Forum home Commuter cycling forum Commuting general

Anybody regularly use the train with a standard bike?

CakeLovinBeastCakeLovinBeast Posts: 312
edited June 2011 in Commuting general
I'm currently looking into the CycleScheme that my work is currently running and I'm trying to decide if it's going to be practical to make cycling/public transport my main form of commuting. I'm looking at getting a road bike for the first time and I've scoped a 17 miler in to work that uses quiet, back roads for maybe 90% of the journey (the other way is dual carriageway suicide). However, the route is pretty hilly and so I'm under no illusions that I'll not be up to riding it every day.

I got thinking, checked out some prices, and worked out that if I got a monthly rail season ticket and spent the full £1000 on a bike, I'd still spend less than I would do on fuel in a month. It's about 3 miles from home to the nearest station, one or two stops on a mainline (intercity-style) train to near work, with a lovely little 4-5mile ride in at the other end.

However, I'm wondering just how practical it is to commute with a full-size bike on a train? In my dreams it's simply a case of turning up with my bike to put it in the spacious guard's van and everything being peachy. In reality, I know that you're supposed to reserve a space for your bike in advance and knowing what our rail system is like, I imagine that there are some difficulties. Does anyone have any experience of this and could offer some practical advice?

Thanks!
Twitter: @FunkyMrMagic

Posts

  • t4tomot4tomo Posts: 2,643
    Buy a folding bike - that way you can access all the rail network without any forward planning and booking in bike spaces in advance. have a look into the various large wheel folders, as from what you've described that will best suit your needs.
    Bianchi Infinito CV
    Bianchi Via Nirone 7 Ultegra
    Brompton S Type
    Carrera Vengeance Ultimate Ltd
    Gary Fisher Aquila '98
    Front half of a Viking Saratoga Tandem
  • AndyMancAndyManc Posts: 1,393
    Do a dry run before you use the bike/train combo so you will know how busy the service is.

    I wouldn't take a bike on my local trains during rush hour, in fact, there maybe restrictions on doing so.

    Some station in the Manchester area have large cycle lockers that cyclists can use.

    Fold up bikes are a lot more feasible for longish journeys than most people think.

    .
    Specialized Hardrock Pro/Trek FX 7.3 Hybrid/Specialized Enduro/Specialized Tri-Cross Sport
    URBAN_MANC.png
  • Thanks folks.

    I already had it in mind to do a few dry runs before committing to the train, though I'm relatively flexible in my working hours, so I wouldn't be stuck with the proper "rush hour" trains every day.

    I'd considered a folding bike, but I only have the funds to get one bike at the minute and I'd like it to fulfil more than just a commuter bike role, so I'm not sure that a folding bike is going to be an option right now. Cheers for the thoughts and advice so far.
    Twitter: @FunkyMrMagic
  • spen666spen666 Posts: 17,709
    Before anyone can give you sensible advice they would need to know which route you are travelling

    Most commuter trains have restrictions on bikes on trains- there is a leaflet on the National Rail website that tells you the restrictions each company impose.

    You may need to make reservations for the bike
    Want to know the Spen666 behind the posts?
    Then read MY BLOG @ http://www.pebennett.com

    Twittering @spen_666
  • Apologies... The route would be Newton Abbot (NTA) to Exeter St. Davids (EXD). I've looked on the operators website which basically says we can probably take your bike, but you might need a reservation, perhaps, but we might not be able to take it at all, maybe...
    Twitter: @FunkyMrMagic
  • king_jeffersking_jeffers Posts: 694
    spen666 wrote:
    Most commuter trains have restrictions on bikes on trains

    Especially at peak times, I couldn't think of anything worse than jumping on a commuter train with my bike at peak times.
  • I know what you mean, but I was hoping (possibly misguided, but hey!) that if I used one of the big express trains (what I would call an intercity) then it's only 1 or 2 stops depending on the route it takes, and it should have a proper guard's carriage/compartment for sticking the bike in, (hopefully) meaning that it's not too available to the general public.
    Twitter: @FunkyMrMagic
  • wgwarburtonwgwarburton Posts: 1,863
    Hi,
    It all depends on your Train Operators (ToCs in the jargon). I regularly take a full-sized bike on ScotRail's commuter trains in & out of Glasgow & Edinburgh. It's rarely (that's not to say never) a problem but ScotRail win awards regularly for being bike friendly and also you can usually expect to get a seat on most of the trains I catch, which is quite different from the situation in the South east!!!

