UPDATED OCT 31, 2019
When was the last time you explored the city on two wheels? If you have to think about it, it has been too long. No worries. We’ve mapped out London’s best trails and cycleways.
This Central London (Westminster Bridge) to Box Hill stretch was part of the 2012 Olympic road cycling route — needless to say, she’s a tough one. If at the end of the more than 20-mile ride you’ve still got gas in the tank, tackle Box Hill. No matter how far you make it, we suggest a calm day with no wind for this one, as it’s 125m over 1.5 miles — you will, in fact, feel the burn.
Keep it short and scenic on South London’s Wandle Trail. Starting at Wandsworth Town railway station, the 12-mile trail follows the twists and turns of the Wandle River, covering parks, wetlands, and a nature reserve. It’s mostly flat, so it's great for all skill levels. Fitt Tip: You can pick up a Santander Cycle from a number of docking stations in Wandsworth, but you’ll need to loop back to dock it, as there is no docking station further south. But hey, more miles!
What makes this trail ideal is that it features around 20 miles of traffic-free cycling, with London’s greatest sights in-between. Starting in Greenwich on the banks of the Thames, follow National Cycle Route 1 all the way to Gravesend (via Dartford). And because you don't have to worry about cars, you’ll be available to catch the stunning views of Canary Wharf, the Millennium Dome, and more.
The Thames Path covers 184 miles of UK soil, but with a lot of it being “pedestrian-only”, expect to be in and out of the saddle throughout the ride. However, the sections between Weybridge and Hampton Court (5.8 miles) or Hampton Court to Putney (National Cycle Route 4) are a great move if you want uninterrupted cycling with great views of the Thames along the way.
London’s East-West Cycle Superhighway from Tower Hill to Lancaster Gate is THE route to explore London’s Royal Parks and main attractions. The superhighway was designed to make getting across London easier for cyclists (oh, and horses, who have their own lane in some areas), so check out whether you can use it for your commute. You might find yourself zooming through St James’s, Hyde, or Regent’s Park on your way to work!
Rally the crew and head southwest to roam around Battersea Park, one of London’s more popular riverside spaces. Lap around the park as many times as you like—with one loop being 1.7 miles—or take the cycle trail running through the northern end of the park. Don’t forget: Battersea Park has a small zoo and a boating lake, so you can really make a day out of this one.
The Tamsin Trail, looping around South West London’s Richmond Park, is one of the more popular tracks around. Whether you’re a Lycra-wearing speedster or a weekend cruiser, you’ll appreciate the acres of greenery, off-road tracks, historic buildings, and wildlife (in particular, the herds of free-roaming deer). You’re looking at 7.5 miles of relatively flat trail… with plenty of chances to stop for ice cream.
If you’ve got a spare day and a whole lotta energy, tackle the London to Brighton slog. A breezy 55 miles after starting your ride and you’ll be at the seafront breathing in salty air. The ride is flat most of the way, with the last few miles being completely downhill. Plus, there’s plenty of opportunities to stop and recharge with villages full of coffee shops along the way.
If you prefer to get some speed going and not faff about with directions, race your way around the outer circle of one of London’s most admired parks. There are few traffic lights to slow you down, and there are even parts that are car-free (still, be safe!). A quick 2.5-mile loop will have you back to the start, where you can go again!
We’d highly recommend exploring London by following these waterways. The Regent’s Canal and Hertford Union Canal link up with the River Thames and the Lee, respectively. You’ll pass communities of narrowboats on the canals, and there are plenty of cafés and bars on the Regent’s Canal path between Islington and Victoria Park. And although a little detached from London’s hustle and bustle, you shouldn’t expect the canals to be quiet. With walkers, tourists, and other cyclists everywhere you look, it’s a cycle track to take at a slow pace lest someone, hopefully not you, end up in the water!
The River Lea (26 miles long) meanders through the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Hackney Marshes; follow it for as long as you like, or make your way through the other tracks in Lee Valley. You could make a day of it, too — take to the facilities at Lee Valley for tennis, boating, and even whitewater rafting. Fitt Tip: You can hire bikes of all sizes at Lee Valley.
You'll find swimming ponds and sweeping views of London when riding in Hampstead Heath. The London Overground provides bicycle-friendly access to this North London estate. Although there are tempting shops and pubs just outside Hampstead Heath Station, you should really save food for after the ride as there are a few challenging hills in the park. Some tracks are pedestrian-only, and you'll need to keep the speed down in certain areas, but when you’re surrounded by nature and out of Central London, why rush?