I'd like some clarifications about two points. The first is: is there any difference between the verb bike and ride in this example? Does the sentence sound natural in both cases?

Yesterday I took my motorcycle and rode/biked to the park.

Second: do I always have to specify the vehicle (motorcycle in this case) in a sentence when I use the verb ride if it is known already by the context? (Considering all the various meanings the word ride has.)

For example, let's assume I've been talking a lot about the new motorcycle John has just bought and he is now in the garage where we know he keeps his motorcycle, is this sentence clear or ambiguous?

Without thinking twice, John rode to town in search of his suspect.

Is it clear that he rode on his motorcycle rather than on a bus or taxi?

  • BTW you wouldn't say "ride on a taxi"; it would be "ride in a taxi".
    – Tom Hundt
    Mar 22, 2019 at 3:18

1 Answer 1


I can't speak for usage outside North America, but as a motorcyclist in the U.S., I would say biking to mean moyotcycling is rare, and to bike meaning ride a motorcycle is even rarer.

Overall, motorcycling is not common in the U.S. It is very inexpensive to purchase, garage, and operate a car or truck compared to much of the world, so motorcycling has been relegated to recreational use, by a very small percentage of the population in most of the country. In contrast, bicycling has been a popular means of transportation for children for many decades, and is increasingly popular among adults. As such, to bike, to have a bike, to wear a bike helmet, to go biking to a bike shop, and so on will only be taken to refer to motorcycling where that context is firmly established, or if part of a compound which removes the ambiguity, like dirtbiking or a sportbike. Otherwise, most people will assume you are referring to human-powered bicycling.

One should also be careful with the word biker. While according to the dictionary this term could be used for any motorcyclist or bicyclist, in the U.S. it is strongly associated with the outlaw biker subculture and its innumerable hordes of poseurs. Motorcyclist or motorcycle rider would be the neutral alternatives. I am a rider, not a biker.

To ride is the most common verb for operating a motorcycle, but again, the context must be established that you are not riding a bicycle, scooter, or horse. Your second example is fine if you have established that "John" is a motorcyclist; otherwise, it would be safer to specify the mode:

Without thinking twice, John hopped on his Harley and rode to town in search of his suspect.

  • It should be pointed out that because of the word motorbike (meaning motorcycle), the word bike could in fact refer to a motorcycle or a bicycle, and if you said you hopped on your bike and rode to town, it could very well be a motorcycle. So, you might want to say motorbike in these situations, if there's any chance of ambiguity at all. But nobody would say biked to town, even if the motorcycle was a mere moped.
    – Tom Hundt
    Mar 22, 2019 at 3:29

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