Author Topic: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions  (Read 11534 times)

Cudzoziemiec

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Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« on: July 16, 2012, 02:45:05 pm »
My bike and I intend to help some trains have their railway adventures this summer, but we need to settle a few points of uncertainty first.

1. Luggage. The "Cycling by train" leaflet says take luggage off your bike. This seems a good idea if you only have one item, but if you have, say, two panniers, a bar bag and a big bulk strapped to the rack top, it's not really practical to carry that much through the carriage, and reattaching it to the bike on a swaying train could be difficult and delaying. Also, I'm not sure if this advice is TOC-specific (the leaflet I'm referring to is from FGW). What do people actually do?

2. Locking. The same leaflet says you mustn't lock your bike to any part of the train. That's sensible. But it recommends you to lock your bike to itself while in the bike compartment on those trains that have them. Again, I'm wondering how practical this is and whether theft of bikes from trains is really a problem? Obviously when it's a local train where your bike goes in a fold-down seat place this isn't a problem at all.

3. Booking. The only one of the many train-booking websites that can book you a bike place seems to be East Coast. Nothing wrong with it as far as I can tell, but I wondered if there were any others that people know of or use?

Thanks.
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Wowbagger

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Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2012, 02:54:54 pm »
Whether or not you remove luggage depends on what sort of train it is. If it's a big guard's van train then it's helpful to leave the luggage on the bike. Firstly, you don't have to cart it around and secondly, luggage space in carriages seems to be at a premium as trains become more and more crowded. Even in Pendolino type trains you might have to remove the luggage form the bike but it's worth talking to the guard ad letting him know you'd like to leave your luggage with the bike because Pendolinos have hardly any lugage space at all - the head-height luggage racks are too small even to take a Super C rear pannier.

We don't lock our bikes when they are on trains. If they are in the guard's van they ought to be away from public access and they should b supervised.

I always use East Coast or booking other than for the sleeper, which so far as I an tell you have to book with Scotrail. Then you have to phone through to add bike reservations later, but Scotrail let us down on last month's tour. Because I kept an eye on things the problem was sorted and we ended up with £170 in vouchers by way of compensation.
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Karla

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Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2012, 03:02:01 pm »
On XC voyagers I often lock my bike to the train, especially if I'm travelling with the race bike.  The bike storage is right next to the door in a normal carriage, so it would be easy for someont to nick it at a station.  Nobody's ever complained at me for doing this.

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2012, 03:14:45 pm »
As Wow says, the best approach for luggage depends on the train:

If it's a dangly bike space it all has to come off to make the bike light enough to lift, though there's usually room at ground level to stash the panniers.  You probably want to pack in such a way that all your valuables and things you're likely to want for the train journey are in one bag, which you can take to your seat with you.  Top tip: make sure that your water storage doesn't leak when upside-down.

If it's a generic storage space like a Pendolino or Greater Anglia HST, then you can usually leave the luggage on the bike.  Make sure it's properly secured.

If it's a fold-down-seats or opposite-the-toilet-door job on a Class 170 or similar, then you can probably get away with leaving panniers on the side of the bike that's leaning against the wall (this will generally improve its leaning characteristics), but you may need to remove the others so as not to block the gangway.  Top Tip: use an elastic band or toestrap or similar to engage the rear brake.  This makes the bike astoundingly more stable.

I carry a Wilko light-duty ratchet strap for train journeys.  They're incredibly useful for securing bikes in the absence of decent provision on the train (worn-out velcro is a common problem on the supplied straps), and for securing multiple cycles together neatly on comuter-type trains.


I don't bother locking my bike, though with the recumbent I can generally rely on its unusualness and unintuitive manhandling (I struggle to get it out of a dangly bike space, and I've had plenty of practice) to discourage opportunist thieves.  I do remove lights, GPS and so on on Voyagers where the bike is neither in a secure location nor supervisable.  The main risk isn't so much theft as fiddling.  Bikes are a magnet for bored drunks and small children (though the latter are generally content to ring the bell until they get told off by a parent).  Expect your shifters to need re-setting when you get off the train, for example.


I always use EastCoast for booking.  It works.
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Biggsy

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Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2012, 03:20:56 pm »
With a lock through the wheel, I daren't think what happens to the spokes when some berk gives the bike a hard shove forwards or backwards.
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Kim

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Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2012, 03:26:10 pm »
With a lock through the wheel, I daren't think what happens to the spokes when some berk gives the bike a hard shove forwards or backwards.

Another reason to engage the brake, perhaps?


I've managed to do this a couple of times while loading panniers with shopping on a still-locked bike to no real effect, but I'm a 36 hole 3-cross kind of gal.  You can guarantee the law of sod means that if that sort of abuse is going to break something, it'll do it on a tour.
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Biggsy

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Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2012, 03:28:29 pm »
Another reason to engage the brake, perhaps?

