Friday, January 15, 2010

How to Transport a bike

Thanks to for the picture

So lets say you found your wonderful new bike, you love it, it does what you want and you need to get it home. Now say you don't own a bike rack or even a car, because well the bike is your transportation. There are a couple ways you could go with this, if the shop is local, use your old bike to pull it home, because well why would you want to get rid of your old bike. The formula is N+1 not N-1+1, where N is the number of bikes you have currently, there is no room for this getting rid of bikes silliness. There are racks that allow for a tire to be placed and locked down, and Xtracycle system will allow this (see Here, Here, and a longer story on Xtracycle type cargo bikes Here) there are also do-it-yourself rigs online for this, but only works if your old bike is a cargo or transport or has a rack system. Walking is an option if it’s not too far away. However for the most part you would be going via public transport or a friend. I won’t deal with the friend thing here, but I want to talk about the public transportation option.

For inner-city travel, there is the bus. Most of these do not allow bikes (except foldies) on board due to the space required, sometimes they might if there is plenty of room and the driver is feeling nice. In some areas there are racks on the front of the buses for 2-3 bikes, these buses are typically in smaller communities or college areas, and are actually really good for providing mobility and creating mode share possibilities, however this is unlikely in dense urban routes as the time required is quite a bit to load on, and there is likely to be too many bikes for the limited space, and well, its urban, riding the bike is easier as things are closer together.

Also for inner-city travel is the subway, light rail, or tram/trolley. The restrictions vary with each agency/city and sometimes within the network. Example; trams do not allow bikes, but the subway does. Usually the policy is clear and typically full sized bikes are not allowed during rush hour time due to the space required.

For commuter travel or regional transport, there is light or heavy rail. For light commuter rail, most I believe allow bikes on board, usually you have a limited area to place them, usually its just around where you board or exit the train, sometimes there are seats that fold up or sometimes even a compartment (like many UK trains I rode). Ideally an entire car would be used for proper storage of bikes, but that is very unlikely to happen anytime soon.

If you want to go city-to-city then your options are very limited.
Flying is possible, but the fees are insane and from what I have heard, quite a hassle, although if you take it apart and remove some elements you can ship it by plane and call it art in progress or something, with maybe better treatment, but you are riding your bike normally, unless you are moving to another part of the country, I am not sure why you would fly with your bike anyway.

Amtrak allows bikes on some routes and some stations due to the nature of how they typically carry bikes. My Downeaster service allows bikes at three stations due to the platform length and the "dummy" engine on one end that holds larger storage items, needing to be accessible to the loading platform. I could have a bike on the train from North Station in Boston, but I could only unload it at Portland, ME or one other Maine town, for all intensive purposes, useless, especially for commuters from New Hampshire (which is a majority).

Greyhound or other bus services seem like the best bet, short of actually shipping through UPS or other company for a huge cost. Greyhound allows bikes with the following statement:
Packaging only exceptions to the following items: bicycles, skis and ski poles must be packed in wood, canvas or other substantial container, and securely fastened.
It is considered checked baggage and subject to fee for an extra bag if you already have one with clothes in it, the fee is 10$. Some companies like Boltbus and other providers will carry bikes free of extra charge and free of excessive packaging requirements or oversize limits, as long as its within the one baggage limit for under the bus. I have read that people have the best success with this, and you may find another company that has specific space for bikes, but I don't know.

So why did I bring this up, why the long lead-up. Well I found the bike I want, the Breezer Uptown 8 or see my other post on the bike. It does everything I need and want and with a quick fitting was wonderful to ride and gave me plenty of gears for what I was doing. However due to the sever lack of suppliers and carriers for Breezer, I will have to get the bike from Harris Cyclery, just outside of Boston (home of Sheldon Brown, may he rest in peace). Which is not a problem except that getting back to college in Plattsburgh, NY involves a Greyhound trip, and now you understand the logic behind this. A comment on a bike forum about using bike boxes that shops get their bikes in and taking the bike apart for shipping, got me thinking, and I think it will work. It will certainly be interesting getting the bike as I might see if Harris will pack the bike for me, with minimal deconstruction, and I take the bike home in the back of my dads wagon and not deal with the mess of 2 MBTA commuter trains and a subway with a new bike, and then a drive with the bike on the bike rack from the commuter rail station.

I will update further once I complete my trip, hopefully with a brand-new bike.
Until then, I hope this will work out; otherwise I am quite stuck...

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