We recently escaped to the capital for a child-free weekend and it was too hot for the sweat-filled underground misery of the Tube, so we spent two days cycling London on Boris Bikes instead.
I’ve seen Boris Bikes (also known as Santander Cycles) every time I’ve visited London since they were introduced in 2010, but despite always thinking they were a great idea I’ve never really considered using them. But thanks to a perfect storm of England playing a World Cup match, the Pride march, Wireless festival and the Wimbledon Championships all happening on the same day – transport in the city was pure chaos.
With temperatures above 30 degrees and queues for the Underground thousands of people deep, we opted to stay overground and cycle around the city on Boris Bikes instead. I’ve never been a big fan of London (too crowded, too loud, too expensive) but hiring a couple of Santander Cycles turned this into probably my most memorable weekend in the capital. Here’s why…
They’re simple to use
You can either download the Santander Cycles app, or walk straight up to one of more than 750 Cycles docking stations around the city and buy 24 hours access by entering your debit card. The docking stations seem to be on almost every street corner, and you’ll certainly find one outside every major station or London landmark. Once you’ve gone through the simple process of signing up and getting your first access code, you choose a bike, enter your code, adjust your seat, and you’re off!
They’re surprisingly cheap
It costs £2 for 24 hours access to a Boris Bike, but there’s a catch. They’re design for short journeys so if you keep a bike for more than 30 minutes without docking it, you’ll get charged £2 for every extra hour you hang on to it. But since all we were doing was cruising from landmark to pub to shop to pub to hotel to pub to park to pub to music festival to pub (we drank a lot), we never needed one for more than half an hour. We simply switched bikes every time we stopped for a break, then grabbed another one and carried on again.
They’re great to ride
There are more than 11,000 Boris Bikes on the streets of London, each one of them available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. As a result you’d expect many of them to be in poor condition, but from our experience that was far from the case. The tyres, gears and brakes were all in good shape, and the automatic lights kicked in the second it went dark. We also never struggled to find a bike when we needed one. Despite their growing popularity (record numbers have reportedly been used in summer 2018), there were always a couple available at each docking station.
They let you explore the whole city
In 24 hours we visited more London landmarks than I thought it was possible to pack into a weekend, including Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, Camden Market, London Bridge, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, St James’s Park, Oxford Circus – and a whole bunch more that I can’t remember. We cycled down the Thames, through the famous gates on Tower Bridge, down the Mall, and rode at night through silent streets while the rest of the city slept. All for £2!!!
Cycling London on Boris Bikes – The Outdoor Dad verdict:
If you have to spend a weekend in a big sweaty city, this is the ideal way to get around it. It transformed our weekend in London from underground hell into a proper outdoor adventure. I can’t wait to do it again!