London's best bike ride and brunch combos
You can't beat a bike ride followed by a hard-earned brunch. Here, Claire Mason highlights her pick of London rides (that are better done together)...
1. Best for culture lovers - Museum to Museum (approx 5 miles)
Start: National Gallery, Trafalgar Square
Santander bike pickup: Pall Mall East docking station
Finish: The Design Museum, Kensington
Brunch: Snaps and Rye – A delicious Danish cafe where you can enjoy home-cured Var salmon, Nordic yoghurt or some hog's pudding with bloody Viking ketchup.
Begin the morning with a meander around the National Gallery, perusing the current exhibition of Australia’s greatest impressionists. Then hop on the bikes and make your way down the Mall, enjoying the awesome view with St James's Park to the left and Buckingham Palace dead ahead.
There is a cycle path that runs parallel to the road. Follow it past Buckingham Palace to the right and up to Wellington Arch. Pass under the arch and cross into Hyde Park. Head north and take a loop around the park anticlockwise, taking in the scenery.
This route takes you past one of the city’s secret curiosities - The Pet Cemetery - which is a strange place where hundreds of furry companions were buried between 1881 and 1915. You can’t go in without an appointment but you can peek through the fence to read the inscriptions.
From there, follow West Carriage Drive over the Serpentine and then head west out of the park past Kensington Palace to join Kensington High Street. Make sure you don’t miss the turning to the right down Holland Walk which leads you straight to Kyoto Garden. The garden is a little pocket of calm in the city transporting you to Japan, complete with tiered waterfalls, Koi Carp and stone lanterns.
Finish the ride at the newly revamped Design Museum and explore the innovative installations dedicated to architecture, fashion, furniture, product and graphic design.
For a banging nearby brunch spot (13 min cycle north past Ladbroke Grove), I would recommend Snaps and Rye – a seriously delicious Danish cafe.
2. Best for canalside cruising (approx 5.5 miles)
Start: Angel, Islington
Santander bike pickup: Available next to the Canal on Graham St.
Finish: Lee Valley, E20 3AB
Join the canal by taking a left out of the station, then left again onto Pentonville Road, then one more left onto Duncan Terrace. Turn right onto Gerard St and then keep going east until you hit Dame Street where you’ll take a right and join the canal. Once on the cycle path, make sure you go slowly so that you can really enjoy the towpath views, including the narrow boats, gas works and traditional locks. You’ll also need to avoid all the dog walkers and Sunday strollers!
Stop for coffee at the ultra-hip Climpson and Sons on Broadway Market and take a detour around Victoria Park if you fancy making your ride a little longer. Keep heading along the canal past the park and under the A-road till you reach a bridge over the canal, take the bridge and then turn left onto another bridge over the River Lea.
Lee Valley is a large sprawling parkland that stretches 26 miles all the way up to Essex along the river. This more southern section is now the Olympic Park, an interesting place to explore with its array of unique architectural structures all set in parkland. On Saturday mornings at 11am there is a guided tour of the park taking in the Olympic village, the Aquatics Centre, the Velopark and the Orbit Tower - which is now the world’s longest tunnel slide.
For brunchington, there are two excellent places to stop for brunch along the canal path. The first is the Towpath Cafe located near Whitmore bridge. The prices are really reasonable and the coffee is decent. The second is Bistrotheque (located just off the canal shortly before you hit Victoria Park), with a delicious brunch menu and a very extensive brunch cocktail list.
3. Escape the city (approx 12 miles - not including the loop of Richmond Park)
Start: Hampton Court train station
Finish: Putney High Street
This ride is part of Sustrans National Route 4 and winds along the river and through some of the most scenic parks in London. Once you have left the station check out Hampton Court Palace - Henry VIII’s favourite palace. From there you can choose to follow the Thames or cycle around and explore Bushy Park.
Whichever way you go, leave the park via Hampton Wick War memorial and cycle over Kingston Bridge. Continue north through the park following the Thames and past the rowing club. Turn right leaving the river at Teddington Lock and continue on Lock Road until you reach Ham Common. Shortly afterwards you will enter Richmond Park through Ham Gate.
Once in the park, there is a short but steep hill, but then you have a brilliantly vast area to cycle around and explore. The Tamsin Trail is a popular cycling loop of the park (7.5 miles in total). It is almost entirely car free, but make sure you keep an eye out for the deer.
At this point, if you are in need of some sustenance, Pembroke Lodge cafe offers decent food and, although it is not the cheapest, it does have a lovely patio with nice views.
Leave the park through Roehampton gate and follow Priory Lane past Barnes common and train station and follow the Route 4 cycle path through Barnes Green, around Putney Lower Common, turning right on Queen Elizabeth Walk until you reach the Thames. As you cycle to the river, on your left is the London Wetland Centre, so there should be lots of wildlife to observe, especially birds. Once you hit the Thames turn right again onto the embankment and cycle along the river until you reach Putney Bridge.
Claire Mason is a cycle tourer and co-creator of the Cycling Travel Journal: an eco-friendly journal filled with everything you need to help you plan, record and inspire your bike rides.