Taking ba bike back across Europe via train

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Dudley Manlove
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Joined: 18 Jun 2009, 10:41am

Taking ba bike back across Europe via train

Postby Dudley Manlove » 21 Jul 2011, 2:53pm

I'll be heading off shortly on my first long tour - no specific plans, starting at Dunkirk, and probably ending up in the environs of the Black Sea (Turkey/Romania/not sure).

Time is not huge issue - well, only so far as I've not the time to cycle back - hence rather than flying back I was thinking of takign the train. Has anyone got any practical experience of doing this type of long distance journey with a bike in tow?

Having a quick rummage around on Seat61 and the Eurorail websites, it on paper it looks like a 4-5 day job, with probably the easiest option been to get a 5days travel in 10days Railpass....maybe slightly longer as some of the highspeed trains won't take a bike?

But like I say, I'd be interested to hear from someone who has actually done it, to confirm it's a 'go-er' and advise on any hickups I'm likely to come across.

/edit typo on title I can't change it, it's 'a bike', nothing to do with BA :)

delport
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Location: hampshire

Re: Taking ba bike back across Europe via train

Postby delport » 21 Jul 2011, 3:56pm

Haven't done it with a bike but have done edinburgh to athens on the train.Took me 7 days, to reach Slovenia was 2 or 3 days travel from Edinburgh.Went through Croatia/Serbia and Macedonia.

Once you reach Slovenia expect the train to creep along at 40 mph or thereabouts all the way down to Greece, before Slovenia there are fast services most of the way.
Might be worth going via Italy and get the ferry to Greece?Italy has Eurostar [italian version] and other quick trains.

I done at most 7500 miles on the train in 30 days using inter rail, i done 3 or 4 very long distance inter rail trips at different times,that amount of miles for just over £400 is very good value for money.
Your complication will be getting the bike on the train every time.
Try http://www.bahn.com for all european train travel timetables, and tick the box, bicycles allowed.

Regarding hiccups, if you go through these countries above on the train you'll have a border stop at each country south of Austria, the border stop can at times take more than an hour, and when i travelled 7 years ago it was considered as literally a coffee break or dinner break for the railway workers, everyone gets out the train.Passports are checked and eventually the journey begins again.

There is a train an EC [euro city] one that travels from somewhere in the north, straight down to Athens, it stops off in Northern Greece too which would allow you to then go on to Turkey, it takes about 24 hours or something, it may depart from Slovenia, not sure.

I think for comfort alone i'd go via Italy on the ferry.
But if you want an experience, and don't mind long journeys then going through Slovenia southward may be interesting for you.
Interrail used to offer either a discount or a free trip on that ferry to Greece i'm sure.
Interrail has changed a bit since i used it.

Hypocacculus
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Joined: 23 Mar 2010, 2:00pm

Re: Taking ba bike back across Europe via train

Postby Hypocacculus » 21 Jul 2011, 4:39pm

I've not taken the bike as far as Turkey or Romania, although I've now dragged my bicycle out and home on trains in France, Holland, Denmark and Germany. I've just got back by train from Berlin a few days ago, including part of the journey on a sleeper. I did the interrailing thing further afield but without a bike. My experiences lead me to some general comments:

- It is easy for a pedestrian but careful planning is required to make sure you can take your bike.
- As you already know, some high speed trains either don't take bikes (ICE and some TGV springs to mind), or you have to pay for the bike and also supplements on rail passes or for any comforts like couchettes or sleeper cabins. I don't recommend a night in a seated compartment unless you are skint or insomniac. It may be a lot more expensive than you expect.
- Getting on and off trains with lots of luggage and a bike is hard work. Be prepared to drag your bike up and down lots of steps. It helps if you can lift it easily!
- A lot of international trains and sleepers get booked up in the high season, including the few bike spaces, and reservations are mandatory. If you are travelling during this time, you may well be stranded if you just turn up. If you use a combination of local trains, you'll have less trouble (except in rush hour), but it will take a lot longer.
- Check you can do the whole route before you start booking things. There's nothing like having half the route booked, then being screwed by one part of the journey that proves to be unexpectedly unavailable. Be aware that just because a website implies a ticket is available, it doesn't necessarily mean it is - I've got all the way through the booking screens before now, or phone services, only to be disappointed. Leave yourself wiggle room between important connections, in case there are delays. Beware engineering works and the rail replacement bus service that won't take bikes.
- Some websites won't let you book a bike and in those cases it is better to phone in the first place so you can check the bike space availability before you book the ticket.

