Trains connect Britain’s great cycle routes, putting you at the trailhead for thrilling mountain bike tracks or sublime journeys through the countryside. If it’s a working day, combining the bike with the train is usually the cheapest and greenest way to travel.

Just peddle up to the station and your bike can be taken on the train for free. But there’s certain restrictions and reservations to know about. Here are seven bite-sized tips for taking your bike on the train.

1. Bikes Travel for Free

Here’s the great news: there is no charge for taking your bike on the train. Yep, bicycles don’t need to pay and you don’t need to pay for them. Compare this to the cycle mad country of the Netherlands, where you must buy an additional daily ticket for taking a bicycle on the train. Not only is it free to travel with bikes on the train in Britain, many railway stations have secure free bicycle parking.

Bikes travel for free on UK train services

2. Peak Time Bike Restrictions

Bikes can be taken on the majority of British rail services. However, during peak travel times (weekdays 07:00 – 10:00 and 16:00 – 19:00), full sized bikes are not permitted on commuter services to and from London. This includes all London Overground trains. They are also prohibited on weekday local rail services to and from Cardiff between 07:30 – 09:30 and 16:00 – 18:00. Note that these restrictions only apply to full sized bikes. So if you’re using one of these services it’s still possible to travel with a commuter friendly bike.

Bikes are prohibited on Peak train services in and out of London, as well as some peak services in Wales.

3. Commuter Friendly Bikes

Fully folding bicycles with wheels up to 20″ are allowed on all trains without restriction. These bikes are also excluded from all rules regarding reservations. You’ll must be able to carry the bike onto the train and sometimes place it in the luggage racks. Fully folding commuter bicycles have rapidly increased in popularity and are available from all major cycle outlets. Popularity
and competition has seen the price decrease significantly and an entry level bike can be found for £200 – 300. High-end folding bicycles range from £500 – 1000.

More expensive bikes are usually lighter to carry and quicker to fold away, which becomes important on busy trains. When buying a folding bicycle, test whether you’re comfortable carrying the bike for around 400meters, as this may be required at some train stations.

Folding bikes with wheels up to 20 inches can be taken on peak time train services in the UK.

4. Bike Reservations – What You Need to Know

While bikes go for free, they sometimes require a reservation. All trains have limited dedicated bicycle space, typically three to six spaces per service. In general, trains with a seat reservation system also have a bike reservation system. These tend to be long distance mainline and intercity services. Different operators have different rules.

  • Bicycle reservations are compulsory on Abelllio Greater Anglia, East Coast, East Midlands mainline services, First Great Western services to and from London, First TransPennine Express, ScotRail, South West Trains to and from London, and Virgin Trains.
  • Bicycle reservations are recommended but not compulsory on Arriva Trains Wales long and medium distance services, Caledonian Sleeper, CrossCountry, and First Hull Trains. Bikes without reservation can travel subject to space.

Reservations are not available for operators not listed above and the majority of local services, for example Northern rail services and Southern railways. On these trains, bicycles are permitted provided there is space. They must be stored so they don’t obstruct aisles or doors.

Reserve a space for a full sized bike.

5. Locating the Cycle Space

Where bicycle reservations are compulsory or recommended, the train will have a dedicated cycle carriage. Ask platform staff for the location of the cycle space so you can board the correct carriage.

Locate the correct carriage with bicycle storage

6. Bikes on Replacement Bus Services

Only fold up bikes can be taken on rail replacement bus services. Check in advance to see if there’s any planned engineering work, especially if you’re traveling at the weekend. Otherwise it may be a long cycle home.

Only fold-up bikes are allowed on rail replacement bus services.

7. A Bicycle Made for Two?

Four legs can peddle much faster than two. But if you’re cruising on a tandem, there’s a good chance that your two person bike won’t be allowed on the train. The same applies to bicycle trailers and tricycles. There are some exceptions. Tandems can only be carried on Abellio Greater Anglia trains and East Coast trains (you’ll need two cycle reservations).

Different types of bikes are allowed on different UK train services.

8 thoughts on “Bike Transport by Train – 7 Top Tips

  1. Can I send an unattended bike from Cambridge to Portsmouth please.
    It’s a push bike and not very expensive so if I can can you let me know please?

  2. Hi Tish, if you can pop this question to our team on twitter @thetrainline, they’ll be able to help. Thanks, Chris.

  3. Nice, I really don’t know that in Britain bike transport is free through train. Although I travel there few times in the year, but not heard about it before. Good to know and thanks for the tips!

  4. Thanks for such a informative post. Hope it will help every mountain bike rider like me. Last month ago I wanted to take my bike through British Rail but wasn’t sure authority will allow it or not. I missed riding experience for few days and that was such a boring for me. Thanks to Britain government and rail authority also. Happy mountain riding!

  5. Nice post and this is the first time i heard about a country with no charge for carrying cycles in train. Great post to reveal unknown things and i love to read these kind of stuffs.

  6. Hi there Pro Mountain Biker,

    Yes, this is pretty much up to date, however it is advisable to book your spaces ahead especially when you have specialist equipment, or a large group travelling with bikes on this number:0333 202 2222

    Thanks,

    Trainline Team

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