Caltrain bike tips

Some tips when taking your bicycle onto Caltrain to make it a more pleasant experience for you and others:

Positioning before boarding

  • One of the bike cars is always on the northernmost end of the train, in a special type of car called a “cab car” that is used on the opposite end of the locomotive.
  • Most trains have second bike cars. ( Some trains may only have one bike car due to maintenance or repair.)   From a close distance you can sometimes notice the cab-car mirrors on the additional car.  Look for a yellow sign with a bike symbol painted on the side of the train next to the doors to the car. It is usually the second car down from the locomotive.
  • You can position yourself a car length or two down from the northern end.  If there is a crowd waiting to get on like during rush hour, this gives you plenty of time to easily walk to the north end car if there is just one bike car, or walk to the south end if there is a second bike car and it seems like the first one is crowded.  The second bike car is almost always much less crowded than the first.
  • Don’t bike on the platform! It’s against the rules, and a surly conductor may even deny you boarding if they see you biking on the platform. Put your feet down and walk — it won’t kill you.
  • As you prepare to board, talk with other cyclists at the train station.  Encourage those who are traveling the longer distances to get on first, since their bikes should go under the bikes that are going shorter distances. Be aware though that on some crowded trains not all cyclists may be able to board due to lack of space (gallery cars take 40 bikes, Bombardier cars take 24), in which case the rule is first come, first served. Or, if you’re only going a short distance, get on first and head to the end of the car to get out of the way, then secure your bike last.

Positioning after boarding

  • If there are several cyclists boarding, as soon as you board please move your bike as far back into the car as quickly as possible to allow people behind you to get on the train instead of being stuck behind you on the stairs with the door closing in on them. There will be time to fix the positioning of bikes once everybody else gets on.
  • Bike stacking order is as follows: Bikes going the farthest down the line (usually San Francisco, San Jose or Gilroy) go closest to the rack. This requires you to memorize or look up the station order when in doubt.
  • Please stack like destinations together. There are many times I get on a train and every rack has one or two bikes all going to Mountain View. Stack them together, please, so people going past your destination don’t have to move your bike to get underneath. Yes, I realize a lot of this is from multiple stops before I get on the train, but not all of it is.
  • Per Caltrain rules, maximum number of bikes permitted per rack is four. Try to stack the bikes compactly so that they stay close to the rack instead of going into the aisle. This sometimes requires turning your bike around to face the other direction to minimize interference between your bike’s cranks, handlebars, or rack to the bike adjacent to yours (i.e. it helps to alternate the direction your bike is facing). Remove panniers and any cargo that sticks out much past the area bounded by the platform of a rear rack. Don’t hang your helmet or anything else on your handlebars, as these can interfere with efficient stacking (not to mention risks crushing your helmet).


  • Destination tags, please. If you don’t have a yellow destination tag, write the name of the station you are getting off on a piece of paper and put it on your bike. Commuters can order a free yellow plastic tag from Caltrain that lets you list up to two destinations by calling them, though sometimes they run out of tags.  Many of us use more than two stations on a regular basis. In that case it’s more convenient to make your own Caltrain bike destination tags using our template and a name badge holder.
  • If you’re not going to a station at the end of the line, keep a look out for people needing to move your bike to put their bike underneath and be ready to jump up and assist them.
  • As you secure your bike with the bungee cord, try to secure your bike in a way that it won’t shift around in transit. Then, when you unbungee your bike, drop the bungee cord and hook over and behind the rack, to reduce the chances of it inadvertently catching on a part of someone else’s bike.
  • Don’t wait until you’ve arrived at your stop to unbungee your bike, or you’ll likely not make it off the train before the doors close.If your bike is at the top of a stack of bikes going to the same station, remove your bike a few minutes before your stop to allow others to unbungee theirs before arriving at the station.
  • Conversely, if your bike is buried at the bottom of the stack of bikes, and we’re still 10 minutes out from your stop, be patient before moving bikes on top of yours. Wait until your stop is next, and be even more patient if the bikes on top of yours are going to your stop.


  • Your bike will be scratched. Consider getting a low-cost bike just for the train if you’re concerned about damage to your bike.
  •  To the idiot who crossed directly in front of the train yesterday morning in Sunnyvale: DON’T DO THAT. Trains are very heavy and depending on their speed need to brake for a mile to come to complete stop. They also have protrusions from their sides that can catch you. It’s better to be late than to risk your life and limb.

Courtesy of Richard Masoner, Alexis Grant, Jeremy Hubble and others.