Taking a bike on TER trains made easy
Taking your bike on a TER in France is one of the easiest ways to use trains as no reservation or payment is required. It is a simple matter of purchasing your ticket and rolling your bike onto the allocated bike carriage and you are good to go. We use the TERs on a regular basis and take our bikes on board with us on many of those occasions. In fact, our preference is to find TER services where possible for our journeys with bikes because it is so easy to do and costs nothing other than the price of the ticket.
The TER trains are regional services that operate generally within a region or into neighboring regions. These trains do not traverse the country as the TGV or Intercité services do. There are 11 different regional train services across France but thankfully the same rules apply nationally with only 1 exception that we are aware of.
For those planning on taking their bike on a TER in the Brittany region from early June to late August, you must reserve a place for your bike. This region is very popular with cycle tourists and everyone is keen to use the TER services. This was introduced as a means of guaranteeing you a space on the train and we think it is a great idea. It only costs €1 and gives you the peace of mind there is a place for your bike. The BreizhGo website has all the details including links to reserve your place.
Things to know about taking a bike on a TER
Taking a bike on a TER service is our preference when traveling with our bikes. The main reason for this is that it is free to do and offers the most flexibility. We take our bikes on TERs regularly and have a few things that we have learned along the way that we want to share so you know what to expect.
1. Traveling early in the morning is usually the quietest
TER services are popular in France and used by many to get to and from work each day meaning the trains in some areas can be quite full. We find traveling very early in the morning gives you the best chance of avoiding the crowds and allows you to get cycling later in the day. It also gives you the best chance of finding the bike spaces empty. This is especially the case if you are traveling into or out of large cities.
2. Only use the dedicated bike carriages
All TER services have dedicated bike carriages with racks and it is important that you only board those with your bike. We have always found these carriages well marked with a bike symbol and you will have no problems finding them. Most of the trains we have caught have had bike carriages at either end of the train but this is not always the case.
3. Get to the train station as early as possible
At larger stations with multiple platforms, the platform number is displayed 20 minutes before departure. We always make sure we get to the station nice and early so we can get to the platform on time and be ready to board the train. We have experienced many train stations that have underground walkways between the platforms and no lifts for easy access. With heavy touring bikes and panniers, it can take a little bit of time to get to the platform.
4. Make sure you are in the right section of the train
This is general advice and not specific to taking a bike on a TER. In some instances, an 8 carriage train may split in two with half the carriage going to one destination and the other half to another destination. This doesn’t happen all the time but has happened to us on a few occasions. Each time the indicator board identified what section of the train we needed to be in and it was easy to do.
5. Don’t panic if the bike racks are already full
It’s always nice to get onto the train and find no other bikes in the bike racks, but that’s not always the case. Lots of people take their bikes on TERs in France and it is not unusual to find the bike rack space full. If you get on the train and the racks are full you have a few options. The first is to check another carriage on the train. Many TER services will have more than a single carriage with bike racks, so check if there is space elsewhere.
Your second option is to do nothing and simply hold your bike until there is either space available or you get off. While the rules clearly state that all bikes need to be in the racks, we have observed others just holding their bikes and keeping them out of the way of other passengers. There is always a chance you may be asked to get off the train by the guard but you can at least try. If the carriage is very full already we would recommend waiting for the next train.
The final option is to get off and take your bike on the next TER service. This is not always convenient and the next train may be hours away but it may be your only option if the train is really full or the guard either does not let you on or asks you to get off.
The downsides of taking a bike on a TER
While taking a bike on a TER is free and easy to do, it does not mean it is perfect. The biggest downside of taking a bike on a TER is the fact that because spaces are not reserved there is no guarantee you will be able to get on the train with your bike. There is always the risk that the carriages are already very full and the chance of you and your bike getting on is slim. When you do have to reserve and pay for a spot on either a TGV or Intercité service you are at least guaranteed that the space is there for you.
Any time we are taking our bike on a TER we are flexible in our plans in case things don’t turn out as expected. Thankfully we never had to watch the train pull out of the station without us, but we do know of others who could not board due to capacity. As we mentioned above, the trains are busy in France and lots of people use them with bikes to go about their daily business.
You might also like
If you are considering taking a bike on a TER you might also like our articles about taking a bike on a TGV, tips for traveling on a French train with a bike or how to book your bike on a French train.
You can book tickets for TER services on the SNCF Connect website.