I rode a bike every few weeks with my father as a child. When I was 11, I had a pretty serious health condition including paralysis from the waist down. I had to spend several years retraining my muscles to be able to walk and run again.
I'm 22 now, and have just (literally in the past two weeks) started riding a bike again. I wasn't particularly confident but I was happily surprised to discover I had no issue just riding. I'm having trouble with U-turns and signalling, but this feels pretty cool considering that half of my life so far has gone by without riding.
And congratulations on your recuperation!
Thanks for sharing your experience.
When I started swimming again at the age of 22, I could swim obviously - but it took me weeks of re-remembering all of the correct positions of my hands, which muscles to contract and how should I breathe in order to sustain that swimming for longer than a few laps.
I am pretty sure it's the same with the bike-riding.
But it's important to note that it took you only a few weeks. Originally learning all these movements probably took years of training and you still knew them so well that you could retrain your muscles to use them like back then. You didn't really forget. If I started swimming now, with near zero experience, I wouldn't be able to imitate that.
Nah. I am actually making the opposite point: I had to consciously re-remember (from whatever I remembered my instructor told me) how it were back then and retrain myself to do it correctly all over again.
For example, getting over anxiety that I would be out of breath the next time I am breathing in. The only reason I could get over it was because I have consciously remembered I could do that when I was a kid, so it was just a matter of training and habit both of which I had to consciously push myself to acquire again.
"a few weeks" would only be related to "conscious remembering how it needs to be done", rather than "swimming like the old days". It took me a few months; constant attention and reading how to swim properly otherwise.
I don't think there's much comparison to the bike example in the OP.
I got to the top of the trunk and reached up to grab one of the branches, and it was like, 'oh man, I'm so out of condition, I can barely grip this'. But then, accidentally, my feet cut loose.
A jolt of adrenaline shot through me, and I managed to hold on one handed to this slippery, slopey palm tree branch as my body swung away from the trunk of the tree. This whole chain of muscles from my fingers down to my lower back fired at once. I used to use those muscles all the time when I climbed regularly, but on the tree I didn't have access to that strength until the adrenaline kicked in, and then it was all there like it had never left.
Of course, because I was out of condition I strained every muscle in that chain and I had to skip a few days of surfing. But it had me thinking about procedural memory, and how it relates to skills where raw strength is a factor. Strength is memory. There is physical conditioning needed to utilize that strength without hurting yourself, but how strong you are is about neural pathways in your muscles, and how they fire, not the muscle itself. Your muscles are actually strong enough to rip the tendons from your bones.
Now I'm back into climbing, but when I was first starting out I had this weird experience where a hold that I was too weak to latch at the beginning of a session became easy by the end. It's counterintuitive, if anything you should be getting weaker as you wear yourself out, but, after a decade of not climbing much at all, my finger muscles were remembering how to fire the way they needed to to stick that particular hold, and they got stronger. Now I'm at the point where my strength has mostly returned, but my tendons aren't yet resilient enough to handle the stress when I'm at my limit, so I've got to be really careful. This was all a big revelation for me.
I love bouldering most because sometimes you can brute force problems, sometimes you absolutely can't - you'll spend a few sessions trying to figure out this one pain in the ass movement or hold, then one day... You've got it, and you don't lose it. It's a ton of fun and I like to think it's actually great for your body and mind. Sometimes it feels a bit like wall-yoga.
There's a study that looked into this for chess and found that for the amount of people who actually stick at it, 96% of the the split in chess can be accounted for by it being what you would expect for the amount of men and women playing.
>Why are (the best) women so good at chess? Participation rates and gender differences in intellectual domains
>A popular explanation for the small number of women at the top level of intellectually demanding activities from chess to science appeals to biological differences in the intellectual abilities of men and women. An alternative explanation is that the extreme values in a large sample are likely to be greater than those in a small one. Although the performance of the 100 best German male chess players is better than that of the 100 best German women, we show that 96 per cent of the observed difference would be expected given the much greater number of men who play chess. There is little left for biological or cultural explanations to account for. In science, where there are many more male than female participants, this statistical sampling explanation, rather than differences in intellectual ability, may also be the main reason why women are under-represented at the top end.
