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In school I learned to translate to ride a bike as montar en bicicleta. SpanishDict.com confirms this translation and offers andar en bicicleta as well.

In Mexico City, though, I have exclusively heard rodar en bicicleta. However, while the verb rodar makes sense, meaning to roll or turn, I have not seen a direct reference to bike riding in the two Spanish to English dictionaries that I have checked.

My question is not whether rodar en bicicleta is a legitimate way to speak of riding a bike. I understand that there are many more ways to express an idea that what a class will teach. I also appreciate rodar because it makes sense even without adding en bicicleta, whereas (in my understanding) montar and andar do not.

My question, instead, is whether this is a new or regional phrasing? Do people use rodar for bike-riding outside of Mexico City? Did people use it thirty years ago?

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    I guess so, since I hadn't heard about this in Spain. However, the diccionario de americanismos does not mention it, neither RAE. What I do use in Spain is rodar in a sense of doing some sport, like running or cycling, when it consists in some aerobic exercise training: esta tarde rodaré una horita por la montaña. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Oct 27 '16 at 15:33
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    I wouldn't have trouble understanding rodar if used with the word bicicleta, but I don't feel it's too common elsewhere. As to it being legitimate, of course it is! Regionalisms aren't incorrect just because they're not used elsewhere. The interesting question to me would be how cognizant those from D.F. are and if they would register shift to use andar/ir/montar when speaking to non-Mexicans (or people from outside the capital), or if they'd make sure to use bicicleta always. – user0721090601 Oct 27 '16 at 15:37
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    Also, Google NGrams doesn't show any instances, so between that and the diccionario de americanismos, I'd say it's probably relatively new. – user0721090601 Oct 27 '16 at 15:38
  • Are you sure they weren't really saying ondar? That's what I was told to use in Mexico: ondar en bicicleta ... – Robusto Oct 27 '16 at 16:09
  • @Robusto It's actually been on government signage. Wish I'd taken a photo. – Unrelated Oct 27 '16 at 16:11
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This seems to be a rare case in which Diccionario de americanismos does not mention any Mexican-specific definition:

rodar.
I. 1. intr. Mx. Caer un caballo hacia delante.
II. 1. tr. Ch. Desgastar algo o alguien un tornillo, tuerca o una pieza similar.
III. 1. tr. CR. Ganar la voluntad de alguien con halagos para conseguir de él algo y, generalmente, para engañarlo. pop.

a. ǁ ~ a patadas. loc. verb. Mx. Derribar algo o a alguien a puntapiés. pop + cult → espon.
b. ǁ ~ tierras. loc. verb. Mx. Viajar, visitar otros lugares distintos al propio. pop + cult → espon.
c. ǁ ~lo ponchado. loc. verb. Cu. Estar alguien muy deteriorado físicamente para su edad.

Neither does the DRAE, where we can find an entry that can refer to this:

rodar
Del lat. rotāre 'mover circularmente', 'caer dando vueltas', der. de rota 'rueda'.
Conjug. c. contar.
1. tr. Hacer que un automóvil marche sin rebasar las velocidades prescritas por el fabricante para el rodaje.
2. tr. Registrar imágenes en una película cinematográfica. Rodó el incidente.
3. tr. Actuar en una película o dirigirla. Rodará su próxima película en París.
4. tr. Pasar o proyectar la película a mano por medio de un proyector.
5. tr. C. Rica. engatusar.
6. intr. Dicho de un cuerpo: Dar vueltas alrededor de un eje, sin mudar de lugar, como la piedra de un molino, o mudando, como la bola que corre por el suelo.
7. intr. Moverse por medio de ruedas. El automóvil rodó lentamente.
8. intr. Caer dando vueltas por una pendiente.
9. intr. Dicho de una cosa: No tener colocación fija.
10. intr. Ir de un lado para otro sin fijarse o establecerse en sitio determinado.
11. intr. Dicho del dinero: Abundar o correr. En aquella casa rueda el dinero.
12. intr. Andar inútilmente en pretensiones.
13. intr. coloq. Dicho de una persona: Estar pronta y dispuesta para servir a otra y hacer cuanto mande o pida, por difícil que sea. Estaba dispuesto a rodar POR aquel amigo.

Doing some research I found out that in Argentina they say andar en bicicleta, but nothing about some Mexican-specific term.

Googling a little bit I found many Mexican websites that refer to this. However, I also notices a little amount from Colombia:

And also one from a Spanish newspaper (which may be explained by a journalist being from Mexico or Colombia):

This being said, my experience in Spain with the word rodar is to be used in a context of a group of people training for competitions. With this verb you can refer to running as well. Then, in these groups of people it is typical to say:

Esta mañana he rodado una hora por la montaña.

Expressing some aerobic exercise training.

To sum up: it seems that Mexico is not the only place to use rodar in this context, having Colombia as a place in which this is used as well.

Regarding how long has this expression been used for, I cannot tell: Ngram does not show references for rodar bicicleta, while looking for rodar alone has too much noise to distinguish this subset.

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  • Thanks for the research! Side note: I am struggling to interpret that first definition. I read it as for a horse to fall forward... but that doesn't really make sense? Am I reading it wrong or am I just not experienced enough with horses? – Unrelated Oct 28 '16 at 13:23
  • @Unrelated yes, you are understanding it well, so it is... unrelated to the bikes. I added that definition from Diccionario de americanismos to show that they do not have anything related to this topic. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Oct 28 '16 at 13:25
  • No I totally understand that. I just don't get what it means related to horses. – Unrelated Oct 28 '16 at 13:26
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    @Unrelated you are right, Caer un caballo hacia delante doesn't have much sense. I went through the entry caer in the Diccionario de americanismos and I did not find any specific meaning of this, so it is just "falling down", because "falling forward" is quite hard to imagine. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Oct 28 '16 at 14:17
  • phew feeling slightly less incompetent – Unrelated Oct 28 '16 at 14:21

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