A good idea.  :thumbsup:

Jamming half a wooden clothes peg in the lever is another method of how to.
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mattc

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Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2012, 03:34:12 pm »
With a FGW guards van, you have 11 picoseconds to do all this stuff AND get into the door at the other end of CoachA before getting The Hard Stare from staff. (This is occasionally replaced by Abusive Language at Londinium).
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mcshroom

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Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2012, 03:50:07 pm »
1. With dangly spaces (XC, Some ScotRail etc) you have to remove all baggage (if nothing else it's difficult to lift a fully laden bike up by it's back wheel. I usualyy leave the bottles on the bike though unless I'm worried about security. Often you can get away with leaving the bags on with floor based systems if the train isn't too busy and you have the only bike.

Do watch out for silly 'Olympics-related' restrictions on your routes at the moment on top of the ones in the leaflet.


2. Locking hasn't really been something I've worried about, but a cable lock is useful for securing the bike. I've never been moaned at for locking the bike to the train where I've done it


3. Others that do cycle bookings are Southern and Chiltern. They use the same booking system as East Coast. I switched to those two from EC as a) EC wanted to charge £1 transaction fee and b) Southern often have discounts on tickets (Usually Southern trins only ones, but Igot a discounted Middlesborough to York ticket last year).
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rower40

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Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2012, 04:05:26 pm »
Releasable Zip-ties FTW.
Both to secure a brake when the bike is on its wheels, and to prevent extremes of dangling (aka crashing into the partition) when on board Voyagers.

Don't forget to label your bike with destination station for the train you're on.   This allows later arrivals to play bike-tetris (or is it Jenga) with confidence - knowing which ones can be blocked in.
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Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2012, 04:09:24 pm »
I use East Coast despite not living there and often not travelling anywhere near there, because of how easy it is to make bike reservations and check the availability of them on lots of different trains.

I also take a careful look at connection times in the journey and don't pick a train with a very tight one in case I can't get off and onto another platform in time with the bike.

Have all your tickets really handy. Getting through barriers with a bike is problematic enough without having to root through luggage/pockets for tickets. You need the actual ticket, seat reservation and cycle reservation one as well because you can get asked for all of them as you pass through the barriers.

I dump large baggage right next to the train while I am loading the bike on so they can't leave the station, then leg it down the train whilst inches away from it (or even touching it) , again so they can't drive off with my bike on board and not me.

Book a seat in the quiet carriage on FGW so you are as close to the guards van as possible.

Ask platform staff which way round the train is coming in so you can be ready at the right end of the platform.

FGW will go nuts if they see you lock your bike in their train. When the train comes in to a platform keep a close watch out of the window that no one without a bike goes near the guards van door. Be ready to give chase and rugby tackle anyone who tries to wheel your bike off the train.

Take a bungee to secure your bike with so it doesn't move around.

Consider separating luggage into valuable and not so valuable panniers /bags so you only need to take one of them off if there's space to leave them on.

Take ear buds in case some really annoying fecker decides to really annoy you in some way.

Have a great trip  ;D

sas

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Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2012, 04:18:21 pm »
Remove your luggage unless you know the train isn't going to be busy with cyclists. Most bike compartments pack the bikes quite densely (IIRC the FGW guards van packs around 8 bikes/surfboards across the width of the carriage alongside a ladder or two).

Edit: Also you can just dump your bags/panniers out the door of the train and reattach everything on the platform instead of attempting it in a confined space.
I am nothing and should be everything

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2012, 04:19:34 pm »
Thanks for all the tips.  :thumbsup:

I anticipate mostly spreading joy on HSTs and Sprinters. I'm pretty sure the first have generic guards vans and I know the latter have fold-down-the-seats space, so no dangly manoeuvres, thankfully.

I carry a Wilko light-duty ratchet strap for train journeys.
What is this exactly? TBH I have an excess of wooden clothes pegs over clothes line space (or indeed clothes line days, this summer!) so I might do the wedge tip.

Don't forget to label your bike with destination station for the train you're on.   This allows later arrivals to play bike-tetris (or is it Jenga) with confidence - knowing which ones can be blocked in.
Useful tip.

Book a seat in the quiet carriage on FGW so you are as close to the guards van as possible.
Damn! Too late! For first journey at least.

Quote
Be ready to give chase and rugby tackle anyone who tries to wheel your bike off the train.
Somehow, I can very easily imagine you doing this!

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Have a great trip  ;D
:thumbsup:
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

snail

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Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #14 on: July 16, 2012, 05:03:36 pm »
I shall be investing in zip ties. ^
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #15 on: July 16, 2012, 05:06:09 pm »
I shall be investing in zip ties. ^

I stick the cycle reservation bike ticket under the edge of a bottle carrier, it's easy to remove and replace that way.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #16 on: July 16, 2012, 05:13:13 pm »
Also easy to fall out and get lost on a platform or in a station lift, no? Anyway I shall most likely have a Swiss Army knife with me, and whereas Helvetian Soldiers use this to carve toblerones by hand out of dolomite or defend the neutrality of gold bars, I can use mine for releasing orange cardboard from handlebar captivity.
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #17 on: July 16, 2012, 05:55:42 pm »
Tip 1. Get a Brompton.
Tip 2. See Tip 1....


