I would like to know what "her bike" means in the following sentences:

I was very young; Father had just left us and Mother was so distraught I was afraid she’d die from grief. She stayed in her room all day. Her lips pale, her eyes red. I tried to cheer her up, to distract her with my picture books that I’d bring to her bed and read out loud. Then one day she came out of her room, her face made up, lipstick on and eyes dark with kohl, and she took me outside and lifted me on to her bike. We rode all along our street and across the large empty park to the pool in the domed Centennial Hall. This is where she taught me. This is where we went into the water together, and she, my lifeline, held me while I wriggled my legs and arms, exhilarated and free. She taught me patiently, to trust my body, to let myself float, to move on my own. For years we’d go together, even when I no longer needed her to hold me. I wanted her to see me, to be proud of me. To make each of us feel important to the other. So when the day came, some years later, when they found something in her lungs and I came home from school to find the flat empty, with only Granny crying on the couch, it never occurred to me to go back to the pool. Not without her. It was as if that part of my life had died along with her, as if it could never return.

In this novel which is set in the 1980's in Poland under the socialist regime, where homosexuality was socially unacceptable, the protagonist Ludwik (a university graduate) left Poland in 1981 to live in the United States of America. And he remembers what it was like back then in Poland, where he used to go to the swimming pool with his mother to learn how to swim, when he was very young (less then 10 years old).

In this part, I wonder whether "her bike" here means her motorcycle, or her bicycle.

I am an English learner from South Korea, so thank you for your patience in advance as I may not know obvious things. I would very much appreciate your help. :)

1 Answer 1


Generally, the meaning "motorcycle" for "bike" depends on prior context. If I know that you own a motorcycle, then when you say "I rode my bike to the lake yesterday", then it's clear that you mean your motorcycle. But typically, if someone says "I rode my bike to the lake yesterday", the default assumption is that it's a bicycle.

Also, for a woman to be riding a motorcycle, especially with a very young child, would be rather unusual even in the US today, let alone in Poland in the 1980s. If Ludwik's mother was a motorcyclist, that would be a rather salient fact, revealing something about her character.

You can safely assume the "bike" in question is a good old pedal-propelled push cycle.

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