Great London bike rides

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  • After dark | Retail therapy | Riverside City | Ten bridges | Battersea power  East to west

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    Take-it-to-the-bridge ride

    A scenic zigzag across central London’s bridges from east to west offers some of the best Thames views in existence

    Distance: 10 miles. Bridges crossed: Tower, London, Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster, Lambeth, Vauxhall, Chelsea, Albert.
    Difficulty:
    Medium – it’s a traffic-heavy route so not one for novices. Highlight: At dusk, the Albert Bridge illuminating.London is at its most dramatic when seen from the river, and, short of cycling up the middle of the Thames, this ride offers the most scenic views of all, with kaleidoscopic vistas that slide from east to west. While Greater London has 30 bridges over the Thames, it’s the ones between Battersea and Tower that count as the bridges of London town proper. I kickstart my ride on the north side of Tower Bridge (1), and cross it with the minor thrill of falling prey to a century-old custom as the bridge opens to allow a tall ship to sail through. Setting off west through Bermondsey, the Gherkin, NatWest Tower and Tower of London appear as tight cluster, making a pleasing contrast with the near-spherical GLA building (2). Though unremarkable in terms of architecture, London Bridge (3) is the one with the iconic panorama of Tower Bridge, St Paul’s and Tate Modern. I cross it, then zigzag back over Southwark Bridge (4), to find myself back on the South Bank. I could walk my bike over the Millennium Bridge, but the ride along the riverfront is scenic (if cluttered with tourists), so I do that. Crossing Westminster feels like cycling through London’s epicentre, complete with the city’s signature smell of hot dogs and caramelised nuts. One of the ride’s best stretches, I get to put my bike through its paces as I head down behind St Thomas’ Hospital (5) and cycle down the riverside walk with its sniper’s view of the House of Commons. On Lambeth Bridge (6), I pause for the splendid view over the House of Lords – the bridge is painted red to match the seats inside – then it’s on to Millbank. I stream down here to Tate Britain (7), which makes a good pitstop at the western end, before crossing Vauxhall Bridge (8). Other than a view of the MI6 building, this is the least redeeming part of the ride. Since you can’t ride close to the water, I have to pick my way through traffic-clogged Vauxhall streets until I reach Chelsea Bridge (9). At least a detour into Battersea Park sweetens the approach to my penultimate river crossing and revives my spirits. I enjoy the lush views over Albert Bridge and Battersea Park, all weeping willows and fig trees dipping in to the water. London’s original suspension bridge, the Albert Bridge (10), dominates the end of the ride. As dusk falls, the crisscrossing lights on the Albert Bridge bring my ride to a fitting, fairy-tale conclusion. Fiona McAuslan

    See a Google map of this route

    After dark | Retail therapy | Riverside City | Ten bridges | Battersea power  East to west

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After dark | Retail therapy | Riverside City | Ten bridges | Battersea power  East to west 10 miles. Tower, London, Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster, Lambeth, Vauxhall, Chelsea, Albert. Medium – it’s a traffic-heavy route so not one for novices. At dusk, the Albert Bridge illuminating.London is at its most dramatic when seen from the river, and, short of cycling up the middle of the Thames, this ride offers the most scenic views of all, with kaleidoscopic vistas that slide from east to west. While Greater London has 30 bridges over the Thames, it’s the ones between Battersea and Tower that count as the bridges of London town proper. I kickstart my ride on the north side of (1), and cross it with the minor thrill of falling prey to a century-old custom as the bridge opens to allow a tall ship to sail through. Setting off west through Bermondsey, the Gherkin, NatWest Tower and Tower of London appear as tight cluster, making a pleasing contrast with the near-spherical (2). Though unremarkable in terms of architecture, (3) is the one with the iconic panorama of Tower Bridge, St Paul’s and Tate Modern. I cross it, then zigzag back over (4), to find myself back on the South Bank. I could walk my bike over the Millennium Bridge, but the ride along the riverfront is scenic (if cluttered with tourists), so I do that. Crossing Westminster feels like cycling through London’s epicentre, complete with the city’s signature smell of hot dogs and caramelised nuts. One of the ride’s best stretches, I get to put my bike through its paces as I head down behind (5) and cycle down the riverside walk with its sniper’s view of the House of Commons. On (6), I pause for the splendid view over the House of Lords – the bridge is painted red to match the seats inside – then it’s on to Millbank. I stream down here to (7), which makes a good pitstop at the western end, before crossing (8). Other than a view of the MI6 building, this is the least redeeming part of the ride. Since you can’t ride close to the water, I have to pick my way through traffic-clogged Vauxhall streets until I reach (9). At least a detour into Battersea Park sweetens the approach to my penultimate river crossing and revives my spirits. I enjoy the lush views over Albert Bridge and Battersea Park, all weeping willows and fig trees dipping in to the water. London’s original suspension bridge, the (10), dominates the end of the ride. As dusk falls, the crisscrossing lights on the Albert Bridge bring my ride to a fitting, fairy-tale conclusion.
See a Google map of this route

After dark | Retail therapy | Riverside City | Ten bridges | Battersea power  East to west

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