Why Do We Never Forget How to Ride a Bike?

Life is like riding a bicycle

It was kind of a little thing.

But I was just tickled over it.

My youngest son outgrew his bike three years ago. Now at six feet tall, he had to commandeer his older brother’s larger bike to get around the neighborhood.

The old bike has been sitting in the garage, with flat tires and a loose handlebar that we couldn’t fix.  My husband kept bugging me to donate it, but for some reason I was hesitant. I didn’t want to donate a bike that needed repair.

This summer as I was collecting items to go to charity, I again thought about the outgrown, broken bicycle. Maybe I should just go ahead and donate it after all, or give it away to someone who could use it for parts.

Then I had an idea.

Why not just pay to have it fixed and use it myself? Yes, it is a boy’s bike, but the middle bar did sit lower than a traditional men’s bike, so it would be safe for me to ride. It would be much more fun riding a bike for exercise than walking on the treadmill at the gym.

But I have not ridden a bike in over 15 years. Maybe longer. What if I couldn’t ride anymore?

Undeterred, I found a bike shop not too far from us, and even with COVID regulations, I was able to drop off the bike to get the handlebars repaired, new tires, and an overall check-up so it was ready to ride.

Finally, the weather has cooled here in Texas, so I decided it was time to see if I could still master riding a bike.

After adjusting the seat two times and a couple seconds of hesitancy, I was off!  I quickly got comfortable, and the ride was fantastic!  

Why is it that we don’t forget how to ride a bike?

There is an interesting article in Scientific American that explains this. Skills such as playing an instrument or riding a bicycle are anchored in a part of our brain called procedural memory. This long- term memory is responsible for performance. The simple sequences of movements we internalize, even far in the past, are typically preserved for a lifetime. Or as the saying goes, it’s “just like riding a bicycle.” (Suchan, November 2018)

What is something that you can try or revisit – even if it has been years since you have done so? Don’t let time pass without giving it another try!

One response to “Why Do We Never Forget How to Ride a Bike?”

  1. That is so cool! Now you will think of your son every time you ride the bike and get exercise at the same time! I played oboe and flute in school band over 55 years ago. I still have both and just recently I pulled them out and was surprised that I still know the finger pattern and could even play a few tunes!

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