How to book a bike on a French train
Post last updated:
If you’re planning to travel by train in France and wondering if you can take your bike with you, the answer is generally yes, but it depends on the type of train you’re traveling on. French TGV and Intercité services allow folded or cased bikes on board for free, with a maximum size of 130cm x 90cm. Some TGV and Intercité services have reserved spaces for assembled bikes at a fee of 5€ – 10€, while Ouigo services only allow bikes in cases for a 5€ fee. Bikes are permitted on TER services without charge, but recumbents, tandems, tricycles, and bike trailers are not allowed on trains in France.
I always enjoy traveling by train in France, it’s a great way to get around the country and offers an extensive network to many destinations. Now that I live in France I am on trains regularly and have been able to experience most of the different services on offer both with and without a bike. I have been able to use trains as part of our cycle touring routes to jump ahead in places and also to get us back home at the end of a trip. So the purpose of this article is to explain a bit about what you need to do to take your own bike on a French train and how to book your place where it is required based on my own experience of doing this.
The information on this page was last updated in May 2023. I regularly check to ensure there have been no changes to the policies of SNCF but we recommend having a quick look directly on their website prior to booking to double-check.
Train services and bikes in France
The French rail network is extensive and is a great way to get to parts of the country with your bike and incorporate it into your trip. There are four different types of services that you will need to consider and each of them has its own requirements when it comes to taking your bike with you. You may find some journeys will be a combination of train types. I have also included the rules for the Paris metro and RER lines, given many people arrive and depart France through Paris and may need to travel within the city.
The first train service is the high-speed TGV. These trains travel between major cities at up to 300km per hour and are great for covering long distances quickly. They are also a great alternative to flying. Both 1st and 2nd class tickets are available and can be booked up to 90 days in advance.
You can take a bike on any TGV service for free if it is folded or in a case 130cm x 90cm in dimension. In this instance, your bike is treated as normal luggage and no fee or reservation is necessary. Bikes are stored in the normal luggage racks along with everyone else’s luggage. TGV trains on some routes do have spaces for bikes that are not folded or in a case. For these services, you must reserve the bike space and pay a €10 fee when booking.
The second service is the Ouigo train. These are similar to the TGV/inOUi services but they are akin to a low-cost airline. As such, there is only a single class and the services offered are limited compared to the other trains. Tickets can be booked up to 90 days in advance.
Ouigo train services only offer spaces for bikes that are folded or in a travel case that is less than 130cm x 90cm. Unlike the TGV services, you must book and pay a €5 fee for your bike. At present, there are no places available for bikes that are not folded or disassembled.
The third train service is the Intercités. These trains service routes that the high-speed TGV does not, connecting major centers across the country. Tickets can be booked up to 90 days in advance for both 1st and 2nd classes.
Intercités train services allow bikes on board for free if they are folded bikes or in a travel case less than 130cm x 90cm. These services also have reserved spaces available for non-folded bikes that must be booked and paid for prior to travel. Fees range from €5 – €10.
The fourth train service is the TER. These are operated by the 11 different regions in France and offer services within their region or into neighboring regions. Tickets for these trains can be purchased up to 120 days in advance.
In general, TER services allow bikes onboard without the need to reserve and pay for a space. It is simply a matter of turning up with your bike and going to the designated car. Bikes are allowed on a “first come, first served” basis and it is up to the train staff to determine if they will allow bikes on in excess of the available space.
As the TER services are operated at a regional level it is possible that different rules will apply to different regions. The only difference that I am currently aware of is TER Bretagne services which introduced mandatory bookings for bikes from 7 June to 30 September on its services. You need to go to the specific TER Bretagne page to book bikes, which is done separately from the normal booking. The fee is currently €3 per bike.
Paris Metro and RER services
Bikes are not permitted on the Paris metro, tramway, or buses at any time. The exception to this is the M1 line which allows bikes on Sundays and public holidays before 4:30 pm.
