Exploring the Thames on The Bike

Easter holiday was the ideal time for me to work towards my April cycling goal. One of my favourite ways to build up the distance is to explore the Thames on the bike.

Eploring the south side of the Thames path on the bike towards Richmond
The path on the south bank towards Richmond

I want to share those routes with you today. The routes are not challenging as they are mostly flat and therefore ideal for longer rides even for beginners. Or if you prefer, you can do it in shorter sections. They are also great when you want to get away from the traffic as you can ride along the Thames path.

Battersea to Thames Barrier

This first route takes you to the Thames Barrier on the south side of the river and then back towards Central London on the north side via the Greenwich foot tunnel. A tunnel I didn’t even know existed until a week ago! And was childishly excited to try. And then realised it wasn’t really that exciting, except that it goes under the Thames.

I headed out from Battersea, but really you can jump on the route at any point. I won’t describe the twists and turns in detail since you can see it for yourself from the map. Instead, I will highlight my favourite moments along the route, which includes some great looking old pubs that I haven’t had the pleasure to visit yet.

four pubs discovered when exploring the Thames on the bike
I’d love to stop at these pubs one time

I got onto the Thames cycle route after Rotherhite, but it is possible to use the path before it. However, if you do, bear in mind that pedestrians always have priority and there may be parts where you need to walk your bike.

I also wouldn’t recommend cycling around the London Eye and the rest of the South Bank when it gets very busy. Or will get very busy when all the tourists are back.

The bonus of using the Thames path from Waterloo to Tower Bridge is that you get to see lots of sights including The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern. So it is worth doing if you are prepared to go very slow and zigzag around the crowds or be an early bird and head out while it’s quieter.

I prefer to follow the cycle route from Waterloo to Tower Bridge.

This route avoids the busy junctions at London Bridge. It also gives you one of the best views of the Shard – in my humble opinion anyway.

Shard from the distance
I love this viewpoint of the Shard

If you wish to keep your ride shorter and stick to areas closer to London, especially if you are exploring the Thames on a Santader bike, Tower Bridge is a good point to cross over to the north side of the river. However, if you wish to stay and head towards Greenwich and the Thames barrier, you want to follow the route C4 which later changes into Q14.

I joined the Thames path after Rotherhithe. From the map you can see the loop that takes you further from the river a little before Greenwhich. I get on the path after that loop and from thereon you can stay on it all the way to the Thames Barrier.

There are some sections when it gets a bit narrow because of building works. Those same building works also make a short section between the Cutty Sark and the O2 not so pleasant, but other than that it’s great and you get a fantastic view of Canary Wharf.

From Thames Barrier To Battersea Using the Greenwich foot tunnel

Cutty Sark
Cutty Sark

As I mentioned I didn’t even know that the tunnel existed until my first ride to the Thames Barrier. And I still wouldn’t know if I hadn’t been exploring the Thames on the bike.

I stopped at the Cutty Sark to take some photos and noticed people going inside this round building. At first I thought it might be a toilet, but on further inspection it turned out to be the foot tunnel. Of course I had to try it once I got back from the Thames Barrier.

I took the lift down and walked under the river to the other side. I should have paid more attention to the sign that mentioned the north lift before I entered the tunnel. If I had, I would have known the lift on the north side wasn’t working. 🤦‍♀️

The entrance to the Thames foot tunnel in Greenwich I discovered when exploring the Thames on the bike
The entrance to the foot tunnel

I had two options: carry my bike up the stairs or return to the south side. I went with the first option and it wasn’t the most fun part of the ride. But it’s all good training for the ride as there may well be times when we might have to carry our bikes for short sections. Although I sincerely hope not!

Just like on the south side, there are parts of the Thames path where you can cycle right by the river. You need to weave in and out of the path as there are sections which are closed to the public.

The route is signposted although the signs are sometimes small and can be easy to miss. There are also some cobbled roads which test you and your bike, but it’s all worth it to stay off the busier roads.

You can stay on the Thames path for most of the way until Tower Bridge.

At the Thames barrier
At the Thames barrier

After Tower Bridge, the best thing to do is to join the cycle route CS3. It can be a bit confusing here as the cycle route does not run on the side you would expect it to.

