Combining bike with bus, train, car, ferry or aeroplane (for the jetsetters amongst us) really is a killer combination. Let's take a 40 mile commute. Now there are a lot of fit cyclists out there that could easily manage that distance in a day, but doing it day in day out in all weathers is going to wear the joy pretty thin. At best you'd be really fit, at worst you'd become a pale, ghostly cycling wraith with no life. However, mixing things up with the train or some other conveyance can still mean you get your bike fix, but in a way which meshes more neatly with human life.
Here are a few case studies to whet your multimodal appetites, all using the same 40 mile door to door commute.
#1 Bike - Train - Bike
Ride 2.5 miles to the station in the city centre, bike and rider jump on cosy train and get an hour's work/paper reading/iPod/people watching done. Jump off train and ride the 3 miles to final destination.
Total journey time - 1hr 30mins. This compares with a car only journey of anywhere between 45 minutes and 3 hours, depending on motorway conditions. Or you could ride the whole distance - it takes 2 ½ hours and takes in some of the worst cycling roads you could wish for.
Weapons of choice: Folding Bike and Train
#2 Bike - Train - Another Bike
Difference here is what you do with the bike, or more accurately, bikes. Requires an initial bit of forward planning. Ride to the station on mangy hack bike (the uglier the better, just make sure it works). Lock up at station. Get on cosy train (without that 'nowhere to put my bike' anxiety). Get off train at other end and collect previously shackled beater bike #2. Ride to destination.
Total journey time - 1hr 30mins.
Weapons of choice: 2 x really cheap MTBS/hybrids/3 speeds plus one train
#3 Bike - Train - Bike - for fit folk
You're probably getting the idea by now. This option is for the faster, fitness oriented rider. Pick a railway station about 10 miles into your journey. Ride in a spirited fashion to the railway station. Hop on train and cool off. Carbo load at the refreshments trolley. Get off the train and pootle into your place of work, smug in the knowledge that you've done your gym session for the day.
Total journey time: approx 1hr 40mins.
Weapons of choice: 1 fast bike + 1 train.
#4 Car - Bike
We're not all psychologically disposed toward train travel and many of us are reluctant to give up our cars. But you can combine things to get the best out of both transport modes. Use car for motorway portion of journey. Find a convenient place to dump the car (make sure you get permission if you're using the same spot all the time. Retail park car parks don't always take kindly to you availing yourself of their facilities). Get the bike out of the boot and ride the city section of your route. This way you can avoid the mind bending 'sitting in gridlock' section of the journey.
Total journey time - about 1hr 15mins, but not as predictable as the bike - train - bike option
Weapons of choice: Folding Bike/Bike (depending on your car's carrying capacity) plus one car. It helps to make the transition from bike to car as slick as possible.
These are just a few of the possible permutations that I've tried and tested on my daily commute and I tend to mix and match them depending on my mood, fitness, weather, time of year and other factors. The multimodal thing is something that you can extend to all sorts of different travel scenarios, not just your commute. What about a multimodal cycle tour? Use the train to get out of the city and tour an area intensively before hopping the train back with your bike and a bucketful of memories. How about a multimodal MTB experience? Find a riding spot close to a railway links - The Pennine Bridleway being a great example, with railway links at Littleborough, Hebden Bridge and other places. As the clicheé goes, the only limit is your imagination.
Why not give it a try yourself and see if you can find more ways to get more cycling into your life?