06 March 2010

The uncertainty principle of bikes on trains

Is bike space on trains being made smaller on some services, or is my bike getting bigger? I'm not sure. This was the bike space on this East Midlands service between London and Sheffield the other day - a hoover-size cubbyhole beneath a cupboard.

Thanks to the bar-ends, my bike wouldn't fit, and spent the journey rolling around and falling over like a Top Gear presenter at a canapes'n'wine product launch. And was about as entertaining*.

Still, we spotted something positive at Swindon. I'd never seen a sign like this before, telling you which end of the train the bike space on the London-bound train was going to be.

And why can't they put bike-space information on the electronic signboards? At some stations, such as Doncaster with its Heisenberg-like uncertainty of bike-carriage location, this would save massive stress. When the London-bound train comes in there, even the platform staff don't know which end your bike should go. Which means that half the time you guess wrong and have to sprint to the other end.

That really is Heisenberg, isn't it? You know the momentum but not the position? Maybe not. You can't be certain about anything these days.

* Only joking. TG's James May is, of course, a Real Cyclist himself, often seen on his Brompton.


  1. What amazes me with taking one's bike on the train is how services advertised as having the same provision can vary so hugely in the facilities provided. Southern Trains have wide open spaces in which several bikes can be placed and seats by them so one can keep an eye on your steed. On the same route is First Great Western, where there are slots of two bikes in some left over space much like the that pictured above, not even long enough for my compact frame racer.

  2. Unless your bike is approaching the speed of light, it is unlikely that it is increasing in size. However, bar ends do stretch with use over time (equation omitted for brevity). I have seen very old bar ends spontaneously leap to the next size level. These are best replaced before they injure someone.

  3. I've never had a problem with East Midlands provision, but that will be my penchant for racers showing through. Thinking about it, the space would be completely useless for someone with a child seat on the back.

  4. Doncaster, Sheffield, and lamentably Oxford all require careful observation of the position of the stripy bit on the front (or back) of the train and a possible unpredictable skitter at indeterminate speed. Virgin will claim this is something to do with reversals at Birmingham, but given that even FGW can manage the same sort of trick at Gloucester, I remain unconvinced.

    First Great Western's remaining (and set to remain) slam-door stock does at least have something approximating proper storage or even a guard's van. Not connected to the rest of the train or anything though, seemingly.

  5. It's easy for FGW to put these signs on the platforms - their HSTs have cycle space at both ends, but they only open the one at the country end. Very predictable (though I once did manage to put my bike in the one at the London end, which caused some trouble when I wanted to get it off).