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  • FIRST POST
    • Johnmcl7
    • By Johnmcl7 28th Mar 18, 1:37 AM
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    Johnmcl7
    Anyone take their bikes onto trains for travelling
    • #1
    • 28th Mar 18, 1:37 AM
    Anyone take their bikes onto trains for travelling 28th Mar 18 at 1:37 AM
    I'm curious about people's experience taking their bikes on the train which seems a perfect topic for a forum section on public transport and cycling.

    I've been trying to get my bike booked on a train today but had to give up and I find it very difficult to even check for free bike slots specifically with Scotrail and Virgin East Coast. The Scotrail site does seem to show availability but only when you go all the way through to seat reservations and even then I'm not sure that information is correct.

    Virgin East Coast don't seem to show any information at all about bike availability so I got in touch with them and they claimed every train I asked about in May and July was fully booked for bikes which I also find hard to believe.

    I did also try the Trainline which I know isn't recommended to use in general to see if they'd perhaps show more information about bike availability but they don't seem to show anything.

    I'm wondering if there's a better way to do it or if going through the operator's website is as good as it gets.

    John
Page 1
    • Nasqueron
    • By Nasqueron 28th Mar 18, 5:01 PM
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    Nasqueron
    • #2
    • 28th Mar 18, 5:01 PM
    • #2
    • 28th Mar 18, 5:01 PM
    I've seen the option when booking on Trainline but I suspect they don't want bikes on the train outside of a storage area which is probably very limited. You might have more luck on a very quiet time and just taking it on and sticking it near fold down seats/toilet
    • esuhl
    • By esuhl 28th Mar 18, 9:46 PM
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    esuhl
    • #3
    • 28th Mar 18, 9:46 PM
    • #3
    • 28th Mar 18, 9:46 PM
    Yes -- I take my bike on trains, although not very often. Most of the suburban services round here allow bikes at any time without a reservation. Sometimes they can be quite busy, with standing room only and you get some evil glares! :-)

    Once or twice I've taken the bike on a suburban service in peak hours where bikes weren't allowed -- there's one line out in the middle of nowhere that has restrictions that I always forget about. Never had a problem -- the guards have always been fine about it.

    A few times I've taken cross-country services... and that's where I've had a few issues. You have to make a reservation for the bike, but even then spaces are on a "first come, first served" basis. And each train only has space for FOUR bikes!

    A few times I've arrived at the station early, then had to race other latecomers with bikes to the guard's carriage. I once missed a train because, despite having a bike reservation, there were no spaces left.

    The area for storing bikes is really poor too. Mountain bike tyres don't fit in the slots, so the bike isn't held still, and people are expected to just lean all the bikes on top of each other! As a result, unless you want your gears trashed, wing mirror broken and frame scratched, you have to stand with the bike the whole time. Not great on a 3-hour journey when you deserve a seat.

    So... I always try to book an off-peak train that will be the least busy. But that doesn't always work out.

    ----------

    Once, an eight carriage train arrived. I couldn't see where the bike section was, so I used the wheelchair/buggy/luggage space. I was the only person in the entire carriage, and there was room for 2 or 3 wheelchairs, a buggy, luggage, AND 5 companions on fold-down seats. My bike was safe, I had a seat, an no one was inconvenienced.

    The guard came round and told me I had to move my bike at the next station. I said I'd be happy to move it if the space was required, but he insisted.

    So I got off, ran almost the length of the train to a carriage that was 3/4 full. I opened the door and saw four other cyclists standing with their bikes, a cycle rack overloaded with bikes, and people standing in the aisles guarding their oversized luggage. It took a few minutes calling to people to move down the aisles before I could get the bike on.

    Not only did I have to stand for two hours, I had to get off, with the bike at every single station along the way (often with other cyclists and bikes), as people got on/off, climbed over the bikes, cyclists, and luggage... And then had to stand on platform calling for everyone to move down the aisles before we could get back on.

    To make matters worse, the cycle rack itself was opposite the toilet. So people were trying to queue amongst the cyclists, bikes, and luggage. At every stop, people wanting to get off the train would mistake the toilet queue for a line of people getting off, so I'd get back on and the doors would close... then someone would barge past everyone and call out to open the door... and the cyclists would get off again, people would move their luggage out of the way...

    And in-between stops, the toilet was constantly in use, with everyone having to shuffle themselves, bikes and luggage with no room to move. By the time I got off the train was running over 20 minutes late. The front two carriages were still busy... and the end carriages with plenty of space were almost empty.

    It was literally the worst journey I've ever been on in my life.

