Bike in countryside

Taking Your Bike on the Train for the First Time

May 16, 2022

This post was originally written in 2015 and updated in May 2022.

Now that Bike Month is here, the Capitol Corridor and our friends at Bike East Bay want you to embrace the great outdoors by taking your Bike to Wherever in combination with the train. After all, bikes and trains are a match made in heaven, right?

It’s true that bikes and trains are natural partners, but when you’re trying it for the very first time (or even the first few times!), it can be a little intimidating – we get it. Take it from a non-bike riding Capitol Corridor employee who tried it for the first time just a few weeks ago. It was a great experience, but like anything new, it’s a little hard at first and takes some time getting used to. You can learn more on our website, and see our tips for newbies who want to experience the fun of taking their two-wheeler on the train:

Where to Go

Now that we’ve got you onboard with the idea of combining a bike with train travel, you may be thinking—where do I go? We’ve got the perfect trip itinerary for you. How does a long weekend getaway up to Placer County sound? There’s plenty to explore and it all can be done with nothing more than a train ticket and your bike. Check out our Weekend in Placer County post for all of the details.

Prepare in advance

Prepare a day or two before to make sure your bike is ready to go – pump up the tires (because if you don’t ride very much, chances are they’re deflated), find your helmet (it’s probably buried somewhere in your closet or garage), and make sure you have a bike lock, and preferably a U-lock. Oh, and make sure you can find the key to the lock. If you’re driving to the station with your bike, consider loading it onto or into your car the night before. Fumbling with a bike rack is the last thing you need to deal with as you’re rushing to get out the door, especially if you don’t do it very often!

A bike helmet and a lock are biking essentials.

Give yourself extra time

On the day of your bike/train trip, give yourself a few extra minutes so you can get the bike out of your car, walk it to the station, and buy your ticket. Better yet, so you don’t have to leave your bike on the platform or lug it into the station to buy your ticket, purchase your ticket online in advance. And don’t forget, if you leave your bike on the platform to go into the station, have a companion keep an eye on it or lock it up.

Get into position

While you’re waiting for the train, ask someone at the station (staff, volunteer station hosts, other passengers with bikes) if they know where the “bike cars” will be when the train pulls into the station and then stand in that area. Generally on Capitol Corridor trains there are two bike cars indicated with bike decals; one is positioned directly opposite the locomotive, which could be at the front or back of the train depending on which direction the train is going, and the other is in the second position away from the locomotive. If in doubt, follow the other cyclists, stand in a central location, or ask the conductor when the train arrives.

Bike car sticker
Bike cars are indicated with a bike/luggage decal next to the doors.

Secure your bike 

Ok, here’s the hardest part, but once you get a system down, it’s a piece of cake. When you board the train, the bike storage area will be right there on the lower level. It’s big and holds about a dozen bikes. Each rack includes a hook, a red cord, and a black stabilization bar.

Each bike storage area can hold about a dozen bicycles.
Each bike storage area can hold about a dozen bicycles.

Follow these steps for our traditional bike racks:

    • Stand behind your bike, or just to the side of it, and pull the handlebars up to position the bike vertically. Some bikes, like mountain bikes, are heavy, so don’t be afraid to ask for help with this part. Everyone on the Capitol Corridor is very friendly and willing to assist!

      Stand behind your bike and firmly hold the handlebars to pull it up to a vertical position.
      Stand behind your bike, firmly hold the handlebars, and pull the bike up to a vertical position. (Photo taken before COVID pandemic.)
    • Guide the front wheel onto the hook on the wall. You may have to lift the bike up a few inches above the hook to latch it on.
    • Lower the black stabilization bar next to the front wheel and wrap the Velcro strap around the forks. If there is no Velcro strap on the stabilization bar, a bungee cord will also work.
    • For extra stabilization, you can loop the red cord shown in the picture above around the bike frame.
    • We strongly recommend you lock your bicycle by inserting the U-lock or cable lock through the front wheel of your bike and the notch on the lowered stabilization bar. While it doesn’t happen often, bikes can be and have been stolen from the train, especially when the bicycle owner is sitting in the upper level.

      Loop the lock around the notch not he stabilization and your bike's front tire.
      Loop the lock around the notch on the stabilization and your bike’s front tire.

Follow these steps for the angled bike racks.

    • First lower the stabilization bar located to the left of the rack space you are going to use.
    • Stand behind your bike, or just to the side of it, and pull the handlebars up to position the bike vertically.
    • Guide the front tire into the angled metal rack and make sure it is secured. In some cases you may have to slightly lift the bicycle for it to rest in the proper position.
    • Extend the stabilization bar to hook over the frame. Lock your bike to the stabilization arm for extra security.
Make sure the black peg is positioned between the spokes of the front tire. This will indicate that the tire is properly loaded .

Leave extra time for getting off

Even though you’re probably enjoying your train ride and would rather not think about getting off, you might want to get down to the bike storage area a little earlier than you normally would to make sure you get your bicycle unlocked and off the rack. Once you get the hang of the system, you’ll be able to do this pretty quickly, but the first couple of times could be tricky and you don’t want to miss your stop.