Carying your bike on a train

Taking a cycle on a train isn't plain sailing, it can be a daunting task.

I love travelling by train. It's a different picture all the time, one can view the scenery go by and be at ease. One doesn't have to concentrate on the road ahead and there's no traffic jams. I can have a coffee and biscuit (short bread unless you bring your own) still hurtling through the countryside, but there seems to be an inconsistency with the train operators policies and reality; most state they're happy to accept cycles and actively encourage them, on the other hand once aboard a train it can have a different outcome.

One is expected to be in the right place on the platform to load a cycle ten minutes before the train arrives, the problem is until the train arrives no one absolutely knows where the bike storage compartment is. Fear not, the more you travel by train the easier it gets.

GWR’s new Class 800 IET's

By the end of 2019 the old class 43 HST,s will be gone, replaced by GWR’s new Class 800 IET's. For a scary quick update of these trains, click here to go to our 'news' section.

High speed trains (HST)

HST cycle storage HST cycle storage The high speed trains have the biggest area for bikes (except Virgin intercity trains) the bike compartment is the opposite end of the train to the first class compartment (on the brand new hybrid GWR trains the bike storage is in Carriage B or H). Obviously the train companies don't consider cyclists as potential first class passengers (I suppose they can be a bit smelly). On the matrix board it usually states where the first class cabins are located (either front or back of the train), once you're aware which way your train comes in, you can establish where the bike storage compartment will stop (in theory). The high speed train drivers stop their engines at a specific place, there will often be a blue circular sign somewhere on the platform labelled ‘High speed train, cycle loading point', this sign will be at both ends of the platform and is where the bike carriage will be. Some stations have short platforms and the HST bike storage carriage isn't accessible on these stops, it's a question of finding out. Don't bother asking the guard to stay in the bike carriage, on an HST they won't let you, you have to trot back outside and board at the nearest passenger carriage.

It is wise to reserve a space for your bike, reservations for bikes are mandatory on all high speed trains and all Virgin trains (and all of Scottish trains) to have a ticket for your bike and at the moment it still free. Some train company websites allow you to do this online, or you can simply do it at the station. You can't do this on the day (even though Great western states it can be done one hour before train departure) of your travel. Some rail companies do not alow cycles to be caried peak times, these vary but as a rule; 0700 to 0930 and 1500 to 1900 is about peak times. If there's bus replacement services, most won't carry your bike. Most cycle policies ask the owner not to lock the bike to the train, however there have been thefts, so you should immobilise your cycle with a lock and take a small bungee to pull the brake lever in (to stop it moving), but it's wise to have your bike unlocked and ready to go well before your stop. They won't hold the train so you can unlock your bike, if you lose the key or can't unlock it; then on the train it stays- with or without you. Click here to see the latest HST information.

It's best to just ask where the cycle carriage is on Virgin trains. Even with a ticket for your bike there may not be enough room and people have been refused transport. It's sometimes annoying (and unfair) cyclists are treated in this way by the train companies as pushchairs or wheelchairs don't have to book and then there's the people with wardrobe size suitcases, no one says to their owners that they have to leave them behind.

Turbostar type trains

Turbostar train Turbostar-voyager-storage The turbostar trains sometimes have hangers for cycles or a dedicated place by the toilets or a tiny space by the disabled area. The turbostars have double doors entering from the platform (easier for panniers) but the interconnecting doors are standard, so make sure you enter where the little cycle symbol is on the door. Be aware some conductors will ask bikeys to remove panniers (as per their train company policies), but this has only happened to me once in three years, bear in mind if you're hanging your bike up the panniers have be fixed at the bottom as well (otherwise they will fall off). Turbostar-storage Turbostar-storage

Both images to the left show cycle storage next to the toilets (Maybe the rail companies are trying to tell us something). The image on the right shows another type of cycle storage, to the left of the red arrow is the disabled area, under the arrow you can just about get two bikes (with no panniers) and I mean just, but bear in mind the refreshment trolly still has to get past. My chum and I have had one (and thankfully only one) instance of the refreshment guy trying to ram the trolley through on a packed train. It's difficult to sit near so make sure all your valuables are to hand.

The 'DMU' trains.

DMU train DMU-storage The smaller trains can be one carriage (like the Settle to Carlisle or Heart of Wales line in the winter) to half a dozen, train companies have a variety of spaces for bikes, but the ones on these trains are ridiculous and are only suitable for kid's bikes. Even though this area is designated for wheelchair users (as first priority) then cyclists, the general public often sit in this area. They may get up for a wheelchair but I guarantee they won't move for a cyclist. You can't reserve cycles on these small trains. The cycle storage entrance will have a small cycle image on the door or near the door. Like the HST there will be a small sign about two thirds along the platform either way where the driver stops (like ‘2/3 stop'), if you stand in the middle of those signs you can watch for the cycle carriage as the train comes in. All that aside, ask the station staff for assistance, they are there every day and will often have an idea where the bike storage compartment is on a specific train. In my experience the cheapest tickets are usually very busy too.

General information.

circle line tube Folded bikes are usually excepted anywhere on trains (and bus's), some operators will ask the bikes to be bagged, but this blog is about touring on the bike not commuting. The London underground only allow cycles on surface or near-surface lines, lifts must be used to descend to (or asscend from) the platform, it's forbidden to use the escalators with a bikes. Cycles are completely banned between 07.30 and 09.30 and 16.00 to 19.00 Monday to Friday. Outside these peak hours, cycles are permitted anywhere on the:

Circle, District, East London, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines.

There's a good page on a site called ‘atob' featuring most of the major train operators and contact information, there's even information on some heritage railways, click here to go to the site (opens new window).

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