London cycle paths: Thames and beyond

Man cycling on a green bike with Tower Bridge in background.
Cycling in London is a great alternative to public transport. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Ride along the banks of the river Thames or explore the city on two wheels as part of an organised tour. Discover London's unmissable cycling routes with our essential guide.

The banks of London's river Thames offer long stretches of traffic-free cycling. Most of London's Thames-side cycle route is on the Thames Path National Trail. This path is one of the 19 designated national trails in the UK. It runs from the source of the Thames in the Cotswolds to the Thames Barrier at Greenwich.

Cycling restrictions: Be aware that some sections of the Thames Path have public footpath status. This excludes cyclists from riding there unless they have permission from the landowner. Cycling on a public footpath without permission is trespass.

Other waterside bike routes in London

  • The Thames Cultural Cycling Tour is a 27km route that takes in a lot of London's maritime history. Read about and download a map for the Thames Cultural Cycling Tour here.
  • There are a number of other options for waterside cycling in London. There are miles of canal north of the Thames. Cycling is allowed along these stretches, but some sections require a permit. Check the Canal & River Trust website
  • There are also long routes along two tributaries of the Thames. In the north-east is the Lee Valley, offering 26 miles (42km) of traffic-free cycling. For more information visit the Lee Valley Park website.
  • In the south-west is the once heavily industrialised river Wandle. The largely traffic-free route running alongside the river links Wandsworth, Merton, Croydon and Sutton. For more information see Merton Council's Wandle Trail page

London cycling essentials

  • A helmet is essential wherever you cycle but especially on some of the more uneven river and canalside surfaces.
  • A bell is very useful as cyclists often share paths with pedestrians.
  • You should use lights and reflective clothing if cycling after dark.
  • Always make sure that the bicycle is in good condition with working brakes and good tyres. 

London bike tours and cycle hire

Organised cycling tours are available to suit all levels. For the serious cyclist, Audax UK lists major rides of around 100km all over the UK. There are a few London-based rides during the year.

You can rent a bike using London's public cycle hire scheme, or find a number of outlets on the London Cycling Campaign website. This is also a very useful resource for cycle routes.

For more about bike riding in London, read our cycling page in our traveller information section.