The best railbike adventure – Find railbikes near me
Railbikes have been used on railroad tracks since the 1800’s. It wasn’t until recently that individuals and companies began designing railbikes and offering railbike trips for the public. Railbiking companies are numerous. Our guide will help you to find the best railbike adventure near you.
Whether called rail bikes, railbikes or railcycles, people have been adapting bicycles to “ride” the rails since the 1800s. Until recently, however, railbikes were designed simply as a way to move up and down railroad tracks for work. It wasn’t until the 1980s that a dentist from Idaho, Dick Smart, created his own railbike design purely for recreation and began exploring abandoned or vacant tracks around the Western United States to ride them. He called it railcycling. The media began to take notice of Smart’s adventures, and soon others began to follow in his tracks (pun intended), using updated designs that resembled carts more than bikes. It wasn’t long before companies began offering recreational railbike adventures along abandoned tracks.
What is railbiking?
Some of the first bikes were designed like regular two-wheelers with angled support rods connecting them to the other rail to keep them upright and on the tracks. Today’s companies, which tend to design and build their own railbikes, have moved to a design that is friendlier for the masses. These railbikes are all a little different but stick to the same concept: Each is a custom-made four-wheel vehicle with rubberized wheels that is built with either two or four seats, seatbelts, pedals, and hand-operated disc brakes. The bikes are single gear and move forward by the riders pedaling – rather like you see in a recumbent bicycle. They are light enough to roll easily along the railroad tracks and can be operated at a very leisurely pace with no steering needed – making it ideal for taking photos and enjoying the passing scenery. An increasing number of companies are adding an electric motor assist to their railbikes to lessen the pedaling effort required if desired by the riders – especially useful if the railbike tour is in a hillier region.
How do railbike adventures work?
While each company offers different trip options, scenery and adventures, the formula remains the same: Railbikes all leave in a group, with tour leaders at the front and back for safety. There is no passing (bumping into the bike in front of you is highly frowned upon), and the pedaling pace is set by the lead guide at a comfortable and leisurely speed. If you feel the need for speed, railbiking is not for you, trust me. For roundtrip adventures, there is usually an established turnaround point where guests disembark, and each railbike is turned around by the guides using a nifty tool that helps spin the bikes easily before they are dropped back into place facing the other way on the track. Most often, there is a seating area, place to relax, short walks, or talks about the area while the guides work to spin the railbikes. For one-way journeys, shuttles are provided to return guests to the parking area.
How much do railbike trips cost?
On average, at the time of this writing, you can expect to pay approximately $85 for a two-seat bike (or about $42.50 per person) and up to $150 for a four-seat bike (about $37.50 per), making the adventure perfect for families or groups. A few companies do ticket per person. In my view, anything over about $100 for a two-seater and $200 for a four-seater starts to feel overpriced, unless you are getting additional benefits, such as a nice picnic lunch included.
Is railbiking for everyone?
Yes, with a caveat. Nearly every company I know of places a per-person weight limit on riding its bikes. Check before you book, but typically this is in the 300-pound range. If you weigh more than that, you likely will not be able to ride. Other than that, it is perfect for young, old, fit, less fit (though everyone should have at least enough fitness to pedal a bike for 30 minutes or so without collapsing) and everyone in between. Everyone pedals together, but if one person gets too tired, or wants to stop pedaling to take a photo, taking a break is easy. Just stop pedaling while the others keep the wheels moving. It’s even easier with railbikes that have an electric motor assist, giving that added boost of power to keep the bikes moving easily down the tracks with little or no effort. Though I am quite fit and an experienced cyclist, I certainly enjoyed the electric motor boost when catching up to the group after lagging behind for a nifty photo op.
What will I need to bring on a railbike?
You’ll want to pack along a camera (your smartphone camera will be fine if that is all you have), sunscreen, insect repellent, and appropriate outerwear for the weather, such as raincoats, hats, or rain gear – yes, most every company will run their trips rain or shine so be prepared. Although water is sometimes provided, don’t count on it and bring your own. There are usually baskets at the back of the bike to stow small daypacks with your extra things and a small cupholder for bottles (although some are shallow, and bottles may slip out). Closed-toe shoes are required for safety, and I believe comfy, loose-fitting clothing suitable for hiking or biking is best. Personally, I prefer lightweight long pants and a long-sleeve shirt for added sun protection. I’d also recommend a hat and sunglasses.
Finding the best railbike adventure near me
Now that you’ve read about what a railbike is, you’re ready to experience pedaling a railbike for yourself and can’t wait to get going, right? I’ve compiled a list of railbiking companies around the United States to help make your search for “railbikes near me” even easier. General current prices have also been provided below to give you an idea of cost – but prices change often without notice, so keep that in mind.
Skunk Trail Railbikes – Fort Bragg, California
Owned and operated by the same company the operates the River Fox Railbikes, the well-known Skunk Train departs from Fort Bragg, Calif., on a 90-minute roundtrip railbiking tour that follows historic tracks along the Pudding Creek Estuary and into majestic redwood groves. It is possible 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. The Skunk Train charges $195 per guest; thus, a tandem bike will cost nearly $390.
