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How do you start and end your tour?

Old 04-30-10, 08:24 AM
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How do you start and end your tour?

Just curious as to how others deal with the logistics at the beginning and end of a tour. Specifically an international destination or one where you arrive and depart via air.
We have complete a couple of 'one way' type trips (different start and end points) and are curious as to how others deal with the beginning and end...
Do you assemble and ride from the arrival airport?
Do you ride to the destination airport and put your bike on the aircraft un-packaged?
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Old 04-30-10, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by stanmah
Do you assemble and ride from the arrival airport?
We did that for our Trans America and plan to do it again for our upcoming Sierra Cascades trip this year. I really like this option, but airlines are getting harder to deal with regarding baggage. Still there is something really cool about riding out of the airport.

For my Santa Fe trail tour I shipped my bike to and from a friends house using Shipbikes.com and their Air Caddy box. I used amtrak for one intermediate leg of that trip and it worked out very well.

Originally Posted by stanmah
Do you ride to the destination airport and put your bike on the aircraft un-packaged?
No. I have not flown home with my bike and I don't think there is any US airline that will take a bike that is unpackaged.

We will be flying home from the Sierra Cascades trip, but the current plan is to pay a bike shop to pack it up and fedex it home. I toyed with using amtrak since it is very convenient, but our schedule may be tight and also I did not relish the thought of 72 or more hours on a train.

FWIW, One big problem with the trip home is that I don't like to plan down to a particular arrival date and airlines are a huge pain to deal with for changing travel days in my experience. That is one way that amtrak is 1000X better. Amtrak also takes the bike very cheaply and sells you a HUGE box (inexpensive) that requires almost no dis-assembly. The two issues with amtrak are that many stations do not have baggage services and if going thousands of miles it is a LONG ride.
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Old 04-30-10, 09:29 AM
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Amtrak may be easier to deal with, but the OP is asking for international travel advice.

I need to fly from Trivandrum, India back to Shanghai at the end of my tour this August. I'm going to try to ship the bike with the rear derailleur and pedals removed, the saddle all the way down, and handlebar turned sideways.
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Old 04-30-10, 10:00 AM
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Except for trips through Canada, my international trips have all started and ended at airports. I've flown in with the bike, assembled it in the airport and cycled from there. On the reverse, I've usually ridden into the airport, disassembled things and flown out with the bike.

In all cases, I found a box or bag to package the bike. In India, Vietnam and once in China, I used the box I flew in with (saved at local hotel). In Kuala Lumpur, Malasia and in Vladivostok, Russia I got a box locally from a local bike store before going to the airport. In Australia, New Zealand, China and multiple European airports, I got boxes or bags at the airport itself. In those cases where I didn't package the bike in the airport, I arranged for a taxi to bring both myself and bicycle to the airport. Unfortunately, arriving and leaving with a bike box limits the ground transport that can carry you - so you have to be extra vigilant that you aren't being taken by unscrupulous taxi drivers.

In the US and Canada, it depends. I've sometimes rented a car one-way to bring both myself and bicycle to either start or finish. I've used Amtrak multiple times. I've also flown many times in which case, I cycle in/out of the airport and use boxes I find there. It has gotten both more expensive and more obnoxious to fly with a bike, but I like the convenience about cycling right out of the airport and not worrying about logistics until I depart.
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Old 04-30-10, 10:58 AM
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Depends on how long the trip is.

If it is only a week-long loop, then starting/ending at the airport may be O.K. - although I cannot think of when I have ever done this in 25 years. Maybe once in Minneapolis.

If the trip is a longer one - coast to coast in the U.S. - from top to bottom in New Zealand - a big loop in Europe or Asia - I think it is important to have a formal starting and ending point which offer a point of respite and reflection. There are all sorts of things that can and do go wrong when you fly long distances and have to pick up your bicycle either at baggage claim or (better) having your bike shipped to a local bike shop. By giving yourself time to get started and bring the journey to a close, you do not start or end the trip in a frazzle.

Let me give you an example within North America. Whenever I start a trip on the coast, I like to take the extra time to go out to the ocean - usually the actual ocean and not a bay. I give myself plenty of time to get there and then plan my first overnight on the ocean. That way, when I get up the next morning, I feel fresh and can approach the entire journey from a beautiful spot physically and a serene point emotionally and mentally.

