Passengers can't take a bikes onto Chinese trains as carry-on luggage, as stipulated by China Railways.
Folding your bike up and putting it into a big box or suitcase sometimes passes the security check and allows you to board the train successfully. However, sometimes your packaged bike may be rejected by staff at the train station as over-size/over-weight luggage.
If so, there are two options to transport your bicycle on a train in China: 1. Consign it at the luggage office of the station. 2. Use China Railway Express's rail delivery service.
Option 1: Consigning Your Bike at the Luggage Office
Not all trains have luggage carriages for consignment of bikes, so you should mention you have a bike when buying your tickets, and the staff will try to book you a train with a luggage carriage (which means a classic ordinary train, not a high-speed train).
China Highlights can buy your train tickets, but cannot handle bike consignment on a train, nor do we know whether a train has a luggage carriage. The only way to find out whether a train has a luggage carriage is to go to the station and ask the staff.
Step 1: Consign the Bike Yourself at the Luggage Office
Once you have your ticket, you need to find the luggage office, which is often hidden around the back of the station somewhere.You need to consign the bike yourself at the luggage office. Even if you book a train with a luggage carriage, it is worth arriving early with your bike as the carriage can become too full.
Consigning your bike on another train: If your train can't transport your bike, you can change train or consign your bike on the next suitable train. China Highlights suggests, if you know in advance that your train can't transport your bike, you consign your bike on an earlier train, so that your bike will be there when you arrive.
Step 2: Bike Consignment Procedure
To consign your bike, you need to sign a form at the luggage office. Most luggage staff cannot speak English, but that is not a problem. Show your ticket and bike to the staff and they will take care of the rest. The transport fee is calculated from the journey distance. After payment you will be given a receipt. Keep it safe.
Step 3: Bike Collection
Use your receipt to claim your bike at your destination's luggage office. Your bike will be stored in the luggage office at the other end for up to 3 days for free. If you collect the bike beyond 3 days, you will have to pay an extra service fee.
Option 2: Use China Railway Express Delivery Service
You can also use China Railway Express (CRE 中铁快运 Zhongtie Kuaiyun), an express delivery company offering rail transport services, with offices next to train stations.
Step 1： Bike Consignment Procedure
Consign your bike at the CRE office one or two days in advance, so that your bike will be there when you arrive. The waybill is in Chinese, so ask the staff to fill it for you. The fee is calculated from the weight and distance transported. After consigning your bike and paying the fee, the staff will give you a copy waybill. Keep this safe.
Step 2： Bike Collection
Pick up your bike at the CRE office at your destination station. Use the copy waybill to claim your bike.
Protecting Your Bicycle Before Consignment
During transportation small bicycle parts might be lost, and handling and other adjacent objects may cause damage to your bike. China Highlights suggests you protect your bike before consignment.
Remove parts that can be easily removed and take them with you, such as lights, bell, seat, and pedals. If you take the pedals or seat, or any other integral part off, point this out to the staff, so they can make a note of this on the luggage ticket, and there is no doubt what was actually transported, e.g. Giant mountain bike minus pedals and seat.
You could wrap the front forks, frame, and seat to avoid scratches.