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Bikes on trains in Italy, and back to London

Old 05-15-13, 03:56 AM
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Bikes on trains in Italy, and back to London

Does anyone have any advice about taking bikes on trains in Italy? We can't take our bikes in bags because we're going to have 2 children on their own bikes and camping gear with us so would really be too difficult. TrenItalia seems to say you can only take bikes in bags except where the train in the timetable has a special bike symbol which none of the relevant ones seem to have.
We have brought tickets with bike spaces to Augsburg, Germany and we're planning to cycle through the mountains to Italy where we'll need to take some trains to end up in Acqui Terme, Piedmont. We then have to get back to London at some point. For that, we were hoping to be able to get a train to meet up with one of the main routes e.g. might be able to get Eurostar from South of France, but we can't even work out how to get to the South of France with our bikes on trains. At the moment we are seriously considering having the bikes picked up by courier and coming home separately. Does anyone have any better ideas?!
thanks for any help
Madeleine
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Old 05-15-13, 07:23 AM
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The TGV runs between Milan and Turin and Paris, but you might need a container for your bikes.
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Old 05-15-13, 07:57 AM
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First of all, if you can, get folding bikes. It would make travel by train in Europe so much easier.

Secondly, look for regional trains. The TGV and similar will take bicycles occasionally (off peak, maybe once a day, only from certain locations, etc.). But the smaller regional trains will usually allow you to put your bicycles on board.

Rowan and I used regional trains to get from Germany to Luxembourg, then from Luxembourg to Switzerland, and within Switzerland, and throughout France.


The one possible difficulty with regional trains is that they do require some planning and some time. You can usually only do shorter hops with them.

For example, we wanted to go from Martigny, Switzerland to Perpignan, France ... roughly 700 km, and Google suggests it could be done in about 6.5 hours ... but not by train!

It took us 4 days. Day 1 - we cycled from Martigny to the Switzerland/France border, a small town called St Gingolph. Day 2 - we cycled from St Gingolph to Evian-les-Bains, and then caught a regional train to Bellegarde. Day 3 - we caught a regional train to Lyon. Day 4 - we caught a regional train to Perpignan.

There might have been other options that might have only taken 3 days, but we did want to include a bit of cycling in there.


We made arrangements for the regional route as we went. When you go into the train station, there are little brochures which will tell you where the train goes, when, and whether or not it takes bicycles.

But for France, you can check the SNCF site, and look for the TER trains (Regional Express Train):
https://www.sncf.com/en/passengers
https://www.sncf.com/en/trains/ter


And, I've written about travelling by train in Europe at the bottom of this page ... scroll down, down, down ...
https://www.machka.net/RTW_2012/RTW_Europe_Main_2012.htm



One disclaimer ... I have not travelled by train in Italy, so things could possibly be different there, but hopefully this will give you some idea where to start
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Old 05-15-13, 10:22 AM
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The TGV runs between Milan and Turin and Paris, but you might need a container for your bikes.
I have helped with a group tour , we sent the bikes ahead a couple days earlier, the rail company
put them on an overnight train of their choosing, and then we met the bikes again when we got to the station.
this was Paris to Bern, took the TGV Paris to Lyon, then something much slower into Switzerland.

the bikes were draped in a cover bag and of course labeled for routing.. not boxed.

this was a pre www era .. its simpler to manage things now , I suppose .. laptops and smart phones and such..

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Old 05-15-13, 05:13 PM
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You might find that this company could be helpful getting you back to London from France (www.bike-express.co.uk/) Also, the touring forums from UK forums like www.bikeradar.com or www.ctc.org.uk could be helpful as the Brits are all over the continent on their bikes in the summer.
Good luck!
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Old 05-15-13, 07:58 PM
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Originally Posted by MadeleineAS
We can't take our bikes in bags because we're going to have 2 children on their own bikes and camping gear with us so would really be too difficult.
How old are the children and how big are their bicycles?


Travelling with 4 of you, with 4 bicycles, and 4 loads of stuff does present some problems with regard to trains.

Some trains will have bicycle compartments large enough to house 4 bicycles, but some trains won't. Some might have 2 spots at the front of the train and 2 spots at the back of the train. Some might have a place for 4 bicycles, but 2 of those spots might be used by other passengers. And the real difficulty comes in that you won't know how the train is set up, and who might be on the train with bicycles already, until you get there.

Consulting with the officials on the platform might help, but not necessarily because sometimes they don't know either.

The other thing is that it can be a bit of a mad dash ... sprinting to the car with the bicycle symbol, and more or less tossing everything on the train. Are your children old enough and strong enough to handle their own gear or will you need to help them? If you need to help them, then my recommendation would be to board and disembark at the beginning/end of the line. When a train reaches the beginning/end of the line, it usually stops for a while to be cleaned up etc., and you'll have more time to work with to get on and off. However, if the train is somewhere in the middle of the line, the situation is usually rushed because the train needs to keep to the schedule (and if often trying to catch up to the schedule).

Just a few things to keep in mind as you sort it all out.
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Old 05-20-13, 03:14 AM
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Thanks very much for your replies. The kids are 9 and 12 - the younger one needs a bit of help getting the bike on trains. We've done it lots of times in the UK and in France but this journey is proving more complicated! It seems that there has been a move towards this bagged bikes thing which train companies think fulfills their obligation to take bikes but makes it difficult for travellers who are more encumbered. I don't believe that things have got easier! I think as you suggest it probably involves accepting a certain level of uncertainty (difficult if we have to book Eurostar in advance) and allowing plenty of time. Will continue investigating, and thanks very much for the advice.
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Old 05-20-13, 04:12 AM
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It isn't easy at the best of times, but worse because you've got to put 4 bicycles on the train and sometimes there just isn't room. I would imagine that most of the trains which want bagged bicycles are the high speed trains ... the ones which will get you some distance all in the same day.
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