Traveling with a bike on trains in France

Posted on: April 15th, 2016 by Bruno

First of all, you should ask yourself if it is really worth it!

If you plan to do some riding in one small area for a couple of days, chances are that you’ll be better off renting a bike–we offer bicycle rentals in a lot of parts of France. In most parts, leisurely riders can rent aluminum hybrid or racing bikes. In a few areas such as Provence and the French Alps, we also offer high-end carbon fiber racing bikes. On your own, you can also find independent renters on Google, by calling local tourist offices, or by checking the French yellow pages (search term is “cycles”).

If, on the other hand,you plan some serious riding and are very specific about your bike… you should not think twice: bring your own bike–providing you don’t have to go down 10 flights of stairs, take 3 buses, and 4 flights before getting to your departure train station in France!

CDG’s train station is centrally located and well-signed

If your travel plans involve a flight, we highly recommend that you fly to an airport connected to a train station. Flying to Paris’ CDG airport, Lyon Saint-Exupery, or Marseille, for instance will make your trip much easier. These three airports are each connected to a train station.

 

 

TGV train station in Paris’ CDG airport

Buying your ticket and choosing the right train:

Two options are possible:

  • at the station, either from the counter or from self-service machines
  • or you can buy online from the French National Railway’s website (www.voyages-sncf.com).

We recommend the last option as you’re more likely to secure special deals that way (in some cases, you can really save a bundle!) If you are planning on travelling a lot around Europe, keep in mind that you can purchase a Eurail pass. Eurail tickets cover at least three countries, and they offer the ease of hopping on a train and buying a boarding pass, which usually only cost around 7-Euros. For more information, check out http://www.eurail.com/europe-by-train/france.

Regardless of the way you buy your ticket, and depending on your location, your train ride in France will be done on three different types of trains:

  • High-speed TGV trains (the major lines in France)
  • “Intercités” trains (Transregional lines which are not serviced by TGV trains)
  • TER trains (Regional trains)

If you buy your ticket online, the type of train is clearly labeled.

Knowing the type of trains you’ll travel on is key when you travel with a bike:

On TGV trains: You can take your bicycle boxed (the size should not exceed 120 cm X 90 cm) as luggage. There’s no charge for it (we’ve done it many times.) If you travel on your own and if the train is not too full, it’s an OK way to travel. If, on the other hand, you travel with fellow cyclists on a full train, we do not recommend it. As space is limited, chances are that you’ll have to travel standing up by your bike box… and you’ll have to move it non-stop to let people pass.

Bicycle logo = space for bikes (10 euro fee)

Bicycle logo on Intercite = space for bikes (10 euro fee per bike)

All these trains—theoretically—have space for bikes (they can travel “as is”, meaning assembled). The cost per bike is 10 euros and it should be reserved beforehand. As far as we know, your bike can travel free of charge if it is boxed and taken as regular luggage (we did this many times on Teoz trains), though you may want to double-check with the train attendant before boarding the train if she/he is OK with that. If worse comes to worse, you’ll be asked to pay a 10-euro charge and store your bike in the “bike car.”

– TER: Almost all TER trains accept fully assembled bikes, with some restrictions on certain regions during peak hours: Mon-Fri 7:00 am-9:00 am, and 6:30 pm-9:00 pm

Bicycle logo on TER trains = space for bikes (no fee)

Boxed bikes can be taken on TER trains at no additional charge.

Do keep in mind the following when buying/traveling by train:

– The item you must remember to bring when traveling by train is a form of identification: a passport and/or visa for non EU citizens.

– Your luggage should be tagged

– The difference between first and second class seats: most trains provide a smooth & relaxing trip (even at high speed). There is a small bench seat outside each main seating area to make mobile calls. The seats in general are also spacious, and the option of WiFi is also given on some trains

For more information, we recommend:

You may also contact us. We only cover areas that are reachable by train from Geneva. When scouting these areas, we most often travel by train!

8 Responses

  1. Ulrike de Brentani says:

    It was good to find your website….none of the ‘official’ sites seem to have any information and then they tell you to telephone them at 0.34 euro/minute.

    We have bought TGV tickets on-line (CDG-Nantes) and will be arriving by air with our bikes in bike boxes. I have not paid for bike space because I did not know that there might be a cost (Note: in 2008, we took the same route and had no problems whatsoever).
    Because my tickets are non-refundable, I cannot now add the 10 euro.
    Question: What approach would you recommend? Once I get to the train station, should I immediately buy 10euro tickets for the bikes (in boxes), or should I wait for what the conductor has to say?

    Thank you in advance for a response.

    • Santana says:

      To keep your stress level down (and to follow the SNCF policies) I would recommend buying the bike pass when you arrive at the train station before boarding. Having said that, based on my own experience, chances are that if you don’t buy your pass before getting on the train, they still will let you on.

  2. Clara Kelly says:

    This is helpful. Do you have advice on a shop in Marseille that could save a cardboard box and pack my bicycle for my flight home?

    • Santana says:

      Hello Clara,

      It is a good idea to contact a bike shop ahead of time to see if they will be able to save a bike box for you to use on your return flight. Unfortunately, we do not have any relationships with bike shops or retailers in Marseille. However after a little research we found a shop that has reputable bike brands, Massilia Bike System. Again we have never worked with this shop, but we would suggest reaching out to them with your request.

  3. Glenn Sampson says:

    Hi great site, I am travelling by train from Paris (CDG) to Annecy
    with a bike in a soft bike bag.
    It will be during July (2013).
    It seems I have to take several trains to get there?
    Do I have to pay for the bike at each leg of the journey?
    I have not booked the trains yet and any advice on which train rout to take to get there would be appreciated.
    Will be hiring a car once in Annecy then three weeks later catching a train from Pau to Paris.
    cheers
    Glenn

    • Bruno says:

      Hi Glenn,
      You can take your bike as a regular luggage at no charge (but space is likely to be tight in July). If your train from Paris to Lyon has a bike car, you will have to pay a one-time fee. There’s no charge to take bikes on regional train (Lyon to Annecy).
      Hope this helps.
      Bruno
      http://www.cyclomundo.com

  4. Chris Rust says:

    Hi Bruno, Thanks for this, I would like to take my recumbent bike on TGV as a complete bike so I have a couple of questions about how the bikes are carried on the train.

    If the bikes sit normally on their wheels then my bike will fit in the same space as any other (it’s small wheel, short wheelbase bike, 1.7m long)

    If the bikes hangs by one wheel that should be OK, it’s been transported that way on Eurostar, hanging by the rear wheel.

    If the bike sits on its rear wheel with the front wheel held up in the air by a hook or clip then that would not work as it’s much shorter wheelbase than a normal bike.

    Can you say which of these systems are used on TGV trains?

    Also will I be able to put my bike into the bike storage myself or do I hand it over to the train crew? Obviously I prefer to keep it under my own control.

    On my last trip to France I used the Intercite trains which are really much easier, but it’s very hard to book a long distance trip without TGV for part of the way.

    Thanks
    Chris

  5. Bruno says:

    Hi Chris,

    As far as I know, you’ll have to pick a TGV train that is set for bikes (a small bike logo is displayed when checking train schedule using http://www.voyages-sncf.com). You’ll have to pay a 10-euro fee for this.

    Your recumbent would then be traveling in a separate car.

    Hope this helps.

    Regards,

    Bruno
    http://www.cyclomundo.com

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