Pros & Cons of Bringing Your Own Bike
If you have already decided to bring your own bike, this page is not necessary. Go instead to this one:
How to Bring Your Own Bike.
Why Should You?
Well, yours might be better, it might be prettier, it might not have the quirks inevitable in bikes used by many different owners... and, in all events, it is what you are used to. If you are a fan of the technical side of the sport, bring your own bike. Playing someone else’s musical instrument is never really satisfying.
If you live in Europe, it can also save you money, though probably not much. “Eurostar” will handle the thing for a fee. And, though you still have to get to your trip from Paris or Brussels, we may be able to help you with that (see the “How To...” page, mentioned above).
Why Shouldnt You?
If you are flying to the trip, the airline might lose it, or it may arrive late (just like any luggage).
Even if the airline deals with a late delivery “professionally” (far from a foregone conclusion) and offers to forward the bike to you in some small French town a couple of days later, you will still be without a bike for the first couple of days of your trip.
Worse, if the airline refuses to send the bike on, or you don’t trust them to do as they say (your scepticism would not be misplaced), you have to hang around the arrival airport and wait for it. This costs you a hotel, and replacement train tickets to the trip if yours were train-specific. When the bike finally arrives, you will have to get it to wherever the trip has now gone, and we will not always be in a position to help you do so. Your coordinator, 200 kilometers away with 15 other people, has other responsibilities. If we are able to assign a person to help you get your bike to the trip, you have to pay for his salary costs and expenses....
If the bike gets stolen, or permanently lost by the airline, you face the triple indignity of losing your bike, having to pay to rent one, and paying to ship the rental to and / or from the trip (as an express shipment, this will cost at least 80€, and sometimes substantially more).
Maintenance is up to you, and parts availability may be spotty if your bike is built for a local market not in Europe.
Even if your bike is very good, it may not be very well-suited to road touring.
A partial check list:
It is a hassle.
Getting the bike out to your local airport... on and off the plane... in to town from the airport nearest your trip... onto the train that carries you to the start of your trip... all present challenges. We can help you with this in some important ways (see “How To Bring Your Own Bike”), but you will still have a sore shoulder by the time you reach your trip. Do not underestimate the athletic effort involved in moving a crated or sacked bicycle (plus your other luggage) through the Paris métro! Nor the financial one of transporting the thing by taxi, should you choose to spare your shoulder.
The bike could get lost or broken by the railroad.
Our bikes get shipped around by train, to and from the trip, and sometimes during the heart of a trip. They are occasionally banged up in baggage cars, mishandled by disgruntled baggage handlers, etc.
Should the railroad lose your bike (this is very rare it has happened once in 20+ years), you are compensated at a rate of about 500€ (if it is new) or less if it is older. Note that you must provide a receipt proving that you bought your cycle for at least that much. No compensation is available without a receipt, so if you don’t have one, show this text to a local shop before you leave home (so that they understand that you are not trying to defraud an insurance company), and give them a fee to write you one on the store’s stationary. Or insure the thing.
Damage is more problematic. Though the railroad theoretically compensates you, the process is so time-consuming that we (Blue Marble) don’t even file claims when our own bikes are damaged. This may sound harsh, but our Coordinators will not generally be available to help you with other than advice in this field. They have other work to attend to, and negotiating with the railroad's intentionally opaque bureaucracy will prevent them from doing so. If you bring your own bike, paint scratches or a bent pedal are between you and the railroad - in its native language.
The bike might have difficulty making inter-region trips as fast as we do.
Humans can often travel over the European railway network faster than bicycles can (express trains may not carry baggage cars / luggage vans). In this case, we (Blue Marble) send out a second set of bikes. This second set takes over from the first one as you get off the train after some mid-trip ride.
If this happens, you will have to carry your bike on the train with you, or pay us to make an “Exceptional Shipment” (a passenger-speed shipment in circumstances where that is not normally planned). Carrying your bike on the train with you will not be simple. The train in question will not be equipped to handle it without boxing or bagging (otherwise we would have shipped our own bikes that way). So you have to box or bag it, which adds the costs of shipping your container around, so to have it where you need it. See the discussion of all of this in “How To Bring Your Own Bike.”
The bike might be delayed in shipment.
Delays are rare (and we have never experienced one of over 24 hours), but they do occur.
The railroad protects itself from liability by only guaranteeing transit times a day longer than those normally expected. What if your bike is late the day before your flight home, possibly to another continent? We cannot emphasize enough: we cannot help you get your bike back to your home country. International shipping, even on the ground, costs hundreds of currency units, and requires administrative hassles that consume hours of work. The job is more expensive than the bike is worth. At best, we can fetch it from the station when it does show up (we charge for this), and then hold it in Paris until you can come and get it (we won’t charge for a year’s storage - you’ll need a break by then - but nor do we assume responsibility for the bike if damaged or stolen while in our care). If you don’t claim it within a year, it becomes our property, and we sell it to pay for its pension.
Having a cycle sack or a hard-sided container with you can ease this problem: if the bike’s journey from the end of our cycle trip to your departure airport can not reliably be given over to the baggage service, you can stuff the thing into your container, and pile it onto the train with you....
While bringing your own bike saves you some of the money you would otherwise give to us (you get a discount on the trip cost, the amount of which you can see in this table), this is not usually a reason to do so. As you shall see, the savings are generally eaten up by the extra costs of lugging your own cycle (and its often inevitable carrying case) around.
If You Decide to Bring Your Own Bike
Our advice on how to do so is on the page, “How To Bring Your Own Bike.”