Ranking European trains on bike-friendliness

Ranking European trains on bike-friendliness

As you may have read in my earlier post about cycling through Sweden, taking your bike with you by train is not always as easy as it is convenient. Overall, it’s quite doable to bring your bike on the train in Europe, but the ease of this differs per country and type of train. Therefore it’s time to rank 12 countries and international trainlines based on their bike-on-train-friendliness. Of course this is not an exhaustive list, so I’ll keep adding more as I travel around.

1. Luxembourg

Luxembourg is great for travelling by train, as all public transport throughout the country is free! You only pay a fee when travelling in 1st class. Paired with beautiful scenery and some good hills, Luxembourg is perfect for a bike-on-train trip.

  • No need to reserve a bike spot or pay extra on any national or regional train
  • There is limited space for bikes on each train
  • You are allowed to bring your bike at all times of day, although it’s recommended to avoid rush hours
  • You can contact CFL (the national railway company) for advice on routes
  • For travelling with groups where everyone is bringing a bike, you also need to contact CFL for booking and advice

2. Denmark

Denmark is quite a cycle-friendly country in general, which rubs off on its train policies. Definitely a good destination for bikepacking without too much elevation.

  • No need to reserve a bike spot or pay extra on S-trains
  • In S-trains there’s nearly always space for your bike, even during rush hours
  • Bike tickets for all other trains are available for a flat rate of approximately €2,50 in the DSB app or at the ticket machines in all train stations
  • If your plans change last-minute, you can request a refund for the bike ticket in the app or at a physical service desk

3. Thalys

The Thalys has very straightforward rules for bringing bikes, which is great! The Thalys runs between France, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Germany.

  • Bikes (except folding bikes) need to be dissasembled into a non-rigid bike bag
  • Bike bags count as one piece of regular luggage, so you don’t need to pay extra
  • It’s advised to arrive on the platform 30 minutes in advance to ensure proper boarding

4. United Kingdom

You might not suspect it, but the UK is quite good for bike transportation by train. On some trains, reserving a bike spot is recommended, but chances are quite high you can still get on any local train without booking a spot in advance. In that case, it’s as simple as can be: just turn up to the station, board your train, and off you go!

  • Only on long distance trains between large cities, making a free reservation for a bike spot is required, which can only be done at the same time as booking a passenger ticket
  • For more local trains, there is need to reserve a bike spot
  • There’s virtually always space
  • There are often straps available to secure your bike

5. The Netherlands

There are quite some disadvantages to bringing your bike on the train in the country known for its sublime cycling infrastructure. The main issues are the unreliabilty and restrictions to being allowed to travel with a bike. The upside, however, is the ease to do with tickets and knowing each train is suited for taking bikes.

  • A bike ticket has a standard price of €7,50 (regardless of whether you travel by train for 15 minutes or 4 hours) and can be bought both online and at the train station, where the latter costs one euro more
  • You can bring your bike on every train
  • There are limited bike spots available on each train, and especially in summer you may be told to wait for the next train when all bike spots are full, which is not unusual
  • Bike tickets have to be used on a selected day by a specific person, meaning that a last-minute change of plans will leave you with a useless ticket
  • You’re only allowed to travel with a bike off-peak, meaning before 06:30, between 09:00 and 16:30, or after 18:30
  • Folding bikes are an exeption to all of the above and can be brought any time without a ticket, as long as they’re folded and don’t block the passageways

6. Spain

In Spain, travelling by train with your bike is often very cheap. There are some exceptions for long-distance and high-speed trains, but it’s doable overall.

  • Folding bikes can to be transported in a bag at no additional costs on practically any train
  • Disassembled bikes are considered special luggage on high-speed and long distance trains, so you need to book a ‘Bicycle Add-on’
  • On Avlo trains, bike tickets for disassembled bikes costs between €10 and €30 depending on the time of booking (in other words: make sure to book your bike ticket in advance)
  • On medium distance, non-high speed trains, brining your bike in one piece is free for all journeys under 100km (or €3 when exceeding that distance)

7. France

Finding the options for bike travel on France’s rail network has become a lot easier since the introduction of SNCF connect. Here, you can easily select whether you’re travelling with a fully assembled or disassembled bike.

