If you want to take your bike on the train, it can get pretty complicated, especially if you travel abroad: You need to check which trains actually take bikes (you often need to reserve a bike ticket for intercity trains or the train company says they take you, if there is space left). You need to get a bike ticket and it is often very difficult to find out what it costs beforehand. Basically, it can be a lot of hassle.
When I was looking for better options, I found bike bags. There are strengthened bike bags for planes and soft and light ones for transporting your bike in a train or car. In Switzerland, the train company SBB refers to TranZbag (and sells it).
TranZbag is a small Swiss company that was founded in 1996 and says that it is the first producer of bike bags in series. TranZbag kindly provided me with a TranZbag PRO for testing and reviewing.
Packed, the bag is a little smaller than A4 (20x18x9cm) – above you see it on piece of A4 paper:
The bag costs 159 CHF (quite a lot for a bit of plastic) and can carry bikes with the sizes 26″ to 29. There are three versions:
- The Pro bag (which weighs 550g),
- the ORIGINAL bag (880g),
- the ROAD bag (325g) for 28″ bikes (racing bikes).
With a bike in it, the PRO has the size 180 cm x 100 cm x 23 cm, which can look like this:
I packed my 29+ Surly ECR for my trip Zurich (CH) to Massa (IT) and had to put it where the seats are (see pic – which is not really allowed).
We have inquired with the company where and under which conditions the bag is being produced. We will add this information as soon as we have it.
Does it work? What are the pros and cons?
What is my experience?
- The bag with the bike works fine as (large) luggage. So you can take your bike into every train, as long as the train crew is supportive (conductors are allowed NOT to transport your luggage, if they think it does not fit).
- Zurich (CH) – Massa (IT) was a 7-8 hours trip with a train change in Milano and one in Genova. I took one train earlier in ZH to not miss my booked train in Milano because I was afraid that the train crew might not take me. In Switzerland everything went smoothly – the train was very empty. I am not sure how this would have worked on a packed EC (I will report).
- Zurich – Scuol: I packed it without taking off the front wheel. First IC no problem; second train with a bike compartment and lots of space the conductor said that packing it that way was unfair vs. people who paid 14 CHF for the day ticket. The last 30 minutes I had to take a bus. I took off the bag because with bag you cannot put it to the hangers on the back of the bus; the busdriver wanted to sell a 14 CHF ticket, but I complained and only paid 5 CHF normal bus fare). On the way back I just paid my 14 CHF. This was very easy ;-).
- Unpacking the bike is quite easy. Packing it takes a few minutes (and ideally some help). If you have to change trains often, it can get a hassle, especially if you have to carry bag and your bikepacking bags extra.
- In the Italian IC put the bike into the aisle, which seemed ok. However, the conductor told me that my packed bike was too large and blocking the way (actually, it did not). I met another guy from Switzerland in the same train, who even took off both wheels and had a really small bag. She told him the same. Luckily, we could put the bike into some small package compartment. Without this, she might have thrown us from the train.
- On my way back, I rebooked my ride and took a regional express, which took 1 hour longer, but I thought it was worth while the reduced stress. In regional trains, you can take your bike without a bag and it costs almost nothing (Massa-Milano 3 Euros). But keep away from commuting times.
- I also used the bag for a trip in a regional train in Switzerland. This was very easy and saved me 14 CHF.
- You can save money with the bag. In Switzerland you need to use the bag on 12 train trips (day ticket costs 14 CHF) to reinvest the bag.
- The bag saves you the hassle of buying a bike ticket (which can get complicated, especially on an international trip). And you can theoretically use any train in which you can take large luggage (which sometimes do not take bikes).
- I used the bag as a tent footprint and once as a biwi (not waterproof), so it saved me buying a footprint.
- The bag adds to your weight and luggage. When you plan on really light bikepacking, this might not be a good option because it really needs some space.
- It takes some time to pack the bike into the bag – especially if you take off the front wheel off and if you need need to take off all bikepacking bags. I tested it twice without taking the wheel off. In one train no one complained. In the other train the conductor said, I should take off the wheel.
- The bag breaks rather easily (as it has light material). On my first trip, it tore wholes through my fork and my pedals.
When it is easy to transport your bike on a train (which is the case in all regional train in CH and in many ICs), I was asking myself: Do I really want to save CHF 14 and go through the hassle and take the front wheel off, take all bags off and pack my bike up – plus having 500g more luggage?
Is it worth while to buy such a bag? Well, it really depends what you want to do with it, how often you do trips and whether you think it is worth while to save CHF 14 / CHF 28.
There is also a lighter and smaller bag for racing bikes – and I think this has less of the above mentioned cons.
Borrow TransZbag via GET CHANGED!
If you want to test the bag – or if you think that buying it won’t be worth it, you can borrow it from us (in Zurich) via Sharley.
And please tell me about your experience with the bag, especially abroad (where it might be more necessary to have it).