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Folding bikes

Loading your bike onto a Eurostar, then cycling off from Lille, Paris or Brussels, is a seductive proposition. It’s also one fraught with confusion – with four different ways to get your bike aboard. Here’s our guide to make it simple.

Option 1: Take a folding bike for free

As on domestic trains, folding bikes are carried free, without booking.

They have to be carried in a bag, and the maximum length is 85cm. (There’s no other maximum dimension, as long as they’re not taller/wider than 85cm!)

This covers most folding bikes with 20-inch wheels, such as Bike Fridays and many Dahons/Terns, as well as 16-inchers like Bromptons. 24-inch bikes are less likely to fit (a Tern Eclipse, for example, folds to 89cm) though you might get away with it.

If your bike is close to the maximum size, then a lightweight cover such as the Dahon/Tern CarryOn can be easily squished to shape. The cover folds up into a saddlebag for when you’re riding. We think a 20-inch folder in one of these covers is pretty much the ultimate Eurostar bike.

Option 2: Book in advance for £30 each way

For full-sized bikes, the simplest solution is book in advance and pay an extra £30 for Eurostar’s Bike Transfer service. Your bike will travel in the hold on the same train as you (assuming there’s space).

You can reserve a space by calling 0844 822 5822, or e-mailing eurodespatch@eurostar.com. You’ll need to have bought your Eurostar passenger ticket before reserving a space, but we suggest you call this number first to check there’s space for a bike on your chosen train.

Option 3: Use a bike box

If you can get your bike into a bike box under 120cm long, you can just turn up and Eurostar will load it onto the train. Eurostar sell bike boxes if you don’t already have one. You’ll have to remove the wheels, and possibly the pedals and rear rack too, but Eurostar staff will help you with this. If you’re travelling on by bike, be prepared to abandon the box at your destination.

The advantage of bike boxes is that Eurostar can fit more on per train, so you’ve got a higher chance of getting it on the train you’re travelling on. If not, your bike will be bumped onto a subsequent train – possibly up to 24 hours later. Eurostar suggest that you get in early by going to the registered luggage office at St Pancras 90 minutes before departure.

Option 4: No box, just straight on the train

If you don’t want to use a bike box, you can turn up at the registered luggage office with your bike on the day, and pay £25. Again, it may be bumped off onto a later service if the train is full, and you should be there 90 minutes in advance.

Worth knowing

The luggage services aren’t available at Ashford or Stratford International, only St Pancras, Lille, Brussels and Paris. If you’re using the intermediate stations, you’ll need a folder in a bike bag.

Eurostar’s bike helpline is 03448 225 822: if you can, give them a call in advance to double-check your plans.

Going further

Pretty much all European trains will take bike bags up to 90cm x 120cm free of charge as hand luggage. On high-speed services, such as Germany’s ICE, Thalys in the Low Countries, and many of France’s TGVs, this is your only option for transporting a full-sized bike. A few TGVs now have bike spaces, though these must be booked in advance.

Local trains and old-fashioned locomotive-hauled ‘inter-city’ services are more likely to take unbagged bikes. Some countries, such as Belgium, require that you buy a ticket for your bike.

To check out the situation in each country, we suggest checking out the bike guides from:

Alternatives to Eurostar

European Bike Express is a convenient direct coach service. A comfortable coach tows a dedicated bike trailer from pick-up points in Britain to the most popular cycling destinations in France: the Atlantic, the Alps and the Med. Return fares are around £250 per person.

Ferries take bikes for a small extra fee. The Dutch Flyer, which connects the Harwich–Hook of Holland ferry with trains on either side, is traditionally popular with cyclists. (Note that the Hook of Holland railway line is being rebuilt as a metro line and so trains aren’t currently running.) Unfortunately the freight ferries from Immingham will no longer take cyclists as was once the case.