Railbiking: Riding the rails on a railbike with Revolution Rail

by Jul 18, 2019New York

Rail biking with Revolution Rail allows riders to pedal special two-seat and four-seat rail bikes along abandoned railroad tracks in the Adirondacks. The section of track begins at the historic North Creek Railroad Station just outside of Lake George and passes through dense forest and alongside the banks of the Hudson River. 

Thinktank X Ready For Moment

A lush green forest swept by on either side of us as our group pedaled along easily on our railbikes from Revolution Rail. Views of the Hudson River appeared through the trees to our right. Laughter echoed up and down the train tracks as our group of riders glided along.

Located not far from Lake George, New York, the historic railroad tracks we were pedaling along are now abandoned, meaning there were no fears of having to pedal furiously to outrun a freight train barreling in behind. In the 1930s, the Adirondack Branch of the D&H Railroad brought visitors from New York City and Schenectady, New York, into the Adirondacks. The railway also linked to the village of Tahawus where iron ore and titanium dioxide were mined.

Rail Biking With Revolution Rail Group

What are railbikes (rail bikes)?

Railbikes are pedal-powered carts that resemble recumbent bikes in the way you sit and pedal. The specially designed carts feature large rubber-covered wheels for quiet, smooth rolling over railroad tracks. Companies such as Revolution Rail typically design their own versions of a railbike, but each is decidedly similar in approach, with either two or four-seat versions. Pedaling them is relatively easy, making it a suitable adventure for any age or level of fitness. One person in each cart also operates a hand brake to ensure you don’t go too fast or bump into carts in front of you.

Revolution Rail Rail Bikes

The tour begins and ends at North Creek Railroad Station

Our adventure began at the North Creek Railroad Station, headquarters for Revolution Rail tours, where we boarded a bus for a short shuttle to our tour starting point.

North Creek Railroad Station is famous for being the place where then-Vice President Teddy Roosevelt learned that President William McKinley had died from wounds received following an assassination attempt. Upon hearing the news, Roosevelt proceeded immediately to Buffalo on the fastest train, where he was subsequently sworn in as President of the United States.

If you have time before or after your tour with Revolution Rail, you can learn more about the history of North Creek and about Teddy Roosevelt at the North Creek Depot Museum located nearby.

After a safety briefing, we selected our railbikes and headed out. The entire tour is approximately six miles roundtrip, with the three miles out heading slightly uphill and the three miles back gliding slightly downhill.

Rail Bikes On The Tressle Bridge Over The Hudson River

Revolution Rail co-founder Michael Dupee told me that wildlife is frequently spotted along this quiet section of railway (though we didn’t see any on our trip). A trestle bridge crossing over the Hudson River is a highlight as the views up and down the river are spectacular (assuming you don’t have a great fear of high places). It is also the perfect spot, on the ride back, for that ubiquitous “look at me on a rail bike” selfie, if you are so inclined.

At the halfway point, while Revolution Rail guides work to turn the railbikes around for the return trip, bike riders can relax beside the Hudson River. It is worth noting that trips go rain or shine, so dress accordingly. And be sure to pack along a camera or smartphone, water, sunscreen, snacks and insect repellent.

Other rail biking opportunities

Not heading to the Adirondacks but still want to try your hand at railbiking? Here are some other railbike tour companies around the United States and Europe.

Rail Explorers – Catskill Mountains, Rhode Island, Las Vegas
Rail Explorers USA offers railbike tours in the Catskill Mountains along the historic Ulster and Delaware Railroad, in Rhode Island along the Old Colony Railroad, built in 1862, and in Las Vegas.

Skunk Train Rail Bikes – California
Operated by the well-known Skunk Train, and departing from Fort Bragg, Calif., the 90 minute roundtrip railbiking tour follows tracks along the Pudding Creek Estuary and into majestic redwood groves, and you may see osprey, blue herons, and other wildlife. Because of the slight climb involved on the return, the rail bikes have an optional motorized assist.

Skunk Train Meets Railbikes At The Glen Blair Junction

River Fox Railbikes – Sacramento, California
River Fox railbike tours follow the tracks alongside picturesque Old Garden Highway beside the Sacramento River. Picturesque views and cool breezes on this 1.5 hour round trip journey.

Carson Canyon Railbike Tours – Carson City, Nevada
Carson Canyon Railbike Tours offer motor-assisted railbike adventures along the historic Virginia & Truckee train tracks combined with a visit to the Halfway House Stage Stop. Trips are 90 minutes into the beautiful Carson River Canyon.

Joseph Branch Railriders – Oregon
The Joseph Branch Railriders pedal along an inactive section of the Joseph Branch Railway, with tracks passing through forest and farmland, over creeks and marsh. The Wallowa Mountains serve as a backdrop. The company offers two tours. One is six hours long and covers 26 miles.

Vance Creek Railriders – Washington
Vance Creek Railriders offers rail biking tours on the historic Simpson Logging Company Railway on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Explore the lush, mossy, fern-filled forests on a 14-mile round-trip railbike adventure.

Flekkefjordbanen – Norway
This company offers railbiking tours at Flekkefjordbanen on a railway line that saw service until 1990. Tours run every day in the summer.

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Railbiking With Revolution Rail

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Heads up! This information on Rail Biking was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). It is your sole responsibility to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, and any other important details before your adventure.
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15 Comments

  1. This looks like so much fun ! I’m thinking someone should do this on the abandoned tracks of Petite Ceinture in Paris ! =p

    Reply
    • Jeremy! Great idea! Start the company and we’ll ride with you.

      Reply
  2. Silly question first: I hope they make sure there are no trains running on these tracks! Now, this looks like a great way to travel and discover the local environment. The seats look quite comfortable and you can probably travel pretty fast with several people pedalling. What a great idea for an excursion!

    Reply
  3. Wow! That looks like so much fun. What a great and original way to re-purpose old railway tracks. I will remember this one if I’m ever in the neighborhood. Based on your list Norway would be the closest

    Reply
  4. I never heard of rail bikes but it looks true fun. Biking on rails would be the most fun thing to do. I loved the view while biking and it is great idea to convert abandoned railway track to such fun things to do.

    Reply
  5. Oh my gosh I totally love this! We should have this on more of the defunct lines in the US what a great way to experience Lake George. Such a pretty way to see nature as well without hiking.

    Reply
  6. Oh too bad…there is none in Arizona. And we failed to try this highly interesting way to bike because there’s one in Washington and we lived there for some time!

    Reply
  7. Oh this looks like so much fun. I would love to do this with my family and friends. I can already hear the laughter and giggles. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  8. I had no idea that rail biking was even a thing. It’s right up my alley and I’m going to see if I can find this in Canada. It would be the perfect way to see things you wouldn’t see by biking a road or trail.

    Reply
    • It is so much fun Kelly and gaining in popularity! Would not surprise me to see rail biking start to become a thing in parts of Canada either.

      Reply
  9. Never seen this before but would love to give this a bash. But not sure if I want to sit like that and pedal away for a length of time, doesn’t it hurt the lower back? By the looks of the list, it looks like its getting popular and popular. I wonder if this will hit my home country soon..the UK>

    Reply
    • Recumbant style bikes are actually very good for your back and super supportive. So easy to pedal and fly along. All it takes to start a tour is a bit of abandoned rail that goes through somewhere scenic or historic, permission to use the trail, and some gumption to start the company and promote it for rail biking to take off in the UK.

      Reply
  10. Oh wow this looks like so much fun!! Looks like it would be a lot of fun with some family and friends 🙂

    Reply
    • It is amazingly fun and perfect for a family and/or friends adventure.

      Reply

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