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WANTED: Tips for traveling by train w/ bikes

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WS Member Imagen de WS Member
WANTED: Tips for traveling by train w/ bikes

We've traveled with our bikes a fair amount and had some excellent experiences getting on and off trains.

Euro Star is a dream with special racks and painless delivery of your bike to a dedicated luggage area. France's TGV system is great with dedicated seats for bikes and cyclists though it is nearly impossible to book bike tickets without going to a train office. We've also had an epically stressful experience on the Thalis from Paris. The Thalis has no space for bikes; your bike must be fully disassembled, placed in a bike bag and stored in a "standard" luggage rack. This isn't so bad, but on occasion Thalis institutes X-Ray screenings; this goes very poorly with a bike in a bag.

We're about to go on a longer trip with MANY transfers and want to know if you all have any tips for getting on, off and on again with minimal pain and suffering. How do you deal with the fact that many european trains have steps that are nearly impossible to navigate with a loaded bike? How do you get all your panniers on and off the train without having them wander away while you are fetching the next load? Do you have any advice for tying Ortlieb style bags together to make things easier?

Any advice you can offer is greatly appreciated!

Unregistered Imagen de anon_user
minimal pain and suffering.

Travelling by bike, four bags etc. is an adventure indeed in Europe.
However, the last 20 years the possibillities improved a lot.

Our experience/method is simple: we never plan a certain train or destination, because it depends on the place you are, your destination and time of the day you travel.
We just enter/bike to the nearest railwaystation of any importance and let the info center find out the connections, changing of stations, type of the train and time of departure/arrival.
You can't beat them with their computers.

Yes,...this way means surprises sometimes, but we were never diappointed in Europe. Be flexible.

Technique of entering the loaded bike in the train: Take off all your luggage.
Do this first when you have the correct door in front of you! NOT earlier!

Yes, it requires a good/quick cooperation of possible other cyclists, who help to throw the bags in/out the train, help to raise/lower the bikes up/down the high steps and forward them to the appartment/perron where they have to be placed.
Make an assembly line with people in the train and out of the train.

Positive: if other passengers are waiting in line because YOU are hassling with the bikes they always will help!
You will have to get used to the fact that not all the trains take bikes, which means changing trains several times.

No train will leave while you are busy loading your bike and stuff. One bike "blocks" an entire train! So be it.
Advice 1: when the train approaches look at the bike signs, so that you know right away to find a bike appartment.
Advice 2: some major trains have a pre-sceduled picture posted at the perron, so that you know ahead the wagon number.

WS Member Imagen de WS Member
The usual:

The usual:

* Pack light, so you can with a bit of effort carry your bike over stairs quickly if you have too, and there is less unpacking to do, and you can carry the bags in one batch.

* For carrying multiple panniers in one go, you could use a big shopper bag instead of tying them together

* Don't plan trips with short transfer times

* Look for the conductor, they will help you sometimes

* Not planning anything at all works, but can make travelling around Europe slower than we spoiled children of the Ryanair era are used too. Also sometimes the staff at the ticket booths can be taken by surprise by this tactic: "But sir, you should have reserved months in advance!", and then you really have to convince them that yes, you really want to travel with a long string of slow, local trains and don't mind that it'll take 18 hours to get from one side of Germany to the other this way.

WS Member Imagen de WS Member
Thanks for the tips everyone.

Thanks for the tips everyone. Hopefully all our connections will work out. Fortunately once we reach Salzburg, we're free to do whatever we please for a few weeks. I can't wait to get going!

WS Member Imagen de WS Member
In France

I can only comment about how it is in France. We basically have 3 kind of trains:

-TGV: where there is a little place for bikes in the tail-end car of the train and not easy to access. You have to pay an extra for the bike and the ticket is already expensive.

-Intercités: depending on the train there is one big room for the bike in the end car or 2 bike racks per car, you can not know in advance! There is a big step to enter the train. You will have to pay 10 extra euros per train but the ticket is cheaper than TGV.

-TER: they come in many shapes but all of them accept bicycles for FREE and without reservation. They usually don't have steps to climb and are convenient and cheap. The only problem is that they don't go for long distances, which means many changes if you wan't to go across France.