The bicycle, as we have already remarked, is the ideal means of land travel, ideal in the city where distances are generally shorter, and ideal to visit the countryside in a sustainable fashion, that is, without chemical and noise pollution, without cluttering and damaging the environment.
The only drawback is a limited range of activity, in one day one could travel, depending on the level of workout and one’s legs, and allowing time to catch one’s breath and time to visit one’s destination, between 50 and 100 km [30 and 60 miles], suggesting a maximum 50 km/30 mile radius.
A very simple and effective means to extend this range of activity is by using the train; there are many regional and interregional trains in various European countries that allow for the transport of bicycles that add only a modest increase in ticket cost.
One could therefore go to the train station closest to home, take the train to the station closest to one’s destination and bike from there. One is not even bound to come back by the same route, just go to any station that allows you to get back home.
Another concept is to go to a destination that is between the 50 and 100 km [30 and 60 miles] and from there return home on the train.
In addition to shorter “Sunday trips”, train+bike service is useful for longer excursions, perhaps to other countries. Here again the train enables one to reach rather distant countries quickly, explore by bicycle, and return to one’s home city again by train.
Unfortunately, the quality of service is rather inconsistent; the level of service is best in Switzerland where almost all trains can accommodate bikes, and pretty good in Austria, Germany, Holland, Czechia and Denmark; it is available, but a little less widespread in France, where there is the advantage of its being free, Italy and Spain. The situation in Great Britain is rather confused because the railroads have been privatized and broken up into many distinct companies that offer bike transport services but with different conditions and determined on a case-by-case basis.
A train+bike trip requires only a little planning or gathering information to find the best solution; the easiest thing to do is visit the website of Deutsche Bahn, now available in Italian […and English, too. RB], which allows one easily to identify the train connections that transport bicycles between any two stations; even for train stations within Italy the DB website functions better than the equivalent Trenitalia site, which in its latest version no longer places a bicycle symbol next to trains that provide bike transport service. After many protests, they now provide an enigmatic symbol – Bicicletta DTR – but only under the Info for individual trains. That is still not sufficient information, so your best bet is to use the DB site.
On the DB website, in order to find train+bike connections between two stations one has to enter the names of the departure and arrival stations, date and hour desired, and then select Trasporto bicicletta [“carriage of bicycles required” in their English translation] below and finally Cercare [Search]. This brings up a well-organized list of trains that provide bike transport. Unfortunately, on-line purchase and booking for bike transport is available only for German trains.