Perk Up Your Training with an Adventure on the Train

Riding the same local routes week after week is a guaranteed fast track to boredom and burnout. Consider a different kind of “pain train”—rally your training buddies and pedal to a destination station, then ride the rails back home. You’ll get to explore new roads on the outbound, then sit back and relax (with a cold brew) for the return trip. Be sure to check the train company’s policy on bicycles before you go, as reservations (and a separate fee) for bikes are sometimes required. Use the three trips at right for route inspiration, and get on board for an adventurous training day.

San Diego to Orange County

Just look left for sweeping coastal views from start to finish.

Distance: 82 miles

The route: Starting at downtown San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot, you’ll take Pacific Highway out of town, pass beautiful Mission Bay, and drop down into upscale La Jolla Village. After a fast and fun descent on North Torrey Pines Road, you’ll ride through the coastal towns of Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas. Keep on Highway 101 until Oceanside, where you’ll head into Camp Pendleton (bring your driver’s license to get on base), then pass through San Clemente before turning inland toward San Juan Capistrano and your destination, the Irvine Amtrak station. Hop on the Pacific Surfliner ($24–$36 per ticket, free bike reservation required) for the one-hour, 45-minute ride back.

Good to know: The café car sells snacks, sandwiches, pizza, beer and other beverages.

Difficulty: 7/10 for mileage, not the gently rolling terrain

When to go: Warm SoCal weather makes this a popular route year-round, but the region’s widespread flower blooms make spring particularly pretty.

The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail

Cruise the historic rail trail, then hitch a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. 

Distance: 26.5 miles

The route: In northeastern Ohio, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad offers the Bike Aboard! program, which lets people ride their bikes along the former route of the Ohio and Erie Canalway, a national heritage area, then hop on the historic railroad with their bikes for the trip home. Pick up the trail at the Rockside Station, then embark the train at the Akron station after wheeling your way through the beautiful Cuyahoga Valley National Park on a path that ranges from hard-packed dirt/rock to asphalt. Train tickets are only $3.

Good to know: The train can be flagged down at any of the eight stations by waving both arms overhead. Plan to arrive 10 minutes before your scheduled departure.

Difficulty: 2/10

When to go: The Bike Aboard! program opens early April, so plan on a visit between late spring and early fall, when temperatures are warmer.

New York City to New Paltz

Take a cue from pro triathlete sisters Rebeccah and Laurel Wassner and head for the N.Y. hills.

Distance: 25 miles (with a lot of options to add on)

The route: A favorite bike escape for many NYC-based triathletes, including the Wassner twins, involves taking a ferry and train to upstate New York. “You can go from crowded city streets to quiet, rolling country roads in a little over an hour,” says Rebeccah. Hop on the ferry at the World Financial Center Terminal for the 7-minute ($7 with bike) ride across the Hudson River. Wheel your bike across the platform to the Hoboken Train Station (you’ll want to consult the Port Jervis Train schedule ahead of time and leave enough wiggle room) and catch the train to the Campbell Hall station ($13–$17). From there, take Neelytown Road to Beaver Town Road toward Montgomery, then continue north to New Paltz. (Search “Laurel Wassner” on Strava to see the exact route.) “The views are amazing and you’ll get to dip down underneath the Moodna Viaduct [railroad trestle], which is really fun,” adds Rebeccah.

Good to know: The recommended ferry only runs on weekdays, so for weekend travel you’ll need to depart from the 39th Street Ferry Terminal.

Difficulty: 5/10

When to go: Head there late September/early October to view the fall foliage change at its peak.