How To Take A Bike On The Train From Brighton To London


If you’re in Brighton for any of length of time, then you’re bound to want to visit London. The British capital is one of the most exciting cities in the world and it has a rich history. It also has a lot of cycle paths and you might want to take your bike to London to make the most of them.

How to take a bike on the train from London to Brighton? Well, the simplest way to do it is to book a space for your bike, travel with a fold up bike or at the right hours to take a non-folding bike on the train and have the right ticket for yourself. However, things can get complicated and you’ll need to read the whole guide to ensure you have yourself covered.

Can You Take A Bike On The Train From Brighton To London?

You would think that in the age of Greta Thunberg scolding our leaders, “How dare you?!” over climate change that the process for getting a bicycle from one part of the country to another would be simple, easy and straightforward.

It can be.

However, much of the time it is not.

This isn’t because the British government or the rail network has something against cyclists. It’s because Britain’s for-profit rail system has not received the levels of investment that it needs to deliver a superb all-round service.

When the majority of trains and carriages were commissioned, there just wasn’t much thought given to cyclists. Thus, the network tends to prioritize passenger transport and even there, things aren’t always well-planned.

This lack of forward planning can be found across the rail network and not just on the Brighton to London link, but it can be felt hardest there because it’s one of the busiest stretches of railway in the country and particularly during peak hours when commuters pack the trains in order to get into the capital.

Yes, You Can Take A Bike On The Train From Brighton To London

This doesn’t mean that you can’t take your bike on the train to London from Brighton. You can and in theory, the process ought to be easy but in reality – it can be a bit more complicated.

This is how it should work:

  • Take yourself and your bike to Brighton Station.
  • Buy a ticket for yourself.
  • Then get on the train and store your bike safely.
  • Find a seat (or more likely stand, in busy periods) until you reach London
  • Collect your bike and you’re free to start cycling (though don’t cycle on platforms, station concourses, etc. – you have to cycle on roads in the UK, you must push your bike until you find a road)

And sometimes, that is exactly the way that it works but only if you follow the guidelines that we give you below.

What Times Can’t You Take A Bike On Trains Between Brighton And London?

The first thing that you need to know is that if your bike is not a folding bike – there are time limits as to when your bicycle may travel on a train.

If you try to get your bike on a train during the peak hours, then you’re going to be refused because there’s simply no room for them. Commuter hours are all about individuals without bikes.

Peak hours (Monday through Friday though not including bank holidays) are as follows:

  • Any train scheduled to arrive in London, Brighton, or Kensington Olympia that is expected to arrive between 7.00 a.m. and 10 a.m. (And yes, this also applies if these trains are running late – so if a service is due to arrive at 9.58 a.m. and it turns up 2 hours late – it’s still treated as though it was going to arrive at 9.58 a.m. and not at 11.58 a.m.).
  • Any train scheduled to leave London, Brighton or Kensington Olympia between 4.00 p.m. and 7.00 p.m. (it’s the same deal regarding late trains too)

Southern Railway does make some exceptions to this rule if your journey is within the “green zone” of the network. Now, this won’t cover Brighton to London but it can cover parts of that route – you can download their green zone map here.

How Much Does It Cost To Take A Bike On The Train From Brighton To London?

The good news is that because cycling is clearly an environmentally friendly thing to do, you won’t have to pay to get your bike on the train.

Assuming that they let your bike onto the train then its journey is free, though you must have a valid ticket for the entire length of your journey.

Now, given that the fine for not having a ticket is up to £1,000 (and a minimum of £20) and you might be subject to criminal prosecution as well – it’s a really good idea to have a ticket. To add a little insult to injury on this, you would also have to pay for a ticket at twice the cost you would have paid for it in the first place on top of the fine. Seriously, get a ticket.

You are legally obliged to show a ticket to a member of station or train staff if asked to do so. This process is entirely normal, and you are not being singled out, in any way, if a staff member challenges you to produce your ticket.

How To Check If Your Bike Is Eligible For A Particular Train?

The only way to be absolutely certain that your bike is eligible for a particular train is to check with the station that is selling you a ticket.

You can call Brighton Station on + (0) 44 845 127 2920.  If you want to go in person to ask about this you can find Brighton Station at Queens Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 3XP.

However, you should be aware that even if your bike is eligible – you may not be able to get it on the train because the final decision rests with the train’s guard.

How Many Spaces Are There On A Train For Bicycles?

Now, if your journey is intended to take you beyond Brighton to London then you should be aware that the majority of British train operators have strict limits on how many non-folding bikes they allow on a train and that limit is umm… two bikes per train.

No, that’s not a typo. Most trains will only allow two bicycles on board. That means if you’re traveling in another region with your bike – you’re going to want to make a reservation in advance (and at least 24 hours in advance) to guarantee a space on the train for your bike.

The Good News: No Limits On Brighton To London Trains

However, Southern Trains which operates the Brighton to London services is different. There is no formal number of bicycles allowed on their trains. Their policy is simple – anyone may bring a non-folding bicycle on their trains, outside of peak hours, if there is space on the train.

They do not accept any reservations for bicycles on their trains and they must be stored on the train in a way that does not obstruct an aisle or block a door. They must also not be placed in a wheelchair space even if there is no wheelchair user currently on the train.

That means you don’t have to book in advance to get your bike on the train but, alternatively, you’ll want to get there early so you can position yourself to get your bike on the train quickly (go to the farthest door from the start of the platform – most people won’t walk all the way down the train and it gives you the best chance of getting your bike on).