  • How many bikes can be transported per train varies, as well as whether you need to reserve a spot in advance or not (but at least this is easy to find out using SNCF connect)
  • On express trains, a bike ticket costs either €5 or €10
  • Not all trains allow for bikes (not even folding bikes are allowed on some express trains), so long distance travel can be tricky
  • Regional trains often do not require tickets or reservations, and usually allow folding bikes or disassembled bikes without restrictions
  • Several new summer trains have superb bike facilities, accommodating up to 83 bikes on a single train

8. ÖBB Nightjet

These international overnight trains operate throughout Europe and are run from Austria. They do allow bikes, but it requires some planning and flexibility.

  • Bikes can be taken in one-piece on a selected number of routes (mostly to and from Zürich or Hamburg)
  • The number of bike spots is very limited
  • A seperate ticket and reservation is needed in order to bring your bike
  • No information is available on whether you’re allowed to take disassembled bikes in a bike bag, so you probably can

9. Austria

Although it takes some proper planning and searching skills to find the best way of bringing your bike on trains in Austria, it is doable when done online.

  • Rules on bringing bikes differ per type of train, but a separate bike ticket/reservation for longer distances is often required
  • When booking tickets online, be sure to add a bike in your search requirements
  • Bike tickets can be booked online for €3, by making a phone call, or by visiting a ticket office at a train station (the latter two options cost €3,50)
  • Bike reservations ideally need to be printed and attached to the bike
  • Regional trains do not require bike reservations, but still have limited capacity (or even none at all)
  • There are also special tickets for small groups and bike subscriptions available online

10. Eurostar

This high-speed train operates between London and various cities in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. It’s fast and convenient, but not ideally suited for bikes. Eurostar is also not communicating as to why they have gotten rid of the option to bring a bike between London and the Netherlands.

  • Bikes are only allowed on selected trains between London, Paris, and Brussels, for which you need to reserve a spot via email or phone call
  • Between London and Paris, bikes supposedly need to be disassembled (although at the spot you may be told this is actually unnecessary and it can stay in one piece after all)
  • You need to drop off your bike at the station a few hours in advance, or the night before in case you’re taking an early train
  • Folding bikes also need to be covered by a bike bag
  • Upon arrival, bike pickup is quick and easy

11. Sweden

The issue with Swedish trains is that they’re operated by many different, regional train operators, which all have different rules on bringing bikes.

  • How many bikes can be transported per train varies, as well as whether you need to reserve a spot in advance or not
  • SJ, the main train operator that covers long distances, requires bikes to be disassembled (and even then, the luggage racks are really too small to properly fit them)
  • MTRX, a train operator running between Stockholm and Göteborg does not allow bikes at all: neither in one piece nor dissassembled

12. Germany

All the way at the bottom of the list comes Germany. Reserving bike spots on German trains can be quite a tedious process, and it’s key to do this way in advance.

  • Rules on bringing bikes differ per type of train, but a separate bike ticket/reservation for longer distances is often required
  • The bike compartments on intercities are well-designed with really nice parking facilities
  • Due to the limited number of spots on bike compartments, booking in advance is essential, as especially in summer you may need to plan at least 3 months in advance in order to secure a spot
  • You can only make bike reservations at the time of booking your regular train ticket, so you cannot add a bike reservation later on (unless you travel to a ticket office in Germany), which makes it nearly impossible to bring your bike using an Interrail pass
  • When booking tickets online, be sure to select ‘only show connections that allow bikes’ under additional search options, and be prepared to be disappointed by the limited routes


All in all, don’t turn up at a station and expect to be allowed to take your bike on a train in most places in Europe. Combining cycling with a train journey requires some planning. If you’re struggling with finding a suitable route, please feel to contact me, as I’d love to think along! In case you’re not convinced by the options above, perhaps try travelling per ferry instead. Because to my knowledge, all ferries operating between multiple countries or islands across Europe allow bikes without too much hassle.

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