Taking a bike on a train: A guide to rules for bikes on trains around the world
Taking a bike on a train is a great alternative to flying for many people and can be a much better option when you need to transport your bike. We have incorporated trains into our cycle touring trips on many occasions and the ability to simply wheel your bike on and off the train is very appealing. Like everything though, different rules apply to different train companies as well as different train types within the same network. To help you work out the rules that apply to the train company and the type of train you wish to book we have put together the table below after extensively researching the rules in different countries.
We already have a listing of over 120 airlines and their rules and fees for bikes and this table follows in a similar vein but for train travel not flying. Unlike airlines which typically apply the same rules to all the flights operated by them, train companies offer different services and train types. Rules for bikes differ depending on the type of train you are on and sometimes depending on the route you are on.
Our website also has a range of other useful information that relates to traveling with your bike. These are linked below.
- Bike box basics helping you select the best type – an article all about bike boxes designed to help make sure you source the right one for you.
- What you need to know about taking your bike on a plane – lots of helpful information about traveling with your bike on a plane based on our own experience. Make sure you are well prepared for your journey and know what to expect at the airport.
- Useful tips about using a cardboard bike box for air travel – lots of handy information about using a cardboard bike box for the first time including where to get one, how to prepare it, and how to pack your bike.
- Shipping a bike: learn how to get the best deal – you may decide that shipping your bike is a better option for you. Learn about how the whole process works and make sure you get the best deal in the process.
- Taking your bike on French trains – a detailed guide on what you need to know about taking your bike on the French rail network.
Taking a bike on a train basics
Regardless of the train company or country, there are at least some common rules when it comes to taking a bike on a train. We will go through each of these in broad terms below and the table includes the specifics for each company.
Folding bikes and disassembled bikes on trains
If you own a folding bike, taking a bike on a train is generally an easy process. The majority of train companies will allow you to bring your bike onboard free of charge, without reservation, and simply allow you to stow it in the usual luggage racks. Most train operators do have size limits for all luggage that is allowed on board and you do need to double-check that your folded bike is within these limits but it would be rare that it is not allowed. Some train operators may also require the bike to be covered. Our table includes the size limits to make it easy to check.
For those who already have their bike disassembled in a travel bag or case after a flight or for other reasons, taking your bike on a train can also be relatively straightforward. The big caveat here though is that your bike bag or travel case has to be within the luggage size limits set by the train company. For example, SNCF in France allows luggage up to 130cm in length to be taken on board freely and without reservation. Many bike travel bags and cases are longer than this which means you need to make a reservation for them.
This also holds true for other train companies around the world in that the sizes allowed on trains for a bike travel case are considerably smaller than what airlines allow. This is the case all luggage on a train has to fit in the provided luggage racks and must not impede other passengers. This is something to be aware of if you are planning on traveling with a bike travel case on aircraft and trains. You might get away with a slightly larger case than allowed but don’t count on it! The onboard conductor usually has the final say on what can and cannot come aboard.
Assembled bikes on trains
Taking a fully assembled bike onboard a train ranges from totally prohibited to allowed without cost or booking. This really does depend on both the train operator and the service type you are traveling on. For example in France, you can take your bike on any TER service without booking or extra payment but on TGV and Intercites services, you must reserve a place for your bike and pay a fee. In addition, not all TGV routes have carriages that can take fully assembled bikes. Other countries follow a similar process whereby some services allow bikes on without reservation and others do not. We include all this information in our table to make it easier to understand.
Cost of taking a bike on a train
Even if you need to reserve a space for your bike, many train operators charge no fee to bring your bike with you, and those that do only charge a fee ranging from 3€ – 10€. Small in comparison to what some airlines charge. Booking and paying for your bike can usually be done as part of the online booking process making it nice and easy.
Bikes on Metro Services
Metro services generally operate on a totally different set of rules than the intercity train services and vary greatly between cities. You will face one of three rules when it comes to bringing an assembled bike onboard. Total prohibition of bikes, bikes allowed only at certain times of the day, generally off-peak, or no restrictions on bikes at all. If you do need to take your bike on a metro service be sure to check their rules before attempting to board. As most metro systems are operated at a city level do not assume the same rules will apply in different cities within the same country.
If you have a folding bike, taking them on metro services is generally no problem provided they are folded when you bring them on board. It still pays to double-check before you travel though, as there may be some restrictions that apply.
Tandems, recumbents, and bike trailers
Tandems, recumbents, and bike trailers are generally prohibited from traveling on trains by most, but not all, operators around the world. This is because they are too large to be easily maneuvered on and off trains and the storage space available on trains is limited. If you do have one of these types of bikes and need to travel by train you may need to consider shipping your bike separately.
Electric bikes on trains
If you own an electric bike, the good news is that there are generally no rules relating specifically to electric bikes on trains, unlike airplanes. Depending on your holiday destination, train travel can provide an alternative to flying if you own an electric bike. Electric bikes will be subject to the same set of rules as non-electric bikes.
Bikes on trains table
The table below includes the rules for bikes on trains on a range of different operators and in different countries. It is designed to give you a handy reference as to what the rules are as well as a link to the website of the operator to check on specific requirements. Always make sure to check the information on the operator’s website in case rules have changed since the table was updated.
If you want more information about the trains in a particular country more generally we would suggest going to the Man in Seat 61 website. It is a comprehensive site that offers lots of information and first-hand accounts about traveling on rail companies around the world.
We started the table in June of 2022 and will be adding more and more content to it over the coming months. Our goal is to cover as many train operators around the globe as possible to help people plan their cycling adventures.