There's so many good places to go along the east coast and taking a bike with you is a great way of exploring even if you only have a few hours available. Combine this with the excellent 'Hot Cakes' flash sales that Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) have run on some weekends and you have a great recipe for a cheap and enjoyable day trip.
I booked London to York travelling up on the Sunday morning and back on the Sunday evening giving me around 6 hours cycling time in York. The fare was £5 each way in standard class. I decided to upgrade on the train on the return leg which costs £25 from York to London on a weekend. If I had bought first class in the Hot Cakes sale it would only have cost £20 so I advise that on the return leg.
To take your bike on a VTEC train a reservation is compulsory. At the moment the current VTEC booking engine allows you to reserve a bike space when booking. You do this on the 'Seating Preferences' section of the booking process.
You need to click the small link labelled 'bicycle space' to make the option appear.
Select the number of bikes you need to reserve (this can't exceed the number of passengers) and check carefully on the next page to ensure that a space has been reserved. If there's no spaces on one of your legs a warning will appear at the top of the page but if all goes well the journey details box on the right will show a cycle reservation.
Please note that the beta VTEC website does not currently support cycle reservations. If this remains the case when it is launched and the old site discontinued you have the following options:
- Book your VTEC tickets on a site that uses the WebTIS booking engine such as GWR or Transpennine Express
- Make your reservations by VTEC Telesales - 03457 225 225
- If you already have a ticket but no cycle reservation then you can arrange this either over the phone or at a station
Hopefully cycle reservations will be added to the new booking engine before the old one is discontinued.
Once booked you will get two reservation tickets per bike for each leg. One should be attached to your bike and the other you keep yourself.
Boarding the train at Kings Cross is easy as it's the starting point for the trip. If you're on an electric train the guards van is located at the London end of the train (next to first class), but on HST (diesel) trains it's located the other side of the train in a smaller compartment at the end of standard. If you're unsure just ask the platform staff.