Facing the direction you are travelling, the cycle path is on the right side of the road so you need to navigate a busy junction to get there. I usually get off my bike and use the pedestrian crossings until I get to the cycle path on the other side.

But from there it’s plain sailing and you can follow the route past Monument and all the way to Big Ben. That is where the dedicated cycle path ends and if you are heading further west, you need to join the road.

From Thames Barrier To Battersea Using the Quiet Way

There are different types of cycle routes in London now, ones that run along busier roads (CS routes) and those which run along quieter roads (Q routes). The quiet way can be a longer way, but they are worth taking if you are looking for a quieter ride.

I found about the quiet route from Greenwich to Waterloo from a couple I chatted to on my first ride to the Thames Barrier. They were a really lovely retired couple. She grew up in Pimlico and he used to deliver post there. Anyway, we got talking and they recommened the quiet route. I didn’t take it that day as I had my heart set on the foot tunnel, so one of the reasons for repeating the ride to the Thames Barrier was to try out their recommendation.

A statue in North Greenwich
The statue I named ‘The Butt’

One of the things I have found with cycling is that I get to talk to many more people compared to when running. When you stop, there’s often someone you can chat to. The same thing happened when I cycled through Syon park the first time.

I love meeting new people and can’t wait to meet lots of wonderful new people on our ride.

The Q1 takes you all the way from Greenwhich to Waterloo and it really is great route. And it is reasonably well signed. Except perhaps for one section near the start in Greenwhich. If you zoom in on the map, you can see I did some extra loops around Greenwich looking for the Q1.

I found the right route eventually. Luckily the rest of it was much better signposted and easy to follow to Waterloo. From there I swapped for the Q5 towards Vauxhall and home.

From Hammersmith to Thames Ditton

exploring the Thames on the bike with Justin
In Bushy Park

Unfortunately I can’t share the Strava map for this ride with you. For some reason it thinks it was an indoor ride. It also thinks that I did it at half past midnight. Strange goings on.

However, you should be able to see the route on Polar if you click here.

Last weekend we went over to do some gardening for Justin’s mum. She was away so we stayed over night. It was our little holiday 😂. This was why we began and finished the ride in Hammersmith rather than Battersea.

The idea was to cycle on the north side and then cross over the river after Syon Park. However, we ended up crossing the river much sooner than planned (my bad!) at Barnes Bridge. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we stumbled upon a beautiful path right along the Thames. Perfect for exploring the Thames on the bike.

We stayed on it past Richmond until we had to get off it (pedestrians only) at Kingston. We could have crossed to the north side from there, but we both wanted to go a bit further. So we rode to Thames Ditton and then crossed the river at Hampton Court.

Thames Ditton
Thames Ditton

From Hampton Court back to Hammersmith

Once we were back on the North side of the river, we cycled through Bushy Park. It is a fantastic place to spot the deer. They are so used to people that I could get really close to take a couple of photos.

The other option after crossing the bridge is to go right. There is a nice route that runs along the Hampton Court Palace grounds. If you have the time, why not do both?

To be honest, the ride on the north side wasn’t as pleasant as on the south side. It’s not as easy to follow the river. At least not until you get to Twickenham.

There you can drop down to the river again and a bit further on join the Thames path. We didn’t do that section on this ride so I still need to explore that part of the Thames on the bike.

There is also a section after Syon Park where you have to join the main road. Luckily, it’s not a long section of the route and after Kew Bridge you can get back on the river.

The deer in Bushy Park
The most chilled out deer in Bushy Park

These routes along the river are defnitily favourites of mine. I love seeing the river and its twists and turns and look forward to eploring more of the Thames on the bike. Maybe heading even further east or the west!

Wether you live in London or are planning a visit when travel is allowed again, I hope I have encouraged you to explore the Thames path on the bike.

Should you have any questions about these routes or any others I have written about, pop a question in the comments or use the contact form. I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have about cycling in London.

If you haven’t signed up for our newsletter yet, now is a great time to sign up. That way you get notified of new posts such as my first ever 100 kilometre ride, more eploring the Thames on the bike, tourist routes and a collaboration with my friend Michele on how to protect your skin when spending extended periods out in the sun.

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Until next time!

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2 thoughts on “Exploring the Thames on The Bike

  1. I’m not sure I could manage a 50km round trip, but I’ll certainly try the route along the river to Richmond.

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