These are my study:

It seems like the verb "cycle" refers to "go by bicycle" is often used in British English more.

And the verb "bike" can be used for both "bicycle" and "motorbike"

"a bike" can refer to a bicycle or informally refer to a motorcycle

But I don't know when we say "I cycle to work", "I bike to work" and "I ride a bike to work".

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    We only say I cycle to work if we're doing so on a "push-bike". We can say I bike to work with either a push-bike or a scooter / motorbike. But you knew that anyway. And we don't usually say I ride a bike to work - but when we do, the extra words ride a don't change the meaning. I can't see what the question is here. Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 15:17
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    @FumbleFingers I'm a veteran cyclist and I've never heard "push-bike" before. 30 seconds of DuckDuckGo says it just means "bicycle", but you seem to be using it in contrast to "bicycle". What do you mean by the term?
    – gotube
    Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 17:56
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    @gotube I don't know how reputable a source this is, but Wiktionary en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pushbike says that it's an informal UK word for specifically a non -motorized bicycle Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 18:46
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    @QuackE.Duck: I just mean there's pushbikes and "powered" two-wheeled conveyances. Battery e-scooters and Vespa mopeds / scooters both fall into the latter category. And I only said "push-bike" because there's no confusion about whether that's powered or not - I don't recall ever hearing that in an American accent, but even non-native Anglophone learners should be able to infer my intended meaning from the context here without me bothering to wrap it up in a link to a definition. Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 19:25
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    As a US English speaker, I am completely unfamiliar with the term "push-bike". I don't think it would also necessarily be understood from context - after all, you propel a bicycle by pedaling it, not pushing it.
    – stangdon
    Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 21:34

4 Answers 4


"Cycle to work" seems the most likely. "Bike to work" could mean bicycle or motorbike. "Ride a bicycle to work" is exactly the same meaning as "cycle to work, only slightly longer".

There is a government grant scheme called Cycle to Work

But all three sentences are correct and could be used by a cyclist to describe how they get to work.

  • "I bike to work" sounds stilted to me.
    – MikeB
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 9:43
  • @MikeB I think that i other places "bike" is more commonly used as a verb than here in the UK.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 10:41

I suspect there are differences depending on what side of the Atlantic you're on, but for me, a veteran cyclist from Canada, all three of your sentences are correct and natural to describe commuting by bicycle.

"Cycle" and "ride a bike" only refer to bicycles. I was unsure about "bike" as a verb, so I asked my friends who ride both motorcycles and bicycles, and they say only use "bike" as a verb to mean ride a bicycle, never a motorcycle.

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    South of the CA border, the convention is the same, except in TX, where it's "Ah rode ma Harley." Commented Jul 19, 2023 at 21:59
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    I once had a long and confusing conversation with someone in a class I was teaching. We both rode to campus on our bikes. I rode 10 miles, and it took me about 40 minutes. He rode 40 miles, and it took him about 30 minutes. Turns out that my bike was a pedal-powered bicycle, and his was a motorcycle. So yes, "to cycle" really only refers to a bicycle, but "to bike" could easily refer to a bicycle or motorcycle. This was in Reno, NV, for the record---the particular regional English is, essentially "Northern California English". Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 13:10
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    I wouldn't say "cycle" - it sounds very British but the meaning is immediately clear. Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 0:12
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    Interestingly, the noun does have a difference - a Biker is on a motorbike, and a Cyclist is on a pedal-cycle. There's a halfway-house with Mountain-Biker which is a Cyclist on a MTB. Gotta love English for consistency.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 1:04

There may well be differences between American and British English, or between sub-regions in either.

Where I live -- Michigan, USA -- we would typically say, "I ride a bicycle to work." If you said "I cycle to work", people would know what you meant, but it's not something we say here.

"Bike" can refer to a bicycle or a motorcycle, but, at least among people I talk to, it more commonly means bicycle. If you said, "I bike to work", I'd understand you to mean that you ride a bicycle.

But it could mean "motorcycle" in the right context. Like if we were talking about motorcycles, I'd assume you meant a motorcycle. Like if you said, "My bike is a Harley", I'd take you to mean motorcycle because I've never heard of a Harley bicycle. (Is there such a thing? I suppose it's possible.)

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    Also, a "biker" usually refers to a motorcyclist. If we're talking about someone who rides a bicycle, we would usually say "bicyclist". But as you said, "bike" most often refers to a bicycle unless other context implies motorcycle. Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 14:30
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    As an American, I agree with your statements. I'd also say that if someone said "I drive a bike to work", I would take that to mean a motorcycle, but it's less common to hear compared to "riding a bike". Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 21:29
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    @GalacticCowboy "bicyclist" would be shortened to "cyclist" - I've never heard the former outside of formal written English.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 1:05
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    @GalacticCowboy Good point. Yes, "biker" is someone who rides a motorcycle. Someone who rides a bicycle is usually a "cyclist". Amusing inconsistancy.
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 5:09

The question has been muddied because it brings in regional usages. Let's set those aside, since it's pretty simple: cycle as verb and bike as verb are British and American respectively.

But let's focus on the question: Do people say "I [verb] to work," or "I [verb an object] to work." The short answer is: it doesn't much matter. Both are reasonable.

The longer answer: We've got an unusual situation with bicycles here. There's no similar verb form for riding a horse, say; you can't "horse to work." And on the other hand there are other things you could "ride," like scooters or skateboards, so "I ride to work" is vague.

"I ride a bike to work" is not awkward or non-idiomatic. It might be that people would be more likely, though, to say "I ride my bike to work." But this construction is no more or less common than "I bike to work," and there's no significant contextual reason to choose one or the other.

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    Interesting point about how "horse to work" is not something you'd hear, even if someone really did ride a horse to work. However, "skate to work" is something you might hear while "scoot to work" is not (at least not in the context of riding a scooter). Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 21:31
  • "ride" applies to anything with a Saddle, so horses, motorbikes, pedal bikes and anything that you stand on, like scooters and skateboards. Opposite is anything with a Seat. The only exception is standing room on a bus, which may or may not be Riding the bus.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 1:09
  • @jordanbtucker I mostly agree, but I do know people who use the verb "to scoot" meaning "to ride a scooter". I would understand the meaning of "scoot to work", although I think it would sound funny. Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 1:36
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    @Criggie I'm not sure "ride" has a distinction based on seats or saddles; one might "ride" a ski lift (a seat), as well as a train or roller coaster. I think it's just about being transported. Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 2:28
  • @AndyBonner The distinction is a Seat bears all your weight. A Saddle does not (horse saddle has stirrups, bikes put weight on pedals, motorbike puts weight on pegs) Other usages like bus, chairlift are more recent.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 2:41

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