Backwards Brain Bicycle: You CAN'T Ride This Bike, Unless You Practice Everyday for 8 Months

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Screen capture. Youtube

...and then you might not be able to ride a normal bike.

This story is a fascinating practical example of neuroplasticity (the ability of our brains to modify themselves, to change neural pathways). Destin has a Youtube channel called SmarterEveryDay where he makes various experiments to figure out how various things work. A recent one struck a chord with me: Welders at his workplace modified a bike. Nothing major (ha!), just this:

Backwards Brain Bike

Youtube/Screen captureHere it is from the side:

Backwards Brain Bike

Youtube/Screen capture

For those of you not familiar with how gears like this work, what this does is reverse how the handlebars operate. If you turn them left, the front wheel will turn right, and vice versa.

Riding a Bike That Turns the Wrong Way

This might seem like an easy change to get used to, but it isn't, in good part because riding a bike is cognitively a lot harder than we realize. Consciously, it feels easy once you know how to ride, but under the hood, your brain it taking into account all kinds of factors and running them through a fairly complex algorithm to keep you going. If you change one of the variables, things stop working.

Destin has been challenging various people to ride just 10 feet on the backwards brain bike for a reward of $200, and, well... See for yourself. But make sure to watch to the end, because just as interesting is how Destin practiced riding this weird bike for eight months every day, and how after that he tried riding a normal bike again. Very interesting to see how our brains work!

Other Bike Experiments

If you like strange bikes and strange bike experiments, welcome to the club! Over the years we've gathered quite a few here at TreeHugger. Here are a few good ones (click on the images to go to the posts for more details):

forkless bike olli photo


Fast bike

© morganjames7

Norwegian cyclist backwards photo

Youtube/Screen capture