In some parts of the world, la bicicletta (the bicycle) has gained popularity lately because of the coronavirus. Some people like to avoid i mezzi pubblici (public transportation) and have begun opting for the bike. In Italy, bicycles have always been hugely popular, and la bicicletta is known affectionately as la bici. On weekends, you will see swarms of cyclists on country roads, so be careful if you're driving!
Per visitare al meglio il centro città di Lucca,
To best see the city center of Lucca,
ho deciso di prendere una bicicletta a noleggio.
I decided to rent a bicycle.
In questo modo, posso girare attraverso le vie del centro
That way, I can go around on the streets of the center
e addirittura pedalare sulle mura antiche.
and even pedal on the old walls.
Captions 13-16, In giro per l'Italia - LuccaPlay Caption
Curiously, the preposition used for saying "by bike" or "on the bike" is in (in), as we see in the following example.
Ti prometto che vado a scuola in bici. OK?
I promise I'll go to school by bike. OK?
Caption 54, La Ladra - Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squaloPlay Caption
Il ciclismo (cycling) is also an excellent way to get exercise while being out in the fresh air and maintaining a certain distance from other people, so there's been a bit of a boom in recent months.
Let's take a look at some of the vocabulary that can be useful when talking about bikes.
The kind of bike that an older person would ride just to get around town, a bike that has just one gear, is called una bici olandese. Olandese means "Dutch — from Holland," and describes the kind of bike that works well on flat terrain (as in Holland), not hills. We'd probably describe this kind of bike as a clunker. Maybe it's been in the family for years. It's pesante (heavy), robusta (sturdy), there are parafanghi (fenders), and even a chain guard, so you don't get grease on your clothes while you're riding your bike to work. These bicycles usually have un cestino (a basket) and un portapacchi (a rack) on the back.
This is the kind of bike you would normally rent to get around a city, although these days, regular bikes have more gears and are more fun to ride. Cities can be a little hilly, so gears really help! When the bike has a comfortable seat and handlebars, but five or so gears so that you can do the hills and build up some speed on level terrain or descents, it's called a city bike, which needs no translation.
Now we get to bicycles that are made for appassionati di ciclismo (bike lovers), for people who like to ride for fun or sport.
Here, too, Italians have taken over the English term and call a mountain bike la mountain bike. So that's easy! These bikes are hugely popular with just about everyone, and can go everywhere, from normal roads to strade bianche (unpaved roads), strade sterrate (dirt roads), and ghiaia (gravel). People take them to the beach, too. They have a special kind of manubrio (handlebars) with il cambio (the gear shift) right there so you can switch gears without taking your hands off the handlebars.
Then we have road bikes: These are usually called bici da corsa because they are streamlined, made for going fast and are basically the kind of bike they use in races. They have curved handlebars that allow you to be aerodynamically positioned. These bikes have evolved over the years, but the basic design has remained the same.
Here are some of the words you might need when talking about bikes:
la sella (the saddle, the seat)
i parafanghi (the fenders)
il campanello (the bell)
il manubrio (the handlebars)
il freno (the brake)
la ruota (the wheel)
la gomma (the tire)
i pedali (the pedals)
la catena (the chain)
la pompa (the pump)
la camera d’aria (the tube)
il cestino (the basket)
il portapacchi (the rack)
l’ingranaggio (the gear)
il cambio (the gearshifters)
i raggi (the spokes)
il cavalletto (the kickstand)
il gruppo* (the groupset) Note: the Italian word il gruppo means "the group" and has come to mean "groupset" — the mechanical parts of a bicycle. It's used in both Italian and English.
forare (to get a flat tire)
frenare (to brake)
salire (to get on)
scendere (to get off)
Other related words and phrases:
il ciclista (the cyclist)
noleggiare (to rent)
biciclette a noleggio (rental bikes)
il lucchetto (the lock)
alzare/abbassare la sella (to raise or lower the seat)
Quanto costa noleggiare una bici per un'ora (how much does it cost to rent a bike for an hour)?
Praticamente tutti i punti sono forniti di negozi
Pretty much all these points are equipped with shops
per noleggiare le biciclette.
for renting bicycles...
Caption 47, In giro per l'Italia - LuccaPlay Caption
Let's look quickly at the verb noleggiare and its related noun il noleggio. Both of these words work when talking about renting a bike: noleggiare or prendere a noleggio. You might hear some people use another word for "rent" — affittare or prendere in aftitto. The meaning is the same, but affittare is used for things like an apartment or house, while noleggiare is used more for movable things. Affittare is never wrong, however, just less common in this context.
Infatti, ha affittato due biciclette,
In fact, he's rented two bicycles,
e così, andate in giro per la città.
and that way, you go around the city.
Captions 34-35, Marika spiega - I veicoliPlay Caption
We hope this lesson will be helpful to you next time you travel to Italy, for either work or pleasure.