Train and a tandem in France
My wife and I are heading to France in August/September for some great cycle touring on our tandem.
Does anyone have experience in taking a tandem on French trains?
thanks in advance
"When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking."
Arthur Conan Doyle
I live in France and often take my bike with me on commuter trains. The answer to your question, however, is "it depends". Where do you plan to go and what type of train (TER, TGV)? Bikes are allowed on commuter trains and there's no extra fee. For the TGV, however, you may have an extra fee and/or have to reserve a space for your bike in advance. Trains have designated cars with hooks near the ceiling where you hang your bike by the front wheel. A tandem would probably be too big for these spaces, however, so that could be an issue.
Long Distance Cyclist
I don't live in France, but have spent a little over a month there and have travelled on various trains with my bicycle ... and Rowan and I have travelled with our bicycles ... and my first thought was exactly what jeff said ... space could be an issue.
In one instance we were packed onto a train, into a little baggage room, with our two bicycles, everyone else's luggage, and with several other passengers who were sitting on luggage, standing around, and also standing in the hallway outside the baggage room. There would have been no way we could have put a tandem onto that train. We had to get our bicycles up a steep flight of stairs, around a sharp right turn, and immediately around another sharp right turn into the baggage room ... and it was challenging to do that with singles.
If you're going to go with trains, I'd suggest letting the ticket agent know that's what you want to do ... and I'd suggest being patient and flexible. Don't lock yourself into a schedule where you have to take a particular train to get to another location by a certain time.
I perused a French-language bike touring site and one tandem owner said that you can usually get a tandem on TER trains, but that the newer cars are much better than the older ones. For Corail trains, he recommended to get on the last car in the train. He said there's usually space there and being the last car, you won't be blocking anyone. I would suggest that you do not ask permission. Rather, just get on the train with your bike.
I took quite a few trains in France last year with my (non-tandem) bike. The TER & Corail trains all seem to have space and hardware set up for passengers to mount their own bikes. It couldn't have been easier. I was on a couple of trains with very few passengers, and the ticket takers were very relaxed. Once, I didn't even bother taking off my panniers and I just leaned my bike against the side rather than hanging it on the hook. The ticket-taker didn't mind at all.
We've done it quite a few times.
Originally Posted by GLA
SNCF schedule lists which train has room for bikes. Though the schedule lies at times, usually if it says the train can take bikes, you can stick it on there somewhere.
In general, the TER (local) trains can handle a tandem though you won't be able to hang the tandem like the single bikes. We just roll the tandem in and take all the single bike spaces.
Some of the older rolling stock has a fourgon (guard van) for luggage and would be perfect for a tandem. The biggest problem with those is their height, about 1m above ground level.
Intercity (express) trains varies in facilities. If there is a fourgon, you are all set. If there is just a compartment (normal 6 passenger compartment with seats removed) at the end of a car, it gets trickier as you have to make 2 90 degree turns to get your tandem into the compartment and back out again later. Still can be done but not fun.
After using the intercity train a few times, we've changed the way we plan our tandem tours to only use local trains. Intercity trains are just a hassle.
BTW, always check at the train station a few days before you want to take the train. SNCF sometimes shuts down a line for repair or maintenance and replaces the train with buses. Tandems and buses definitely don't get along well together.
in the past, we , I was in a group tour, sent our bikes ahead to another station ,
and let SNCF sort out which train was going to carry them ,
did a day more of sightseeing in Paris ,
and when we arrived in Bern, Switzerland, the bikes were there , to be collected.
our trains were the TGV to Lyon , then a local , to Bern.