Drive v Ride a bicycle

Discussion in 'English Only' started by paradespejardudas, Jul 31, 2008.

  1. paradespejardudas Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    Spanish, Argentina
    Hi everyone, is it possible to say "DRIVE a bike"? If so, what's the difference between drive and ride a bike?

    Thanks in advance
  2. xqby

    xqby Senior Member

    Santa Maria, CA
    English (U.S.)
    You could kind of say it if you're using "bike" as a slang term for a motorcycle, otherwise no.
    Even then it doesn't quite fit; in all cases I can think of I prefer "ride."
  3. ShesInfamous

    ShesInfamous Senior Member

    Nueva York
    You ride a horse.
    You ride a bike.

    You drive a car.
    You drive a tractor.
  4. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    I think you ride things you straddle: horses, bikes, motorcycles, camels.

    You drive things you control but don't straddle: cars, buses, trains, trucks.

    I am confident that exceptions will be discovered and cited.
  5. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I claim the $100 reward, Cagey!

    This previous thread mentions, in passing, "riding" the train/bus.

    (I don't think we ever do that in BrE.)
  6. paradespejardudas Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    Spanish, Argentina
    Ok, thanks for the quick replies!
  7. nzfauna

    nzfauna Senior Member

    Wellington, New Zealand
    New Zealand, English
    If you are a passenger on a train or bus, you are riding it.

    If you are at the controls of a train or bus, you are driving it.
  8. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Very true, NZF:thumbsup:.

    I still think Cagey owes me my $100.
  9. nzfauna

    nzfauna Senior Member

    Wellington, New Zealand
    New Zealand, English
    Also, I'm pretty sure you get a "motorcycle drivers license", not a "riders license".

    I would say one drives a motorcycle, because it is a vehicle, and you are at the controls.
  10. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    What a clever rule! I have never heard this before but it seems to apply across the board.

    For example, you drive a mule team or a team of horses. You control them but don't straddle them.

    I suppose watercraft are a different field. For land transportation, though, this is an excellent rule.

    I love WRF for all the things I learn here. :)
  11. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    I don't. :) His post included "things you control but don't straddle". That's an important distinction. Keep looking... it would be interesting to hear exceptions to the rule.
  12. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I think it's true for the UK, too, that motorbike riders need a driving licence - I suppose because it's a subcategory of driving licences.

    That said, the relevant UK government website definitely refers to "riders" of motorcycles (see here, for example).

    You're right, James. I got too excited at the prospect of the $100 and failed to read the small print. That'll teach me.
  13. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Riding in a car is sitting in it as it moves, usually with someone else controling it; driving or operating a car is sitting in it and controlling it oneself.
    Riding a motorcycle is squatting, sitting, or standing on it as it moves, usually while controlling it oneself; operating or driving a motorcycle is riding it but always implies controlling it oneself.
    Riding or operating a unicycle, bicycle, or tricycle is squatting, sitting, or standing on it as it moves; I wouldn't say one ever actually drives one of these.
    Riding an animal is squatting, sitting, or standing on it as it moves; driving an animal is coercing it into going somewhere. As far as I know, an animal cannot be operated.
  14. Kent Allard New Member

    In his novel 'The Lost World,' Michael Crichton refers several times to "driving a bike (motorcycle)." One character asks another, "Can you drive a bike?"

    The verb 'to ride' appears to be a term harking back to times when horses were the main means of personal transportation. "Let's go for a ride." Of course, we also hear, "Let's go for a drive." However, we always "ride shotgun," and we never "drive shotgun." ;-)

    The verb 'to drive' seems fitting for operating a motorized vehicle, no matter how many wheels it has or how we sit on or in it. My gut tells me that 'driving a bike (motorcycle)' is just fine. Of course, I would be riding in a sidecar. I would never say, "I drive a bicycle." :D
  15. sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    My father had a motorbike. He said that he "rode" it. He never said that he "drove" it.
  16. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    But I don't believe that to be normal BE usage. The use of "ride" as in riding along in a motor car, riding a bus, riding a train always sounds to me to be AE.

