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Why Don’t We Forget How to Ride a Bike?

Nov 20, 2018

By Boris Suchan

Most of us learn how to ride a bike during childhood. But as we grow older, many of us stop riding and put those once-beloved bikes in storage. Years later, when we discover these relics and hop on, it’s as if we never stopped biking.

This is surprising because our memories let us down in so many other instances, such as remembering the name of a place or a person we once knew or where we put our keys. So how is it that we can ride a bicycle when we haven’t done so in years?

As it turns out, different types of memories are stored in distinct regions of our brains. Long-term memory is divided into two types: declarative and procedural.

There are two types of declarative memory: Recollections of experiences such as the day we started school and our first kiss are called episodic memory. This type of recall is our interpretation of an episode or event that occurred. Factual knowledge, on the other hand, such as the capital of France, is part of semantic memory. These two types of declarative memory content have one thing in common—you are aware of the knowledge and can communicate the memories to others.

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