    Phew! Sorry for the rant! :-)
    • Owain Moneysaver
    • By Owain Moneysaver 28th Mar 18, 10:10 PM
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    Owain Moneysaver
    • #4
    • 28th Mar 18, 10:10 PM
    • #4
    • 28th Mar 18, 10:10 PM
    The train operator's website is as good as it gets (unless there is a phone reservations service)

    For ScotRail in particular they have a shortage of DMUs until new electric trains come unto service and many 3-coach services are being run with 2 coaches, which may affect the number of cycle spaces.
    A kind word lasts a minute, a skelped erse is sair for a day.
    • Johnmcl7
    • By Johnmcl7 29th Mar 18, 12:41 AM
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    Johnmcl7
    • #5
    • 29th Mar 18, 12:41 AM
    • #5
    • 29th Mar 18, 12:41 AM
    I've seen the option when booking on Trainline but I suspect they don't want bikes on the train outside of a storage area which is probably very limited. You might have more luck on a very quiet time and just taking it on and sticking it near fold down seats/toilet
    Originally posted by Nasqueron
    Definitely no sign of bike reservations on Trainline.com now so I guess it's been removed, the Virgin site definitely had the option last year and doesn't now. I was planning the trip around the bike so I couldn't risk not being able to take it.

    John
    • Johnmcl7
    • By Johnmcl7 29th Mar 18, 12:54 AM
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    Johnmcl7
    • #6
    • 29th Mar 18, 12:54 AM
    • #6
    • 29th Mar 18, 12:54 AM
    The train operator's website is as good as it gets (unless there is a phone reservations service)

    For ScotRail in particular they have a shortage of DMUs until new electric trains come unto service and many 3-coach services are being run with 2 coaches, which may affect the number of cycle spaces.
    Originally posted by Owain Moneysaver
    Scotrail's site does show bike information but it doesn't appear to be accurate as it frequently shows trains as being fully booked that show as available when you phone. Also I travelled several times on fully booked trains with no free slots and there wasn't a sign of any other bikes.

    Ironically I could get the bike booked onto the Scotrail leg but none of the Virgin trains which same as last year, were all fully booked.

    Hopefully it will get better with the new HSTs as they've six spaces in the power cars (for people going the full journey) in addition to two spaces in the carriages. Although it's a shame it's well short of the 20 they promised and they're not going to bother converting the toilets which are not going to be in use (will be permanently locked)

    John
    • Johnmcl7
    • By Johnmcl7 29th Mar 18, 1:22 AM
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    Johnmcl7
    • #7
    • 29th Mar 18, 1:22 AM
    • #7
    • 29th Mar 18, 1:22 AM
    Phew! Sorry for the rant! :-)
    Originally posted by esuhl
    No, feel free to rant as I've been getting very frustrating trying to book my trip and after a good few hours of getting nowhere I've had to give up. I created this topic in the hope there was a better way to do it but seems not.

    I've bought a new road bike so thought I could add a rack and mudguards to the existing bike and take it with me, it would trade off the higher train cost for being able to get about without needing public transport. I've also bought a cycle computer with turn by turn navigation that would be very useful as well. At one point I was that fed up with the train websites that I looked into maybe trying to do one direction on the bike (500 miles) but it's bad timing as I have a race the week before and the week after plus the real nail in the coffin was I couldn't take the train one direction either.

    I've ended up taking the plane and then hiring a car for five days which overall was cheaper than the train, annoyingly it was almost the same price to get the car as it was just to take the bike on the plane. I did look into that but it has to be packed up which would be a hassle particularly on the return journey.

    John
    • Nebulous2
    • By Nebulous2 31st Mar 18, 8:00 AM
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    Nebulous2
    • #8
    • 31st Mar 18, 8:00 AM
    • #8
    • 31st Mar 18, 8:00 AM
    It's an issue if you are tied to a specific train / day, but it is often possible to just blag it.

    It seems to be very common on Scotrail to turn up with a bike without booking. A lot of short-hop commuters seem to do it every day. I've done quite a few journeys without booking, but timing wasn't always crucial if I got bounced. I've also booked a bike just before boarding by going to the ticket office with my ticket and getting a bike ticket.

    Virgin is more difficult. They dont let you on without booking. The only time I've done it, Stonehaven - Aberdeen, they let me on but gave me a talking to and told me not to do it again. They like bikes locked away in areas not accessible to general public.

    A bike box may well be a worthwhile purchase. I bought one last year to go to Gran Canaria. Decent roadbikes were about 30 euros a day to hire and I got my bike on the plane for 25 each way. It is fiddly to pack them, but it gets easier when you repeat it.
    • Kernel Sanders
    • By Kernel Sanders 4th Apr 18, 7:46 PM
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    Kernel Sanders
    • #9
    • 4th Apr 18, 7:46 PM
    • #9
    • 4th Apr 18, 7:46 PM
    A bike box may well be a worthwhile purchase. I bought one last year to go to Gran Canaria. Decent roadbikes were about 30 euros a day to hire and I got my bike on the plane for 25 each way. It is fiddly to pack them, but it gets easier when you repeat it.
    Originally posted by Nebulous2
    But will the airport store it for you ready for the return flight?
    • Nebulous2
    • By Nebulous2 4th Apr 18, 10:18 PM
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    Nebulous2
    But will the airport store it for you ready for the return flight?
    Originally posted by Kernel Sanders
    I very much doubt it!