    I would expect to hear "I'm on a train", "He's in a car", "He's on the bus". I would find it extraordinary to hear a Brit say "He's riding a bus home" instead of "He's coming home by bus".

    As far as being in control of a vehicle, Cagey's Rule seems to be correct for BE.
  17. Welshie

    Welshie Senior Member

    England, English
    This seems right to me. Over here, we "take" or "get" the bus or the train, but we don't ride them. "Riding the bus home" makes me think of someone sitting on top of the bus, one leg either side, just waiting to be taken out by a low bridge ;)
  18. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    I think in general Cagey's rule will hold, but not always. I think you can make a case for "driving" a three wheeled trike.

    As for riding a train, I think it comes from "riding" [in/on] a stage coach, surrey, etc. (It's the whole "horses" thing.)

    (Loob, you are always looking for rewards.)
  19. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    I'll forgive the tautology :D, but I always rode my trike when I was a little boy. My search for driving quad bikes* failed to find much, they seem to be ridden, so Cagey's Rule still holds for me.

    * of course, a quad bike isn't a bike, but ho, hum, language develops etc, etc.
  20. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Hauts-de-Seine, France
    English (Ireland)
    I've never heard of anyone "driving" a bike, motorized or otherwise.
  21. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    I was referring to one of these: trike&source_cd=SEM_flhtcutg#/model/flhtcutg

    And not a tricycle with pedals (or even a Big Wheel).
  22. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    American English
    Cagey's Rule certainly applies to riding a jet-ski or snowmobile. Straddle up, pardners.
  23. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    If you exercise Google on the issue, you will see that "driving" is used with all motorized vehicles that ply public roadways when there's a legal, e.g. licensing, context.

    Normally, however, we refer to motorcycle riders. (The classic Peter Fonda movie, Easy Rider, probably would not have been the smashing success it was, had it been entitled Easy Driver.
  24. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    And I suppose Riding Miss Daisy would have been an entirely different movie than Driving Miss Daisy.
  25. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I think a person crazy enough could drive his motorcycle right over a cliff. To say he rode it over the cliff would seem to be putting a little more of the blame on the motorcycle.
  26. Kent Allard New Member


    Do you ride or drive a riding mower? As far as I know there's a seat on which the driver sits, and not a saddle for a rider. So it really ought to be a driving mower. :)

    As far as control is concerned, surely a (competent) rider controls his horse, but he isn't driving the horse. In case of a motorcycle, which is an "iron horse"... oh I think the whole issue can be debated until the cows come home. ;)
  27. Kent Allard New Member

    And it's not a movie I would want to watch! :eek:
  28. Kumpel Senior Member

    London, England
    British English

    The day that language develops as to allow the riding of quikes couldn't come soon enough.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2010
  29. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    That sort of thing varies between jurisdictions.

    New South Wales has Learner Rider, Provisional Rider and Full Rider Licences for motor bikes.
  30. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    I have a New York State motorcycle driver license (an addendum to my regular automobile drivers license.

    I'm looking at it now and it is not a Driver's license, but rather a Driver License. Class: DM

    D = adult driver
    M= motorcycle

    So NY State does not issue "riders" licenses (but if they did it would be a "rider" license).
  31. Twoflower

    Twoflower Member

    UK, English
    As it relates to motor vehicles, perhaps "drive" is for vehicles with steering wheels, and "ride" for those with handlebars?

    Just a thought...

    I would definitely never use drive for a motorbike, and would correct a non-native speaker using that expression.
  32. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    Yes, but the question is... would you say "I was driving my motorcycle down the highway when..."? I certainly wouldn't.

    Although the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) also issues "Driver Licenses" for motorcyclists, the California Motorcycle Handbook refers to those operating motorcycles as "motorcycle riders", as in the following:

    "Motorcycle riders may use designated carpool lanes, unless otherwise posted."
    "Provide a Completion of Motorcycle Training Certificate (DL 389) from an approved CHP motorcycle rider training course."
    "Check the motorcycle before every ride."

    There is some ambiguity about it in other areas. You go for a driving test, even with motorcycles.
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2010

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