Bikes and French Trains - A Guide for Cyclists

Trains reach all corners of France – taking your bike on French trains need not be a hassle if you do a little research prior to departure and know which trains allow bikes (and which don't).

Folding bikes are allowed on all French trains as hand luggage if they're bagged. Photo: Jean-Louis Zimmerman

Folding bikes are allowed on all French trains as hand luggage if they're bagged (and often also if they're not). Photo: Jean-Louis Zimmermann

How to take your bike on Eurostar info

The French train network is generally very good if you're travelling by bike – especially once you understand it and know how to make the most of it.

French trains reach all corners of the country, and different types of trains offer different services – from fast point-to-point routes to slower local journeys that can help you link to bike routes or avoid cycling in poor weather.

We try and explain them on this page, along with  

A quick note on buying tickets: If you are taking a longer journey that involves multiple changes (or more than one of the train types listed below), you should search individual legs separately on the OUI.sncf website. This is because the online booking system cannot cope with multiple journeys by bike and will tell you it's not possible to take your bike on a route when in fact it is. You therefore need to break the journey down into smaller chunks using the map below, search leg-by-leg and buy each ticket separately. There is more here on making ticket reservations.

Taking bikes on local TER trains in France

See the TGV section below for what TER trains to take on major routes when TGVs will not take fully assembled bikes.

You can get pretty much anywere in France on a local TER train – it just sometimes takes time and multiple changes.

What are TER trains?: TERs are local trains. They stop at all stations, including the smaller towns and villages that TGVs and Intercites bypass. Very, very small villages/stations may receive every second or third TER train rather than every train on the timetable, but they are nevertheless still serviced. 

TER trains are great for linking bike routes, or taking shortcuts if you’re pressed for time (or if your legs just need a break). 

Other names for TERS:

In and around Paris, TER-equivalent trains are called Transilien and RER trains. In Normandy/northern France some TERs are called NOMADs.

Teoz trains are also similar to TERs and run on medium-distance routes from Paris to Auvergne, and also link cities across south and central France, such as Bordeaux, Lyon, Toulouse, Caen, Reims and Paris.

Buying TER tickets: Tickets can be bought at stations prior to departure, although they can also be booked ahead at OUI.sncf or via Trainline, or use the local TER equivalent website. When searching for TERs it can help to add in a smaller station midway on the journey using the 'via' button as this will cut out fast/TGV options and leave you only with TERs. There is no need to tick the bicycle box if searching for TERs - TERs do not require bicycle bookings so will not always show up in the bike results. 

Taking bikes on TERS: On nearly all TERs, bikes can be carried free of charge if space permits. You simply walk your bike on after having bought your own ticket. You can use TERs with your bike even if the SNCF website does not have the little bike symbol when you ssearch. Just search for your own ticket without using the velo search function. As stated above, it can help to add in a smaller station midway on the journey using the 'via' button as this will cut out fast/TGV options and leave you only with TERs. 

Note that the following restrictions apply, usually relating to peak-hour commuter trains:

Alsace: Some TER trains can't take bikes between Strasbourg, Mulhouse and Basel Monday to Friday 6am-8.30am and 4pm-6.30pm.
Nord-Pas de Calais: TER-GV trains do not take bikes (check timetable or ask at stations to confirm which services these are).
Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur: TER trains don't take bicycles Monday-Friday 7am-9am and 4.30pm-6.30pm.
Ile-de-France (Paris): Transilien and RER trains (TERs) don't take bicycles Monday-Friday 6.30am-9am and 4.30pm-7pm.

See the TGV section below for what TER trains to take on major routes when TGVs will not take fully assembled bikes.

The bike carriage area on TERs will look something like this and be marked with 'velo' or a bicycle logo on the door. Storage depends on the train mode (bikes will either hang or be stored in an area marked for bikes in the carriage proper).

TER trains bikes France

Bicycle on TER train France

Fast trains: TGV and Intercités

Note: TER local trains are not shown on the map below but they generally go wherever the faster trains (TGVs and Intercites) go, albeit with many more smaller/local stops than shown on the map.

Click map or here for a downloadable PDF of the map.

train map for franceClick here or on the map for a larger jpeg you can download.

