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reversegear 12-07-09 12:05 PM

Tandems on European Trains
 
I am toying with the idea of taking a tour before Paris Brest Paris 2011. Yes I know it is way into the future, but the first qualifier is less than a month away so it is on my mind. Not only that, if I am going to pull this off I need to start saving my pennies today and I am trying to come up with an estimated total cost.

It will be a small expedition since we would have two adults, two kids, two tandems - one coupled, one not.

My read of the website http://www.seat61.com/index.html indicates that most European trains flat out don't take tandems. I am guessing that there is a way, just not an easy one.

I am considering flying into Amsterdam, riding towards Paris, shuttling to Nantes and riding the Loire Valley and then shuttling from, say, Orleans to Paris. We will have camping gear, so two fully loaded tandems (and one trailer) need transport.

My US "minivan" can accommodate everything without a problem, but I am thinking the train would be easier & cheaper if I can get the uncoupled tandem on. Also the thought of driving a behemoth like a US sized minivan into Paris frightens me.

The question is the "shuttles". Train or rental van?

Chris_W 12-08-09 02:01 AM

We've taken our tandem on a lot of Swiss trains, and a few French ones. So, I can confirm that there is not a universal policy banning tandems from all French trains. However, whether it is feasible or not really depends on the specific train, and there is a lot of variation in that. Our tandem has couplers, and more often than not we split off the front third (easy to do if the couplers are in front of the captain's seat tube) to hang each part vertically from the hooks that are only high enough for single bikes. On some trains, there is an area for horizontal bike storage, and then the tandem normally fits without any disassembly, on some lines we know that this will be the case, but a lot of the time we don't know this until the train arrives. Some trains even have a goods wagon or guard's section where bikes should go, separate from the passenger compartments. These normally have loads of room, and so are not a problem with a complete tandem. Not knowing what to expect when the train arrives, and having a tandem without couplers could be a problem.

In France, you will probably have a choice between taking a TGV (fast train) or a standard regional train. Most TGVs have a bicycle compartment (but not all). The TGVs that I've used have all had hooks on the ceiling, with enough hanging space for single bikes, there may be enough space to put a complete tandem, or two, next to the wall in the small bicycle compartment, but I don't know whether they would allow this. You have to pay and reseverve the bicycle space on the TGVs, but not on the regional trains. The TGV passenger tickets will also cost more than the tickets for the regular trains, but some times you can get a special price for the TGV online, particularly if you book a couple of months ahead of time.

My best advice would be to try to contact the TGV (who operate the fast trains) and SNCF (who operate the regional trains) and see if they can offer you any info. However, don't be surprised if you have a hard time getting anything out of them. I also just found a useful link, with links to other info on taking bikes on trains in Europe, some of them specific to France, see here, in particular, there is a report from someone who successfully, but with some hassle, took a complete tandem on some regional trains in France.

Best of luck!

reversegear 12-08-09 08:08 PM

It sounds like your experience with the French trains is not much different than mine here in the US. Basically, with a non-coupled tandem you have no idea if you can get the bike on until the train shows up and you actually get on. It all depends upon which cars make up the train, how many people are on it and how the conductor feels that day. All they can tell you is that you definitely might able to get the bike on the train.

I have some friends that are fluent in French and I will try to get some info out directly out of TGV or the SNCF.

pel 12-09-09 03:17 AM

We took our uncoupled C'dale mountain tandem on Swiss, German, French and Italian trains. We were able to get on all trains marked for bicycles and others not marked. We asked when buying tickets. Some had ample room and others not eg when we squashed across a corridor because we could not get around the corner into the bike comparment. No problem we simply lifted the bike above our shoulders to allow the coffee vendor to pass and eventually had the tandem vertically in a corner. But we were on no problem except for the height of some trains in relation to the platform. One was at least a metre up. At one point we had to change platforms at the last moment down and up steps with the trailer and all panniers - we made it.

In short in can be done with little notice but knowing ahead of time what to expect helps.

VaultGuru 12-09-09 12:56 PM

Having only experience with a coupled tandem in two suitcases, I can't offer much insight. I can tell you that it was difficult for us in Italy because they want you to store oversized luggage (tandem) in the car entry/exit area. There is no room in the passenger area. We couldn't find any cars that were marked specifically for accepting bikes.

Question for those with experience. If you are putting your tandem on a train that does accept bikes, do they just get stacked together? If so, do you pad your frame so it won't get trashed?

WPH 07-10-17 03:31 AM

Do we have any more input on this topic?

Especially interested on options for taking the tandem on Italian trains...

car knocker 07-10-17 09:50 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by WPH (Post 19707633)
Do we have any more input on this topic?

Especially interested on options for taking the tandem on Italian trains...