River Fox Railbikes – Sacramento, California
River Fox (a sister company of the Skunk Train railbikes, above) offers railbike tours that follow the tracks alongside the Old Garden Highway beside the Sacramento River. Picturesque views and cool breezes are on tap for this 60-minute roundtrip journey. Rail bikes have an optional motorized assist. River Fox charges $129 per guest; thus, a tandem bike will cost approximately $258.
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 last 90 minutes into the Carson River Canyon. Railbikes seat up to four people and cost $45 per person, for a total of $180 for four people.
Joseph Branch Railriders – Oregon
The Joseph Branch Railriders take railbikers 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 several different tours, including a nighttime railbike adventure. The basic two-hour, 12-mile trip is $80 for a tandem bike (thus, $40 each) and $140 for a 4-seat quad bike (or $35 each).
Vance Creek Railriders – Washington
Vance Creek Railriders offers railbike 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. Cost is $30 per rider over 12-years of age.
B&ML RailCyclers – Unity, Maine
Operated by the Brooks Preservation Society, the group provides railcycle excursions (the group calls its railbikes “railcycles”) on the historic Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad tracks. Each railcycle seats two people. The fee is $34 per bike (meaning $17 per person) and money goes to fund the society’s preservation and restoration projects.
Revolution Rail – Adirondacks, New York, and other cities
Revolution Rail allows riders to pedal special two-seat and four-seat railbikes 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 – crossing the Hudson via an amazing trestle bridge. I can personally attest that pedaling over the Hudson makes this one of the best railbike adventures! Choice of a quad bike for $150 (i.e., $37.50 each) or a tandem bike for $90 ($45 each) are available. At the time of this writing, the company also offers railbiking adventures in South Fork, Colo.; Cape May, N.J.; and Hadley, N.Y., with perhaps more to come.
Adirondack Railbike Adventures – Adirondacks, New York
Pedal along the Adirondack Scenic Railroad tracks just north of Thendara station on a six-mile round trip journey through the natural beauty of the Adirondack mountains. Each railbike will seat two to four people, at $147 per bike.
Rail Explorers – Cooperstown, Catskill Mountains, Rhode Island, Las Vegas
Rail Explorers USA offers railbike tours in four locations – The Milford Track along the Susquehanna River in Milford, New York; the Catskill Mountains along the historic Ulster and Delaware Railroad; in Rhode Island along the 1862 Old Colony Railroad; and in Las Vegas. Prices range by location but in general are around $85 for a tandem explorer railbike (i.e., $42.50 per person) and $150 for a quad explorer railbike (or about $37.50 each).
Scenic RailRiders – Concord, New Hampshire
Pedal two- and four-seat railbikes along a scenic 6.4-mile stretch of abandoned railroad tracks through woodlands, farmlands and alongside the Merrimack River. Two-seat bikes are $86 ($43 each) and four-seat bikes are $148 per bike (or as little as $37 each).
Rail Bike Adventures – Laconia, New Hampshire
Jump aboard a four-seat railbike and pedal five miles along the Hobo & Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad tracks in New Hampshire’s beautiful Lakes Region. Trip crosses over a trestle bridge above the Winnipesaukee River and to the shore of Lake Winnisquam – New Hampshire’s fourth-largest lake. $151 per railbike (approximately $37.50 each).
Essex Steam train Railbike Adventures – Haddam, Connecticut
Enjoy a railbike adventure pedaling eight miles route along the scenic Connecticut River from Essex Station to Old Saybrook and back. The route passes by The Preserve, a 963-acre forest, once recognized as the largest remaining unprotected coastal forest between Boston and New York before its acquisition for protection. Two-seat bikes are $75 (per person, $37.50) and four-seat bikes are $125 (about $31 per).
Tracks & Yaks – Frostburg, Maryland
Trips follow along a 10-mile route on the ridgeline next to the Great Allegheny Passage hiking and biking trail. Spectacular views and regional history are part of the journey. Two tours available: One is an out and back, and the other goes all the way to Cash Valley Crossing with a trolley shuttle to return riders to the train depot parking area. Tandem bikes are $89 ($44.50 each) and quad bikes are $149 (about $37.25 each).
Secret Valley Explorers – Boyertown, Pennsylvania
Embark on a five-mile pedal crossing over creeks, passing through dense forests, and history in the rocks that had an impact on George Washington and Thomas Edison. Four-seat railbikes cost $175 per bike (nearly $44 each). Trip is one-way with a trolley car returning riders to the train station parking area.
Soarin’ Eagle Rail Tours – Hawley, Pennsylvania
Located in the scenic Pocono Mountains, riders pedal along a six-mile route beside the Lackawaxen River. The region is known for bald eagles, hence the company name. Tandem railbikes are $85 ($42.50 each) and Quad railbikes are $150 (each, $37.50).
Find the best railbike adventure near your by using our map!
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