I am planning on going on a long distance cycle tour, but for some sections, I will put my bike on public transport. Does anyone have any general advice for putting bikes on public transport in Europe and beyond. I have limited experience with this and I am worried about possible charges, or being refused.
According the general conditions of eurolines (more or less the only paneuropean bus company bicycles are not allowed:
5.5 A maximum of 2 pieces of luggage (suitcases, bags, and packages 70x80x20 cm with a total maximum of 30 kilos) per passenger will be accepted for carriage. Children and Infants are allowed to carry 1 piece of luggage. Eurolines reserves the right to refuse luggage exceeding weight, dimensions as indicated. The carriage of objects such as bicycles, sporting equipment, skis and musical instruments are strictly prohibited. It is forbidden to transport narcotics, explosives and other dangerous objects. Luggage allowances may vary by service and you should check with Eurolines for full details.
With trains it might be a different story.
Free for folding bikes Single-trip card for € 5 per bike Blank card to fill in (date and route) or pre-printed card (if bought online) with 2 parts: 1 for your bike and 1 as proof Any destination with no timetable restrictions Travel route and date are the same as for the owner
The belgian railways have an informative page on international biking + rail
Terms and conditions concerning carriage of bicycles
You can take your bicycle with you on the train only during off-peak hours. Peak hours are weekdays from 06.30 to 09.00 and from 16.30 to 18.00. This restriction does not apply at weekends, on public holidays or in July and August. Bicycles must be placed in the special bicycle area on the train. You will recognise this area by the sticker on the outside of the train. If there is no room in the bicycle area for your bicycle, NS staff retains the right to ask you to take a later train. Before, during and after the journey you are responsible for your bicycle. NS is not responsible for loss or damage of your bicycle (except in the event of negligence on the part of NS). NS cannot insure or arrange for insurance of your bicycle. Any luggage (including sidebags) must remain on the bicycle. Bicycles and other means of transport equipped with a combustion engine are not allowed on the train for safety reasons. You are not allowed to take bicycle trailers on the train. Cycling is prohibited at stations and on platforms.
Could't find conditions in English, but found a nice blog
The first rule is the same as with the trains entering France: bikes can be carried on all trains as hand luggage if they are folded or dismantled and placed in a cycle bag measuring no more than 120 x 90cm. This will mean removing the front wheel and maybe the pedals, and ensuring the bag has sufficient padding to avoid damaging other articles placed on the train's luggage racks.
For the remaining European Countries, I lack the language skills to find proper information on trains on bicycles. There are tons of blogs where people describe their journey in a specific country, that might help you. Google is your friend here.
Transporting your bicycle yourself
A different alternative is to cycle all the way yourself. There is a huge network of cycle friendly paths, often going to the more scenic routes in Europe.
In the Netherlands there is a foundation called "vrienden op de fiets" (friends on the bicycle), which annually publishes a list of accomodation addresses specifically catering cyclists. Although it is centered to the netherlands, their network do cover other countries as well. With these kind of informal networks, you can cover quite some miles and not be alone while doing so. Also people you meet in these accomodation types are often quite knowledgeable on local bicycle information and might know for example specific chartered bicycle bus services, that do exist in Europe.
Normally buses are very crowded in most European cities and while might be allowed would not be practical. Maybe long distance buses where the luggage goes beneath would allow it since it could be considered luggage. Netherlands is the most bike friendly place in te world and a lot of people there take bike vacations in Europe. You might want to check with the ANWB Dutch travel organization for suggestions of routes and trips.
A little bit of additional advice: Have a back-up plan or check ahead if there is any irregular operation on your specific route.
A few friends of mine were stuck somewhere in Poland because of some maintenance work. The train was OK for bikes and they had all necessary tickets but it stopped before its final destination and the buses that replaced it could not accommodate them. They had to ride to the next large station on their bikes, in the middle of the night, and sleep there waiting for the next train.
The next train ride wasn't too comfortable either, bikes were allowed but there was basically no space for them. So it would seem that official information on where and when you can take your bike is not entirely reliable, at least for Poland (they had a great time on the bike there, though).