11

From Collins

informal Brit a ride on the back of someone's bicycle

And here the words backie or backy is listed as an "untranslatable", the blogger found no American equivalent.

The BBC have been known to use it, too:

Boris Johnson 'naughty' for giving wife backie on his bike

Of course, it could also be a "lift", but that sounds British to me and, more importantly, can be used with a car rather than a bike.

So, is there an American equivalent of a "backie"? Is it understandable to Americans? Or is there even a formal single word term in any version of English?

For context, I’d like to say something like "He gave his friend a [backie]"

More details on a "backie":

  • it’s done on a bicycle with no second seat. You can perch on a parcel shelf if there is one, but much more common is that the person who owns the bike stands on the pedals and the person getting the "backie" sits on the bike seats.

  • Some bikes are fitted with stunt pegs and the person getting the backie can stand on these if they’re available. More commonly, their legs are just splayed out to the sides.

  • According to the bbc link, it’s illegal. But children/teenagers do it regularly. I haven’t heard of anyone being prosecuted, but I don’t know what it would be called if they were.

  • I think there might be examples in Stephen King's "It" (book and Tim Curry TV version) there are occasions where 2 people ride on Silver, eg Bill and Eddie with Bill pedalling.

  • Not only do I not have a word for this, but I don't even have this concept. I've heard of giving someone a ride on the back of one's motorcycle, but never on the back of one's bicycle. How does that even work? – ruakh Sep 15 '18 at 16:56
  • Do you consider piggybacking the same thing as riding pillion, or a different thing? – tchrist Sep 15 '18 at 17:06
  • Edited to add some more details. @tchrist I wouldn’t consider it piggybacking as, to me, that has connotations of one person setting their weight on another. In a backie, both people have their weight on the bike, although they might hold on to each other to move together for cornering/balance. BUT, it might be that "backie" evolved from "piggyback" – Pam Sep 15 '18 at 17:32
  • It used to be a 'barrie' ('barry' ? I've never seen it written down) in my childhood. The passenger would sit sidesaddle on the bar (of a male bicycle) between the arms of the steering cyclist. – Nigel J Sep 15 '18 at 18:05
  • 1
    @NigelJ, a "barrie" makes sense for the passenger sitting on the cross bar. I’d never heard that version. I think sometimes the person pedalling might also sit astride the cross bar. – Pam Sep 15 '18 at 18:32
11

The expression we used in Texas when I was young was simply ride [or riding] double. Here are three instances of this usage in published writing:

From Edward Lessin, An Investigation of Primitive and Authority Beliefs in Children (1965):

Robert's mother told him that he should never ride double on his bicycle. One day his teacher, Mrs. Smith, talked to the class about bike safety. She said that it was safe to ride double if your bike has a rear passenger carrier. Mrs. Smith added that this was the only place where it is safe to ride double. Robert's bike has a rear passenger carrier. On the way home from school, Robert's friend, Greg, asked him for a ride on his bike. WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE IF YOU WERE ROBERT?

From Chuck Steward, "Bicycling: Bicycle Laws and Riding Habits," in Boys' Life (September 1974):

Common sense hints include not fooling around on a bike. Tricks aren't for traffic. Other don'ts include not riding double (except on a proper tandem bicycle), and not hitching rides on other moving vehicles. Overloading a bike with too much camping gear or other equipment is another practice to avoid.

From Deanne Hurtubuise, Saints Alive!: Annie’s Very Own Miracle (2016):

My parents have rules about riding our bikes. Actually, they have rules about nearly everything at our house. The first rule is that we have to stay on the sidewalk. Second, we have to wear our helmets, and third, we never ride double with anyone on a bike. Normally, none of this poses a problem. We have sidewalks and even though I hate wearing the helmet, I do it. We all have bikes, so there is never a reason to ride double.

An informal expression for letting someone ride with you on your bike was "giving [someone] a ride"; but the descriptive term for two kids riding together on one bike was "riding double."

5

Others have contributed answers on what the American equivalent is, but to extend the scope of the question, I thought I might offer another region's usage...

In Australia, to carry someone else on your bike is to "give them a dink", or you might ask a bike owner if you could "dink a ride".

dink (3) Australian

Noun
A lift on a bicycle.

  • ‘you will have to give him a dink on the handlebars’

Verb
Carry a passenger on a bicycle.

  • [with object] ‘I dinked him down the path to the main gate’
  • [no object] ‘when nobody was watching they would double-dink’

The standard way to dink was to sit on the handlebars, but this was somewhat perilous, not merely because the main rider's view was impeded and the steering was a tad sluggish, but because it made the bike front-heavy so that any brief check such as a pothole was likely to send both people flying.

No self-respecting school-kid would want to show they were "chicken", so the handlebars was always the default dinking position in my neighbourhood. Nonetheless, the less foolhardy (or those recovering from previous injuries) might insist on sitting side-saddle on the crossbar. There were also frequent attempts to give two people a dink at the same time - one on the handlebars, the "rider" standing on the peddles, and the third sitting on the bicycle seat with legs splayed - with the almost inevitable consequence that all would fall off, either when starting their perilous voyage or when attempting to finish it. The latter was always preceded with a rising trill, as the riders in unison exhibited a growing understanding of the physics of momentum.

In the carefully bubble-wrapped urban childhoods of today, I rarely see anyone dinking a ride, but I suspect (and hope) that this wonderful risky laugh-filled adventure still survives out in rural Australia.

  • 1
    Great answer! Do you know whether dink has any etymological connection to dinkum (which I believe historically has at least two distinct senses)? – Sven Yargs Sep 16 '18 at 6:12
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    Fair dinkum, that's a great question! I'd encourage you to ask it as a new question, as I'd love to know the answer :-) – Chappo Says SE Dudded Monica Sep 16 '18 at 6:19
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    I hope it hasn't fully died out. I also have fond memories of dinking people on my bike after school or a party. I've seen it done by adults at festivals in the past couple of years as well. – Bug Catcher Nakata Sep 16 '18 at 12:58
4

When I was a kid we called this a “tow.” (In the American south.)

  • 2
    This is an interesting usage. Where I lived (in Texas), we used "giving a tow" to mean using a bicycle to pull a second person (who was wearing skates or standing on a skateboard) down a sidewalk or street while that person held a cord or rope tied to some part of the bicycle. Another term for that activity (as the Boys' Life excerpt in my answer indicates) was "hitching a ride"—very different from the latter term's normal meaning of "hitchhiking." – Sven Yargs Sep 15 '18 at 20:38
  • Just to clarify, did you call it a "tow" even when the rider and passenger were both on the one bicycle and no-one was being "towed" (in terms of the normal meaning of the word)? – Chappo Says SE Dudded Monica Sep 16 '18 at 1:27
  • @Chappo yes, two kids, one bike. Sometimes the passenger stood on pegs on the rear axle, sometimes sat on the seat. – Code Roadie Sep 16 '18 at 1:29
  • @CodeRoadie In that case, +1 for your answer. It's wonderful how rich our common language is! I've posted an answer on what the Australian term for a "tow" is... – Chappo Says SE Dudded Monica Sep 16 '18 at 2:02
3

In Minnesota we called it a buck. Usually used it to refer to someone riding on the back pegs, but it worked for riding on the handlebars too. When I tried to find information online about a buck meaning to give someone a ride on the back of your bike I could not find anything so I think it is a pretty localized use of the word and not used much, if at all, outside of Minnesota.

  • Around which decade was this? – tchrist Jul 6 '19 at 3:11

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