It can be a bumpy road learning new skills on the bike. It seems like it would be so easy, right? After all, there's that whole, "It's just like riding a bike" thing people say, but this is a bit of an over-simplification. When we look back as adults on first learning to ride a bike, we often forget how hard it was and how long it took to learn. It just seems like it all happened in a day. A friend of mine actually described it this way, "I was at my grandparents house. There was this bike there and I just made up my mind to do it and then I did, the same day. I guess I was just ready." If that sounds too easy, that’s because most likely it is. As a kid, it is easier to learn to ride, for sure. The brain is hungry for information and new skills. It’s still in a very plastic, moldable state. But even with the advantage of having a new brain, it’s still hard. We just forget how hard it was. Time erodes away the days or weeks spent before the day linked to the emotion, until all we have left in our memory is the exciting part - the day we actually did it.
Riding a bike isn't a natural thing. Then again, most of the things we do as humans are not. We cultivate skills and develop mastery of a huge variety of pursuits. None of this comes easy. If it does, we’re often not remembering it right or we actually don't know what we think we know. Have you ever shown up for a book report at school and realized that you've forgot a few key points? Or worse yet, maybe you forgot it all? The brain is funny like that, it can feel like we know it, even when we don't.
The people that make things that are hard look easy, have put in the time. They’ve practiced hard and they've done it deliberately. Practice is not just about repetition. It's about quality of the practice. It's thinking about what you want to accomplish, consciously trying to make the change and then assessing what you did. This may seem hard at first, but you can shorten the time, by practicing in the most productive way. I will talk about this more in future blog posts, but for now, I will give you one example of what NOT to do.
I call this the “just go ride” approach. This is simply where you go ride where you usually ride and do what you normally do. I won’t tell you that you'll never benefit from this, you will, but in the process you run the risk of teaching yourself as many bad habits as new skills. If you really want to improve - and ultimately make riding much safer and easier - think about what you want to learn and practice it. And do it deliberately. A little practice with how to practice can be a game changer. And it can change a beginner into an expert rider in a very short period of time. So spend the time. Learn how to learn. It’s worth the effort.
Thanks for reading!
Next Blog Post - How to Practice