The high-speed and long-distance network – with the excellent TGV and Intercités at the fore – links major city/town centres. The TGV links Paris to Lyon and Paris to Bordeaux in just two hours, and Marseille or Grenoble to Paris in around three hours.

Taking bikes on TGV trains

What are TGVs?: TGVs are very high speed intercity trains that only stop at major towns and cities. They often travel between major cities non-stop or with very few stops. They are the fastest way to travel. Trains have buffet cars with food and drinks. There are also 'OuiGo' TGVs that run on high-speed lines offering discounted tickets. 

Buying TGV tickets: TGV tickets can be booked at OUI.sncf or at any station or SNCF ticket office. You can also use the Trainline booking service from anywhere in the world. Your ticket should be marked 'velo' (or similar) and you will have been allocated a specific seat with a bit storage area nearby.

Bagged or boxed bikes on TGVs: Bikes can travel free of charge on all TGVs if they are bagged or boxed. You simply place your bagged/boxed bike in the luggage area as you would a suitcase. The size limit for bagged/boxed bikes is 120cm x 90cm but I've never heard of anyone's bag being measured or anyone being stopped for an oversized bag.

Fully assembled bikes on TGVs: Some lines do take fully assembled bikes and some don't. You need to check OUI.sncf to confirm (our list below may be subject to change but will provide a general guide to problematic lines).

If your TGV DOES take fully assembled bikes, your bike MUST be booked in when you reserve your seatIf you do not book your bike in when you buy your own ticket it may not be possible to add the bike on to the reservation later. For this reason, it is very important that you check if your TGV takes bikes before buying any tickets. You can do this on the OUI.sncf website or via Trainline.

Here is a summary of which TGV lines DO AND DO NOT take fully assembled bicycles and some suggested workarounds ...

For the suggestions below, if you need to take multiple trains to avoid TGV-unfriendly lines, you need to research and book individual legs separately on OUI.sncf website, or use the local TER equivalent website. The main SNCF system cannot handle multiple changes/stations with a bicycle. Buy each leg individually. Search WITHOUT ticking travel with a velo option.

Paris to Toulouse. This is still possible with a bike from from Paris Gare d'Austerlitz to Toulouse. You need to make a bike reservation for Paris-Toulouse at the same time you buy your own ticket. The bike symbol should come up on relevant services on a regular search for tickets on the OUI.sncf website.  

Toulouse to Carcassonne, Montpellier, Avignon, Marseille, Perpginan, etc - TER trains run on these lines and you can wheel your bike on. An Intercites train (bike reservations needed) also links Marseille St Charles station directly with Toulouse. A Marseille/Montpellier-Toulouse Intercites train also takes fully assembed bikes (bike reservation needed; usually only a few a day). From Avignon, it's usually necessary to go via Marseille or Nimes-Montpellier and then on to Toulouse.
Train map here.

Paris-Rennes-Nantes TGVs now take fully assembled bikes again. Book your TGV tickets and your bike in advance. You can also walk your bike on and off all TER services in these areas once you have bought your own regular ticket.
Pays de la Loire (Nantes) train map.
Brittany train info.

The Paris Montparnasse-Bordeaux TGVs now take bikes again after a brief period in 2020 when they did not. Book your TGV tickets and your bike in advance. Once there, all local TERs and most Intercites trains also take bikes.
Nouvelle-Aquitaine/Bordeaux train info and map here

For Paris-La Rochelle, you need to go via Bordeaux (see above) or via Rennes-Nantes and thn down the coast on local trains. Book your TGV tickets and your bike in advance.
La Rochelle train map here.

For Paris-Limoges, Intercites trains take bikes (book your ticket and your bike in advance).
Train map here.

For Paris-Perigueux, go via Bordeaux (see above) or Limoges (see above) and then use local connections.
Train map here.

For Bordeaux-Tarbes/Pau (for the Pyrenees) you need to take an Intercites from Bordeaux to Toulouse and then another Intercites train or a local TER train from Toulouse-Tarbes/Pau (bike reservations needed on Intercites).
Bordeaux train map here.
For Pyrenees, go here.

