Bike transport in an EC to Bologna

Taking a train with a bike in Germany

I love trains. You can usually get very easy to the train station, you don't need to check in. You can slowly ease into your destination and see the landscape outside changing. It is my absolute preferred way to travel.

Sometimes, at least in Germany, there are downsides as well. Trains are late, connecting trains can't be made and restaurants are not functioning. And the worst thing. Dirty windows. So you can't see the landscape properly. If I'd be the CEO of any train company, this would be my absolute priority. No kidding.

But now for some tips on how to take your bike on a train. First in Germany.

Traveling with the Deutsche Bahn in Germany

First of all. If you travel more than once, I would get a Probe BahnCard. For the trial I would likely get the 50% one. For more permanent use, I always get the 25% one.

BahnCard50 is great when you want to be flexible. You'll always get 50% discount. Which is great when you quickly need to book a trip. This might be especially the case when you're traveling with your bike.

BahnCard25 is great when you can plan a bit in advance. By default you'll get 25% discount, but you can get a lot more too. Just recently I got a ticket that is usually 100 Euros for 12.90 Euros. But I booked it two weeks in advance.

German trains are very expensive without any discounts, so it's pretty much worthwhile to get a Probe BahnCard when traveling in Germany. You can use it immediately and it's valid for three months, you just need to make sure that you cancel it in time.

Prices, rules and regulations can be found here:

Second, get the DB app. I'm sure there are some haters out there, but I find it actually pretty good. You can find and book trips, manage the tickets and later see as well where your coach is.

There are two things to be aware of though. Firstly, it happened to me several times. For example, I booked in the morning a ticket from Berlin to Hamburg. Going back I was in a hurry and somehow thought that the app would be smart enough to offer me the return ticket. It doesn't. Maybe it's me, but I at least booked three times the wrong direction. I always went to the conductor and explained the situation. Always worked. Once I even got an upgrade to first class (so that their colleague would not control me). I can be charming at times.

Second, but more importantly. Before you are searching for a connection you need to set who you are and what you're looking for. I. e. you need to state whether you have a BahnCard, want to go by bike and possibly want to have longer transfer times. Only then you'll find trains who carry bikes (most of them do) and make a reservation for your bike. In the new version of the DB app, you can select certain options as well, there you can select that you want to take a bike and/or set the length of the transfer time.

Screenshot Deutsche Bahn App
Screenshot Deutsche Bahn App
Screenshot Deutsche Bahn App

A reservation for your bike is mandatory in all ICEs. In ECs as well, in ICs not sure as I never take them. They're usually quite slow and I'm not really sure why we still have them. ECs are usually connecting two European countries.

In regional trains you don't need a reservation (or actually won't get a reservation), but you need a day ticket for a bike. Be aware though that in peak times these can get crowded and there might be too little space for bikes. That usually happens on weekends nearby bigger cities.

Once you found your connection, you can easily add the option for bike reservation. At least for most trains. Recently I wanted to make a reservation for an EC from Munich and Bologna. That didn't work out online so I had to go to a train station and get the reservation. Might be because it's connecting two or three different train companies.

A word of caution for transfers. Set them to higher than usual, I usually set it to at least 45 minutes. You never know what you'll find. There might be no or busy elevators, the train might be a bit delayed or you simply don't know your way around. I personally don't like stress.

Biketransport germany

Typical ICE transport situation. Very untypical EC circumstances. Loved it.

Once you're at the platform you can open the app. On your ticket will be an up to date coach order. The number of your coach is on your ticket. Quite handy, you don't want to push the bike through a train.

Getting into ICEs and ECs is not always easy. There are stairs and the entrance is quite narrow. I usually ask somebody if they could help me. For getting in when nobody is there I pull through and don't remove the bags. It's easier to get up. But I would not necessarily recommend that for everybody. The other day I got quite stuck in the middle of the stairs. Getting out, I usually remove the panniers. It's easier to fall down the stairs than up. Getting into regional trains is a lot easier. Depending on the train station you can usually just roll in and out, the entrances are pretty wide.

Once you're in, you can simply put the bike into the stands, lock it and move your bags somewhere overhead in the coach. I personally never make reservations in trains for myself. There are small seats at the bikes. If you're fine leaving your bike alone, which I think is not a problem, specially if locked, you can easily find your way to the restaurant. More space than in first class, you get drinks served and it's usually good for people watching. (Note: restaurants are only in ICEs)

And that's it. Very straight forward. On the train to Bologna I had a great experience with the bike. They had a special coach for the bikes, see picture below. With an extra entrance and somebody to help. I was the only one with a bike, so it was all easy. In high season that might be a lot more chaotic to get in and out, not sure how they do it then.

Last update: 15. January 2024
Mood: happy :)