Where you provide the pedal power on old railroad tracks
Rail biking? We wondered what it was too so we booked a tour. It’s a hoot and a delightful way to see all the scenic natural countryside Mother Nature has to offer. Rail bikes ride on repurposed railroad tracks in carts designed with two or four recumbent bicycle seats and pedals. They ride through tunnels, and on trestle bridges over or alongside rivers and roads. You can go rail biking in the U.S. and get some exercise while enjoying the great outdoors.
How a rail bike works
Picture a sturdy rail cart with two or four recumbent bicycle seats and pedals riding along otherwise abandoned railroad tracks. The double or quad carts use passenger pedal power to move along the tracks while riders are safely secured with a seatbelt and hand break to slow down. Tour guides ride in the lead and last carts to keep things running smoothly and safely. If there’s a road crossing the tracks the lead guide stops traffic with a bright yellow flag so the rail bikes can cross safely.
The concept of a pedal powered vehicle on railroads dates back to the early days when repair and maintenance workers used hand carts to move along the tracks. Today’s rendition of rail biking is an easy and more comfortable ride.
What’s need-to-know and nice-to-know about rail biking
The cart or vehicle has steel wheels, hydraulic disc beaks and comfortable seats. The location of pedals in front of each seat are adjustable so everyone gets a nice workout without having to watch the road ahead. Stow your stuff in a handy basket behind the seats. You can take pictures or videos as you roll along so it’s not like riding a bicycle where you have to concentrate on the road ahead. Going solo or in a group it’s a nice way to be engaged with the outdoors without breaking a sweat. For a couple, family or group of friends it’s fun to share being together while pedaling along.
Tours range from a few hours to longer often with a turn-around destination or watering hole. On these roundtrip tours riders disembark and the railbikes are turned around and put back in place facing the other way on the track. On a one way trip passengers are shuttled in a van back to the starting point, which is often an old railroad station. The cost is about $40 a person for 2 to 3 hours with price ranges for short and longer rides. Since there is a limited number of seats reservations are suggested.
Dogs are not allowed on most rail biking tours but kids are welcome. Some tour companies stipulate kids have to be with someone old enough to handle the hand brake and infants have to be in a chest harness, not seated on your lap. The individual rail biking companies have their own rules regarding pets and children as passengers, so check about their requirements. Often there’s a weight restriction of 300 lbs per passengers.
Find a location near you
Below is a list of rail biking tour on railroad tracks in the U. S. with links to learn more about them. Some have videos which give you a good idea of what to expect, others have details about the destinations you’ll see. These are websites worth a visit.
Rail Biking Tour Companies in the U.S.
American Rail Bike Adventures Stewartstown PA and Seven Valleys PA https://americanrailbike.com/
Secret Valley Excursions Pottstown PA https://www.parailbiketours.com/
Soarin’ Eagle Rail Tours Hawley PA https://soarineagle.com/
River Fox Train Sacramento CA https://www.riverfoxtrain.com/experiences/railbikes/
Skunk Train Fort Bragg CA https://www.skunktrain.com/railbikes/
Tracks and Yacks Frostburg MD https://tracksandyaks.com/
Rail Explorers USA Boone, IA, Cooperstown NY, Rhode Island, The Catskills, NY, Las Vegas www.railexplorers.net
V & T Railway Commission Carson City NV https://vtrailway.com/train-rides/carson-canyon-railbikes/
Joseph Branch Railroads Joseph OR https://jbrailriders.com/
Vance Creek Railroads Shelton WA https://vcrailriders.com/
B&ML RailCyclers Thorndike ME https://fitmaine.com/ride-railcycles-thorndike/
Revolution Rail Co. North Creek NY, Hadley NY, Warrensburg NY, Cape May NY, Woodstown NJ, South Fork, CO www.revrail.com
Hobo Railroad Laconia NH https://hoborr.com/rail-bike-adventures/
Scenic Rail Bikes Concord NH https://scenicrailriders.com/railbikes
Adirondack Railbike Adventures Thendora and Tupper Lake, NY https://adirondackscenicrailbikes.com/
The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat Essex CT https://essex-steam-train-riverboat.myshopify.com/collections/2022-railbike-adventures
Please tell us if you know of a rail biking tour so we can add it to the list. Email is email@example.com.
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Gene and Katie Hamilton travel the U.S. extensively in search of a favorite place. They are members of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.