Hire Public Bikes in London: A Complete Guide to Getting Around on Bikes

If you are one of those who like to get to know cities by bicycle, you must be curious about how to do it in London, the British capital, which is why we present a complete guide to get around the city by bike.

The City of London also has a public bike rental system so you can get around the city. To rent a bike you don’t have to register or become a member of anything, all you need is a debit or credit card. Therefore, everyone can rent one.

In this post we will tell you how to rent a bike in London and how much it costs. We will also tell you about the most popular bicycle routes.

In this post you will find…

Bicycles in London: How much does it cost to rent a public bicycle? Santander Cycle Hire

The service is officially known as Santander Cycle Hire and I honestly think it’s one of the best public bike schemes I’ve seen in Europe.

On the official page of Santander Cycle Hire you will see a map with all the bicycle stations, and where you can check how many are available in each of them.

There are two different payments that must be made in order to use a bicycle. On the one hand, the payment of access ( access fee ), which is mandatory. On the other hand, the payment for use ( usage charge ), which depends on the time you have rented the bicycle.


  • 24h: £ 2
  • Annual: £90 (only valid for members).
  • If you use it for less than 30 minutes it’s free (apart from the £2 you paid at the beginning). From here on, £2 is added every half hour.

Therefore, if you want to rent a bicycle, you first have to choose how long you want to use it for, paying for the corresponding access, and then you pay according to the time you use it. In the event that you use it for periods of less than 30 minutes, you will not have to pay anything else.

All of London’s Zone 1 is packed with bike stations, so it’s very easy to pick up a bike and drop it off (or exchange it for another) at another station within 30 minutes.

In this way you will only pay £2 for the whole day of use of the bicycles. As long as you are not with the same bicycle for more than 30 minutes, you will not have to pay anything else.

What Steps to Follow for Bike Rental?

  1. Go to a rental station and tap on the touch screen to start.
  2. Select the language: if you prefer you can put it in English or Spanish.
  3. Click on the “Rent a bike” icon ( Rent a Bike )
  4. Insert the card into the reader. Now it will not charge you anything, but simply check if you are within an access period.
  5. If your access period has already expired or it is the first time you use it, you have to choose your period of use: 24 hours, 7 days or annual.
  6. Once the period of use has been selected, it will ask you again to insert the bank card to make the payment.
  7. Now you have to choose how many bikes you want to rent. With the same card you can rent up to 4 bikes at the same time.
  8. The next step is to choose when you want to start using the service. The normal thing is to choose to start at that very moment, so as soon as you accept, your access time will begin to be deducted.
  9. If you choose “start now”, a coupon with a 5-digit code will be printed for you. with which you can free a bicycle in a maximum time of 10 min.
  10. Every time you want to take a bike, when you insert the card it will give you a new code.
  11. Release the bike that you like the most . You have to choose a bike that has the 3 color leds off. Once you find it, enter the code that is printed on the ticket.
  12. You will need to give them a good yank to get them off the receiving base. The trick is to pull a little up and out.
  13. To return a bicycle, fix it well on the base, so that a green light comes on, indicating that it is correctly fixed.
  14. If there is no free space right at your destination, go to the computer and press “ the station is full”, so you have an extra 15 minutes to go to another station (the computer tells you which one is the closest with free space).

How to Get Around by Bike in London: My Tips for Using a Bike

  • Before using the bike I recommend adjusting the height of the saddle and, as soon as you get on, check that the brakes work.
  • Be careful because the brakes of the English bicycles work the other way around than the Spanish ones. That is, the brake on the right is the front and the brake on the left is the right. Look closely because if you go very fast and brake with the striker, you can get a good scare.
  • It is not mandatory to wear a helmet or any type of special clothing. The bicycles are already equipped with the corresponding and regulatory lights. You don’t have to worry about anything, just pedaling and staying in the left lane!!!
  • Something to keep in mind is that it is totally forbidden to go on the sidewalk. Be careful because if you do it and they catch you, the fine that can fall on you is good. You must always go on the road, on the bike lanes or on the bus lanes. You always have to stick to the left side.
  • Finally, if the weather is good, I recommend that you take a night tour of the city center.
  • At night there is hardly any traffic and you can easily walk through the center and enjoy the views, especially if you go by the London Eye, Big Ben and the adjacent bridges that cross the river. The night views with everything lit up are beautiful.

London Bike Routes

London offers a large number of places where you can cycle. On the Transport for London website you can find different itineraries to do with the bicycle.

Route for Sports Lovers on Bicycles

For those who want to pass through some of the main points of London in terms of sports, this cycle route is perfect.

The distance is 17.2 km and most of it runs along the River Thames and follows part of the route of one of the oldest and most famous boat races : Oxford University against Cambridge University.

It departs from King St, east of central London, in the Hammersmith neighbourhood. On Bridge Ave you will find the bike station. From King St you will go to Fulham FC ‘s Craven Cottage and Chelsea FC‘s Stamford Bridge.

