What are the cautions for traveling with your bicycle in tow?

Traveling around the world with your bicycle in tow gives one the opportunity to discover new places. It is certainly nice to take along a vehicle that one has carefully chosen, given a name to, and is familiar with, but in order to be able to transport one’s bicycle in tow, one must know the regulations of the different means of transportation, the costs, the modes, and the times when this is allowed.

Intermodality, the ability to combine a bicycle with another mode of transportation, is a condition that varies depending on the type you choose and the country you want to visit by bicycle: therefore, it is good to inquire before leaving, consulting the documentation that carriers and local Tourism Boards make available to bicycle tourists, because this need is increasingly present in travel requests, and in recent years the supply and transportation options have also multiplied.

Here we can make a quick focus of the general advice to follow, based on the means of transportation, keeping in mind that this information is subject to change and it is always a good idea to check before leaving by contacting the service provider directly.

By airplane

It is usually required that the bike be packed carefully and/or stored in a specific bag, without pedals and other sharp protruding parts, with the inner tubes deflated for obvious pressurization reasons. An ever-prevailing caution is to protect the most delicate parts such as the transmission with packing material and lock moving parts such as the handlebars. Fares vary widely (even by weight) and range from about 10 euros for shorter routes to rise to even more than 100 euros: but if we have purchased a discounted airline ticket in good time, it may be worth investing in this service.

And once they disembark at the airport? For folding – and folding – bikes, transportation on trains, subway lines, and public transportation is usually free of charge and without time restrictions: however, if we have a traditional bike with us, we must always refer to the internal regulations of each transportation company. For example, in Italy if disassembled and stored in a bag with a maximum size of 110x80x40 centimeters a bike can travel as free luggage almost anywhere. But if it is mounted and rideable, things change.

By train

A lot depends on the type of train and especially on the country: on local/regional ones there are usually more spaces to be able to carry the bike and, when provided, a separate ticket must be purchased; in other cases, bike-transport is free, but there may be limitations depending on how crowded the train is. On intercity or high-speed trains, transporting a traditional mounted, unpacked bike is usually provided by purchasing a ticket and reserving a seat; therefore, to avoid being stranded, one should inquire beforehand.

Travel by bike and train
Travel by bike and train

In the subway

The main issue, given that the subway is a high-capacity means of public transportation, concerns the timetable: there are often restrictions during peak hours, and bicycles usually pay a separate fare. Attention must also be paid to where to place the bike: in some cases there are designated carriages with bike racks and special pictogram signage on the outside, or boarding with bikes in tow is allowed only in the first and last carriages.

By tram

Pretty much the same thing applies as with the subway: it is a matter of capacity and how the carriages are designed: there is extreme variability from one country to another but also from one city to another within the same nation, to this consulting the local public transport company’s website is the easiest and immediate solution to see if and how it will be possible to transport one’s two-wheeler on the streetcar.

Photo by Pasi Mämmelä from Pixabay
Photo by Pasi Mämmelä from Pixabay

By bus

To transport a bicycle on a city bus or coach to cover medium- to long-distance distances, there are at least 3 types of solutions: inside, in the back, or in the front. The first mode, in the luggage rack of the bus, is suitable for long-distance travel, and some carriers have special spaces for bikes that can be purchased as an additional service. A bike rack on the back of a bus is not a widely used solution, mainly because neither the driver nor the owner of the bike has the ability to check for theft attempts: if only this mode is provided, it is recommended that all removable parts of the bike be tied down tightly. Front-mounted bike racks are popular in the United States and allow the driver to have an eye on the bikes at all times: they can usually accommodate 2 to 3 vehicles, and the rack is optimized to allow bikes to be loaded and unloaded in less than 30 seconds.

For detailed instructions on disassembly/assembly, the step-by-step guide is at Bikeitalia.com:

Packing the bike for the plane

Packing the bike for the train