We were in France in May with our tandem. No problem taking it in the suitcases as carry on baggage. Used the soft sided backpack case without the stiffeners ,wheels in a round wheel bag. Biggest problem was walking thru the Paris metro system with those 2 bags and 2 panniers,much too heavy!

merlinextraligh 07-10-17 12:12 PM

Its a been awhile since we traveled on a train in Europe with our tandem. Our experience was you could travel with a full size tandem on the "local" trains, but not on the highspeed such as the TGV

Chancy 07-11-17 02:21 AM

We've taken our tandem on trains in Europe many times. In 2014 we took it on a train from Ancora, Italy to Rome and then later, from Rome to Florence Italy. No problems really. Once in Czechia (Czech Republic) the conductor told me the tandem was too big for the "bike car" and we put it in the cargo car (they allowed me to put it in and tie it off). As Merlinextralight said, use local and regional trains. To my knowledge no bikes are allowed on the high speed trains in Europe.


Tailwinds,
Charlie
2016 Santana Beyond

WPH 07-16-17 07:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chancy (Post 19710261)
We've taken our tandem on trains in Europe many times. In 2014 we took it on a train from Ancora, Italy to Rome and then later, from Rome to Florence Italy. No problems really. Once in Czechia (Czech Republic) the conductor told me the tandem was too big for the "bike car" and we put it in the cargo car (they allowed me to put it in and tie it off). As Merlinextralight said, use local and regional trains. To my knowledge no bikes are allowed on the high speed trains in Europe.


Tailwinds,
Charlie
2016 Santana Beyond

Thanks very much for the updates!

Charlie I take your tailwinds and give a downhill right back at ya!

Chris_W 07-18-17 03:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chancy (Post 19710261)
To my knowledge no bikes are allowed on the high speed trains in Europe.

This is a very sweeping and inaccurate comment. The situation is different in every country and for every train service. The only general statement that can be made is that bike transport on European high-speed trains has generally been improving in the 12 years that I've been living in Switzerland. I'm living car-free, so I use the trains a lot, normally with a single bike, occasionally with a tandem that has couplers and so can be treated as two single bikes when necessary.

The French TGVs have certainly improved over the past few years, with trains that can transport fully assembled bikes increasing in number. This year, the website for online booking of TGV tickets finally allows bikes to be added (when the train has a bike compartment), whereas before this had to be done by an agent at the station. On the Geneva/Lausanne to Paris route, the bike compartment is now so large that a complete tandem could be carried, but I know that it's different in the TGVs that service most other routes.

Even on TGVs that cannot take fully assembled bikes, bikes in bags are allowed up to certain dimensions. The dimensions would not be enough to fit a complete tandem frame, but last autumn we took our coupled tandem to Barcelona on a TGV from Lyon, with the tandem taken apart and carried in one simple bike bag that is made for train travel (https://www.tranzbag.com/de/produkte...-tranzbag.html) and one extra large garbage bag for the wheels. Once there, we threw the garbage bag away and folded up the bike bag (it weighs about 1 kg) and carried it in a pannier as we cycled home to Switzerland.

This summer, we took a trip to the Dolomites with two single bikes. We used Swiss trains to get to the Engadin valley near there, then rode the rest of the way (most Swiss trains are very easy to use with any type of bike, but check at the station because there are a few exceptions). To get home, we reserved bike places on the Italian high-speed train that was going from Verona to Innsbruck (which had a separate goods wagon for the bikes that would have easily taken a complete tandem), and then on the Austrian high-speed service that went from Innsbruck to Zurich (where there were hooks that could only take single bikes).

The German ICE trains have always been the worst for bike transport, not even allowing bikes that are broken down and carried in special bags; I've heard that there is continual pressure to change this, but I don't know if it yet has. Fortunately, there is one level of express train just below the ICE trains that normally does have bike spaces and that operates on many of the same routes and isa not that much slower than the ICEs.

WPH 07-19-17 08:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chris_W (Post 19728126)
The only general statement that can be made is that bike transport on European high-speed trains has generally been improving in the 12 years that I've been living in Switzerland.

The French TGVs have certainly improved over the past few years, with trains that can transport fully assembled bikes increasing in number.

Well that is good news.

I took the single bike on a TGV (which was a bike-carrying service) in 2007 between Clermont-Ferrand and Paris. The train had originated at some point further south and was already very full when it arrived. The conductor accepted the bike but the storage area was very small and already full of huge suitcases. I ended up putting the bike in an un-used kitchen, an extremely difficult process.

In 2004 I took a 'co-rail' (next step down from TGV?) from Caen to Paris. Technically un-bagged bikes were not permitted but the conductor was nice and let me stand the bike up on its rear wheel in an entryway. Lifting the bike from the platform onto the train through a narrow doorway was hard.

In 2000 I took a fast intercity train from Munich to Frankfurt with the single tourer. Dead easy, a large and mostly unused carriage at the front with seats and heaps of bike hooks. The conductor initially wanted me to put the bike on the overhead hook but relented when I started to take luggage off, and instead I strapped the whole lot to a rail. I always carry a couple of long straps for moments like that.

Overall, looking at the routes we are considering, if public transport is necessary for some reason, local trains will be fine. But sometimes it is necessary to take a fast train back to the airport city with the machinery.

We are hoping to go between say Munich and Milan the next time, so probably no need for a fast train, but the problem arises of finding a tandem box in Milan... Was thinking of taking an Envirobike box (apparently available in Australia) to Munich, then shipping it to a hotel in Milan? Ideas stolen from this post: https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/...id=497956&v=Ch

Now just have to sell a kidney to pay for it all!


Cheers


Will


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