FOLDING BIKES

There is no problem carrying fully folded bikes that travelman is aware of although some people have reported problems with large wheel bikes that do not fold to a small size.

You do not need to reserve a space. On C2C and Stansted Express you are supposed to put your bike in a bag.

There have been some reports of jobsworths attempting to make people fold their bikes before going through the barrier, particularly at Brighton Station but this seems to have passed..  Do tell travelman if this happens to you.

FULL SIZE BIKES

Barring and reservations

Every rail company has different rules about carrying full size bikes.  There are two issues:

  1. Are bikes barred from the service altogether?
  2. If not, do you have to make a reservation?.

For example on Southern trains bar bikes on Mondays to Fridays on the following services.

  1. trains due to arrive in London, Brighton or Kensington Olympia between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.
  2. trains departing London, Brighton or Kensington Olympia between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

but they do not require reservations and do not make them.

Most long distance trains (trains with ultimate destinations more than 100 miles of so from the place they started) require reservations.  Some local trains also require this.

The national rail web site has a link to each train company which sometimes takes you to that company’s cycling policy but sometimes just takes you to the general web site. Far better is the web site of the excellent A to B magazine 

You can find information about individual trains by typing your proposed journey into the national rail web site or app, then clicking on “detail” in the entry for your chosen service.  This brings up details for the services you will be travelling, including a bike icon on the right hand side.  This tells you the restrictions for the service and whether or not reservation, but  does not help you to make the reservations if they are needed.

Booking you and your bike  (see also the article on where to book your ticket)

Booking your bike, where you need a reservation, is something else.  You do not want to end up with a ticket for a limited to a certain train and then not be able to get a bike reservation for that train.

TICKET OFFICE

You can do book at a ticket office, but expect a long and impatient queue to build up behind you. Ticket office staff often have no more information than you could find on the web site, but at least you will be able to buy your bike ticket and your own ticket at the same time.

ONLINE

Hull Trains, Great Western and Trans Pennine will let you book your bike as part of the ticketing process when you make an online booking.  Southwestern will do this, but only for its own London to Exeter and Bristol services.  You have the option to add bicycles on the same page as you make seat reservations and you cannot reserve a bike without reserving a seat.  The place to reserve your bike is just below the seat reservations bit.  On Great Western you may need a magnifying glass.

But it is not quite as simple as that.  You cannot book a ticket and cycle reservation unless cycle reservations are required for the whole trip.  So if you try to make a booking for Lewes to Bristol via London, it will tell you that there are no cycle reservations available. This is because cycle reservations are not required on the train to London, but are required on the train to Bristol.  Type in a booking just as a London to Bristol ticket and the system happily makes a cycle reservation for you on the same train between London and Bristol that was unreservable  before.

This means that you lose the possibility of having one through ticket.  This is okif you are going via London, because, although you may miss out on the possibility of a cheaper through ticket, you do have more control over the time you take between stations.  Transfer times are based on you getting the underground.  The tube from Victoria to Euston, for example, takes about 15 minutes. A bike will take longer.  But it is a real pain if you are going, for example, from Lewes to Bristol along the coast to Portsmouth and up to through Salisbury.

You may want to buy your ticket at Lewes station or buy your ticket on the phone

Physically getting you and your bike on the train.

LONG DISTANCE

You will have got a reservation for your bike.  Beware if you have been given a code to quote.  Some staff deny all knowledge of these.  Try to get a physical ticket.

At termini   you will just pitch up and be expected to put the bike on the train.  Ask where to put it.  If you are getting off at an intermediate station consider labelling it and telling the guard/supervisor/train manager where you are getting off and check whether the door is likely to be locked!

If you are getting on a long distance train at an intermediate station ask the station staff where the bike storage will be.

Be aware that some trains, especially the 125 diesel units, have bike storage that can only be accessed from the station platform.  If getting off at an intermediate station get as near to the storage as you can then sprint along the platform.  If getting on, consider staying with your bike until the next station, to avoid the risk of the train leaving after you have put in your bike and before you have got back on the train.

LOCAL

Locally, we do not have the problems of reservations, compartments and so on.  Instead over the years, we have had a sort of guerrilla war between the railway company and cyclists.  At various times the company has tried to introduce restrictions and enforce them, or introduced restrictions and not enforced them, and then tried to enforce them later, saying that they had been there all along.  Cyclists have responded by ignoring the restrictions and (occasionally) being stroppy when challenged.

It is pretty odd that your bike could theoretically be barred from a train from Lewes to Eastbourne at 8pm if it had left London before 7, but could get on a train on the same route earlier if it had come from Brighton, or that you cannot get on a train to London with your bike at 5 pm from Brighton, but could travel to London at the same time from Hove, a 10 minute bike ride away.

There is a special exemption.  Bikes are always allowed on trains between Lewes and Seaford all day and wherever the trains have come from.

Travelman has sometimes been barred from the Lewes train at Brighton at 5pm after arriving on a train from the west.  He solved this problem by cycling to unstaffed London Road.

In practice, with lots of unstaffed stations, long trains and (sometimes) no on board supervisors, you can usually use what trains you like locally.  Be considerate to others, avoid very crowded trains and, if in doubt, go down the other end of the train away from where any  supervisor might be.