Bikes are permitted on the Paris RER lines (A, B, C, D, and E) outside peak hours which are defined as follows:
Mon – Fri 6:30 am – 9:00 am and 4:30 pm – 7:00 pm
There are no peak periods on weekends or public holidays, you are free to take your bike at any time on these days.
Bikes are prohibited from using escalators within stations.
I have caught the train (RER line B) from Charles de Gaulle Airport into central Paris a number of times. On each occasion, I noted that the trains become extremely full. If you plan to use this service be mindful of this.
The two styles of racks for bikes on French trains that I have seen and used.
How to book your bike on a train in France
Booking a bike on a train is easy to do in France and there are a few ways of completing this. I always book directly through the SNCF website or phone app. The service is called SNCF-Connect and I find it easy to use and load the tickets onto the app on our phones. You can also use the Trainline website which has very similar functionality to the SNCF site. The only difference I experience between the two sites is that SNCF shows bike availability in the overall search result whereas Trainline only shows them once you select a particular service. Not a big issue but worth mentioning. You can also purchase tickets at the station at either the ticket counter or self-serve kiosks.
I think the easiest way to book and pay for your bike where necessary on French trains is to use one of SNCF’s online platforms, web browser, or mobile app. TGV/Inoiu, Ouigo, and Intercités services can be booked up to 90 days in advance while TER services can be booked 120 days in advance. Book as early as possible to get the bookings you wish, especially for those that require a reservation for your bike. Following is an overview of how the process works so you can easily make your own bookings.
You can change the language on the SNCF Connect website to English by scrolling down towards the bottom of the page to where it says “Choix du Pays” and selecting “Europe – other countries from the list. The website can also be viewed in a number of different languages including German and Italian. When using the app, the language is set based on the settings on your mobile phone so you should not have to change it manually.
The step-by-step process to book your bike on a French train is similar on both the website and the phone app.
- Enter your required destination
- Enter the starting point for the journey
- Enter the date of travel and time of day for the outward journey. If you need a return also enter a date and time of day for the inward journey
- Select the number and age of passengers traveling
- Add in any company or promo codes if you have them or travel card details.
- Click on “Add Travellers, animals, bikes” and choose “Non-dismantled bike”. Click on the “Book a bicycle spot”
- Click on “See prices” to review the list of available trains and prices. All train services will be displayed. The list will indicate if the bike spaces are full or not.
- Select the time and proceed with the payment process.
- Tickets are available as E-Tickets and can be downloaded to your phone or computer and either printed or simply displayed on your phone to the conductor on the train.
I have also created a short Youtube video to demonstrate booking your bike on a French train. You can access it here.
Helpful tips when booking your bikes on French trains
Here are a few tips I have learned along the way about booking tickets with a bike on the French rail network using the SNCF-Connect website.
No first-class travel with a bike
You cannot purchase first-class tickets on TGV and Intercités services if you are planning to bring a non-folded or disassembled bike. First-class carriages do not have space for bikes and you are not allowed to travel with your bike in a separate carriage to where you are sitting.
Passenger count equals bike count
The booking system does not allow you to vary the number of bikes to the number of passengers. IE if you are booking for 2 people but you only have 1 bike, you need to make 2 separate bookings. This only applies to TGV and Intercités services that require a separate reservation for your bike.
Use the mobile app for e-tickets
Download and install the SNCF-Connect mobile app. It allows you to book tickets and also display your ticket as a QR code. It is easy to do and means no worry about printing physical tickets. This is my go-to method when I book tickets and it’s nice and handy.
Select “France” as the country option
Select France as the country option in both browser and app versions. We have discovered that certain information that you may require is not displayed unless France is selected. Even if you cannot speak French it is relatively easy to navigate the booking process. I discovered that TER Bretagne services required a booking for bikes from June to September. After some testing, I have discovered that this message only shows up if the country selected is France.
You might also like
Once you understand how to take a bike on a French ticket and how to purchase tickets I suggest you check out my 11 Tips for Traveling on French Trains with a bike. I put this together based on my own experience of being on a train and some of the things I have learned along the way.