Easy as riding a bike?

We take lots of things for granted. Most of us realize this, at least occasionally.

Riding a bike is one of them.

It’s not just about having the time, or the freedom to ride or the financial resources to buy a bike, although all of the above are things we mostly don’t consider a lot. It’s also about the amazing things your mind and body have to do in order for you to be able to ride.

This clip from Smarter Every Day really shows that the neurological and physiological systems we use when we ride are complex pathways to build, and if you change the game just a little they don’t work at all.

My daughter recently taught herself how to ride a bike in a few hours. She’s older than most kids who first learn to ride at nine years and some change. She’d been on track to be riding a few years ago when she had an accident and broke her arm in three places. Once the bones had healed she went through months of physical therapy to re-learn how to use the fingers in her right hand, because the bone breaks and surgery to repair them had caused nerve damage. When she was ready to resume learning to ride she found the whole thing terrifying. She was afraid of falling and hurting her arm again. So bike riding was tabled, and I really had thought she’d never want to ride.

While on spring break she told us that she was tired of being the only kid in her grade who couldn’t ride a bike. She was embarrassed and self-conscious because of it. So, I took her to my favorite LBS and we looked at bikes. She found one she loved and we got it. About two hours laters she was riding as if she’d been doing it for ages.

At the time I thought it was incredible, and I was shouting it from the social media rooftops. Well, after watching this video I’m even more bowled over. She built a complex network of neurological connections, learning a whole new way to process information from her eyes, ears and body to keep herself upright, moving forward and able to move and steer the way she wanted to… and she didn’t fall down once.

This video also shows us that our minds, once we program them, really aren’t all that flexible or easy to reprogram.

So, if you are an old fart like me, and you’re trying to learn to do something new, and finding it a slog, relax. Give yourself time. It is going to take a lot longer than you expect.

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