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  1. #1
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    Riding on railroad tracks

    With gas prices rising, I have this crazy idea in my head that I'm going to commute to work each day by riding on abandoned railroad tracks. My commute is 12 miles each way. I'm trying to avoid the roads with all the crazy drivers and the roads around here aren't great for riding, blind corners, hills, etc. I could ride the railroad tracks for about 8 miles out of the 12. I've never been on a mountain bike before but I did road bike about 15 years ago.
    So first question is, can I somewhat comfortably riding a mountain bike on railroad tracks for 8 miles each way? Would I get a full suspension bike to try to minimize the bumpiness of the tires going between the railroad ties? How bumpy would my ride be with a full suspension bike? I walked the tracks today and at most, the space between the ties is 2-3 inches below the ties. I know this sounds crazy, but trust me the tracks are dead, there are no trains using these tracks.
    The other question is, can I really ride 24 miles a day? It's pretty flat the whole way. I'm 38 years old, 6ft, 155 lbs and I'm in pretty good shape. Do any other members commute that far? It's been so long since I was on a bike, I'm not sure if my legs can handle that every day.

    Thanks
    Greg

  2. #2
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    I have some rail way tracks that I ride....it is the CPR mainline...lots of trains..

    There is a path in the ditch beside the tracks so that is where I ride...

    I used to stop when a train came by now I just keep riding.

    I'll bet dollars to donuts there is a path beside the tracks....

    Riding the ties is very rough and difficult for any length...even with full suspension.

  3. #3
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    You won't want to ride across the ties.

    The June 2010 edition of Bike magazine had and article about some guys that built bikes which could ride on the rails. It worked but not as well in the long term as they had hoped.

  4. #4
    I Ride for Donuts
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    That sounds miserable. I've done it for short distances, and it's work. I'd consider a full suspension 29er with massive tires, but even with that it wouldn't be enjoyable.
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  5. #5
    ~Disc~Golf~
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    ride the road - it's not that bad once you realize how to act like traffic and be confident
    Honestly... ahh I give up

  6. #6
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    If it is truly abandoned track, and especailly if it already has a trail alongside the road bed, I don't see an issue other than surprising Meth cookers in their back yard or meeting uncontrolled dogs that consider the area their territory. Things change.

    As to roads, and traffic, only you can decide what seems safe and what seems reckless if not outright suicidal. I have some narrow blind corner and blind hill roads that are driven in excess of 75 mph in the middle of the road. I won't ride them.

  7. #7
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    It does sound pretty miserable if there is no trail beside the tracks, I wouldn't want to do miles of it (though admittedly I don't have full suspension). Sounds like a great place for a rail trail, but that's not a short-term solution. Are there any alternate routes you would feel safer on? Or is half of it safer & you can park and save half the gas, and get back in biking shape at the same time? Or can you shift your hours? Even an hour later often avoids the worst of the rush hour. I have a sister in Macungie and rode there a couple times, it seemed OK, but I know it's different when you're taking a rec ride on lesser travelled roads rather than having to get somewhere specific. If there is less traffic say on Sunday a.m. you could try it then first just to see if that feels unsafe. The distance sounds do-able if you can find a way not to get beat up by the ties or run over on the road. Let us know if you try either one and how you make out.

  8. #8
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    I ride a section of RR track to and from one of my local riding spots. There's a path beside the tracks most of the way but it disappears in a few sections and I have to either ride on the baserock or across the ties outboard of the tracks. Both are no fun, I could see doing it for maybe a mile or so but 12 miles each way...no way. (BTW, the bike is a 4" FS rig, very well tuned for off-road riding and pretty soft & squishy for a 4" bike. But it's no match for the ties.)

    Re: the distance...10 to 15 miles is a perfect commute distance on a roadie, so you're in the zone even on an MTB if you were talking about reasonably smooth trails. Don't go out and try to do 5 days/week the first week...the old roadie guideline for increasing mileage was to up your weekly mileage by 10% each week and you won't burn out. Do it a day or two the first week, then add a third day, then if you are still digging it up up it even more.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by bme107
    The June 2010 edition of Bike magazine had and article about some guys that built bikes which could ride on the rails. It worked but not as well in the long term as they had hoped.
    Lots of mechanical drag. I read an article in Popular Science back in the early 1980s about people who made rigs to bolt onto their bikes which enabled them to ride on the rails. All said and done, it added about 60 pounds of weight to their bikes, and some considerable mechanical drag. Not the most efficient way to ride.
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  10. #10
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    I've been doing this type of riding for a year now. I live in ahwatukee and have ridden my bike to Tempe town lake with minimal "main street" use a couple times. I ride quite a bit on the trails right next to the track from Chandler up to the the lake. You can't ride it all but you can stick pretty close if you want. Yep it takes longer but it's more fun.

    Edit: With the right bike it's more fun.

  11. #11
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    Thanks for the feedback. It seems like for most of the way, the tracks are elevated in stone, and then surrounded by woods, so there's not much room to ride next to the tracks. I think I found a route through the back roads that wouldn't be too bad. There is talk over the next couple years of completing a trail here from Pottsville to Philly, so that will be nice. Until then I'll have to ride the road or take the bus, or keep spending $3.50 a gallon on gas.

    Thanks again.

  12. #12
    Squeaky Wheel
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    With a little practice, you could just ride on one of the rails...

  13. #13
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    Lol, I had actually considered that for about one second. That would be some precise riding!

  14. #14
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