As we had limited time on our Chinese visa, and with winter fast approaching in the north, we decided to catch a train south to Chengdu, taking in a few sights along the way, before getting back on our bikes.
We had been advised to arrive at the train station at least two hours before our train to get through security and put our bikes on the train. We arrived at the train station early in the morning, before it had even opened, but we needed the time.
Chinese train stations have tighter security than most airports. Our bags were scanned at least three times, and our tickets more than five times. We had to take the bikes to the baggage department, where they would be sent on the next available baggage car, not necessarily on our train. We were a little nervous about parting with our bikes, but handed them over and headed to board our train.
We later discovered that luggage can be sent ahead to any station, so, to avoid going through the same procedure at every station, we sent our bikes on to Chengdu where they would be held for three days for free, and only 30p a day after that.
Another amazing discovery we made after missing one of our connections is that you can very easily change a ticket, even after the train has gone without you. Just go to the transfer office and give them your tickets, then book onto any other train. We even got some money back as the new tickets were slightly cheaper.