The same goes for ending a trip. Unless there is something unexpected like illness or injury, I prefer to allow myself extra time to decompress and reflect on the entire bike tour. If I am taking a three-month tour, I will often allocate a few days at the end - simply to insure that I do not feel rushed the last week to "catch the plane" on such-and-such a date. On one trip from California to New Mexico to Alaska I spent a few days Cordova and Yakutat taking in a perfect sunset with my tent on the beach in Yakutat. (Half of the one plane that serves Yakutat is devoted to freight - fish that big-bucks fishermen catch. Quite a lovely aroma on that flight.)

I believe that I may be in the minority on this topic - but I am convinced that the rewards are far greater than any loss of tour miles because I build in time to frame my tour. Not only do you get the benefit of magical bookends, but you also have the reassurance that if anything goes awry, you have the time and place to address it.
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Old 04-30-10, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Yan
Amtrak may be easier to deal with, but the OP is asking for international travel advice.
Actually they said, "Specifically an international destination or one where you arrive and depart via air."

That "or" sounds to me as if they are including domestic travel by air which my post was primarily about. Dealing with US carriers might be a part of their international travel.
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Old 04-30-10, 02:03 PM
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I do a mixture, but if I've got a long international flight and expect to be arriving low on sleep and frazzled from travel, I like to book a room for the first night in country, and re-assemble the bike there. I've found hotel or hostels near the airport that would pick me and my luggage (bike) up if I'm staying there. I even left my bike box at one of these in Aukland, to re-use on my departure.

I've also ridden away from airports, in the US - but those were shorter flights, arriving early in the day, so there was not much difficulty in dealing with the bike as part of the first day, and the hassle-factor (language, money, road-rules, navigation) was minimal.

One thing I haven't done, and probably won't, is ride *to* an airport and *hope* to get a bike box there. In the US, anyway, it's too much of a gamble whether they will actually have a box to sell you, so that adds too much stress for me. I like to have my boxing done well in advance, because I really would not want to miss a flight.

One trip, coming home, my bike was damaged, and I had to take a shuttle home instead of riding as planned.

Plan, but be flexible and ready to improvise.
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Old 04-30-10, 06:30 PM
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For my last 4 tours (Scotland, Tuscany/Umbria, Sicily and Ireland) I've put the bike on the plane unboxed, put the panniers in a duffel bag or cardboard box to make one checked bag and used one pannier as carry-on. Handlebars are sideways, pedals and lights are removed and water bottles are duct taped into the cages for the flight. On arrival I clear customs, change into cycling clothes, load up the bike and ride out of the airport. Google Earth, Google Maps, www.viamichelin.com and various airport websites are all good resources for finding cycle routes into and out of various airports. Posting a request for information on this forum or any other cycling forum about specific airports can also help. It is getting harder and more expensive to take your bike on domestic or international flights, so check the website of whichever airline you're flying with and find out what it will cost and what the rules are. British Airways is still the most cycle friendly airline that I've found, but they have started charging for the second checked bag, which is what the bicycle is with my system. Oh, yes, get to the airport very early (the baggage handlers won't be rushed and they might treat your bike better), and plan an itinerary with as few connections as possible, with lots of time between flights. The fewer times your bike is moved from plane to plane, and the more time the baggage handlers have to deal with it, the less abuse your bicycle will suffer.

I like to have a hostel booked for my first and last nights of the trip, that way there's one less thing to go wrong at the start and end of the journey.

If you're bringing camping gear, make sure your stove and fuel containers are completely clean with no trace of fuel and no smell of fuel. Airlines are very touchy about this, with very good reason. Buying your stove and fuel containers at your destination might save you some hassle, although if you're a gear-head like me this won't appeal.
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Old 04-30-10, 09:03 PM
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I've done a number of tours where I've flown to the starting point, and I've handled the situation in different ways. Sometimes I assembled the bicycle in the airport, and rode from there. Once my cycling partner and I arrived at the airport late in the evening and decided to assemble the bicycles, sleep in the airport, and leave the next morning. I've also located accommodations near the airport in advance and have taken the bicycle in the box to the accommodations, and assembled it there.

If I arrive at a location early in the day, assembling the bicycle at the airport is fine. But if I arrive at the location later in the day, I prefer to head off to an accommodation with the bicycle in the box to get a good night's sleep and not have to fuss with assembling everything, and then heading out into the darkness.