I don't doubt there are sexism and cultural effects on participation disparities, but ask anyone raising chess-playing children and you'll find notable gender differences in interest level in chess from a young age. Similar is seen on mathematics. There's a classic book from Soviet Russia) where girls' math education was rather highly supported) by an author extremely excited about teaching math to small children. He found that his son lapped it up but he could never get his daughter interested (she would turn his math games into non-math social games), even though she was younger and so had earlier exposure and also benefit of his increased experience practicing teaching on her older brother first. She turned out to be academically successful, but not exceptional in math. Countless parents can tell similar stories.
It is ridiculous to suggest based on a sample of 2 (!) siblings that the sister’s precocity at drawing and storytelling and the brother’s greater interest in patterns and numbers is generally representative of their gender.
I play cello and whenever I don't play for a week or more and I just sit down to play, my hands lack a lot of dexterity and are imprecise. Most people just play for half an hour to get it all back.
However, what I noticed is that if I play for a minute- or two, make an hour break and come back to play again, my hands are fully ready to play, as though I didn't have any longer (week) pause whatsoever. It's rally kind of magical.
I haven’t played very long, just a couple of weeks, but even I can relate to this feeling. I try practicing a little every day and I mostly fumble around for the first 5-10 minutes before hitting my stride, and the song I just a few minutes earlier brutally murdered now actually sounds.. ok. It’s a wonderful feeling really, makes me feel like I have learned something.
Citation needed. Training for strength also increases your muscle mass, I'm not ready to believe that strength is only about neural pathways.
Here's a good article on the impact of your neural pathways on strength:
from the article:
> Jenkins found evidence that the nervous system activates more of those motor neurons -- or excites them more frequently -- when subjected to high-load training. That increased excitation could account for the greater strength gains despite comparable growth in muscle mass.
Adrenaline does wonders for the excitation-induced stimulation of the skeletal muscle system
It is counter intuitive and counter to my experience when I get back into climbing. Perhaps you have some muscular endurance talent or something, or climbed long enough to create some long lasting physical adaptations.
I think it’d be less surprising if you thought about it as remembering more efficient positioning, than getting stronger; which ofc is what I imagine is happening. I suppose thats unlikely to beat out the wear of the day, if you actually end up feeling stronger than when you started
If you don't believe you can ride a bike then you'll tend to wobble around slowly and cautiously and overcorrect by manual steering. If you don't believe you can swim then you'll try to constantly hold your face too high above the water and you will struggle because keeping your head high is not an ideal posture for buoyancy and balance.
If you believe you can ride a bike then you will set off confidently and move faster, which helps with balance and control.
These are examples of abilities in which it's easy to get stuck in a local optima which feels safer but is very inefficient, such as cycling with your feet ready to touch the ground or swimming with your head high above the water.
This theory, of course, doesn't mean the research in the article is wrong, but maybe it's just a part of the truth.
Part of me wonders if learning to ride a bike actually isn't all that difficult in the grand scheme of things, but we all remember it as being tricky because we did it at such a young (and uncoordinated) age.
This is my theory as well. I can't think of anyone (baring some handicap or injury) who has attempted to learn and wasn't able to ride.
It is hard to not stay balanced on a bike. Unless you are on uneven or slippery surface, or do other stunts, the only way you can really fall is if you are moving too slow or you are deliberately forcing your handlebars to turn very hard.
When I did kickboxing I used to be able to kick really high but after a few years of not doing it the muscle memory is still there but I just don't have the strength and flexibility to go really high.
I'd like to challenge this. Barring scientific evidence to this fact, it is at best an anecdotal evidence, and so I will submit my own anecdote:
I didn't ride a bike for about 10 years. When I started riding again, I definitely felt unsteady for the first few days or weeks compared to my previous riding ability. I was unsteady enough that I thought at the time, "People that say you don't forget how to ride a bike are full of shit."
