Diverse Directions: Self-Guided Cycling Tours in France

Transporting Bikes on Trains

In France

To transport yourself and your bike from the airport to the starting point of your tour, and then back again to the airport upon conclusion of your tour, you'll most likely travel on the French National Railway (abbreviated in French as SNCF.) To transport your bike on some trains in France -- specifically, the TGV high-speed express trains -- you'll need a canvas, bicycle-carrying bag referred to as an "housse" in French. The SNCF will not allow you to transport your bike on a TGV train without such a bag.

Bicycle-carrying bags are available from a number of manufacturers, including Brulé Mountain Gear. Brulé's model requires no disassembly of the bike, only removal of the wheels. We don't, however, recommend carrying your bike in this bag for any distance (it's awkward and clumsy). Instead, ride your bike to the train station (give yourself extra time); then before boarding, place your bike into its carrying bag as close to the platform from which your train is departing as possible. When the train arrives at the platform and comes to a complete stop, carry your bike onto the same car in which you will be sitting. (Note: seating is always reserved on TGV trains.) Place your bike in the oversized luggage storage area at the entrance of the car. If you have any questions or concerns, stay with your bike until you have an opportunity to speak with a conductor.

On regional and other non-TGV trains that permit bikes, you won't need a bicycle- carrying bag. Instead, you'll stow your bike in the train's baggage car. Before boarding, we highly recommend asking station personnel to specify the baggage car on which you are to place your bike and position yourself on the platform accordingly. You are responsible for both loading and unloading your bike. Similarly, you should prepare in advance for your bicycle's retrieval from the baggage car as you near your destination. As the train nears your stop, walk through the train to the exit nearest the baggage car. When the train stops make a beeline to it, as you will have limited time to unload your bike. French trains always keep to their schedules.

In the Netherlands & Belgium

In the Netherlands, bicycles are permitted on all trains, but you will need to purchase a separate ticket, called a Day Card, for your bicycle. You must also plan to travel during non-peak weekday travel times, as bikes are not permitted on the trains during the morning and evening rush hours. Please note that you cannot purchase tickets for your bicycle from abroad; this must be done at the station prior to boarding the train. Also, there is no special place for the bikes on most trains. When you board the train, remain in the vestibule area with your bike, and try to stay clear of the doors so as not to impede the passage of other passengers.

In Belgium, bikes are permitted only on specified trains and also require the purchase of a Day Card. As is the case with the Dutch trains, there is no special place for the bikes on most trains. Consult with the train's conductor or remain in the vestibule area with your bike, trying to stay clear of the doors so as not to impede the paths of other passengers. As is the Netherlands, you are not permitted to travel with bicycles during rush hours.

The names of the railways in the Netherlands and Belgium are often abbreviated, so it is beneficial to know these abbreviations. Netherlands Railways is abbreviated NS for Nederlandse Spoorwegen; Belgian Railways is abbreviated SNCB (in French) and NMBS (in Dutch.)