    If you want to use the "guards van" (ie luggage space) on a long-distance train you're generally expected to reserve it, which may not be very practical. Depending on the train staff on your line this might be a non-issue or a major headache.

    The two alternatives that spring to mind are the previously mentioned folding-bike or the "two-bike-commute": use one bike to get to the station and leave it there. Keep another at your destination to continue your trip. If you're only doing a few miles at the far end then a pretty basic bike is adequate, so you could get by with a singlespeed or an old shopper, for example, or keep a folding bike at the destination end.

    All depends on your circumstances- if you can rent a bike locker at the home station you could put a high end road bike in there without any issues. If it's going to sit outside and be a target for thieves then you would be better served by a "beater bike". Similarly at the destination end, a folder might fit into a locker (does anywhere still have left-luggage these days?) or there might be a secure bike rack you can use.

    I reckon we're pretty well catered for where I live- there are bike lockers at my local station and the (double-deck) bike racks at Waverley station in Edinburgh are pretty secure (they are inside the station, out of the weather and covered by CCTV and station staff who keep half an eye on them). Glasgow's Queen Street has outside racks that are a bit more vulnerable. I'd be a bit more apprehensive about leaving a decent bike there long term.

    Depends what you want from your bikes, too. If you are a reasonably competent bike-mechanic then you can put together a cheap hack for peanuts and don't need to worry about security. If you prefer to spend £1000 on a fancy new road bike at the home-end and want something shiny for the destination-end, too it could get expensive!

    Hope this helps... if you're prepared to be flexible and look for solutions you'll soon find a way to do it. I'm an IT contractor and have commuted to seven different workplaces in the last six or seven years, using bike & train every time.

    Cheers,
    W.
  • Thanks for that.

    I'd seen the idea about getting a couple of bikes for either end, and I suppose that's going to be my fallback position. Thing is, I've not long started a new job (I do the IT thing too) and the new employer offers CycleScheme, so I was looking to take the opportunity to buy myself the road bike that I've always fancied.

    Stations at both ends of my route have lockers, so it's something to be considered. I'd normally be leaving around about 7 in the morning, so hopefully any train I got wouldn't be too packed, though the mainline trains from here are going to be heading to either Paddington or Manchester Picadilly. There's at most 2 stops between the start and end of the journey, so I'd like to think that it's not going to be a massive effort.

    I'm going to head to the station today and see what they think about things. I'll also take the journey a few times just to get a feel for how busy the trains get and how likely I am to be able to get a bike on.
    Twitter: @FunkyMrMagic
  • esspeebeeesspeebee Posts: 174
    Apologies... The route would be Newton Abbot (NTA) to Exeter St. Davids (EXD). I've looked on the operators website which basically says we can probably take your bike, but you might need a reservation, perhaps, but we might not be able to take it at all, maybe...
    If that's First Great Western, their large trains have (or had, a few years back when I used them regularly) provision for bikes in the guard's car, or whatever it's called these days. If I remember rightly, though, they don't fit a great many on one train, so check how busy it is at the times you want to commute.
  • Phil_DPhil_D Posts: 467
    Like you I have a 17 mile cycle in to work. I do that 3 times a week and get the train home so I am home in time for tea. The other 2 days I get the train there and back and have my bike with me on both legs of the train journey.

    I get the Transpennine (Liverpool to Newcastle) Express in the morning and a local stopping service in the evening. The only time I have ever had trouble with my bike on the train is at really busy times, and the trouble was that I could not fit my bike on. Fortunately I'm a civil servant so I just get the next train and get to work an hour later. No problem.

    The point is, train operators have these rules but with the exception of a recent journey on a Virgin train, I have never seen them enforced. One reason for this is I plan my working day around getting trains where there won't be too many bikes so space for them isn't a problem. Another reason is that it must be down to the discretion of the train conductor. I have seen six or seven full sized bikes on a local service and as long as they aren't falling on people, there is no problem.

    The answer is: suck it and see. Do the journey a few times at different times to see when the busy/quiet periods are. Or if you can't do this because of the potential bike issue, drive to work as normal but go to the train station on the way and see how busy it is and possibly have a word with the train conductor to see what they advise.