    We took a bus from the airport to our apartment where I reassembled my bike. The box stayed in a corner of the room until I was ready to go home. It has wheels and a strap to pull it along.
    • jack_pott
    • By jack_pott 4th Apr 18, 11:25 PM
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    jack_pott
    I've done quite a lot of train travel with the bike, esuhl has it about right, it's frequently a PITA.

    Watch out for the Virgin Pendolinos, you can't get the bike off without the guard to unlock the door. It took me 20 minutes of searching to find someone at Euston because all the crew had already pee'd off before I found that out.

    Sometimes the door/passageway is not wide enough for the bike with panniers. That's fraught: you have to take the panniers off and load them separately, with worry that the train will go whilst your returning to fetch the bike.

    Tuts and icy looks from passengers are par for the course.

    I rarely book. I can be flexible, and wait for the next train with space, but I've never had to. Staff can be difficult though, I remember arguing with the guy in the ticket office at Aberystwyth who said I had to give 24 hrs notice. After he pulled the blind down in my face, I walked over to the guard by the train, and he said "yes there's plenty of space, hop on".

    Trying to book in advance for Penzance, my local station said the had the wrong type of computer. Six miles away, on the main line, the guy didn't know how to make a bike booking, so after half an hour trying, his embarrassment got the better of him, and he just told me to go away, pointing to the sign on the wall saying "special tickets will not be sold on a Saturday".

    On another occasion, trying to book a ticket home from Basingstoke, the guy on the phone said that it's not possible to book in advance unless you leave enough time for them to put the tickets in the post.

    Be prepared for carrying the bike up & down flights of stairs, there won't always be a lift.

    Are you going via London? The Underground is another kettle of fish, there's no booking, but bikes are not allowed on the deep tunnels, and not allowed during the rush hour.
    I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.
    Friedrich Nietzsche
    • Johnmcl7
    • By Johnmcl7 4th Apr 18, 11:32 PM
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    Johnmcl7
    But will the airport store it for you ready for the return flight?
    Originally posted by Kernel Sanders
    That was exactly the problem, I could stomach paying 42 for the bike if the airline prepared it but I couldn't see how it would be workable packing it myself as I'd be able to do it on the way down but not on the way back.

    John
    • Johnmcl7
    • By Johnmcl7 5th Apr 18, 2:12 AM
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    Johnmcl7
    Are you going via London? The Underground is another kettle of fish, there's no booking, but bikes are not allowed on the deep tunnels, and not allowed during the rush hour.
    Originally posted by jack_pott
    That was the plan and the difficulty would be that I could only take one or two trains as over that distance it takes most of the day to travel. I would have been taking the bike straight out of London but all out the window now anyway.

    It's frustrating not to be able to have a bike and train option but that's the reality it seems.
    • redux
    • By redux 5th Apr 18, 9:16 AM
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    redux
    I haven't taken a bike on the train, but I did enquire recently.

    CrossCountry website says those trains have 3 spaces, 2 of which are reservable. It talks about booking by Facebook or Twitter, or at station, maybe via website.

    I phoned up and asked if I would be able to book by phone at 1 or 2 or 3 hours notice. Yes, and 2 sample trains I asked about did have space.
    • House Martin
    • By House Martin 10th Apr 18, 12:18 AM
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    House Martin
    I would be very happy to see ALL cyclists banned from all trains unless they use a folding bike and are able to fold it small . I have a little small wheeled folder, with only one gear which packs up to no more than a large briefcase. It only cost me 40 too and is fine for a few miles around the towns getting to work or an appointment.
    No wonder cyclists get a bad press when they selfishly board commuter trains at the busy hours with huge big mountain bikes with wheels the size of motorbike wheels.

    The other day when I was returning from Sheffield at the busy 4 pm to 6 pm slot when this ignorant ill mannered man barges into the very crowded train with his stupid mountain bike , knocking into peoples ankles (including mine ) blocking access to all 3 fold down seats at the end of the carriages near the doors.. When asked politely to move his muddy bike by an old lady he continued to bleat on about his rights to bring the filthy oily thing onto the train .
    He did nt have any rights whatsover to take up so much room at the busy 5pm rush hour with many people standing up .4 bikes to a train is supposed to be the maximum allowed but this is at the discretion of the guard to keep them out at busy periods
    .No wonder many standing commuters were tut tutting and glaring at him at at the same time joining the anti cyclist club.
    Ban them all at all times.Only folding bikes, folded up should be allowed, at the discretion of the Guard
    Last edited by House Martin; 10-04-2018 at 8:56 AM.
    • KeithP
    • By KeithP 10th Apr 18, 1:35 AM
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    KeithP
    The other day when I was returning from Sheffield at the busy 4 am to 6 am slot...
    Originally posted by House Martin
    Wow!!