Granted, my ability to ride came back faster than if I was learning from scratch. It might become a discussion determining different shades of "forget" -- but if we get to that point, then we've conceded the crisp assertion that "we don't forget how to ride a bike".
This can happen to frequent riders simply as a result of switching to a different bike with different geometry from what you're used to. Eg. if you normally ride a mountain bike with a fairly upright posture and suddenly switch to a road bike with a low and narrow handlebars and toe overlap, or if you raise your seat after being accustomed to keeping it very low.
In college, I took up downhill skiing. Twenty years later, I tried cross-country skiing again and could barely stay upright! I went in with full confidence and ended up shuffling around like a zombie on ice.
Err, "feeling unsteady" while still riding is not the same as forgetting how to ride and falling like a kid who tries to ride for their first time.
It's about forgetting HOW TO RIDE, the very basic trick of balancing the bike.
Which is exactly the point the OP makes to that sentence as if we never stopped biking I think. At the least I'd say it's worded incorrectly. Sure your brain remembers the key part of how to do it, but the finer motor skills, balancing in hard situations etc don't just come back from one instance to the next and take extra practice.
There is one way to forget how to ride a bike, learn to ride a bike that has the steering reversed.
(The Backwards Brain Bicycle)
Strongly recommend to watch the above video.He does an experiment on how long it takes to get comfortable by changing the handle bars.
I used to ski in a one to two week block every year, for about 20 years (i.e. 2 weeks on then 50 weeks off). Once I reached a certain level (being able to do parallel turns) I never really forgot how to do them, although the first few runs of a new season would be a bit tentative. Something that continued to improve year on year was my ability to turn at speed on steep slopes. I think this was due to learned (and remembered) confidence as well as muscle memory, in particular knowing that because a turn would work, a sudden increase in speed didn't mean automatic disaster. I also learned to lean out of a turn (i.e. down the mountain, the opposite of a turn on a bike) and this was also a confidence thing that I didn't forget, and which turns safer still. Unfortunately, my increasing confidence was offset by decreasing fitness so I reached a plateau. That said, on my last couple of trips, I didn't fall once. I never took a multi-year break to test the concept properly.
Very similar to my experience with cycling with long breaks.
I’ve also forgotten most of how to speak Spanish, which I learned as a child. It does come back quicker than the first time with a lot of practice, but I can’t speak it on demand without a lot of re-learning.
I also ride mountain bikes and find that if I take extended breaks of months or longer, I forget how to do the more difficult riding, and I have to re-learn/practice until I’m comfortable again.
Same goes for programming. Take a year or two off and see what your remember about algorithms and protocols.
And this is the main problem with algorithmic interviews. This type of programming has little to do with the stuff most of us do on a daily basis. So we forget much of it a year or two after our last interview, and have to go back and spend weeks or months reviewing when preparing to interview again. Seems like a waste of time.
Riding technical trails on a MTB. Without regular practice you lose a lot of pace.
Street or park BMX tricks (tail whips, flairs, flips, grinds etc). These require skill plus confidence. Without regular practice the confidence won't be there to attempt them.
I’ve never taken long breaks from my main instruments, but it sounds like you forgot both aspects of playing. I did play trombone for a few years starting in middle school, but haven’t played in over a decade. I definitely remember the basic slide positions for notes and a few of the common scales, but I wonder how well I would be able to play the trombone now.
1: At least some of this is mouth muscles just being too weak (in another thread an ex rock climber talks about climbing a tree and that's a similar effect), some of it is that when I quit, I was still learning to make it sound good, so I never had unconscious control for a lot of the subtle changes I had to make. The rest is probably just things I forgot.
I'm not sure whether or not this belongs in the same category as riding a bicycle.
Only when you're actually scared, don't trust the bike and try to overcompensate will you tip over.
You can "get" riding a bike on your first attempt if you're trusting enough. I have seen children do it.