The train guards, however, can ask you to get off the train and wait for another train or refuse you access at all if they believe that the network or the train is too busy to allow you to travel safely with your bike.

What Happens If I Am Refused Access To A Train With My Bike?

It is fairly rare for cyclists to be refused access to a train with their bike in non-peak hours. However, you should be aware that there are two occasions when the chances of refusal skyrocket:

  • Summer Weekends (and in particular on the Brighton to Ashford International East Coastway line which does not go to London)
  • Following major cycling events in London, Brighton or Kensington Olympia. Big events can mean hundreds or even thousands of cyclists jostling for position on platforms hoping to get home – on days like this, it’s best to leave your bike at home unless you’re taking part in the event.

If you are refused access to the train you should be aware that if you have an open ticket, it can be used on the next available journey (as long as you don’t infringe the terms of the ticket) as long as that journey is not in peak hours.

If, on the other hand, you bought a saver ticket for a specific train – that ticket may now be void and you will not be able to use it for any journey. You’ll have to buy a new ticket if you want to travel on another train. This can be really annoying and expensive – so again, try to check with the station about getting your bike on the train before you commit to buying a ticket with restrictions.

Was £3.49 – Now Only £1.79

Brighton Has A Cycle Hub

You may decide that if you are refused entry for your bike on a train that you want to leave the bike in Brighton and visit London without it. The good news is that Brighton Station is one of Britain’s main cycle hubs and there are many parking spaces for bicycles available at the station.

This service is free though you will need to ensure that you lock your bike up securely as there are no guarantees regarding damage or loss but it is convenient and if you think you might miss out on a day trip to London, it can be the best option on particularly busy days.

In the near future, it is expected that Hove Station will also become a cycle hub as Southern Trains is making an investment in facilities there too.

You can also hire a bike cheaply when you reach London from Santander Bikes (you can pay as little as £2 for 24 hours for one). It won’t be as nice as your bike, but it is something to consider if your alternative is no bike at all.

The First Class Workaround: Expensive And Not Guaranteed

If you are holding a standard class ticket and are refused access to a train, there is one workaround that is almost always effective – pay to upgrade your ticket to first class. Because first class carriages tend to be empty during off peak hours (or at least relatively empty) – you may be able to get your bike in these carriages even if all second class carriages are full.

There may be an on train promotion for the upgrade too or it can work out very expensive. You should check with the a conductor or the guard before you buy the upgrade that your bike will be allowed to travel – otherwise, you might just end up wasting your money as a first class ticket is not a guarantee that your bike can travel.

The Pros And Cons Of Fold-Up Bikes: Guaranteed To Be Allowed On The Train

If you want to guarantee that your bike is allowed on every train in the UK including the Brighton to London service at any time of the day including during peak hours, then you might want to buy a fold-up bike.

Because fold-up bikes can be packed into roughly the same space as a small suitcase, there is no restriction on taking them on any train on which you can fit yourself and the bike.

In fact, technically, you can get a full-sized bike on a train at any time if you dismantle it and put it in a carry case but realistically you can’t do this practically for most train journeys – putting the bike back together even for a seasoned professional would take quite a bit of time and you’d need specialist tools to do so.

However, you should be warned that folding bikes have a few downsides:

  • They’re expensive. It’s fair to say that your average fold up bike is about £500-£1,000 whereas your average non-folding bike is about £125. Convenience comes at a cost.
  • They’re not as good. There are some technical limits on bikes that collapse easily too and that means you can’t buy a folding bike that’s as good as a top of the range non-folding model.
  • They take some practice to assemble and pull apart. You need to spend a day or so familiarizing yourself with this routine before you travel or you’re going to be stuck on a platform for hours trying to work out the proper process. If you work it out at all.

Life is full of trade offs and you’ll need to decide whether buying a fold up bike is a trade off worth making in order to take the train from Brighton to London.

Great Reasons To Take A Bike On The Train From Brighton To London

If you’ve got this far, then you’re going to be committed to taking your bike on the train from Brighton to London and the good news is that it’s worth doing so for a couple of reasons:

  • The London Bike Network. There are over 60 miles of dedicated cycle paths within the city of London. That means that you can cycle in relative safety for much of the time you spend in the city without being unduly concerned by traffic. London is one of the greatest cities in the world and there’s so much to see and do and using a bike means you can zip from one place to the next without spending a fortune on the Underground, on buses or taxis. We can’t imagine someone coming to the UK and them not spending time in London.
  • The London to Brighton cycle. Now, there is an annual organized cycle ride from London to Brighton. It’s organized by the British Heart Foundation and it attracts over 30,000 riders each year to raise money for a good cause. However, it’s not compulsory to wait for this annual event to cycle from London to Brighton. There are plenty of routes you can use to get from the capital to Brighton and they all include beautiful rides, lovely villages and great pubs to stop at along the way. The UK is relatively flat and that means there won’t be many challenging stretches on the way. Be warned though, the worst comes at Ditchling Beacon which is right before you reach Brighton so keep a little power in reserve for it.

Conclusion

How to take a bike on the train from Brighton to London? Turn up at the right time, with a valid ticket and put it on the train (as long as the train’s not too full). That’s the gist of the process though things, as you can see, can also get a bit more complicated too.

It’s very much worth taking a bike on the train from Brighton to London and London is a super place to cycle and the London to Brighton cycle route can be a great way to get home too.

Carlo

Local Tour guide of Brighton and blogger

Recent Posts