I also like to plan to stay in the arrival city for a couple days after arrival. I've usually been packing like mad in preparation for the trip, not sleeping well, and then am usually trying to deal with jet lag, so it's nice to stop and relax for a bit before setting off on the tour. Plus the city usually has some interesting things to see anyway, and I'll walk, take the train, or perhaps put the bicycle together and take it for a test run. Staying put for a few days also allows me time to put together a travel plan ... collecting maps, deciding where to go next, etc. (I'm not one to decide these things too far in advance). And it allows me to get any supplies I might need ... some snacks for on the bicycle, bits and pieces for meals, etc. Most international flights aren't too keen on you bringing foods along on the flight.

At the end of the tour, I've also handled that situation in a number of different ways. I've boxed my bicycle at my accommodation and walked, trained, or have been driven with it to the airport. I've also just rolled up to the airport with my bicycle as-is and have acquired a box there.

But again, at the end of a tour, I prefer to arrive in my departure city a couple days in advance to wind down, pack, get a bicycle box if necessary, etc.
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Old 04-30-10, 10:14 PM
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One of my bikes is a Bike Friday with the trailer/suitcase option. That lets me ride to the airport while towing the suitcase with the rest of my gear inside along with a lightweight carry-on suitable duffel bag. Once at the airport, I disassemble and fold the bike and trailer frame to fit in the suitcase as an airline-compliant checked bag. The rest of my stuff is in the carry-on duffel bag. At the destination airport I reverse the process, assemble the bike, toss the duffel inside the suitcase/trailer and pedal out of the airport.

But some airports do not have any routes that are safe for bicycle travel. In that case I leave the bike&trailer inside the suitcase, hop on the first hotel courtesy bus that comes by and do the bike assembly at the hotel instead.
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Old 04-30-10, 10:21 PM
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Originally Posted by kbbpll
Rode away from airports except for Tasmania, when airline lost my panniers for a day (no tools). Always had an extra day or two near departure airport to find a bike box and package it up, then taxi to airport. Perhaps riding to the airport is a more "pure" way to do it. I think when we returned London to U.S. (1987) the airline didn't require a box, so we just removed pedals and turned bars sideways, then taped a big piece of cardboard over the drivetrains, but that made me nervous about damage. The advantage of a bike box is you can stuff in all kinds of souveniers too. I brought a case of beer (cans) back from Taz that way, although not all survived and therefore the box was kind of messy...
I don't think you could stuff too many souveniers into your bicycle box these days ... especially not a case of beer. It would make the bicycle box weigh too much.
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Old 04-30-10, 10:33 PM
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Each tour has been different.. rarely have I wanted to start my tour from large cities. My rides are almost always rural in nature. I research my start and stop points based on recommened tours of regions of interest.. Usually , the non riding spouses rented and car and folllowed the same route as the cyclists.. My usual choices.. Assemble the bike and put it on the rear end of the car or else assemble it and put it on the train heading to the tour's starting point..
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Old 04-30-10, 11:17 PM
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I haven't flown internationally, excluding from Vancouver to Anchorage, Alaska. The airline demanded my bike boxed. ( I had ridden to the airport) I had made reservations at a hotel and a shuttle picked me and my bike up and took us straight to the room. I have used busses several times, and they demanded the bikes be boxed. I have used trains twice, and they let me put my bike with everything still attached, in their baggage car...they even helped me lift it up and tie it in place. I used a rental car from San Fransico to Vancouver. British Columbia. They wouldn't allow the car across the border. Fortunately, and at their discretion, they issued a permit to go home, drop off our gear, and come back with the car to turn it in at Bellingham within the day. On all these other occasions I rode to and from pick-up and drop-off.
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Old 05-01-10, 12:19 AM
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I normally try to stick to ground transport - normally trains, or occasionally buses. Of course, using the train is reasonably straightforward within Europe (except that every country has their own bike regulations, which differ by the type of train and sometimes time of day/week). However, I've also done this within North America pretty frequently, using Greyhound in the US and VIA Rail in Canada.

