This article was published in 1999, in Newsletter 26.
Rebecca Lack recently used the European Bike Express and returned rested and ready to ride home.
John got himself a good deal to Nice with a budget airline. On arrival he planned to cycle to Aix en Provence and spend a week touring in the area. When he arrived at the French airport he was plagued with punctures. He tried the train, but found new regulations meant he needed to put his bike in a bag before they would let him embark. John did make it to his destination, but spent half a day looking for a bike bag and another half day taking the train to Nice before sleeping at the airport before he got his flight.
I was luckier. I also took around 24 hours to get home with my bike, but was treated as a valued customer rather than an annoyance and slept in the company of other cyclists in a luxury coach which sped through the night to Calais. The difference was that I had heard of European Bike Express (EBE). This coach service starts in Middlesbrough and picks up cyclists bound for the Continent. You are transported in specially adapted coaches with enough leg room for a giraffe, fully reclining seats, a hostess, and videos to while away the hours.
Bikes and the luggage you don’t need during the journey are carried in a trailer and loaded and unloaded for you with care and with a smile. Once over the Channel you have a choice of myriad drop off and return pickup points on four routes. The EBE gets you to France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. And you don’t have to return from the place you got off. Tandems and trailers are welcome, and oversize bikes built for even the tallest of riders aren’t a problem. Only recumbents can’t be carried. Return fares start from £144 with discounts for members of the CTC (Cyclists’ Touring Club). One ways cost around £99.
EBE started when John Robinson wanted to fill the spare seats on the cycling breaks of his company Bolero International Holidays; heard friends repeatedly expressing the difficulties of taking their bikes to Europe; and saw a trailer in the Netherlands carrying cycles. It has been operating for around five years and, unsurprisingly, the EBE repeat booking rate is high – 60 per cent.
For people from the Cambridge area there are several likely pickup/drop off points including: M1 Northampton; M25 South Mimms, or even Thurrock. Car parking is available at many points.
But what of your souvenirs? John Robinson says, ‘For our EBE customers, whatever they can carry on their bikes, we can carry on the coach. Though there isn’t always room on the coach for crates of wine and beer.’ So plan a trip somewhere warm, keep your belongings to a minimum and fill your panniers with goodies on the return journey. In fact, there was even space in the onboard fridge to chill our bottle of French white…
For more information…
Check out the EBE website firstname.lastname@example.org (01642) 251440, 31 Baker Street, Middlesbrough TS1 2LF
Things to take on board…
- A sleeping bag or blanket – it gets quite chilly at night
- Wet wipes to freshen up with or clean your hands before or after eating
- Snacks and drinks – although microwave food of the TV dinner type and instant coffee are available
- English money – if you want refreshments you have to pay in pounds and pence
- A notepad for jotting down contact details and tips from fellow passengers (all cyclists of course)