It took myself a few hours before my granddad lost his patience and pushed me down a steep hill. On the way down it clicked (my dad had to catch me because i was too distracted to brake).
As a Dutch person, this is so weird to read. How can you get by in day-to-day life without a bike ? Mine broke the other day, nothing big just a snapped cable, but I was without a bike for all of 2 days and it felt like being handicapped.
Simple infrastructure is one of them. Many folks don't have safe options for bicycle transportation, regardless of whether you live in a city or not. Lack of sidewalks, lack of bike lanes, and lack of folks watching out for you. If you live outside a small town, you might have to take non-main roads and have a much longer commute as well.
Weather is an issue in some areas as well. While I can get studded snow tires for a bike here in Norway, I couldn't get them in Indiana. Not only are there these things, but employers frowned upon people arriving to work sweaty or wet (from rain). There were often no employee break rooms to change in, let alone a safe place to store one's bicycle or accessories while one is at work.
Another thing I'd like to point out is that the bicycles themselves were differently styled, at least judging what I saw in Amsterdam. Often, they had wide seats with springs and decently wide tires and a basket or two to hold your stuff. A bike built for comfort plus a place to put stuff helps tremendously.
This leads me to my final point: Distance. I imagine that you can reasonably travel to the grocery store and whatnot on a bicycle. Unfortunately, things are pretty spread out in much of the US. You might have to drive for 20 minutes to get to the grocery store because there aren't any near your house or on your way home from work. This takes much longer on a bicycle. If you do have convenience in this area, you are often paying more for it.
Also, most bikes in the US aren’t practical like dutch bikes, they’re harder to maintain and they don’t have fenders or racks.
It's the flattest country in Europe, or close runner up.
By living in most cities in the USA? :D
I rode a bike for 5 years, 3 of them every day before I had a pause of 8 years. Hopped on a bike and it was as if I never had the pause.
My girlfriend just learned to bike on a parking lot at her grandma's, she did this every other weekend for an hour or so. When she started biking as an adult again, she had many problems and even fell a few times on the street.
Just the knowledge that you have done it before, that it is an easy thing, means that in the first second you are accelerating to a speed where it is in fact easy to ride a bike. I don't think that particular example is as much about skill as it is about confidence.
Frankly, the experience "you don't forget how to ride a bike" was true for me the very first time I rode a bike. My mom was holding on to the bike, then we moved faster, then a few seconds later I realized my mom had stopped behind me and I had been doing it on my own. We just had reached a speed where that became easy. And then the trick was not panicking ;)
It’s a weird sensation when you find the right balance spot, and you are looking straight ahead (rather than looking down), it’s like you become the bike.
Just don't lie to them -- kids spend all the learning time discovering that the right way is opposite to what they were told. How do I teach? I tell them to balance with the handlebars, and steer by leaning. It always works, and fast! Try it, it's fun.
So the answer to the title question is just that riding is very, very easy.
I was also a fitness instructor for a little over 10 years, and stopped about 6 years ago because of $life. I remembered some of my old step routines, but I struggled trying to get all my body parts to work together again to do it. There are a few things that I physical can do, but it takes me a lot longer and a lot more practice to get it.
It isn't like a dangerous situation, where you would benefit from remembering it for the rest of your life, despite only experiencing it once.
Also it isn't like remembering something that you do every day.
The closest approximation I can think of is something that happens seasonally, it is probably beneficial to remember how to harvest the berries of the bonga bonga tree, despite not having seen them for 51 weeks.
Is long term memory not fine grained enough to bother differentiating between 'a year ago' and '20 years ago'?
Those parts of you nervous system have to be fast, and may be less flexible because of it, increasing both learning time (you can learn what you have to do to cycle in seconds: “OK, I’ll sit there, put my hands there, my feet there, keep my balance and make these movements, but actually learning how to do it takes a lot longer) and forgetting time.
I also guess that makes cycling and walking so relaxing as activities. You’re doing work, but can let the more cerebral parts of your brain wander around without giving much attention to what’s going on (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind-wandering). Of course, that’s dependent on environment. A walk in the park is more relaxing than crossing Times square, and cycling on separated cycle lanes more relaxing than the hell of navigating between cars, because, in both cases, your ‘higher brain’ must attend to the situation.