Between Saint-Nazaire, Nantes, Rennes, Morlaix and Roscoff you need to take local TERs trains. Search and book individual legs separately as online systems generally cannot handle so many changes. When searching for TERs it can help to add in a smaller station midway on the journey using the 'via' button as this will cut out fast/TGV options and leave you only with TERs. There is no need to tick the bicycle box if searching for TERs - TERs do not require bicycle bookings so will not always show up in the bike results. 
See here for Brittany train info.
Here for Pays de la Loire (Nantes)

Normandy - no problem at all with your bike - see here.

The Paris-Lyon TGV  does not take fully assembed bikes. On this line you need to get the local TER regional service between Paris Bercy station and Lyon Part Dieu. You do not need a bike reservation on this TER service - simply buy your ticket and roll your bike onto the bike carriage.  There is no need to tick the bicycle box if searching for TERs - TERs do not require bicycle bookings so will not always show up in the bike results. 

You should assume the Paris-Avignon TGV / Paris-Nice TGV do not take fully assembled bikes. The overnight train (apparently) takes fully assembled bikes but these spaces are notoriously hard to find/book and I have never been able to find a space when I've needed it. You can instead use a combination of local trains, such as go from Paris Bercy station to Lyon Part Dieu and then on to Avignon/Marselles/Nice - all on local regional TER services. You could also take the TGV Paris-Toulouse and head east from there on regional trains. Alternatively you could take a combination of TER and Intercites trains from Paris to Clermont-Ferrand and then south on local services – all with a fully assembled bike.  
As per the guidance above, you need to search these legs separately as the SNCF booking system cannot handle multiple changes, so search 'Paris to Lyon' and then buy tickets separately for 'Lyon to Avignon' and 'Avignon to Nice' for example). 

The Paris-Strasbourg TGV does not take fully assembled bikes. You need to allow extra time to take local TER trains. Try the following (or in reverse if travelling from Strasbourg to Paris): Paris-Dole and then Dole-Strasbourg. Or Paris-Troyes-Mulhouse and then Strasbourg.  There is no need to tick the bicycle box if searching for TERs - TERs do not require bicycle bookings so will not always show up in the bike results. 

Colmar to Paris, try Colmar-Mulhouse-Belfort-Paris or Colmar-Strasbourg-Paris (or in reverse if going to Colmar). From Colmar you can also go Mulhouse-Belfort-Paris. These are all local TER services that take bikes. Again, research and book individual legs separately as online systems generally cannot handle so many changes. There is no need to tick the bicycle box if searching for TERs - TERs do not require bicycle bookings so will not always show up in the bike results. 

For Burgundy, the TGV and Lyria trains from Paris do not take fully assembled bikes. You need to take a TER from Paris Bercy to somewhere like Dijon and access the local Burgundy TER trains from there. For Besançon, also go via Dijon. You could also go from Paris Bercy to Lyon Part-Dieu on a TER and take local TER trains north into Burgundy from there. We have a map of the full Burgundy TER network here. Major Burgundy canal and wine route places like Beaune, Macon and Chalon are all linked by TER train. You can also link to Nevers by local TER for the Loire bike route EuroVelo 6. There is no need to tick the bicycle box if searching for TERs - TERs do not require bicycle bookings so will not always show up in the bike results. 

The bike storage on TGVs varies depending on model but usually looks something like the photos below if the train takes fully assembled bikes. You usually take your bike on board, up a few steps and into a separate cabin with room for two bikes. You strap your bike in with the 'seatbelt' provided. If you have panniers, it's easiest to take them off before boarding, take your bike on and return to the platform for the panniers (the train will not go without you!)

TGV bike sign

Bikes on a TGV train in france

Taking bikes on Intercités trains

What are Intercites trains?: Intercities are a step down from TGVs. They are a little slower and they stop at more stations than TGVs. They usually stop at all major town and cities, though they will not stop at smaller towns and villages (you need a TER - see above - for those).  

Here is a map of Intercites destinations - click image or here for a downloadable PDF.

Intercites train map

Click map to enlarge map of Intercites lines or download it here.

Buying Intercites train tickets: Tickets can be booked online at OUI.sncf or at any station or SNCF ticket office. You can also use the Trainline booking service from anywhere in the world.