    I didn't know Sheffield was that busy so early in the morning.
    .
    • Johnmcl7
    • By Johnmcl7 10th Apr 18, 2:01 AM
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    Johnmcl7
    Amusingly I did see an advert on Facebook promoting cyclists to take their bikes onto trains and as per the topic here, the comments were filled with irritated cyclists pointing out how difficult or impossible it is to actually take the bike on a train.

    I've given up on the idea completely and now hoping for trips within Scotland I can get my fitness and endurance up to do back to back century rides so I no longer need the train.

    John
    • esuhl
    • By esuhl 10th Apr 18, 11:52 AM
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    esuhl
    I would be very happy to see ALL cyclists banned from all trains unless they use a folding bike and are able to fold it small . I have a little small wheeled folder, with only one gear which packs up to no more than a large briefcase. It only cost me 40 too and is fine for a few miles around the towns getting to work or an appointment.
    No wonder cyclists get a bad press when they selfishly board commuter trains at the busy hours with huge big mountain bikes with wheels the size of motorbike wheels.

    The other day when I was returning from Sheffield at the busy 4 pm to 6 pm slot when this ignorant ill mannered man barges into the very crowded train with his stupid mountain bike , knocking into peoples ankles (including mine ) blocking access to all 3 fold down seats at the end of the carriages near the doors.. When asked politely to move his muddy bike by an old lady he continued to bleat on about his rights to bring the filthy oily thing onto the train .
    He did nt have any rights whatsover to take up so much room at the busy 5pm rush hour with many people standing up .4 bikes to a train is supposed to be the maximum allowed but this is at the discretion of the guard to keep them out at busy periods
    .No wonder many standing commuters were tut tutting and glaring at him at at the same time joining the anti cyclist club.
    Ban them all at all times.Only folding bikes, folded up should be allowed, at the discretion of the Guard
    Originally posted by House Martin
    If you're the sort of person who has a chip on their shoulder about other sorts of people using public transport... don't use public transport! Or get a first class ticket where you don't need to share your space with scruffy ruffians!
    • House Martin
    • By House Martin 10th Apr 18, 12:07 PM
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    House Martin
    The only "chip I have on my shoulder " is ignorant disrespectful cyclists getting us all a bad name. I m a very keen cyclist myself.
    I m starting to understand why some motorists have declared war on us.
    Too many idiots on bikes who think they own the moral high ground.
    The train companies owe it to their fare paying passengers to clamp down on cyclists dragging in a huge heavy machine with tyres 4 inch across which takes up more room than two more standing passengers. The Guards can t be watching every carriage at stops to send them packing with an "on yer bike " and they creep on subjecting proper fare paying passengers to oil stains from their chains and rapped ankles.
    If they want to use public transport why can t they be sensible and get the suitable machine for loading on trains..
    Folding bike ! Folded up ! There are some real beauties around now which are delight to ride, light and they fold up very compact in a jiffy.
    • redux
    • By redux 10th Apr 18, 2:36 PM
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    redux
    The only "chip I have on my shoulder " is ignorant disrespectful cyclists getting us all a bad name. I m a very keen cyclist myself.
    I m starting to understand why some motorists have declared war on us.
    Too many idiots on bikes who think they own the moral high ground.
    The train companies owe it to their fare paying passengers to clamp down on cyclists dragging in a huge heavy machine with tyres 4 inch across which takes up more room than two more standing passengers. The Guards can t be watching every carriage at stops to send them packing with an "on yer bike " and they creep on subjecting proper fare paying passengers to oil stains from their chains and rapped ankles.
    If they want to use public transport why can t they be sensible and get the suitable machine for loading on trains..
    Folding bike ! Folded up ! There are some real beauties around now which are delight to ride, light and they fold up very compact in a jiffy.
    Originally posted by House Martin
    You are right to suggest that full size bikes just shouldn't be in the ordinary compartments.

    But several budget folding bikes with 20 inch wheels don't actually seem to be significantly smaller than taking the wheels off a full size bike (which leaves the chain hanging though; I'm not recommending).

    The quite popular Brompton, with smaller wheels and folds significantly smaller than its rivals, is difficult to find secondhand under 500. A couple of days ago one with a broken rear triangle (150 to replace, or maybe a clever insert and brazing repair, not sure) went for 320.
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