I hope some of that helps.

delport
Posts: 154
Joined: 1 Jan 2011, 9:16am
Location: hampshire

Re: Taking ba bike back across Europe via train

Postby delport » 21 Jul 2011, 5:41pm

Tgv appear to be changing now, and allow bikes on for 10 euros, don't know if this is now nationwide?
The offer was there for me only a few weeks ago when i was in France.

Apart from that i'd agree with everything you have said,i've travelled virtually the whole of europe by train alone.

Even a few weeks ago i was surprised that a French railway station didn't cater at all for disabled people, it was Le Mans i think that had no lifts.

Lifts are important if you have a bike and baggage, or a trailer.

Dudley Manlove
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Re: Taking ba bike back across Europe via train

Postby Dudley Manlove » 21 Jul 2011, 6:19pm

Cheers both for the comments. What I'm getting then, is either reserve or accept you might be getting stranded and be flexible. Also the Eastern half of the journey may be slow and convoluted.

This is itself is no problem, but it good to know. Thinking out loud, may allow as much as 2 weeks to get back and strike it off as part of the tour and take a different route from the outgoing. I'm no stranger to lugging a fully loaded bike up and down stairs, however, had a hernia OP recently and it's not an ideal scenario (cleared by the doc, but it's still not very comfortable).

Ron
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Re: Taking ba bike back across Europe via train

Postby Ron » 21 Jul 2011, 11:25pm

Dudley Manlove wrote: I'd be interested to hear from someone who has actually done it, to confirm it's a 'go-er' and advise on any hickups I'm likely to come across.

I have not undertaken such a long journey as you intend, but have made shorter, unreserved, ie just turned up at the station on the day of intended travel rail trips in Germany, The Netherlands, Austria, Poland and CZ Republic with my bicycle and had no problems.
Your trip sounds like fun!

dave holladay
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Joined: 4 Apr 2007, 12:25pm

Re: Taking ba bike back across Europe via train

Postby dave holladay » 22 Jul 2011, 11:39pm

See the CTC sheet on flying with a bike and the CTC bike bag info. Basically if you can meet the dimensions for accepted carry-on luggage with the packed bike you take it on as luggage. In 1980's I almost never paid the £3 fee with BR and never paid the fee on SNCB/DB by whipping out the wheels on the 27" fixed machine and wrapping it in a groundsheet.

It works with Eurostar - saving the £30 for using the baggage van, and generally for most other trains. IIRC the size is 90x120 cm and around 30cm deep - a 'large suitcase'. This is also a backstop for UK rail - but best method is to pack up the bike and put it on to a baggage trolley with big dimension vertical. You are permitted 2 big suitcases (90 x 120 IIRC) and one small one, and (in theory) the TOC can charge you excess baggage at up to half fare on additional items. FGW and XC may do this on some busy summer holiday trains.

Bikes packed flat and bagged in this way are generally accepted by National Express, Scottish Citylink, Stagecoach Express and Megabus, and may be accepted naked and straight from the road if the luggage hold is not full - this is generally the practice with Oxford Tube. It may also work on coach services elsewhere in Europe.

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frank9755
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Re: Taking ba bike back across Europe via train

Postby frank9755 » 25 Jul 2011, 6:34pm

dave holladay wrote:See the CTC sheet on flying with a bike and the CTC bike bag info.
It works with Eurostar - saving the £30 for using the baggage van.


Have you actually managed to do it?

