Riding a bike is just like…riding a bike, right? Once you learn how to propel yourself along on two wheels, you’ll never forget how to do so, and it’s always easy to jump back in the seat. But change just one skill that riding a bike involves — the way the handlebars turn — and everything falls apart.
Below, Destin from Smarter Everyday shows that the bike riding “algorithm” our brains develop is actually quite fragile. You can’t change any aspect of riding a bike without unlearning how to ride a bike in the first place:
I had the same thought Destin had: I would be able to figure it out pretty quick even with the steering reversed. But only after months and months of practice could he master the new locomotion. When he finally was able to move more than a few feet, he couldn’t ride a normal bike anymore.
Destin may be making a lot of claims based on a few people’s experiences, like that his son could master the bike more quickly because of brain plasticity, for example, but I think he has a point. The brain comes up with models of the world that work most of the time, and burns them into neural pathways that are harder to change the more they are used. The eureka moment was when Destin could suddenly ride the normal bike again, after eight months of trying to unlearn it. His brain apparently switched back to a model it was more familiar with.
The video is a great example of how we learn, and how knowledge and understanding are not the same thing. And it’s a great idea for an unwinnable bet…