For the last while me and my bike have been traveling between Manchester Piccadilly and Crewe, Virgin run an hourly service between these two stations using Class 390 Pendolino Stock, with most of the sets being brought into service between 2001 and 2004 (a latter set were made between 2009 and 2012).

However as you would expect from a modern rolling stock design they had ample room for people, luggage, and bikes…

… Ah bikes, lets have a look at taking a bike by a Virgin Train…

Before you even get to the train, remember that Virgin when commissioning the rolling stock found some one who hates the idea of cyclists to design it:

Seating Plan - Pendolino

Seating Plan… Spot the Cycle spaces…

According to Wikipedia the 9 and 11 car sets have 294, and 444 standard class seats respectively, and 145 first class seats, but don’t worry they have only provided about 1% of those travellers with room for a bike (and a long walk if you’re in first class) by provisioning 4 (or two tandems) space to travel in the standard class quiet carriage, however the fun has not started yet…

Taking your bike with you?

Taking your bike with you?

Yes it may be free to take your bike with you, but you have to remember to reserve a space on the train for it, in person the process takes an age as they print of a small forest of paper tickets (2 per leg of the journey) from a badly designed system. However you can also make reservations over the phone by calling 0871 977 4222 (Calls to this number cost 10p per minute from a BT landline. Costs from other networks may vary) 01709 849363 seems to be the ticket sales / bike reservation phone line, with 0121 654 7502 as another one for Virgin Trains.

So now armed with your forest of paper, having walked to the correct end of the train, the train is pulling into the platform, and the dispatch staff are no where to be seen…

This is the door they expect you to load your bike via, spot anything missing?

This is the door they expect you to load your bike via, spot anything missing?

Spot anything missing / odd about this automatic door? Ah yes, it has no button, only a “Square Key” (or a carriage key if you’re old enough to remember what BR called them) hole, so your first challenge is finding a member of Virgin Train/Platform staff interested enough in letting you onto the train (trust me sometimes it looks like they are waiting till the train is about to disappear before they show up).

Looking lonely in the highly sort after must be reserved, once in a lifetime cycle space

Looking lonely in the highly sort after must be reserved, once in a lifetime cycle space

Oh and now you are finaly on the train, you have to find the Train Manager to let you off:

Long Walk again…

Long Walk again… luckily the person who lets you on usually asks where you are going.

So there we have it, the correct way to take a bike on a Virgin Train

Seating Plan - Voyager

Seating Plan for a Super-voyager, note that these trains can also carry four bikes (no tandems) however they trust you to use the door on your own.