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Railbiking. Anyone built one? Answered

I heard an interview today with author William Least Heat-Moon.  In his latest book, he meets a man who has built an outrigger bicycle he calls a "Railcycle", which he uses to ride on disused railroad tracks all over the world.

Curious, I did some searching, and found a number of places on the web where people are talking about this, but they all seem outdated.

Bentley Railbikes
Railbike Tours
Homebuilt Railbike

Has anyone else heard of this practice?  Do you know of anyone currently making and riding such contraptions?  Do you have one of your own?


I am Michael Rohde of Railbike Tours and although we are not presently offering railbike tours anywhere we are working on several possible venues worldwide. Railbiking is not a "Federal Offense", however, any sort of trespassing on a railway right of way is, including walking on railroad right of way - not just between the rails but anywhere on the right of way! There are some people who ride without authorization but I never have as I have always looked at railbiking as a commercial venture. When we give tours we have an agreement with the right of way owner, insurance, trained guides, excellent equipment and a serious safety policy that is more than what my insurance company asked for, including a safety orientation which is a great opportunity to go over general railroad safety as well. I have operated tours on track that is out of service and active rail in North America, Central America, Africa and Europe. The real issue is scheduling - just like any train. There have never been, to my knowledge, any railbike fatalities although there are unstable designs that do cause various kinds of injuries. As this is a commercial venture for me the first issue was to come up with a design that anyone from the general public (I have had deaf riders, blind riders, elderly riders and autistic riders to name a few...) could use and have never had any problems. No one riding with me has ever "turned over" one of my railbikes, except for myself in Madagascar due to insufficient counterweight. I would never take someone on a railbike expedition in the conditions I was in there. Anyway, people need to have permission and have good equipment. I have built (or had built) over 80 railbikes and have sold them worldwide. Two companies in the US have purchased them to conduct rail evaluations and safety checks which is what railbikes were originally designed for. There are railbike patents here in the US that go back to at least 1869. Anyone interested in more information is invited to reply to this posting. I repeat, I take safety very seriously. I worked for the Washington State Industrial Safety and Health act which is part of Washington State's Department of Labor and Industries - a State Plan OSHA program. I researched and published yearly industrial safety and health publications on industrial fatalities, so I am well aware of what can happen if safety issues are not addressed. Thanks.


6 years ago

I'd like to build one! But like you said, everything I can find is WAY outdated.
I also can't seem to find good, helpful technical pictures @railbikedesign, how 'bout an instuctable to build our own!

Hi Josh

I notice you last comment on this site was 6 years ago.

Are you still wanting to build a railbike?

I can send you pics of railcycle I designed and built using a bicycle frame onto a frame with 4 wheels. Drawings are available if you want.



7 years ago

There are good pictures on flickr of "rail bikes". It is being done here in Arizona but that is all I know.............. Don't mess with the Rail Road, Post Office, or the IRS!
of course the info is old, its a federal offence.

Try the International Human Powered Vehicles Association. They build boats, bikes and even planes. They have many local US chapters as well.



7 years ago

I live in Northern California. here there are over 200 miles of un-used railway tracks, all of which have been abandoned for over 40 years. they go through pristine wilderness, and follow a river for almost 60 miles. i have been thinking of hiking these, but this might be a better idea. I dont know where you are located, but where i am in Mendocino county has great potential for railbike expeditions.

I like how the Bentley guy is expecting to sell his plans after he is dead...from railbiking? You don't need a bike to get hit by an unexpected train.

I'm with Nacho' - scrap steel is worth money, and if it's not scrap it's liable to be some kind of trouble or death for you.


> found a number of places on the web where people are talking about this, but they all seem outdated. . The reason they seem outdated is because they are. Trains travel much faster nowadays and most unused tracks have been removed. Not to mention that railways are private property and you would be trespassing.