Reader Q&A: How to make a booking for bikes on French trains

Published by Lyn on 21 August 2013

Howham wants to know how to book his bike on a French train.

With a little planning, negotiating the French rail system with a bike is possible. Photo: Cécile Graat

With a little planning, negotiating the French rail system with a bike is possible.
Photo: Cécile Graat

We want to make a booking on a train. On we can't see how to make a booking for the bikes. The booking form shows that you can take bikes on the sectors we want, but I cannot see how to make a booking for them. I don't want to leave it until we arrive in case they do not have space left. Can anyone shed any light on this?


** UPDATE AUGUST 2016 ** 
Please see this article on Trainline as we have used this service a lot lately and have found it a quick and easy way to book bike-train tickets online. 
** Lyn @ FWF ** advises on this page that bikes should be booked at the same time as buying tickets. This can be done online via the SNCF website (if you have a French address or if you can have your tickets sent to a French address, such as your hotel), at French ticket offices or by calling SNCF. Depending how friendly the ticket office is, it *may* be possible to do this in person after buying a ticket but it's best to reserve at the time of purchase.

Note that not all trains require bike bookings. For general info on trains in France, see our article on bikes and French trains and our on on getting to France by train.

Would be good to hear how you get on.

Lyn @ freewheelingfrance

As mentioned above, this query originally appeared on our messageboards, which I'm phasing out. Here are some responses the query generated (feel free to leave your input below, too).

** UPDATE January 2014 - note that Rail Europe has rebranded to **

From Mikey:
Hi. I've just come back from a cycling tour of Brittany with three friends, cycling from Roscoff to Nantes and catching the train back. I booked the rail tickets via RailEurope and was told that you can book bike space on TGV but local service was 'roll on, roll off' and although it was on first come first served basis, there was rarely a problem. I was rather nervous of this because I didn't want the group to be refused access to the train and miss the ferry. As it happened, my fears were not realised.

We actually did 5 train journeys in total, each train had a rack to hold bikes which are hung up by their front wheels. Some trains had more than others. Even on the Morlaix to Roscoff leg there was a one carriage train with two bike spaces and five bikes on board! If the racks were full, we just sat with the bikes.The French railway system and the travelling public are very bike friendly and very tolerant, way more so than here in the UK. Trains were all pretty busy and I think you said you are going in August which might be more problematic though.

My conclusion is that I would have no worries doing a cycling holiday in France using a combination of bike and train. Unless the entire Tour de France turns up and wants to get on your train, you won't have a problem. Hope that helps x

From sproketsanjy:
I like Mikey's idea of getting local trains - sounds great especially as the TGV lines look difficult to use with bikes.
I was thinking of getting local trains in France to my destination, ambling on trains and doing some rides to my destination. But I can't find a map of local train lines. If I try to use web booking sites like Rail Europe they always choose the TGV lines for the fastest journey.

Anyone know where I could find a train map of France with local lines so I can plot an itinerary?

Lyn writes:
There is an interactive map of the French railways network here.

Note it highlights all lines but only the major stations on each line. There are many smaller towns/villages with stations along each line - to find stops on these smaller line, you'll need to look at a map for those regional trains/train operators – e.g for Aquitaine.
Gerry writes:

I think most everything has been covered above, but I'll throw in my two centimes' worth, if it might help. Bike spots cannot be booked online on the SNCF site, unless they've changed their system recently.

All local trains (TER or equivalent) take bikes for free, with no reservation needed. However, Intercities usually need an advanced booking, as well as all TGVs. This, I agree, is a frustrating situation for long hauls, and I really can't understand why they don't offer the service online, like say, DB Bahn in Germany.

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