    If you can work around the train times and get your bike on, great. If not, and you can't get your bike on, then the 2 bike strategy is the way forward.
  • El GordoEl Gordo Posts: 394
    This is pretty much my experience too. I've been on trains with allocated space for two bikes but with five or six crammed in and nobody complains. It makes no difference if you've got a reservation or not - if the spaces are already taken what are you going to do? March up and down the carriage trying to throw someone off?

    I'd have thought thought that life would be less stressfull with a folder or a station hack.
  • wgwarburtonwgwarburton Posts: 1,863
    El Gordo wrote:
    This is pretty much my experience too. I've been on trains with allocated space for two bikes but with five or six crammed in and nobody complains. It makes no difference if you've got a reservation or not - if the spaces are already taken what are you going to do? March up and down the carriage trying to throw someone off?

    I'd have thought thought that life would be less stressfull with a folder or a station hack.
    It's down to the conductor. On the Class 170s and 158s we have here there are designated bike bays which are supposed to take two bikes. Some sets (ie groups of 2-4 DMUs & carraiges) have more than one bay, commuter trains often have more than one set, so on any given service you might have space for two bikes or for eight.
    Some train staff are accomodating, some are picky. This morning the cheerful conductor happily waved two extra bikes on board a carraige which already had it's two official spaces used. In the past I've seen people turned away at the platform (myself included) because the conductor wouldn't bend the rules. On one occasion I took the wheels off my bike and stacked it in the luggage rack to get round this...

    The most common inconvenience I have had is people using cycle spaces for baby buggies. They are often less than co-operative... now I can appreciate that if you have a sleeping baby in a buggy you're not going to want to wake it up to fold & stow the thing, but sadly, them's the rules... and if the buggy is empty then it shouldn't be in the bike-bay, it should be in the luggage rack!

    [edit]: meant to say- on long-distance trains the conductor will (should) leave space for reserved cycles, otherwise it's first-come, first-served as above.
    The difference seems to be that on short-haul trains reservations are rarely made, on longer-distance ones they are likely to be expected, especially if it's a route that's known to be popular with cyclists.

    Cheers,
    W.
  • theblendertheblender Posts: 201
    On that route, if you can get the First Great Western London Paddington trains you should be ok - you can fit 12 bikes in the guards compartment which is usually behind the cab at the FRONT of the train if it is heading AWAY from London, or the REAR when train is heading TOWARDS London.
    The CrossCountry services to and from the North could be a lot more problematic and you usually have to make a reservation - and those trains smell weird too!

    Hope this helps.
  • theblender wrote:
    Hope this helps.
    Definitely, thanks!

    I don't work set hours, so I've got a fair amount of wiggle room with the train that I get... As I see it I've got a choice of about 7 that will get me in "on time", along with a few extras that would make me later than I'd like, but still wouldn't get me in trouble. Obviously, I need to be around the house sometimes to help with various work, getting the child ready to go out, etc, but in the greater scheme of things I find it hard to believe that I won't be able to get a bike on any of them... At the end of the day, even if I get kicked off at the next station, I'd still be close enough to ride in the rest of the way pretty much!
    Twitter: @FunkyMrMagic
  • EKE_38BPMEKE_38BPM Posts: 5,980
    If I were you, I'd look into an Airnimal.
    I have no experience of them, but the reviews are really good and I like the idea of a (nearly) full size roadbike that I can take on the train.
    I think it dismantles more than folds, but the larger wheels make it better on the road than a Brompton, for example.

    Realistically, I think Buns' suggestion of two bikes is the best one though. I'd probably spend below the budget on the two bikes so that I leave some money to spend on two sets of locks, two sets of lights etc.
    Another advantage of the two bike solution is that you don't have to deal with actually having a bike on the train.

    Edit: Just noticed that the Airnimal is above your budget, so go with Buns' two bike solution.
    FCN 3: Raleigh Record Ace fixie-to be resurrected sometime in the future
    FCN 4: Planet X Schmaffenschmack 2- workhorse
    FCN 9: B Twin Vitamin - winter commuter/loan bike for trainees

    I'm hungry. I'm always hungry!
  • shouldbeinbedshouldbeinbed Posts: 2,732
    EKE_38BPM wrote:
    If I were you, I'd look into an Airnimal.
    I have no experience of them, but the reviews are really good and I like the idea of a (nearly) full size roadbike that I can take on the train.
    I think it dismantles more than folds, but the larger wheels make it better on the road than a Brompton, for example.

