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Tuesday,  March 5, 2024 6:48 AM 

On Location: Step aside, Peloton. This pedal-powered “bike” near Vegas rides the rails


On Location: Step aside, Peloton. This pedal-powered “bike” near Vegas rides the rails
Cycling through the Nevada desert, on train tracks, with Rail Explorers. (Pax Global Media)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Whooooooo! 

It was the only thing we could scream as we whizzed past rugged mountains and parched bushes, pedalling rapidly over two parallel rows of steel that stretched far into the arid horizon of Nevada’s sizzling-hot Mojave Desert.

Trains are typically used for railway travel, but roughly 30 minutes from the Las Vegas strip, in the tiny town of Boulder City, there’s an exciting way to explore life on the tracks: on pedal-powered “rail bikes.”

Rail Explorers, a U.S.-based outdoor touring company founded by Australian entrepreneurs, is the company behind the concept, which offers a unique perspective of American landscapes, from train tracks, while burning a few calories along the way.

How was your trip to Vegas? It was off the rails! Maybe, but not with Rail Explorers.

“It’s literally a bike that sits on the rails,” Heather Abel, general manager of Rail Explorers’ Western Region, told PAX, which participated in a press trip to Las Vegas from Sept. 26-30.

Not your average bicycle

There’s been many prototypes of people-powered railway vehicles over the years.  Historic handcars, or pump trolleys, once used for track maintenance and mining certainly come to mind.

But the modern vehicles built by Rail Explorers – a one-of-a-kind invention in the U.S. – takes rail travel to the next level after years of innovation.

With four steel wheels, hydraulic disc brakes and pedals for each seat, these red-painted “Explorers” are designed for tandem (two passengers) or quad (four) cycling experiences, like a railway spin class, on mostly-flat terrain.

The bikes are also supported by an electrical charge, a motor called a “REX Propulsion System,” which gives guests an extra push as they cycle along. 

It feels like the pedal-assist technology that's used for e-bikes.

One seat on every rail bike also requires a bit of responsibility (or sobriety, you could say). Whoever is seated in the “stop and go seat” activates the electric motor, which kicks in once pedalling begins.

“I've taken blind people”

This might make you lose your "train" of thought, but rail bikes, as PAX learned, are actually very easy to ride and accessible to most people.  

There’s no need to steer and riding is hands free (yes, it’s easy to snap photos and film video as you roll along).

There aren’t any weight, height, age or capability restrictions either.

“I've taken blind people, I’ve taken paraplegic people,” Abel said. “You can take your nine-month-year-old baby or your 105-year-old grandma. It’s great for family outings and a very inclusive experience.”

All aboard!

In addition to Boulder City, Rail Explorers also operates in the Boone & Scenic Valley in Iowa, Cooperstown, NY, Rhode Island and New York's Catskill Mountains.

At the Las Vegas (or Boulder City) headquarters is the Nevada State Railroad Museum, where state-owned tracks – first laid in the 1930s to assist with the building of nearby Hoover Dam – mostly host locomotive excursion rides on weekends for locals and tourists.

Select Rail Explorer tours include a train ride – guests ride to the end-point and are escorted back. Others involve a seated picnic on Adirondack chairs. Or an under-the-stars rail-side bonfire.

There’s even a mimosa sunrise tour. 

The price (which starts at $95 USD for two) includes a rail bike tour and admission to the museum, which showcases Nevada’s railroad heritage, from locomotives to artifacts that were used to build Hoover Dam.

Rail Explorers has all sorts of tours, including the “Southwest Round-Up,” an eight-mile ride from the museum to the “Pass Turnaround” and back, a four-mile ride called the “Southwest Ramble” and even “nightlight” rides, where bikes are lit up in neon like the Vegas strip.

Electric-charged “Explorers” can accommodate two to four passengers. (Pax Global Media)

Tours pedal off at the same time with guides placed in the lead and in the last cart. Once the bikes reach their end point, they’re lifted and swung around to face the direction they came.

The group spreads out, too, so there’s at least 500 feet between riders on the tracks, allowing everyone to enjoy the great outdoors, at their own pace.

Depending on the force of each passenger, rail bikes can reach speeds of up 18 to 20 miles per hour!

It’s a spectacular rush in desertous Boulder City, a town established in the 1930s to house workers who were hired to build Hoover Dam on the Colorado River.

The open-air Nevada desert, River Mountains and Eldorado Valley is a picture-perfect landscape of divine solitude – save for the gentle hum of highway traffic and the clanking roar of each Explorer as it cuts through the silence.

And what about trains?!

Rail Explorers only operates on tracks with the permission of the railroad and the company’s staff co-ordinate with dispatchers to ensure there are no actual locomotives zipping through.

Being an outdoor and socially-distant activity, Rail Explorers Las Vegas, which operates year-round, kept busy during the pandemic, attracting all types, from locals to rail enthusiasts to TikTok influencers from Los Angeles.

The company offers limo transfers from the Las Vegas strip to its spot in Boulder City, so getting there is easy.

You don’t have to change out of your glam Vegas outfit either. 

Dress for comfort, yes, but being a Rail Explorer doesn’t mean you have to dress down for the occasion.  

“I’ve seen all kinds of outfits,” Abel said. “From stiletto heels to booty shorts.”

For more on Rail Explorers, click here

Stay tuned as PAX brings you more coverage from Las Vegas!


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