Saturday, May 31, 2008

Taking the train in the Netherlands

You can travel with your bike on the railways internally in the Netherlands (NS ) ( on most trains during non-peak hours. You have to buy a ticket and your bike needs one as well (6 Euro a day). You cannot travel on inland trains with your bike during the weekday morning and evening rush hours: (6:30 to 9 am and 4:30 to 6 pm), except during July and August when the some of the Dutch migrate to other countries. There is a list of international trains offering bike places on the international section of the web site. Some of these like the trains from Venlo to Cologne or Heerlen to Aachen are local commuter trains that cross borders, but there are also trains to faraway places such as Berlin, Munich and Zurich. Putting your bike on an international train will cost you 12 Euro for a single ticket and 24 Euro for a return ticket at the time of writing. The web site is clear and easy to use in English and also in Dutch (I assume, though my Dutch is limited to "Let Op!" - beware!).

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bikes and trains in Belgium

Our memories of Belgium, well I suppose, more exactly Flanders, are of a delightful place to cycle with well sign posted cycleways and friendly tourist offices. Obviously the quality of the beer and chocolate are other plus points. Belgian Railways too are bike friendly. You can put your bicycle on most trains and use most stations. The stations where changing with a bicycle is not possible are Brussels Central, Brussels Chapelle and Brussels Congres. Taking your bike with you costs 5 Euro per bicycle and trip and 9 Euro per tandem/bicycle with trailer and trip. There are similar day tickets for 8 and 16 Euro. You can buy a one trip ticket online or pick one up from a ticket office. You need to buy the day tickets from a station. You must load and unload your bicycle under the supervision of the train crew. If you can avoid travelling with a bike at peak times it makes life easier for all.

‘Cycle points’?
Cycle Points are a Belgian speciality and the result of cooperation between Belgian Railways and various social organisations. They are located in or around a railway station and offer a number of services: surveillance and maintenance of bike parks, bicycle rental to train passengers, commuters, students and tourists, corporate bicycle rental and minor repairs.

The first Cycle Points opened in the course of 2007, in the stations in Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Courtrai, Bruges, Leuven and Mechelen.
Other stations in Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia are to follow.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

German Railways, yet again

Sorry about this but we saw a news item that struck us as important enough to publish a quickie blog about it: The ADFC the German cycling club has issued a map online that lets cyclists travelling through Germany find which long distance trains still take bicycles. There is a growing trend for Deutsche Bahn to replace ICs and ECs with ICE (Very High Speed Trains) that do not take bikes. If you then wish to travel with your bike on one of the routes where only ICEs run, then you will need to either have a folding bike or take to the regional trains, by far the majority of which take bikes. These are however much slower and long journeys can involve changing 6 or 7 times. Check the map at The map is in German, but is fairly obvious what it means. Click on "Netzkarte" and then you can see the words "Interaktive Entdeckerkarte". Below this there is a row of words: Täglich (Daily) Donnerstag (Thursday) Freitag (Friday) Samstag (Saturday) Sonntag (Sunday)Gesamtübersicht (Total). You can download various maps as pdf files. You will still need to check the German Railways website ( to find out the times of the trains.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Taking your bike on a train in France

French Railway services are divided into two groups: Grandes Lignes (main line) and TER (regional services). The two services work together and in practice there is no difference between the two groups. If you only wish to travel a short distance you can click on a link on the SNCF home page ( that leads to a map of France to allow you select your region of interest. Not all but some of the main line services will take bicycles, including some of the high speed TGVs, whereas about 95% of all regional trains do. You can find out which mainline trains take bikes by clicking on conditions of service (in French) or check the SNCF bike site as well (in French). The English language conditions of service do not mention this. Probably no Frenchman expects les Rostbifs to know anything about cycling. If there is room in your train of choice you can pop your bike on the train and away you go. You can also reserve bike places on long distance trains beforehand. The local TER trains do not accept any form of reservation, but bicycle transport is free. One word of warning though, mainline trains do not take tandems. However we would recommend that when travelling on the TGVs that you reserve bike places. Not only are there but few, but also bikes block 4 additional seats that can be used by travellers without reserved tickets, of whom there can be quite a few. They are not likely to give up their seats unless you can wave your reservations under their nose.
It is suggested in various websites and downloads that one should use the German Railway website to find trains in France that offer places for bikes. The German Railways website offers a button “Transport of bicycle required” so you can filter out all the trains that do not transport bikes beforehand . However any database is only as good as the data put in it. Unfortunately only recognises that the TGVs running between Paris, Strasbourg and Munich can carry bikes. All the other TGVs are assumed not to carry bikes. In addition there is no mention at the time of writing that at least one extremely useful sleeping car train from Paris to Toulouse takes bicycles. We would suggest you use for your preparations. Obviously this situation could change in future.
If these thoughts are not enough click on to find Leo Woodland's guide to cycling in France with a good description of the perils and pleasures of taking le train with your velo.

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