    Realistically, I think Buns' suggestion of two bikes is the best one though. I'd probably spend below the budget on the two bikes so that I leave some money to spend on two sets of locks, two sets of lights etc.
    Another advantage of the two bike solution is that you don't have to deal with actually having a bike on the train.

    Edit: Just noticed that the Airnimal is above your budget, so go with Buns' two bike solution.

    I was thinking Airnimal too and have just had a quick Google, The Joey range comes in on budget. like EKE I've no personal experience but have only seen and heard good things.

    OP: It falls into the category of bike that folds rather than folder you can ride (a la Brompton) and you'd likely need a cover or case to be sure of being allowed carriage (rigid one stashed in a locker at either end?) Train companies do seem to be getting increasingly picky on bikes and even booked you could find yourself out of luck in commute times.
  • Stanners79Stanners79 Posts: 81
    I think as long as you stick to main line trains e.g. First Great Western then they have space down at coach A for about 6 bikes (although more can fit in them) you should be fine.

    I've found that getting on the smaller trains is a right PITA if there is a militant guard or if there are too many people.

    Luckily for me, there is a FGW train every half hour so it's not the end of the world if I can't get on one.

    The fun and games only start when there are problems with the FGW trains and I get left with having to use Arriva Trains Wales!
    Orange P7 2007
    MOTM on first appearance 10/4/11
  • AndyMancAndyManc Posts: 1,393
    EKE_38BPM wrote:
    If I were you, I'd look into an Airnimal.
    I have no experience of them, but the reviews are really good and I like the idea of a (nearly) full size roadbike that I can take on the train.
    I think it dismantles more than folds, but the larger wheels make it better on the road than a Brompton, for example.

    Realistically, I think Buns' suggestion of two bikes is the best one though. I'd probably spend below the budget on the two bikes so that I leave some money to spend on two sets of locks, two sets of lights etc.
    Another advantage of the two bike solution is that you don't have to deal with actually having a bike on the train.

    Edit: Just noticed that the Airnimal is above your budget, so go with Buns' two bike solution.

    I was thinking Airnimal too and have just had a quick Google, The Joey range comes in on budget. like EKE I've no personal experience but have only seen and heard good things.

    OP: It falls into the category of bike that folds rather than folder you can ride (a la Brompton) and you'd likely need a cover or case to be sure of being allowed carriage (rigid one stashed in a locker at either end?) Train companies do seem to be getting increasingly picky on bikes and even booked you could find yourself out of luck in commute times.


    Bicycle Doctor in Rusholme sell Airnimal ;

    http://www.bicycledoctor.co.uk/folders.html



    .
    Specialized Hardrock Pro/Trek FX 7.3 Hybrid/Specialized Enduro/Specialized Tri-Cross Sport
    URBAN_MANC.png
  • wgwarburtonwgwarburton Posts: 1,863
    AndyManc wrote:
    EKE_38BPM wrote:
    If I were you, I'd look into an Airnimal. ....

    I was thinking Airnimal too and have just had a quick Google, The Joey range comes in on budget. like EKE I've no personal experience but have only seen and heard good things.

    OP: It falls into the category of bike that folds rather than folder you can ride (a la Brompton) and you'd likely need a cover or case to be sure of being allowed carriage (rigid one stashed in a locker at either end?) Train companies do seem to be getting increasingly picky on bikes and even booked you could find yourself out of luck in commute times.

    Bicycle Doctor in Rusholme sell Airnimal ;

    http://www.bicycledoctor.co.uk/folders.html
    .

    I had been thinking this was a poor compromise, since (as I understand it, no personal experience, I'm basically clueless.. etc) the Airnimals are more complicated to fold, so you would struggle to arrive at a station and turn your bike into a rackable package in seconds (as you can with a Brommie). However... given that it looks like 90% of the time you'll be fine with a standard bike, the folding option would only be necessary when things go pear-shaped (full trains, cancellations etc.). In that case you would presumably have a few minutes on the platform to break down and bag up an Airnimal before boarding the train with the package. You could also do this while waiting for a taxi or a lift!
    You'd have the benefit of a better-riding bike than a Brommie (I have just acquired one of those, BTW... the folding aspect is brilliant but the riding position isn't ideal) but could still turn it into a portable package if you needed to.

    Worth considering, I'd say.

    Cheers,
    W.
Sign In or Register to comment.