In Europe, the bike either stays fully assembled, or I have a simple transport bag that weighs only 1kg that the bike goes in with only the front wheel removed, and then goes in the luggage area of the carriage as a standard piece of luggage (particularly useful on the high speed trains, which don't always accept fully assembled bikes, but always accept them in one of these bags) - the bag folds down really small afterwards. In N. America, they frequently only take bikes in boxes. Getting the bike and a box from the bike shop where I picked up the free box to the bus/train station is a real pain. The box then gets dumped once leaving public transport (ask the guys at the station where their cardboard recycling is).
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Old 05-01-10, 07:54 AM
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One thing I learned from international overseas travel. You will most likely be brain dead for the first couple of days. You really need to force yourself to think about everything. Even simple tasks, It really helps to have a touring partner where you can check one another out. Make sure your bicycles check out, you don't forget anything at your lodging location etc. It may seem tedious but it is well worth doing.
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Old 05-01-10, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker
One thing I learned from international overseas travel. You will most likely be brain dead for the first couple of days. You really need to force yourself to think about everything. Even simple tasks, It really helps to have a touring partner where you can check one another out. Make sure your bicycles check out, you don't forget anything at your lodging location etc. It may seem tedious but it is well worth doing.
I found the fresh air and sunshine can help speed the process. For example, when I cycled around Australia, I landed ~6am. I assembled the bike in the airport and then set off across Sydney, cycling 45km that first day. It was a bit of an adjustment to cycling on opposite side of the road and across the big city but I pretty quickly adjusted and I was in regular touring rhythm the next day.
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Old 05-01-10, 04:58 PM
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We only did an overseas trip with bikes once, and the getting to from airport was a nightmare.

We took our boxed bikes to the airport in the van taxi, no problem there, but more expensive than regular cab.
On arrival in Paris, we needed to take TGV south. Got our tickets, dragged the bikes and panniers few steps at a time to the station, were told that our seats were at the front of the train, when they were actually in the middle which made us panic that we miss the train. Had to pay oversize luggage fee once on the train and stay with the bikes in the hallway, getting them out of everybody's way at each stop.

On the way back, we put our bikes in bags, then in Paris we paid through the nose for proper bike boxes. Found out that the van taxis are way too small to take two boxed bikes, so up and down the stairs to the RER we went...

As far as riding goes, it was the best trip ever, but we were destroyed and vowed "never again". This is why we ordered Bike Fridays.
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Old 05-01-10, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by lucille
We only did an overseas trip with bikes once, and the getting to from airport was a nightmare.

We took our boxed bikes to the airport in the van taxi, no problem there, but more expensive than regular cab.
On arrival in Paris, we needed to take TGV south. Got our tickets, dragged the bikes and panniers few steps at a time to the station, were told that our seats were at the front of the train, when they were actually in the middle which made us panic that we miss the train. Had to pay oversize luggage fee once on the train and stay with the bikes in the hallway, getting them out of everybody's way at each stop.

On the way back, we put our bikes in bags, then in Paris we paid through the nose for proper bike boxes. Found out that the van taxis are way too small to take two boxed bikes, so up and down the stairs to the RER we went...

As far as riding goes, it was the best trip ever, but we were destroyed and vowed "never again". This is why we ordered Bike Fridays.

And people ask me why I suggest weightlifting to build up upper body strength before a tour. I'm serious about that suggestion. You've got to be able to comfortably lift and carry your bicycle and all your gear.

Although I must say, I've been to France twice with my bicycle, have ridden the TGV and the slower train with it, and although it can be a bit of work, it has never been that bad. Maybe that was partly because we opted to fly in and out of London Heathrow rather than Paris.
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Old 05-01-10, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka
And people ask me why I suggest weightlifting to build up upper body strength before a tour. I'm serious about that suggestion. You've got to be able to comfortably lift and carry your bicycle and all your gear.

Although I must say, I've been to France twice with my bicycle, have ridden the TGV and the slower train with it, and although it can be a bit of work, it has never been that bad. Maybe that was partly because we opted to fly in and out of London Heathrow rather than Paris.
+100!

We were in Italy. We caught a train from Pavia to La Spezia via Genoa. Our train left late out of Pavia so we missed our connection in Genoa. My friend checks on the schedule. No worries another train leaving in 20 minutes but from a different track. We had to drag our bikes and gear down the stairs, through a tunnel and back up another set of stairs.

After we got settled, they made an announcement. My friend, who speaks excellent Italian says "oh no"! I said "What"? He then told me that the track has changed, guess where? Yep back to the same platform where we started!

So the train shows up on time and the bike car is locked! We spent the night in Genoa.

