Here are a few tips:
- Start our Ride: We often use trains to get to our starting point on the ride, or from the end point of the ride to get back to our departing airport.
- Skip Segments: Trains can be used during the trip to skip a segment of the route. For example, on the northern Rhine route you might want to skip an industrial segment near the Saar to leave time for more scenic areas. We once took a train in this area for about 60 miles, taking just a bit more than an hour, but saving a day of riding for a higher priority segment. Don’t think you are cheating by skipping a section, you are just employing smart time management!
- Finish a Day: Trains can be used during a day to get from the end of a day’s ride to the city where you want to spend the night. For example, you might have finished 40 miles by 2:30 in the afternoon, and then can take a train 20 miles to an interesting city so you can get there with time to explore.
- Equalize Riders: Trains can be used to help equalize riders. Some riders might like to do more miles than others. Groups can ride together until a certain time of the day, and then some can train to the destination and others can complete the ride.
- Special Train Tips:
- Not all trains allow bikes onboard.
- This is especially true for high-speed trains. Even some local trains require reservations for bikes, and these reservations can be obtained at the ticket offices in train stations.
- The cost of a ticket is for the passenger, and normally an additional ticket is required for the bike. Don’t forget the bike ticket, there can be fines if you don’t have one with you.
- Look for the train car with a bike painted on the side, these are designed for bikes. Most often they are in the rear of the train. Some stations also have guides posted telling where the bike cars will stop. Often you don’t have much time to get aboard, since trains can stop for only a few minutes — you need to race to the right spot and get onboard quickly.
- Buses: Some countries, such as parts of Germany, have intercity buses with special bike trailers and racks; useful when no trains are available.
- Find Routes Ahead: Various national rail systems have websites so you can check routes and bike trains ahead of time. The German rail website is especially good.
- Boats/Ships:River boats can play a similar role to trains — only more scenic! There are several sections of various routes that are especially tourist-friendly, and have tour boats that run during the season. These boats almost always allow bikes onboard, and make a great break during the day:
- To reduce mileage for a day.
- To provide a chance to see the scenery from the perspective of being on the river, rather than beside the river.
- To take a break.
- To have a meal or snack while cruising, with most boats having restaurants that serve surprisingly good food.
- To see scenery such as certain gorges, for example, where bikes just cannot go.
Trains, Boats, and Buses give you easy, reliable, and enjoyable alternatives to a trip that provides an organized Sag Wagon.
See you on the Trail!
Michael Lyon is author of “Cycling Along Europe’s Rivers” www.amazon.com/dp/0615691897, and works in the international business development and space sectors from his home near Washington, D.C.