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An intercity day train, Italy
An intercity day train, Italy

We are collating resources and personal experience of the ease of taking your fully assembled bike on trains, boats and coaches and would love to include your input. Not aeroplanes obviously. While cycling there and back is obviously the best in many ways including mental health. Sometimes its necessary to use public transport to cover long distances, or the ocean. The best resource we have found in is definitely the Man in Seat 61. We will arrange the countries in decreasing order of helpfulness but are happy to adjust position, add content and new countries if you contact us.

France is top of the pile for now, but we have no entry for countries like Holland and Germany yet so it may get knocked off top spot. As a rule you can take your bikes fully assembled on most of the non high speed trains in France without booking. Trains designated TER are fine. Some high speed trains allow you to book a paid bike space but try and wait at the right spot on the platform for your carriage as on busy trains you will find your spot full of luggage and have to try to get everyone to move it. The SNCF connect app and site is good. It allows you to add a bike to your search and will then show you available routes and book/pay for the bike in one go. Its not perfect and if you know that there are TER trains it is not showing to complete your journey try breaking the journey down into smaller sections. Some intercite de nuit trains allow you to book a bike space and cover large distances. Travelling between France and the UK used to be relatively easy with an assembled bike until Covid AKA Brexit ruined that. Eurostar have started taking boxed bikes with a maximum length of 140cm (or maybe 160cm if you ask nicely). They say they are looking to reinstate fully assembled bikes but there is no date yet. Booking is a bit of a fiddle with forms to fill in and email so definitely not simple.

Switzerland is pretty good but the SBB site and app isn't great.

The UK has recently jumped up the ranking, not because many more trains are hospitable with one exception but because the Trainline site and app has recently added bike icons. This makes it much much easier to plan than it was before, when you had to go to one of the many operators and wade through greenwash to get to useful information. The "one exception" is in London where you can now cross the city (east-west anyway) on the game changing Elizabeth line. This allows bikes at off peak times (a bit tricky but basically not 0730-0930 or 1430-1900) full details and the more limited hospitality on the London underground is on the TFL site.

Italy isn't terrible. As usual most local trains allow bikes unbooked. Very few or no high speed trains allow assembled bikes at all. The intercity day trains, while slow do however allow you to cover long distances on a few routes without frequent connections. The Trenitalia app and website takes a while to get used to but with time you will be able to work out how to book a bike slot. Some things can only be done in Italian train stations at the booking office however.

Spain looks pretty hopeless for bikes as none of the high speed trains allow you to travel. Once again the local trains allow bikes but you will struggle to cross the country with an assembled bike on the trains. On the plus side it seems to have some pretty good ferries around the edge. Also the coach company Alsa seems very accommodating and will even sell you a bike bag! Presumably that's because the trains are so hostile.