In Chicago, the nation's railroad hub, there are tons of option for taking your bike on trains for a car-free getaway. For example, I like to ride Amtrak to Carbondale in southern Illinois to explore the hilly Shawnee National Forest.
We're also very fortunate that all Amtrak routes within Illinois accept unboxed bikes for a nominal fee, and more Midwestern routes, including the Hiawatha Line to Milwaukee, and various routes to Michigan, are offering roll-on service. However, sometimes it's a bit of a scramble to find a place for your bike on the train, because there's often no dedicated space.
However, that will change beginning in mid 2020, when all-new federally funded coaches with bike racks will be phased in on all state-supported Amtrak Midwestern corridors in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri, according to railroad spokesman Scott Speegle. On a standard train set, there will be two coach cars, each with a three-bike vertical rack, so each train will be able to accommodate six bikes.
The racks will be available on the following trains:
Illinois: Lincoln Service, Illini/Saluki, Carl Sandburg/Illinois Zephyr
Missouri: River Runner
Michigan: Blue Water, Pierre Marquette, Wolverine
One minor drawback is that touring cyclists with loaded bikes may be required to remove their saddlebags and camping gear to hang up their bikes. But overall, having dedicated space for bikes on all Midwestern state-supported routes will be a step in the right direction for making Amtrak more bike-friendly.