From here you will reach Battersea Park and end at Kennington Oval. Follow the Kennington Oval Road roundabout to the end, where you can leave your bike.

Secret Gardens of London

Looking for a garden in London offers tranquility and calm after the chaos of the city. There are many parks that go unnoticed and with this bike tour you can discover them. The route has a distance of 10.7km.

Start your tour at Ladbroke Grove Cycle Station in Kensington. Nearby is a small park that is quite famous but private, so it can only be seen from the gate.

This is Rosmead Gardens, where Julia Roberts and Hugh Grand jump over the fence in the movie Notting Hill.

The next stop is Holland Park and more specifically the Kyoto Garden, a Japanese-style garden inside it. After this stop we headed to Hyde Park passing through the Serpentine Bridge, which connects the two Serpentine Gallery.

Finally you come to the Chelsea Botanic Garden. You can leave your bike on the King’s Road, in front of the Royal Avenue House. As an alternative near the last point are the Royal Hospital Grounds and the National Army Museum.

Quirky london

This route will allow you to discover another London and not the well-known one with a quirky touch . Old cemeteries, museums and creepy cafes… The route is 5.5km long.

The journey starts at the Hop Exchange station, near London Bridge. The first stop is the Cross Bones Graveyard, a cemetery that was created for prostitutes and poor people who were denied burial in the church because they were judged as sinners.

The next stop is St Bartholomew the Great Church, the oldest in London, founded in 1123. Nearby is also the Golden Boy statue. It marks the spot where the Great Fire of London ended in 1666.

Next we headed to the Hunterian Museum, which contains displays of anatomical specimens. The tour ends at Neal’s Yard, a colorful courtyard with many quirky shops.

The nearest bike station is on Drury Lane. Close to Neal’s Yard is Freud’s Bar, which serves cocktails in a basement, and the Monmouth Coffee Shop.

Independent shops and London markets

If you want to take advantage of your bike tour to go shopping away from the masses of Oxford Street or Regent Street, this is your route. Perfect to search for unique gifts, vintage and vintage clothing, jewelry…

Although you may spend more time under the bike than on it! The route has a distance of 7.7 kilometers.

The tour starts at Camden Market. You can pick up your bike at Cycle Hire on Castlehaven Road, opposite the Hawley Arms pub. You can follow the canal to Angel.

After strolling through Angel you can go to Camden Passage, which has small shops and on Wednesdays and Saturdays it hosts an antiques market.

Near the last point is Bobbins Bicycles, a cycling accessories store (open Tuesday through Saturday). Exmouth Market is the next stop. Open from Thursday to Saturday, you will find small charming cafes, restaurants and clothing stores.

Here you would have to take another bike and head to Spitalfields Market. Here you will find extravagant gifts and delicious food. You can leave your bike at Norton Folgate station or on Appold Street.

Depending on the day you do the route there will be different markets open. If you do it on Sunday you can go to the flower market on Columbia Road, Brick Lane or the Sunday Upmarket, which sells clothes and jewelry.

Saturday markets in London

The last itinerary is also for those who want to take advantage of the route to go to the London markets. It has a distance of 10.1 km.

Start the day at Borough Market, near London Bridge. It is the oldest fruit and vegetable market in London.

Continue along National Cycle Route 4 towards Waterloo Bridge, from where you will have stunning views of London. When you have crossed it you can enter Covent Garden.

You can take advantage and make a stop at the London Transport Museum. It then passes through Trafalgar Square and into St James’s Park. Also pass Buckingham Palace and Wellington Arch before heading into Hyde Park.

After a short drive along Bayswater Road you will arrive at Portobello Market, Notting Hill’s famous flea market.

Other cycling routes in London

These are the itineraries offered by Transport for London but there are many more.

We recommend that you go along the banks of the River Thames or canals as the route is flat and they are not very crowded. You can go from downtown to Greenwich. The tour of the Regent’s Canal is one of the best.

There are also routes within the parks (except for Primrose Hill, in Regent’s Park) designed especially for people who cycle. Going through Richmond Park or from Regent’s Park to Hampstead Heath are good options.

If you really want to exercise while cycling you can go to Lee Valley Park.

Bike Routes from London

In case you have your own bike and want to do a long trip and you don’t mind going on the road, there are some quite good routes. Now, you have to have a good background to do these types of tours and know when to stop to rest.

The most common are those to Brighton (184 km round trip), Windsor (122.2 km round trip), the Chiltern Hills (135 km round trip), Sevenoaks, in Kent (104.3 km round trip) or to Box Hill (137.8 km round trip).

We hope that this article about using bicycles in London and the possible routes you can take with them will help you.

If you have done any of these tours and want to tell us about your experience, we will read you in the comments. Also if you want to tell us a different route.

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