Cycles and trains is a bit of a contentious issue in the UK. Trains are now carrying more people than they have for fifty years and at peak times they struggle to take the load. Old trains which had guard’s vans are now the exception rather than the rule (the parcels and mail now travels by road) and so bikes compete with other fare paying passengers for space and train companies have generally barred full sized bikes at these peak times.
The situation isn’t that straightforward – but the most useful up to date source of information is the National Rail website.
Folding cycles can be carried free of charge on all National Rail services – though there are a few restrictions regarding how they are carried. Again the National Rail website has useful information.
You can, of course, leave your bike at the station and then get the train to your destination. In London, many people have two (cheap!) bikes – one to get to their home station and one to get from the mainline station to their place of work. This works – but remember that security is very important and despite quite a lot of work by the police and railway companies, bikes without good locks are quite often targets for criminals.
Most stations now have cycle parking. If you are unsure whether yours does, go to the National Rail website and then the stations page. All you have to do then is to type in the name of the station you are interested in and the information will come up (along with details of what else is there). You can even take a tour of the station with photographs if you click on “Stations made easy” on the page that comes up for your station. You will initially get a small plan of the station (which should show where the cycle parking is if there is any) and if you then click “View larger version” you will get a bigger version of the plan with photographs of the features which show as you move the curser around the plan.
For European Rail information you can try the Railpassenger website or for more general tips go to the man in seat 61 website (Mark Smith, the man himself, used to work with the owner of this website – so it must be a good site!). An interesting site sign-posted through the seat61 website is that of the a to b magazine website that has information on trains, ferries and buses and cycles.
and another thing
This isn’t really directly about cycling and trains, but you may be interested in the Association of Community Rail Partnerships which seeks to promote and develop local rail services. There are now partnerships all over the country – to find out more go to the ACoRP website. You may also want to look at the scenic railways publication that shows some scenic rail routes to ride when you want a break from cycling.