Later I learned that if the bike car is locked, no big deal. Just put the bike on any car. But bike car or regular car, it takes a lot of strength to lift a bike onto a train car.
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Old 05-01-10, 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka
And people ask me why I suggest weightlifting to build up upper body strength before a tour. I'm serious about that suggestion. You've got to be able to comfortably lift and carry your bicycle and all your gear.

Although I must say, I've been to France twice with my bicycle, have ridden the TGV and the slower train with it, and although it can be a bit of work, it has never been that bad. Maybe that was partly because we opted to fly in and out of London Heathrow rather than Paris.
No kidding! I don't mind lifting my bike, but carrying it in the box is really awkward. And when you add panniers to it... just not enough arms!

How did you find putting your bike on TGV? I found that there was really no room for a big package like this. Even the big North American suitcases seemed huge for the small luggage racks.
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Old 05-01-10, 09:09 PM
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Given the cost of airline baggage these days - what is it, $200 per bike on some airlines for international flights? - plus additional charges for panniers etc, why not shop items beforehand to your destination? That way you don't have to schlep around all that equipment. If I have to fly, I always ship my bike to a bicycle shop and sometimes ship some panniers ahead, too.

A hint on panniers - some people suggest cheap gym bags to put everything in so that two or three panniers equals one bag. But with more rigorous size limitations for each dimension, these might get problematic. If you can get a low squat box that does not exceed 62" - which is not much, 30" by 24" by 8" - you can use compression straps that you run thru the narrow dimension as handles - straps that you intend to use on your tour. List contents on exterior and cover with clear tape for customs/security.

Delta ... (I hate Delta) ... is now charging $125 for per extra bag in the U.S. and $200 per for most international destinations. You can ship a lot of stuff for that kind of money.

Interestingly, ski equipment still goes free on most U.S. airlines even though skis and poles are bulky, fragile items. Just goes to show you which business the airlines value and which business it could care less about.
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Old 05-01-10, 10:34 PM
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I usually credit card tour. I place bulky items like my helmet in the bike box. Some clothes might go, they can double as padding Usually tools and anything restricted goes there too.

With some items off loaded to the bike box, I can usually get everything in one pannier. I slip one inside the other. That is my carry on and my handle bar bag is my personal item.

I really hate Delta too. I will never fly them if I have a choice. I really feel sorry for those that do not have a choice.


Unless rental stores become more common, I have the feeling that the days of flying with your bicycle are about over.
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Old 05-01-10, 10:37 PM
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Originally Posted by jamawani
Interestingly, ski equipment still goes free on most U.S. airlines even though skis and poles are bulky, fragile items. Just goes to show you which business the airlines value and which business it could care less about.
And golf clubs go free. Not so bulky but they can be pretty darn heavy.
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Old 05-02-10, 02:43 AM
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Originally Posted by lucille
How did you find putting your bike on TGV? I found that there was really no room for a big package like this. Even the big North American suitcases seemed huge for the small luggage racks.
I didn't have any suitcases with me so I didn't particularly notice the luggage racks, but as for getting the bicycle on board, it didn't seem to be a problem.

According to my report ...
https://www.machka.net/pbp2007/2007_Post-PBP_3.htm

"We packed up and caught the TGV train to Lille. The ticket for the two of us and our two bicycles cost 192 Euro which was quite expensive, but it was a good and relaxing ride. Our bicycles were able to sit in the train with us, not on hooks like they were from Lille to Paris, and not mashed in with a whole heap of other bicycles like they were back from Loudeac."

We purchased the tickets the day before, from the agent ... not from a machine ... and were told what we had to do when we arrived at the station the next day.
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Old 05-02-10, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka
I didn't have any suitcases with me so I didn't particularly notice the luggage racks, but as for getting the bicycle on board, it didn't seem to be a problem.

According to my report ...
https://www.machka.net/pbp2007/2007_Post-PBP_3.htm

"We packed up and caught the TGV train to Lille. The ticket for the two of us and our two bicycles cost 192 Euro which was quite expensive, but it was a good and relaxing ride. Our bicycles were able to sit in the train with us, not on hooks like they were from Lille to Paris, and not mashed in with a whole heap of other bicycles like they were back from Loudeac."

We purchased the tickets the day before, from the agent ... not from a machine ... and were told what we had to do when we arrived at the station the next day.
We didn't have suitcases either. What I meant was that the racks for passenger's luggage are quite small. Too small to put at boxed bike on.
I didn't realize that TGV accepted bicycles, and I did research that. Have to remember next time. Thanks!
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