London is a beautiful city.
The best bike rides in London include dedicated cycle lanes, impressive architecture, lovely parks and the opportunity to fall deeper in love with London. If you take the tube to get around, you can fall for the misconception that London is a huge city, that sprawls across the whole of south-east England. It is not until you experience the pleasure of cycling in the city that you realise how close everything is.
Cycling in London gives you a unique perspective of the culture and architecture, something you do not get by taking public transport.
London may not have the same cyclist first mentality of European cities such as Copenhagen or Amsterdam… But it does have an extensive network of cycle paths and generally, the roads are safe to cycle on, providing you stick to the rules.
Let’s explore 4 of the best bike rides in London.
1. Oxford Street to Primrose hill and back
Distance: 5 miles
Time: 30 minutes
Perfect for tourists or anyone looking for a beautiful view of Central London
A fine example of just how close everything is in the city. You need to start off on Oxford street, head north towards Regent park. Once you reach the outer circle, that surrounds the park, don’t be alarmed if cyclists swarm you. The outer circle of Regents Park is a popular road for cycling clubs and time trialists as it offers a non-stop smooth tarmac circuit loop (a rarity in central London). But you have no time to race. You have a hill to climb and beautiful views to admire. Before you reach the London Zoo, take Macclesfield bridge on your leftover Regents Canal and turn right. You will see Primrose hill to your left. You can jump off your bike and walk up Primrose Hill when you reach the park, or can carry on cycling and cycle part of the hill on the road that runs alongside Primrose Hill (you are not allowed to cycle in the park, it is difficult enough by foot).
After taking a moment to catch your breath and appreciating the panoramic views, you can take a stroll back down and this time cycle through Regents Park, trying to see what animals you can spot in the zoo.
2. Tower Bridge to Greenwich
Distance: 5 miles
Time: 30 minutes
Another relatively short route that ticks off 2 of London’s most iconic attractions. Starting at Tower Bridge, you follow National Cycle Network Route 4 (blue signs with a little 4 on and a bicycle). This route takes you through narrow streets, with little traffic and some intimate British pubs to stop in for refreshments. You then cycle along the southside of the Thames until you reach the iconic Cutty Sark. You could opt to carry on route 4 if you are looking to get further out of London. But before you do, swing a right and climb up the “gentle incline” (ok it is not gentle, but stick with it, the views are worth it), through Greenwich Park, until you reach the infamous Greenwich observatory. From here you can rest and marvel at the awe-inspiring views of the metropolis that is London.
Alternative route: If you do not fancy another hill finish, instead of heading east cross the river over Tower Bridge (an extraordinary experience by bike) and join Cycle Superhighway 3, heading west, it will take you along the Thames to Big Ben and the House of Parliament on a spacious and safe cycle lane.
3. London Docklands to Walthamstow Wetlands
Distance: 10 miles
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Starting in Greenwich, this route kicks off with a walk down the infamous Greenwich tunnel, not the best if you are claustrophobic, but a worthwhile experience. Once you are out the other side and back in the fresh air on the north of the river, you need to follow National Cycle Network Route 1 arrows. Only the start will be on roads. Once you reach Limehouse, you will be following the canals north.
Keep following the route until you reach Europe’s largest urban wetland reserve, the Walthamstow Marsh Nature Reserve, Walthamstow Wetlands. This nature reserve offers a chance to reconnect with nature and marvel at the diverse wildlife only a stone’s throw (or a bike ride!) from central London.
4. Richmond Park – Just Richmond Park
Distance: 7.5 miles (to loop the park)
Time: 45 mins – 1 hour
If you are looking for a cycling adventure in London that leaves you thinking you are in the countryside, you need to make your way South West to Richmond Park. It offers a truly unique riding experience. Light traffic, smooth tarmac and undulating greenery make Richmond Park a favourite for many cyclists in London. You cannot help but get distracted by the deer and wildlife roaming freely around this unique vista nestled in the middle of an all too often hectic city. Pack a picnic and enjoy London’s largest Park.
Explore London by bike
To miss quote Dr Samuel Johnson
When a person is tired of London, they are tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.
The best bike rides in London allow you to experience London in a unique and liberating way. When people think of cycling in the city, their mind often jumps to the dangers of sharing a road with the black cabbies, impatient uber drivers and big scary double-decker buses. Fortunately, there are plenty of cycling lanes and parks in London, so you do not need to feel anxious about being on the road to explore London by bike.
Enjoy the ride!