Day 0. Utrecht to The Sleeper Train.
Distance Cycled 5km. Average not known.
We're packed up and ready to go. Our bikes were feeling very heavy as we wheeled them out of the garage. After the usual pfaffing about the garage door was shut and locked as was the front door. Then off into town to the station.
We were (and still are) not sure what is the official way to get into and out of Utrecht Centraal with a bike. Our current preferred method is to cycle up the ramp to the taxi rank (cycling down it when leaving the station). Carefully wheeling the bikes between the bollards by the sliding doors we entered the station concourse.
At first we were a bit confused as our travel documents gave one time but the only likely train left a minute of two earlier. Damae checked with the information desk to discover that this was indeed the correct train. We walked around to the lift and then one by one (most of the lifts at the station have room for only one bike) down to the platform.
We waited in the sunshine for a while, not sure where the bike compartment was going to be. On some of the platforms in Utrecht where international trains leave from there is a information board with details of the train and where you will find which carriage. We could not find one for our train to Duisburg despite a few attempts.
On asking a member of staff on the platform where the compartment was we were told that it would either be at the front or the back of the train. Hmmmmm thanks but we knew that already! We gambled on it being at the front of the train, and wandered up the platform to find a couple of other cyclists waiting.
When the train arrived we were glad to see it had a roomy bike compartment with large opening doors. We put the bikes in with panniers on, and realised immediately that we were going to have to take the bags off to be able to stow the bikes. This was the first example of the advantages of our new Ortlieb bags as it took around fifteen seconds to get them all off.
The arrangement for the bikes was to hang them from the front wheel from a hook about two metres off the floor of the carriage. We found the two hooks for our bikes (clearly numbered) and in turn lifted them up and hung them. Although there was room to hang the bikes with panniers on this is not something you'd want to do to your front wheel.
We chatted for a short while to a couple who had joined the train in Amsterdam, about bikes and our respective trips. We then moved from the compartment to our seats a carriage away with all our bags. The seats were reclining for night journeys so for us it was interesting to see how comfortable they were. Not bad, certainly more spacious than a standard seat, although I am not sure if I'd sleep much on them.
A couple of hours later we arrived in Duisberg. Getting to our platform was easy if a little slow. The lifts to and from the platforms were again just big enough for one bike, and in demand as well by people with prams and large suitcases. We had plenty of time so it didn't matter too much.