It didn't work for me today: Eurostar would accept a fabric bike bag but not a CTC one as carry-on luggage. The fabric ones are all very well but if you are touring as opposed to a simple return trip and need to carry your bag with you, they are heavier and bulkier.

dave holladay
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Joined: 4 Apr 2007, 12:25pm

Re: Taking ba bike back across Europe via train

Postby dave holladay » 25 Jul 2011, 6:49pm

Eurostar were actually selling a lighter and thinner equivalent for this very purpose from the counter at Eurodespatch - I'll see what is happening here. You did reduce the size to the 120x90 for carry on suitcase I presume? or did they quibble about size?

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frank9755
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Location: London

Re: Taking ba bike back across Europe via train

Postby frank9755 » 25 Jul 2011, 7:39pm

Interesting.

Their objection was to the material, not the dimensions. Lots of other bikes went on - in fabric bags or in taped up carboard boxes - most were bigger than mine.

We had one of those discussions:

'You need to put it in a proper bike bag'
'This is a proper bike bag'
'It's a plastic bag' etc.

It wasn't going anywhere so I had to give in. The complaint has now gone in and I will report back with the result!

Barrenfluffit
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Re: Taking ba bike back across Europe via train

Postby Barrenfluffit » 25 Jul 2011, 7:46pm

If your really stuck sometimes the national operators run trains which take bikes to towns near the border. If your lucky you can then pick up another train from a station the other side of the border. Its not an easy approach and takes research effort as well as time but it can work. the problem typically arises through limited bike space on international trains, national services may be better. If you take this approach don't forget that you will need map/directions for the station in the new country and may not be available at your chosen crossing place.

Jeds
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Joined: 13 Sep 2010, 6:42pm

Re: Taking ba bike back across Europe via train

Postby Jeds » 28 Jul 2011, 9:27pm

Just picked up this thread for the first time.
Anyone intending to travel to Greece by train beware. A few months ago all international trains were stopped at the border, i.e. don't run into Greece and v.v. The situation may have changed by now. The "Man in Seat 61" web site may have more up to date information.

allisondreid
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Joined: 22 Aug 2011, 5:35pm

Re: Taking ba bike back across Europe via train

Postby allisondreid » 22 Aug 2011, 5:53pm

I'm planning on biking from Amsterdam to Brussels (through Bruges); ONE WAY.

So I am planning on renting a bike in Brussels (where I'm flying into) and bringing it on the train with me to Amsterdam. I will then bike back to brussels over a number of days. I am Canadian, and am so utterly confused by the train system between these two cities (there are so many carrier companies!); how can I figure out if I can bring my bike on the train? Does anyone know which carrier I should use? I don't want to be stranded in Bruxelles, jet lagged and all.

pal
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Re: Taking ba bike back across Europe via train

Postby pal » 23 Aug 2011, 8:54am

You can take bikes on the InterCity trains from Brussels to Amsterdam (but not on the high-speed 'Thalys' trains which cover the same route). Details here: http://www.b-europe.com/Travel/Practical/Travel%20preparation/Bikes. (There seems to be a glitch on the -- normally very useful -- http://www.bahn.co.uk site at the moment, which leads to it claiming that bicycles can't be carried on any Belgian train! But if the train number is prefixed by 'IC' then it'll be ok for bikes.)

Ron
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Joined: 5 Jan 2007, 9:07pm

Re: Taking ba bike back across Europe via train

Postby Ron » 23 Aug 2011, 11:45am

Dudley Manlove wrote:But like I say, I'd be interested to hear from someone who has actually done it, to confirm it's a 'go-er' and advise on any hickups I'm likely to come across.

Just go on the assumption that there will be hiccups, but no major problems and things should work out OK. As you are not running to a tight timescale any delays will not cause you undue stress.
Last year on a cross border train (Austria-Czech Republic)I was informed at the border that I would be required to move my bike from the back of the train to the dining car where I would be expected to purchase food and drink in return for continuing my journey on that particular train. All part of the fun of cycle touring. :)