Bagged or boxed bikes on Intercites trains: Bikes can travel free of charge on all Intercités trains if they are bagged or boxed. You simply place your bagged/boxed bike in the luggage area as you would a suitcase. The size limit for bagged/boxed bikes is 120cm x 90cm but I've never heard of anyone's bag being measured.

Fully assembled bikes on Intercites trains: If an Intercites train takes fully assembled bikes, a little bike symbol will appear when you do a regular ticket search on OUI.sncfSome but not all Intercites trains require reservations for bikes. However I highly recommend always booking your Intercites ticket in advance if you have a bike. A surcharge of €10 usually applies for bikes. There are usually bike spaces for between 12 and 20 bikes on Intercités trains, though this can vary depending on the train length. Train carriages with bike storage have a bike logo or are marked 'velo'. Arrive on the platform early and ask a staff member where on the platform the bike carriages will stop so that you are positioned well to get your bikes and panniers etc on. (During busy times people sometimes put luggage in the bike areas, so it's good to get in first).

Intercité night trains

Night trains reservations are needed for both you and your bike. There is usually a separate carriage to carry bikes. As above for reservation info and links.

  • Paris Austerlitz – Briançon
  • Paris Austerlitz - La Tour de Carol - Luchon – Cerbère
  • Paris Austerlitz - Toulouse / Rodez - Carmaux – Albi
  • Paris Austerlitz - Hendaye (Irun) / Tarbes
  • Paris Austerlitz – Savoie
  • Paris Austerlitz – Nice
  • Hendaye - Bordeaux – Nice
  • Hendaye (Irun) – Genève
  • Luxembourg - Nice / Port-Bou
  • Strasbourg - Nice / Port-Bou

The bike storage area on Intercites varies depending on the model of the train, but may look someting like this (make sure you board early on busy trains to beat the luggage trap):

bicycle on intercites train in france

Intercites train with bike

Avoiding problems with bikes on trains

The Fédération française des Usagers de la Bicyclette (FUB, the French bicycle users' association) advises taking a copy of the train operator's cycle carriage policy with you, but I have never found this necessary. I have never had a bike-train problem in France when I've had a ticket. Even so, FUB have this advice (it may or may not be useful, depending on your level of French):

“If you get on a train that accepts cycles, and the inspector says no and wants to put you off:
* keep the document (original or a copy) showing that cycles are allowed on that train;
* keep calm and polite, it makes things easier. Tell the inspector where you got your information. The inspector should not forbid you to get on board (if) the train has no cycle space or luggage van (when) it should have;
* if you are unconvinced, but he insists, you can always obey, get off the train, and (shh!) get on again at the other end. Or you can ask him to write out the fine, and get it cancelled later if you are within your rights. It’s a bit chancy. Inspectors have been known to delay a train to throw cyclists off, even from trains allowed to have cycles!”

Tandems, trailers and other bikes

Tandems, trailers and other 'non-standard' bikes are not permitted on TGVs or Intercites services. They are also generally banned from TERs, however we have received dozens of reports from cyclists who have used local TER services with no problems. Arrive early, be courteous and avoid peak-hour travel. Also be prepared to wait for the next service if you do happen across a conductor who won't let you on. It also may help to collapse trailers etc to make your load look as small as possible.

French train station

Bus replacement services

Occasionally when there is track work or on lines where buses have replaced redundant train lines, SNCF runs buses (marked as 'autocars' or sometimes just 'cars' on timetables). We have used these a number of times over the years and have never had any problems with the driver storing our bikes under the bus in the luggage area. Indeed most regional services include bikes in their carriage policies. Be courteous, remove all luggage, and be prepared to wait for the next bus if the service is particularly busy.

We have a separate article here on dedicated bus services. See also the budget Flixbus service.

Shipping your bike instead of taking it on the train

See here or try our bespoke shipping service.

More on bikes and French trains

Donation button

UPDATE: Note that some of the comments below may be out of date when discussing booking bikes on trains. You can leave a comment below or email me at lyn@freewheelingfrance.com if you need help navigating the French rail system with your bike.

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Cycling in France books

Brittany cycle guide

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