Luckily most events are held within reach of the train station where the event is held so in most cases I will leave my bike at Burton Station, where there is currently ample storage on the platform with CCTV covering the area.
The events in Birmingham are usually a 10-15 minute walk into Digbeth from New Street so there is no particular need to ride a bike at the Birmingham end. The event in Bristol was a bit further away from Temple Meads but over a 20 minute brisk walk I was no more than 5 minutes later than a fellow ranger who had taken his Brompton.
At this point I will mention that my bike Jose is a non folding hybrid. I have looked into buying a folding bike for these occasions but they are not frequent enough at the moment to justify spending the money on buying a decent one that is easy to fold and has gears. Never say never though!
In October this year I attended an all day event in Stafford which included a led ride around Stafford. As I was leading the ride I really needed to take the bike!
The last time I had taken the bike on the train I had come back from Nottingham via Beeston Station and was unable to get my bike on the first train towards Derby as it was a 1 coach East Midlands Trains service that already had a bike on. I will say that I had not planned my journey in advance that night and the next train back was a 3 coach Cross Country Service which took me back to Burton without any further issues.
Previously back in my youth I had taken my bike from York to Sunderland on train and despite making a reservation that day I was turned away from my Transpennine service due to lack of space. Luckily I was more then welcome on the next train to Newcastle where my bike fitted in well in the huge driving van trailer of a GNER service. Taking my bike to university was a pivotal moment to my love of cycling so getting it there was key.
|Waiting at Burton.|
The ticket booking was easy enough as always but the information for making bike reservations was more complicated and contradictory at times. For my outgoing journey from Burton to Tamworth I was able to book a reservation for which I received confirmation from Cross Country. However there was no reservation necessary for the return journey.
On London Midland I could not find any useful information on cycling reservations other than services that you definitely could not take a bike on. In order to double check about reservations I used the contact page on the website but disappointingly did not receive a reply. I have used the much maligned London Midland service several times for family trips to London and have found them to be of excellent value.
|Storage on Voyager type train|
The journey from Burton to Tamworth was on time and very smooth. As I had set off very early the train was nearly empty. The service was a long distance one using a voyager unit which had 3 designated and secure cycling spaces. It was a shame that the journey was only 10 minutes long.
On arrival back in Tamworth I was then able to use a lift between the 2 platforms on different lines before a 20 minute wait for the service from London to Crewe which formed the once hourly service via Stafford. I had seen a train pull in on the opposite platform so had an idea where the best place might be to board.
Again the service was on time and I was able to find a space in the disabled area - which fortunately from my point of view, was empty. I was relieved to be able to get on the train without any reservation. The journey was smooth and around 25 minutes long with just a small delay getting into Stafford. The conductor was very knowledgeable and was dealing with a number of customer issues further up the line with good humour.
|On the London Midland service|
After a good day in Stafford I eventually returned to the station at around 4.50pm so was once again relieved when I saw there was space for my bike, although it was busier than earlier.
At Tamworth the change of platforms was slightly more complicated due to the position of the lifts - this time requiring 3 lift rides. The Cross Country service on return was the Cardiff to Nottingham service using a 3 car unit with cycling storage near the disabled area - which was probably why I could not make a reservation for this part of the journey.
So while my journeys were all on time and I was able to fit my bike on all of them, I feel that it was rather by luck and the fact I set off early. Even on the voyager long distance service there were only 3 spaces (although I understand Cross Country are bringing in more of the older Intercity 125s which have more space).
I found the reservation system to be inconsistent and open to interpretation and I think there needs to be more information at the stations as to where the cycling facilities are on the trains.