See the section for France of the Trento Bike Pages. See similar information concerning Italy.

Bicycles and Trains in France

From a posting of Gary Mak ( [til June 1995]) to rec.bicycles.rides on Sun, 15 Jan 1995 17:18:45 GMT
See also the important note on Bicycles on Trains in France, 1998 from Barbara Leonard's Bicycling à la Française
This is an update about bicycling and trains in France. The information was collected during a 6 week trip in July-August 1994. To the cycling community: please feel free to modify, improve this document for the good of all or include in a FAQ. Nearly all of this information is from memory! Any useful additions or comments would be interesting to me too. Please e-mail me directly as I no longer have a USENET connection: (til June 1995). Happy cycling, Gary Mak.



French National railway company ("Societe Nationale des Chemins de Feu" ?)

Trains/Rolling stock


high speed luxury train ("train a grande vitesse") with a peak commercial speed of 180 mph. At present the main lines are: TGV Atlantique (Paris-Brest), TGV Sud-Est (Paris-Lyon-Marseille, Paris-Lyon-Grenoble), TGV Sud-West (Paris-Bourdeaux-Toulouse) and a new service for points north of Paris (name?).


good comfort, air conditioned, moderate speed (average service speed including stops is about 60 mph). These trains are used on most other major city links.


regional trains linking smaller cities to the main transportation hubs like Paris, Toulouse, Nimes. Comfort is marginal (no air conditioning) and the trains are slow.

Autocars (buses)

Buses are becoming an increasing part of the small regional service, replacing trains. They're also reasonably comfortable.

Suburban trains

like suburban trains nearly anywhere in the world, they serve the suburbs and main tourist sights surrounding large metropolitan areas like Paris.


A rough topopolgy of the major rail lines in France can be found, for example, in the Thomas Cooke European Rail Timetable. The best, complete maps of the system are found in most SNCF literature available in France (e.g. pamphlets on train times, price reductions etc.). Pick-up some of these when you arrive in France, or perhaps you can get the SNCF to send you some. These maps indicate all the likely connections, service to smaller cities and the major transportation hubs (which you will never be able to avoid!).


Knowledge of the French language is invaluable for dealing with people in smaller train stations and in the lugagge/bicycle claim office! English is never officially used.

Train tarifs

The trains in France are very reasonably priced (in comparison to Germany and Switzerland). The *average* train tarif, based on distance and before other reductions, is $15CAD/100 km for Second Class, 50% more for First Class. Using this tarif, you can decide whether to take advantage of a rail pass. The most popular pass for cyclists, who want to take the occasional large hop from one region to another, or to get from Paris to the south of France, is the French Railpass. It can be purchased for any 3, 4, 5, ... days of train travel in one month. The "break-even" distance to use the pass, as opposed to buying a point-to-point ticket is about 350 km/day. A pass-bonus is that the traveller is exempt from TGV train fare supplements ($10-20CAD), but one must still pay the mandatory reservation fee. There is no price advantage to purchasing point-to- point tickets from Eurail offices in North America unless you MUST have a train reservation or you want to avoid TGV supplements. For non-TGV trains, reservations are highly recommended on all CORAIL trains in the south of France during the summer, unless you're alone, resilient and don't mind sitting anywhere - including the floor.

Train Schedule Information

The "Thomas Cooke European Rail Timetable" is available in most libraries of major North American cities, or you can order one for an amazing amount of money. This handy manual contains the train schedules of a bewildering number of destinations. If you must preplan your trip to the hour, buy this book.

On the fly, there is always the information desks at every train station, although English is normally only spoken at a large station. This is normally mandatory if you need shipping information for your bicycle. The SNCF has an excellent on-line computer system that will tell you immediately, whether you can self-load your bicycle on a particular train, shipping it for free WITH YOU.

The best alternative for general train information is the super-cool "billeterie automatique". These automatic ticket machines are a touch-screen driven, almost idiot proof way, for getting train schedules, connections, purchasing tickets and reservations. They accept cash or credit cards (VISA and Mastercard) and will print tickets on the spot. I think you can also exchange or refund tickets. English service is available by pressing the British Flag at the top right-hand corner. In Paris there are two types of these machines: one for normal train travel and one for only suburban trains. Unfortunately, these niffty automatiques don't provide baggage/bicycle shipping information.

Shipping Bicycles

Bicycles can normally be taken on local trains and feeder trains into the major hubs. You must load and unload the bicycles yourself on and off the baggage train. There is no extra charge. I was told, you can also bring bicycles onto suburban Paris trains, off peak-hours.

In all other cases, bicycles must be shipped as accompanying baggage. Bicycles are brought to the baggage desk where they are put in a rather flimsy box. Bicycles are picked-up at the final destination's baggage office. The cost (including the box) is 150 FF. Also, you need not accompany the bicycle on the same train, but you do need proof that you have a ticket to the final destination. Bicycles are stored for free at the end station for a limited time (at least 10 days). When bicycles are shipped ahead they may take a different route than your ticket (at the discretion of the SNCF) and may require several days. Bicycles may sometimes not accompany the passengers on trips requiring a train change, unless there is lots of time between the connection.

On those lines which are now served by buses, bicycles are shipped as accompanying baggage for free AT THE DISCRETION of the driver.

Cheers, Gary.