Learning how to climb a tree or swim in a fast river are very important survival skills and the ability to not forget them would give you an advantage.
When you first start it feels dangerous. It's much easier to evolve a feeling of danger, caused by things like unexpected body movement, than to evolve an instinctive ability to calculate the true danger.
Cycling seems rational? In a way that adrenaline wouldn't help you remember.
Think of soldiers doing drills. They aren't in danger when they actually do the drill. The idea is that they do it automatically when they are I danger, rather than just freezing.
I'm not sure actually shooting at new recruits while training them would lead to effective training, but we could try it :).
My understanding of basic training comes only from popular media, but some of the drills at night without warning to enhance the simulation of danger. Fear of the drill sergeant may work too.
There may be a way to hack this? That is, store declarative data into procedural memory, so that we never ever forget it?
But maybe there are not many memories that need to be preserved over a long period of time. I can't really think of anything that I would need to remember forever.
* I learnt hundreds of digits of pi by singing them over and over again until my mouth knew how to form the numbers before my brain caught up.
* People in my class at school tried to learn the French verbs which take "être" by means of various different mnemonic devices; I just ignored the tricks and repeated a phrase on and off for a couple of hours. ("Monty arrived at the entrance when all the rest had returned with Tom; Pa's Moorish descent gives him a venturesome sort of nature." for "monter", "arriver", "entrer", "aller", and so on.)
* amo/amas/amat/amamus/amatis/amant, and indeed most Latin grammar is still taught this way.
* The entire poetry recital field.
It's ridiculous how well I can still remember many of the kids' songs and poems, even though I have little recollection of anything else left from that time.
When I picked up coding again as an adult, I found that although I had forgotten language-specific details (function names and arity, syntax, semantics, and so on), the flow and rhythm of programming had never really left me.
Since then, I've occasionally offered advice or informal tutelage to friends who are picking up programming and have asked for help. My observation is that programming seems to "click" with those who have, at one point or another, built a trivial project or script without following along a tutorial too closely. It doesn't matter how long it's been since they last wrote a line of code, the actual practice of coding sticks with them, and it greatly eases the challenge of further learning. Rote activities like codecademy don't seem to act the same way, since the user never gets into a flow state.
The article linked in the OP doesn't mention natural language learning, but I wonder where that sits in the proposed declarative/procedural binary. There's no getting around the brute memorization involved, but it does seem like certain language acquisition skills can be applied abstractly to grammar comprehension, semantic pattern recognition and the like, and can consequently make one's third or fourth language easier to learn than one's second.
Tangentially, and anecdotally, I can see that children in Denmark (or at least Copenhagen) seem to learn more quickly than American kids to ride adult bikes because they never use training wheels. They first start on strider-type bikes that teaches them the balance needed, so once they graduate to pedal bikes they don't need the training wheel and pick it up fairly quickly - at least relative to my experience as a kid in the US.
It’s one of those things immigrants need to learn when they move to this country (the Netherlands) and it’s certainly not as easy as you suggest.
There's probably a wide variance in these things.
Had I not acquired that sense of balance associated with the front bar's alignment through practice, I don't think I would have been able to hear someone say "conservation of angular momentum", pick up a bike and start riding it.
I own a recumbent bike. Learning to ride it wasn't difficult, I was able to wobble around and had to regularly put my foot down the first couple minutes and got my balance for real within a day. I let other people ride it when they ask me about it and my experience seems fairly normal.
By contrast, at one point I went 10 years without riding a bike. When I got back on, I could immediately ride. No wobbling, no learning curve.
I've seen videos of other adults learning to ride bikes and it doesn't take them long to learn how to ride but it's not immediate.
I think it's important to consider a few things. How long did you drive a manual after originally learning it? How long did it take you to learn it? How long did it take you to "relearn" it after the ten years?