A motorcycle is often considered quite similar to a regular vehicle, especially in terms of driving laws or rules. This can often bring forward the question – do we “drive” a motorcycle similar to a car, or do we “ride” a motorcycle like a bicycle?
Do You “Drive” Or “Ride” A Motorcycle?
We can use the term “ride” in regards to the operation of a motorcycle because we sit on it, similarly to how we would a horse – by straddling it. We can also use “drive” in regards to a motorcycle, particularly when discussing “driving” abilities, rules of the road, etc.
Consistently, when looking at Cambridge Dictionary we can see that “ride” is defined as sitting on something such as a bicycle, motorbike, or horse and traveling along on it controlling its movements.
Therefore, we can easily remember that we “ride” things that we straddle, like a horse, bike, motorcycle, or even a camel. Moreover, we can remember that we “drive” things that we control or sit inside, like a car, boat, or train.
What Does It Mean To “Drive” A Motorcycle?
We can certainly say that we “drive” a motorcycle, as we “drive” anything that is a motorized form of transportation that we control or operate. Saying we “drive” a motorcycle will be understood and isn’t grammatically incorrect, despite being the less common term to use compared to “ride”.
We can also use the term “drive” in regards to a motorcycle when we are commenting on the operating abilities of someone else.
As we can see when looking at Cambridge Dictionary, “drive” is defined as to move or travel on land in a motor vehicle, especially as the person controlling the vehicle’s movement.
We can now go over some examples that show how we can use the term “drive” in relation to a motorcycle:
- We get a motorcycle driver’s license, not a rider’s license.
- The way he is driving that motorcycle is very reckless.
- To drive a motorcycle, you must be at least 16 years of age.
- If you are driving the motorcycle, you are riding it.
- To drive a motorcycle, you must have a valid motorcycle license.
- When you drive a motorcycle, you must have a license plate attached to its rear.
- Are there any roadways on which you’re forbidden to drive a motorcycle?
- She’ll have to improve if she’s going to drive that motorcycle around town!
- How do you drive a motorcycle that has a clutch?
- You cannot drive a motorcycle in Ontario without a license.
What Does It Mean To “Ride” A Motorcycle?
When we say that we “ride” a motorcycle, we are saying that we are appropriately licensed, seated upon it or straddling it, and are controlling its movements. This is quite similar to how we would express “riding” a horse, a bicycle, etc.
We may also say that we are “riding” a motorcycle when we are the passenger – whether on the accompanying seat or in a sidecar. This is because we are not “driving” the motorcycle, we are merely seated upon it and receiving a “ride” to a destination.
Here are various examples that highlight how we can use the term “ride” in regard to a motorcycle:
- I have always wanted to take a ride on a motorcycle.
- He took a long ride on his motorcycle to clear his mind.
- She’s learning how to safely ride on the back of a motorcycle.
- She has a motorcycle and she loves to ride it.
- By learning to ride a motorcycle, she was able to visit more frequently.
- Is it possible to ride a motorcycle, without knowing how to ride a bike?
- Can you ride on the back of a motorcycle without a license?
- He always wore a helmet when he was riding his motorcycle.
- When you ride a motorcycle, you are in control of every movement.
- You cannot ride your motorcycle like a bicycle on the path!
Is “Drive A Motorcycle” Or “Ride A Motorcycle” Used The Most?
When looking at the data provided by Google Ngram Viewer, we can see the phrase “ride a motorcycle” is used more commonly than the phrase “drive a motorcycle”. This is because we often speak of a motorcycle consistently to how we would a bicycle, i.e.: “ride” as opposed to “drive”.
Much of the time, the phrase “drive a motorcycle” is only used in regards to achieving your motorcycle driver’s license, when learning the rules of the road, or when commenting on someone else’s driving abilities. The rest of the time, more often than not, folks will say that they “ride a motorcycle”.
It’s also important to note that motorcycles were only invented in 1885, which is where there is little to no use of these phrases from 1800 to 1900.
Why Do We “Ride” A Motorcycle But “Drive” A Car?
The reasoning for saying we “ride” a motorcycle is due to the fact that we straddle the bike while being fully exposed to the elements (outside). Whereas we “drive” a car while seated, essentially in a chair, while also being protected from the elements (inside).
As previously mentioned, we “ride” a motorcycle similarly to how we do a bicycle, despite it being motorized. The term “ride” is used for a motorcycle and a bicycle because of terminology that is leftover from the times of no motorized vehicles.
In this timeframe, folks would “ride” a horse by straddling it, or “drive” a carriage pulled by horses. Therefore, this terminology implies that we “ride” a motorcycle that we straddle, while “driving” a car that is motorized and operated by the “driver”.
Do You “Drive” A Scooter Or “Ride” A Scooter?
Generally speaking, folks will say that they “ride” a scooter, similarly to how you would any other two-wheel mode of transportation, like a motorcycle or bicycle. A scooter is also self-balancing, which is consistent again, with that of a motorcycle or bicycle.
Also consistent with a bike or motorcycle, is the fact that “riding” a scooter leaves one exposed to the elements.
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Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.