How to take a bike by train in Europe

So when I was booking the trip I was nervous about taking my bike on the train in Europe. I’d heard stories about TGVs just not accepting bikes, about the Eurostar bike service taking 24 hours. Fortunately I persisted.
Eurostar now has a bike service where your bike travels on the same train. It costs £20, and you have to book in advance at a different office to the ticket office. The leaflet also has lots of dire warnings about accepting no responsibility for incorrectly packaged bikes. Well, I turned up to the baggage office, handed over my bike and everything was fine. Arriving in Paris and I immediately went to the middle coach where the bikes were hanging. Signed a form to say it was in good condition, loaded the panniers back on and away I went. Simple. Cost £20 though.

On to the TGV Est from Paris, which AFAIK is the only TGV line that accepts bikes, and also simple. You can’t book a bike ticket online, and SNCF, the French rail operator aren’t very helpful. But give Deutsch Bahn’s UK ticket office a call. They speak English and are very helpful, and have no problem booking bikes on to French trains.

At Gare de l’Est again I was nervous. What if the DB guy was wrong? What if it’s a different TGV with no bike space?What if the French rail workers are unhelpful? I needn’t have worried. On TGV Est bikes go in coach 11. My seat was booked in coach 11. There are 4 seats at the side that fold up to allow space for 3, maybe 4, bikes. I wrestle my bike on and settle in, then a german couple gets on with their bikes. Not a problem, due to clever seat bookings we get to sit next our bikes.

The only problem came getting off. The train was 5 mins late into Karlsruhe, so it was a short stop to get 3 bikes and luggage off. One of us stood in the door holding it open as we passed the luggage out in a chain and manouvered the bikes out.

I then had to get the inter-regional express train to Konstanz. There were becoming more and more people with bikes on the platform. I’d been told by the DB booking centre that you can’t reserve a place, it was first come first served, but that it “will be fine”. Hmm, but what about all those bikes. Well, the inter-regional express train turned up, with 6 coaches, 3 could take 12 bikes each. Plenty of space.

Moral is, forget what you know about British trains and bikes, Europeans have this sorted. Simple.

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