Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bike-Train Thingy

I know my title is less than proper English, but I don't know how to describe it otherwise. They use the term "Railbike." On our way home from Canada we made a stop in the Adirondacks to take an hour-long ride on the Rail Explorers -- a bike-train thingy.

So, what is a "bike-train thingy?" Let's start with a picture of us on it:

In our case it was a four-person vehicle powered by pedaling along an abandoned rail line. There are also two-person models. It is the first of it's kind in the United States.

The six-mile ride goes from Saranac Lake to Lake Clear and back. We recommend going from Lake Clear to Saranac Lake, not just because that is what we did, but because it is a little more downhill in that direction, and because there is a restaurant at Lake Clear with cheap home-style cooking. There did not seem to be any food options near the Saranac Lake Station.
We were scheduled for 5:30 PM -- the last ride of the evening. We arrived before the last group from the other direction arrived, giving us a chance to watch them flip the cars around. Don took tons of pictures, but I'll leave you with just this one. There are about a dozen cars altogether. Each one ride independently of the one in front of it, but (if need be) can be connected. Reasons for connecting it could be because of tired legs or empty cars. Or to push the car ahead of you because the guide gets out to stop traffic and can't both pedal and stand in the middle of the street. Once you start, there is no way to pass another car.

Don wisely hopped to the front of the caravan so we were the car behind the guide. The guide, who makes this trip multiple times a day, can really hoof it. We were going at a decent pace (unfortunately we both forgot to wear our GPS tracking devices which would have given us more information) to the extent at the end the people behind us said they could not keep up. This gave us the feeling of being all alone in the Adirondacks.

Our six mile adventure included passing a lot of trees, a giant lake, and going through another lake.

We crossed the road four times. Each time a SAG team came out to stop traffic for us. Made me wonder what the locals think about this program.

We ended up at our destination as the sun was starting to hide behind the trees.

The experience includes transportation back to the start, or you park at the finish and take the ride back to the start. Transportation are a bunch of minivans.

In our car ride back, I asked our driver, who turned out to be the owner, for the story behind the bike-train thingy (he calls it a Railbike -- I like my name better). The owner and his wife are from Australia. He is in marketing. She watches South Korean soap operas on-line (as well as having a real job). In one of the episodes, the happy couple took a ride in one of these contraptions in South Korea. It looked like fun. The idea sparked an idea. By this point, they were living in Brooklyn and were American citizens. They still thought it would be fun to market this back in Australia and move closer to family. They could find abandoned rail lines in Australia, but could not convince anyone to let them try this. It was deemed too experimental.

They regrouped. Friends had vacationed in the Adirondacks and raved about the location. They started to look at Google Earth for the right location. They discovered this rail line that had been abandoned since 1980. Rails to Trails was interested in turning it into a trail. The owner of the line was not yet ready to abandon the rails. He jumped on the proposal to start Rail Explorers. Within six months (mostly winter months at that) they were up and running.

The plan was to run these from July 3 through August to see if there was interest. They sold out. We heard about it through a friend's FaceBook post of a newspaper article. As we were traveling through the area (a generous use of the phrase "through the area") we decided to detour and ride it. During our chat back to the car, we learned they just decided to expand the season through Columbus Day in order to catch the fall foliage. Wise move. As we were riding on it, I couldn't help but think how spectacular the views would be in another month or so.

Future plans include hopefully expanding 20 miles in the other direction and turning it into more of a day excursion than an hour plus long ride. 

The experience got three thumbs up from us.

If you decide to go, have fun! It is in the middle of nowhere, but they are so nice we want to go back and do it again sometime, hopefully once they expand the route in the opposite direction.


  1. THAT looks like a lot of fun! You guys get all the cool stuff!

  2. We try. :) Which might be why I'm tired after vacation.