Great London bike rides

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The Time Out team road-tests six scenic London cycling routes on behalf of cyclists everywhere. Whether it’s saddles at Sadler’s Wells, downhill all the way at Greenwich, or trundling under the spokes of the London Eye, the niftiest, driftiest, gear-shiftiest way to see the capital is on your bicycle

  • Great London bike rides

    © Jonathan Perugia


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

    High-visibility night ride

    Admire the City’s architecture from empty after-hours streets

    Distance: 5 miles.Route: Bishopsgate, Leadenhall St, St Mary Axe, Cornhill, Threadneedle St, Poultry and Cheapside. Difficulty: Easy – no hills, but watch out for occasional bit of traffic. Highlight: The unexpected contrasts between ancient buildings and new architecture around St Paul’s.Given that’s it’s defined by the tidal flow of suited-and-booted workers, the City at the weekend is enshrouded by a calm both restful and eerie. It’s the ideal time to drink in the stagily magnificent architecture, especially at night, when it’s all aglow and the lack of traffic allows you to pause in front of buildings without dismounting. Once you enter the Square Mile, you can head off in any direction and still get an eyeful of angles, crevices and glittering skyscrapers. The City’s architectural splendours revolve around the two powerhouses of Church and Money. As I’m poised at the top of Brushfield Street, the night sky accentuates the stark beauty of Hawksmoor’s Christ Church, Spitalfields (1), built between 1714 and 1729. Heading along Bishopsgate to Leadenhall Street I take the main artery into the City, and at the corner of Leadenhall and St Mary Axe I find the twentieth-century triumvirate of the Gherkin, Richard Rogers’s Lloyd’s Building and the NatWest Tower (2). Pausing at Rogers’s masterpiece I take in its floodlit spools, curves and coils lit with green and purple uplighters. With a 180-degree turn on the spot I can see Norman Foster’s Gherkin in extreme close-up, its modernity emphasised by the sixteenth-century St Andrews Undershaft church in the foreground. It’s a couple of minutes down the road to Leadenhall Market (3). I weave in and out of its nooks and crannies, which date back to the fourteenth century. The market, rebuilt in 1881, is most famous as Diagon Alley in the film ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’. It strikes me, as I cycle through the City, just how compact it is: a wealth of tiny streets loop back and forth and astride a saddle is the best way to explore them all. Heading down Cornhill, I reach the Royal Exchange at Bank (4). Seen from a bus, it’s easy to skim past the Royal Exchange, but standing on the steps gazing at its Acropolis-like façade, its intent to strike awe into the hearts of menial folk shuffling through the area is clear – it’s the ultimate symbol of wealth and empire.St Paul’s Cathedral (5) completes my tour of London’s symbols of wealth and empire. I spin around on to St Peter’s Hill for the best view of Sir Christopher Wren’s most famous building. Floodlit at night and free of crowds, its majesty is stunning. 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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5 miles. Bishopsgate, Leadenhall St, St Mary Axe, Cornhill, Threadneedle St, Poultry and Cheapside. Easy – no hills, but watch out for occasional bit of traffic. The unexpected contrasts between ancient buildings and new architecture around St Paul’s.Given that’s it’s defined by the tidal flow of suited-and-booted workers, the City at the weekend is enshrouded by a calm both restful and eerie. It’s the ideal time to drink in the stagily magnificent architecture, especially at night, when it’s all aglow and the lack of traffic allows you to pause in front of buildings without dismounting. Once you enter the Square Mile, you can head off in any direction and still get an eyeful of angles, crevices and glittering skyscrapers. The City’s architectural splendours revolve around the two powerhouses of Church and Money. As I’m poised at the top of Brushfield Street, the night sky accentuates the stark beauty of Hawksmoor’s (1), built between 1714 and 1729. Heading along Bishopsgate to Leadenhall Street I take the main artery into the City, and at the corner of Leadenhall and St Mary Axe I find the twentieth-century triumvirate of the Gherkin, Richard Rogers’s Lloyd’s Building and the (2). Pausing at Rogers’s masterpiece I take in its floodlit spools, curves and coils lit with green and purple uplighters. With a 180-degree turn on the spot I can see Norman Foster’s Gherkin in extreme close-up, its modernity emphasised by the sixteenth-century St Andrews Undershaft church in the foreground. It’s a couple of minutes down the road to (3). I weave in and out of its nooks and crannies, which date back to the fourteenth century. The market, rebuilt in 1881, is most famous as Diagon Alley in the film ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’. It strikes me, as I cycle through the City, just how compact it is: a wealth of tiny streets loop back and forth and astride a saddle is the best way to explore them all. Heading down Cornhill, I reach the (4). Seen from a bus, it’s easy to skim past the Royal Exchange, but standing on the steps gazing at its Acropolis-like façade, its intent to strike awe into the hearts of menial folk shuffling through the area is clear – it’s the ultimate symbol of wealth and empire.(5) completes my tour of London’s symbols of wealth and empire. I spin around on to St Peter’s Hill for the best view of Sir Christopher Wren’s most famous building. Floodlit at night and free of crowds, its majesty is stunning. See a Google map of this route After dark | Retail therapy | Riverside City | Ten bridges | Battersea power  East to west

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