My girlfriend and I are going to be getting in to Valencia (from Lisbon) in a week or so, and are going to be trying to figure out how to get our bikes on a train to Barcelona, then France.
I'm looking for a relatively up to date guide for what can go on what trains in what kind of container. I see a lot of articles referencing timetables i can't find, or assuring me of things that the train companies seem to contradict.
Does something like this exist? I'm not opposed to waiting until we get there to ask, except that some things say you need special bike bags (can we just use tarps? ) which we haven't had luck finding a bike shops and would probably have to order online ahead of time.
there's not an english version of this page. Just a mention here: http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/info/index.html
if you have any problems with the translation or any questions about it I will happily answer you.
In France you will have almost no problem (I use trains there with the bike and a trailer). Just if you use TGV, that you have to make a reservation (not sure about that, but at least it was like that few years ago)
I did a similar trip last year, as long as you stay on the Media Distancia MD or Cercanías or Rodalies de Catalunya you can bring your bike unboxed. I travelled plenty with my bike in Spain (mainly by MD), no problems at all.
France is OK as long as you stick with TER, There is a beautiful site that helps you plan your trip, obviously it's in French and organized per region, but I would expect nothing else.
Here is what I wrote about the experience on my blog, and there are also some pictures of the TER trains.
You can expect to do some heavy lifting unless you get the new trains (MD and TER), so if you board the train at an intermediate station you must be quick and organized or the train will leave with either you, bags or bike on the platform.
This site may be helpful http://www.seat61.com/index.html