Difference Between Cycle, Bicycle & Bike


The terms cycle, bicycle, and bike are easy to mix up, as they’re often used synonymously. For instance, by bike, one could mean either a bicycle or a motorcycle. If you’re looking for a two-wheeler or doing some research on finding the best ones, this can be quite frustrating.

Don’t worry, this article will quell your doubts on this matter. Regardless of whether you simply want to understand the terminologies of cycle, bicycle and bike or need some help with deciding what to purchase, it should be of help.

Cycle vs Bicycle vs Bike

Cycle And Bicycle- Are They The Same?

We usually mean the same thing by cycle and bicycle. Especially here in India, the term cycle is used far more commonly than a bicycle. This might make you wonder if there’s any difference between the two at all.

Well, in its true literal sense, cycles are the predecessors of bicycles. In case you are aware of the history of bicycles, you probably know that they used to have only one large wheel. These were known as cycles. Later, people came up with a newer design -cycles with two two wheels, known as bicycles.

The old cycles have now become completely obsolete, and the two terms have come to mean the same thing. In modern times, you can find different types of cycles like road cycle, MTB, hybrid cycle, folding bicycle, electric bicycles, etc.

Differences Between Bicycle And Bike

Contrary to the previous case, bikes and bicycles have completely different meanings in the Indian context. By bike, we almost always mean motorcycles or motorbikes. Although both motorbikes and bicycles are two-wheelers, they are completely different.

In this regard, you should note that although we use the words bike and motorcycle synonymously, the former usually means bicycle. Abroad, biking refers to the same activity as cycling.

You should keep this in mind when researching your options online, including our website on Bicycle Explorer, as we list some bicycles as bikes which are known worldwide (Example: Mountain Bikes).

Let’s explore all the differences between bikes and bicycles in terms of critical factors that differentiates them.

Source Of Power

The biggest difference between a cycle and a bike is the way the two are powered. A bicycle is a manually-powered two-wheeler – you drive it by pedaling to generate the necessary force.

A bike, on the other hand, is a motor-powered vehicle. They run on engines, which are often quite powerful too. Most bikes run on fossil fuels, although electric bikes have recently entered the market too.


Being an engine-powered vehicle, a bike is naturally much faster than a bicycle. Even the most affordable bikes can easily beat high-end bicycles in terms of speed. After all, a bicycle would go only as fast as you can pedal, and our legs are no match for a motorcycle engine.

Carbon Emissions

This is a key aspect where bicycles are better than bikes. Running completely on manual effort, bicycles do not use any fuels and hence have zero emissions. However, you can’t really say the same about bikes. As you likely know, fossil fuel combustion is one of the key factors driving air pollution.


If you were to travel a long distance, a bike would usually be far more useful than a bicycle. Pedaling a bicycle for too long can easily tire you out. Of course, long bicycle trips are indeed a thing – I personally go on cycling tours with a group of friends at least once every couple of months. Bikes are just more suitable for covering long distances in general, as riding a bike doesn’t cause as much fatigue.


Before you buy a bike, keep in mind that you’ll need a suitable license to drive it. This complicates things a little compared to riding a bicycle. You’ll have to pass specific tests, prepare the paperwork, pay for your license, and then spend on license renewals periodically. Bicycles are completely free of this issue as they don’t count as motor vehicles.


Naturally, a bike is manifold more expensive than a bicycle. It’s a far more complex vehicle with an engine and numerous other components and is thus more expensive to produce. Even if bikes are completely out of your budget, you might still be able to afford a bicycle.

Recurring Operational Costs

Apart from the initial investment, i.e., the price, a bike will also prove to be more expensive in the long run. Firstly, you’ll have to pay for fuel, which is quite expensive. Riding a cycle doesn’t incur such extra costs.

Secondly, bikes are way more expensive to repair and maintain in good condition. While a simple fix is what a cycle usually needs, a bike may run into engine problems or other expensive issues.

Cycle Vs Bicycle Vs Bike Comparison

Points of DifferenceCycles & BicyclesBikes
Powered byBicycles are manually-powered vehicles that require you to pedal.Bikes use engines that run on either fuel or electricity.
SpeedNo matter how hard you pedal, you’ll go nowhere as fast as a motorcycle.Bikes are far more powerful, and hence, are much swifter. 
EmissionsBicycles generate no emissions, which makes them eco-friendly.Apart from electric bikes, emissions are a common problem for motorcycles.
DistanceBicycles are suitable only for relatively shorter distances.

You can cover a much longer distance on a bike.
LicenseYou don’t need a license to ride a bicycle.It’s illegal to ride a bike without a license.
PriceBicycles are much more affordable than bikes.A bike is rather expensive compared to a bicycle. 
Fuel and Maintenance CostsA bicycle doesn’t need fuel and doesn’t cost much to repair and maintain. Bikes are much more expensive to repair and maintain, in addition to needing fuel to run.

In Conclusion

Both bikes and bicycles are good, but they have their own respective purposes. A bicycle might be more suitable for daily commutes to work as you won’t have to worry about incurring fuel costs every day.

On the other hand, a motorbike is a much better option for those who usually travel long distances or need to reach the destination faster. Your preferences count too – which one do you like more?

Especially keeping the initial and the long-term costs in mind, you need to decide which one to choose. Either way, you’ll have a vast range of options to pick from. So, if you are interested in a bicycle more, consider reading the advantages and disadvantages of cycling to find out if a bicycle will suit you better.

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