my point is that sometimes you find someone that can get pretty obnoxious that is more interested in showing of how much authority they have instead of doing their job.
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