 ;)
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Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #18 on: July 16, 2012, 06:12:14 pm »
It's not quite as easy to tour with a Brompton, but I can see the attraction.

*remembers particularly awful time at Newport where they changed the platform with seconds to spare, the lift was full, and I had to resort to the kindness of strangers* (I had already taken my luggage off the bike in readiness, and then had to run with bike & luggage up and down stairs to the platform - luckily a very kind stranger took pity on me and grabbed a couple of my panniers, as there wasn't really time to put them all back on again. Oh, and jane also grabbed one...)

And then the train staff told us off for not being ready to load up our bikes...I could sit rocking in a corner every time I recall that moment  :hand:

This is not particularly helpful Cudzo, I'm sorry, but at the very least it is useful to know that These Things Happen...

Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #19 on: July 16, 2012, 06:25:04 pm »
It's not quite as easy to tour with a Brompton, but I can see the attraction.

*remembers particularly awful time at Newport where they changed the platform with seconds to spare, the lift was full, and I had to resort to the kindness of strangers* (I had already taken my luggage off the bike in readiness, and then had to run with bike & luggage up and down stairs to the platform - luckily a very kind stranger took pity on me and grabbed a couple of my panniers, as there wasn't really time to put them all back on again. Oh, and jane also grabbed one...)

And then the train staff told us off for not being ready to load up our bikes...I could sit rocking in a corner every time I recall that moment  :hand:

This is not particularly helpful Cudzo, I'm sorry, but at the very least it is useful to know that These Things Happen...

We had that situation only more so at Newport - we just couldn't even get close to the lifts (or stairs) when our train pulled out, but they are obviously used to it and were completely calm about letting us on the next train :).
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Kim

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Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #20 on: July 16, 2012, 06:33:54 pm »
I carry a Wilko light-duty ratchet strap for train journeys.
What is this exactly?

About a metre and a half of webbing strap with a ratchet on it.  You'll find it in the car section.

It's long enough to do things like secure an USS recumbent to the wooden partition on a voyager, preventing it from swinging sideways and bashing the crap out of your bars/mirrors/gear controls, or to anchor a stack of five bikes to the foldy seat on a Class 350.  As it's yours and the ratchet actually works, it's also quicker than arsing about with the velcro and wedges on a FGW HST.  In extremis, it can be used to wedge a lowracer at a comedy angle on the open air carriages of the Welsh Highland Railway.

Also uber-handy for securing loads on racks, trailers and the like, obviously.

Like a bungee, but longer and more cooperative.  And packs away more neatly.


Don't forget to label your bike with destination station for the train you're on.   This allows later arrivals to play bike-tetris (or is it Jenga)

Fairly sure it's Sokoban :)

Also worthwhile on services where you need a guard/driver/cleaner/screwdriver/pirate carriage key to open the bike compartment.  Having the destination marked increases the chances of them remembering to open the door for you.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

mcshroom

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Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #21 on: July 16, 2012, 06:46:41 pm »
Also worthwhile on services where you need a guard/driver/cleaner/screwdriver/pirate carriage key to open the bike compartment.  Having the destination marked increases the chances of them remembering to open the door for you.

Note that's 'increases' not 'guarantees'. I've lost count of the number of times they've forgotten on the last train into Euston on a Friday night.
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sas

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Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #22 on: July 16, 2012, 08:04:16 pm »
I stick the cycle reservation bike ticket under the edge of a bottle carrier, it's easy to remove and replace that way.
I stick them in my front wheel spokes. You'd be surprised how long they last, probably around 3000+ miles in all weather conditions before they need to be straightened up.
I am nothing and should be everything

Cudzoziemiec

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Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #23 on: July 16, 2012, 10:00:02 pm »
But I can't ride a Brompton - I don't have a bowler hat!
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Re: Bikes on trains: 3 easy questions
« Reply #24 on: July 16, 2012, 10:09:44 pm »
Also worthwhile on services where you need a guard/driver/cleaner/screwdriver/pirate carriage key to open the bike compartment.  Having the destination marked increases the chances of them remembering to open the door for you.

Note that's 'increases' not 'guarantees'. I've lost count of the number of times they've forgotten on the last train into Euston on a Friday night.

At least Euston is a terminus. I've had to wave frantically at a gaggle of staff chatting halfway down the train while standing by the locked door.  Fortunately, someone noticed before the train left York for points south.
If I had a baby elephant, it could help me wash the car. If I had a car.

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