COLUMN: Riding Better: Cache Back Scheme - Part 1

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  • Aug 8, 2020
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Your brain uses shortcuts. Here's how to get your motorcycle skills to become part of that elite club of 'automatic' skills

Better riding tips

You would not think of The Brain, a fat book by David Eagleman, as a motorcycle skills book. But in some way every book, I suppose, is. That's the kind of enlightened blindness that comes from being fully immersed. And full immersion is a key topic for today's topic. And for that, we must leave motorcycles behind for just three paragraphs.


Two types of memory

Better riding tips

Eagleman's book is a full rundown of how our brain works. That part that caught my attention was the part where the brain 'caches' things that we use often, just like your computer does. In effect, it has limited fast-access memory (which is roughly how the cache on your computer works) and a far larger slower-access memory. And the brain's CPU, as it were, keeps track of what goes where. The instruction set on how you brush your teeth, for example, go into the fast-access memory. The reasons are simple: it's something you do everyday. So having the procedure handy is efficient. Simple. The instructions to rewire your washing machine, in contrast, might be stored (if you knew it at all, that is) in the slower-access memory. Why? Because chances are you'll need it once every ten years and that's a worst-case scenario -- buy better washing machines. 

But what about a chap/pie who repairs washing machines for a living? Her/his fast-access memory will not only have the instructions to brush teeth but probably a whole stack of processes and skills needed to repair washing machines. Why? Because s/he probably needs these on a daily basis and having them handy is, you guessed it, efficient.


Humans know nothing

Better riding tips

Human epistemology (the theory of how we acquire knowledge) suggests that we, humans, are not born with a lot of pre-wired instructions, unlike most other biological organisms. We learn along the way. And we tend to classify, perhaps inaccurately, many actions, processes or skills that feel automatic as instincts. And as you work on skills, you learn that you can 'defeat' instincts. Indeed, a lot of riding motorcycles well is the quest to defeat your instincts and actively choose the right course of action.  

Better riding tips

So how does all these relate to motorcycles? I thought you’d never ask. In the simplest terms, the only way to ride motorcycles better is to ride them more. Why? Because the more often you do it, the more importance the brain's CPU gives the skills, processes and instruction sets you use. They are in regular circulation, so it's important to have them ready and at hand. The more you ride, the more of these building blocks of motorcycling find their place in the fast-access memory. This correlates well with other aspects of human knowledge acquisition and application too. This is sort of similar to other concepts like muscle memory, bike fitness and other terms I am sure you have heard of.


Automatic skills

But what difference does having riding skills installed in fast-access memory make? I am so glad you asked. Think about brushing your teeth this morning. Did you have to actively guide the brush strokes? Did you have to time the activity to know you did enough? You didn't, I'll bet. This is because these instructions are in fast-access memory. Which feels, and this is the crucial bit, natural. Like you've always done it. Like it's easy for you.

Think about it, that's exactly how I would like to feel when I am riding the motorcycle. Natural. Plugged in. Easy. Confident. Like I've always done it.

Want to know more? This article by the same author talks about subconscious memory. And again, you will notice that the examples reiterate the need to practice to perfect.  https://www.discovermagazine.com/mind/your-brain-knows-a-lot-more-than-you-realize

Stay tuned for the second part of this article, where Shumi presents two alternative riding tips that emerge from this discussion.

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