“It’s just like riding a bike.”
We all have this belief that if we know how to ride a bike, we can hop back on and ride at any time.
I’ve tested this belief a few times. Between the time I was 12 and the time I 16, I didn’t have access to a bike. And yet, hopping on one was second-nature.
I tested this theory again between in 2015. I had sold one of my bikes in 2008 and was hit by a car when riding the other one in early 2009.
My interest in cycling was at an all-time low, and I didn’t ride for 6 years.
But, the time came when I decided to get back on the bike no matter what the risks. And all of the muscle memory was still there.
Working at a bike shop, we see this all the time. Folks come in having not ridden a bike for 30 years. Typically I put them on a slightly undersized bike and get them out the door.
Within 5 minutes they go from being wobbly to coming back and complaining that the bike is too small.
It’s amazing what the brain hangs on to.
Can You Ride The BackWards Bike?
On the Smarter Every Day Youtube channel, we are introduced to the backward bicycle. It’s a bike that has been geared so that the steering wheel turns opposite of the direction a normal bike turns.
This throws everything off.
When you push down on the pedal (I like to start with my right foot) the bike wants to veer in the direction of that push. Our brains instinctively understand how to turn the tires to create leverage in the opposite direction to keep the bike balanced.
This is what makes the backward bike so challenging. It’s a bike. Our brain says we should be able to ride it.
But when we get on it, our brain’s programming is wrong for this bicycle.
We think we can outsmart it. But we don’t use smarts to ride a bicycle. We use an intricate configuration of “muscle memory” that is basically “second nature.”
It’s like breathing. We don’t think about it; we just do it.
Getting Into A State Of “Flow.”
Flow. Focus. “In The Moment.”
We love sports. We love watching top athletes be on top of the game.
In the book, “Relentless” Tim Grover explains that for these top athletes, they have drilled their successful actions so many times that is their second nature.
Success becomes intuitive.
The downside is that one small disruption can throw off an entire game. An injury, for example, can make the muscles a tenth of a second slower. And suddenly the player is fumbling the cross-overs.
And when they leave the confines of the sport, they have to relearn how to win at life.
The brain can compensate somewhat, especially if you give the brain enough time to learn the new rhythm.
The trick is to stay with it. With enough effort, the brain makes the new connections.
And just as in this video, something “clicks” and suddenly you have the full force of your past success channeling into your new efforts.
It becomes as easy as riding a bike.