London by Bike: cycle routes

Time Out's staff show you the best cycling rides in the capital

We sent out five of our most adventurous writers to explore all corners of London and recommend the best routes for you to discover on a bike. You can tackle each route in full or simply select a section of the journey to try for yourself. Where possible, our writers have highlighted the nearest Barclays docking station where you can pick up and drop off your bike, but for a clearer view of all Barclays docking stations, check out this map. Remember to bear in mind the price of hiring a Barclays bike before embarking on your cycling route.

Choose your routeCentral l North l South l East l West

The route in detail

Battersea Power Station Battersea Power Station - © Andreas Schmidt

This is one of the most pleasant bike rides in London. It’s certainly the most pastoral, taking you through the leafy southwest suburbs, where many of the loveliest green spaces are found, including Kew Gardens and Richmond Park. Also, as the ride hugs the Thames, it’s a great way to see the riverbank and 20 of London’s bridges.

This ride is 19 and a bit miles, so allow a full day and take a picnic or lunch money. If you’re feeling fit, return to London via Richmond Park and clock up 35-plus miles, all told.

Start at the Barclays Cycle Hire docking station in Claverton Street, Pimlico. From here use the blue-painted bike path on the embankment – Grosvenor Road, aka the A3212 – the only significant stretch of main road you’ll need to negotiate today.

Keep heading west, crossing the bridges via the pedestrian crossings. Note Chelsea Physic Garden and Tate Britain on your right and, looking across the Thames, Battersea Power Station (1) on your left.

From Lupus Street you are on Sustrans National Cycle Route No 4 and can cycle on the embankment proper, sharing the wide, flagged pavement with pedestrians. You’re in Chelsea, one of London’s smartest neighbourhoods, and this section of the ride feels as grandly genteel as anywhere along the Seine in Paris. Look out for David Wynne’s ‘Boy with a Dolphin’ statue (2) near Albert Bridge.

Pass Chelsea, Albert, Battersea and Wandsworth bridges. At Lots Road you will be sharing the road with traffic again, winding through Chelsea Harbour, via a left into Chelsea Harbour Drive and a right into Harbour Avenue. Pass under the Imperial Wharf overground station, take a right into Bagleys Lane, a left into Elswick Street and continue into Stephendale Road, which becomes Hugon Road. Next, take Sullivan Road, your first left, to Broomhouse Road, where you turn right and then hang a left into Hurlingham Road – you are doing these zigzags as you skirt the exclusive Hurlingham sports club.

Turn left into Napier Avenue, right into Ranelagh Gardens and following the busy – with buses – loop of Fulham High Street and Gonville Street, you can now cross the river using Putney Bridge. Ride along the embankment for 300 metres until the road segues into a path bearing right.

Congratulations! You can turn off the navigating side of your brain as you follow the Thames Path on the south bank – a combination of unpaved track, roughly paved footpath and occasional flagged areas near conurbations – for the rest of the ride. If you are using a Barclays bike, please be aware of the docking station locations. You may want to plan a return to Pimlico or cross Hammersmith bridge and find a location in Shepherd's Bush or Earl's Court.

Sights to look out for, as well as Hammersmith and Chiswick bridges, are Craven Cottage (3), the home of Fulham Football Club (on the north bank), and the former Harrods Depository, a neoclassical masterpiece, now a residential block called Harrods Village (on the south bank).

Orange Pekoe Orange Pekoe - © Michael Franke

Stop for tea or lunch at the Orange Pekoe teashop (4), reached via a little ginnel on the left, leading to a street called The Terrace, in Barnes.

An alternative is to continue all the way to Richmond – the White Cross is a decent pub for beers, wines and bar meals.

At Ham, look out for Ham House (5) and Eel Pie Island (6), a once legendary jazz and blues venue. Shortly after the island is Teddington Lock (in fact, three locks), marking the end of the tidal Thames, where you rejoin cycle route 4.

Enjoy cycling under bowers and along leafy lanes all the way to Kingston Bridge. If you want to do a circular ride, go via Kingston town centre and follow the back roads to the left of the A308 up to Richmond Park. Enter at Kingston Gate on Queens Road and leave via Sheen Gate, from where you can make a quick dash through Mortlake to the riverside path all the way back to Pimlico.

Otherwise, follow the signs for Kingston rail station. There are frequent trains back to Vauxhall and Waterloo – and docking stations at both termini.

Ridden by Chris Moss