How to Prepare for a Ride

Going for a bike ride should be as easy as hopping on your bike, right?  Somehow it has become so complicated.  So here is my how to guide to prepare for a ride.

1.  Decide you want to ride and approximately how long you want to ride.

2.  Assess the weather.  What does it look like outside?  Is it cold?  Warm?  Hot?  Windy? Could it rain?  How will the weather vary over the course of your ride?  Does it look great now but the forecast predicts rain or snow?

3.  Based on step two, collect appropriate riding gear.

4.  Put on selected gear.

5.  Remember that it’s been a few days since you groped your bike.  Decide to go check your bike and assess if it is prepared for the ride you have in store.  Tires fully inflated?  Chain look clean and well functioning?  If all looks good, proceed to step 6.  If not, air up your tires, change tubes, or clean and/or fix your chain.

6.  Remember that you will need sustenance for your ride.  Return inside to collect two water bottles.  Clean water bottles.  Fill one with water and contemplate for a few minutes if you should fill the second with water or if your ride will be long enough or challenging enough to need an electrolyte sports drink.  Fill second bottle.  Grab your favorite ride snack and tuck it into your back jersey pocket.  Remember the time you bonked and decide to grab an extra one, just in case.

7.  Take your water bottles to your bike, before you ride off and forget them.

8.  Look for your cell phone.  Once found, place in another back jersey pocket.

9.  Find keys and cash (Always have a few bucks on you.  You never know.)  Take both of these to your saddle bag, on the back of your bike – as you really wouldn’t want these to somehow fly out of a back jersey pocket.

10.  Remember that you’re suppose to stretch before you ride, or you’ll pay for it for the next few days.  Return inside, remove items from back jersey pockets so they don’t get crushed, and stretch.  Return items to your jersey pockets.

11.  Use the restroom one last time.

12.  Remember after you’ve pulled your shorts back up that you haven’t used any chamois butter.  Contemplate whether that is really necessary.  Remember the time you didn’t.  Pull down shorts, apply chamois butter, pull shorts back up.  Make a face.  (This last part isn’t necessary but I find that it’s hard not to.)

13.  Put helmet on, sunglasses, and gloves.  (skull cap and ear muffs if cold).  Put on cycling shoes and clomp over to your bike.

14.  Hop on bike, clip in and remember that you had intended to adjust your seat height before your next ride so that you are more comfortable.  Un-clip and hop off bike.

15.  Retrieve tool from saddle bag and adjust seat height.  Return tool to saddle bag.

16.  Hop back on bike.  Clip in.  Assess whether you’ve adjusted it enough.  If not, return to step 14.  If yes, congratulations!!!  You are finally ready to go for a ride!!

Of course you can go for a ride without doing all of these steps, but I don’t recommend it!

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Today would be the perfect day for a ride, I thought this morning when I woke up.  Sunny, slight breeze . . . no excuse to not go for a ride.  But internally I kept going back and forth about going for a ride or going to the gym.  This debate was because I knew what ride I wanted to do if I went for one, and I wondered if I was capable of it.  While I have been working out hard in the gym, I haven’t gone for many rides yet this season, and I wondered how all that work would transfer to my bike.  The ride I wanted to do was the climb up Dark Hallow Rd.

Last year, at the end of the sunny season that climb was challenging.  I could do it, but only because I willed myself to.  When I reached the steepest parts, I would have to remind myself that I had conquered the climb before and I had no excuse to give up.  It was sheer willpower.  It’s not that the climb is particularly intense, but it is a good distance of steady climbing.  It is mind over matter when your muscles are screaming at you and your lungs are burning.

But today, it was a new climb.  I finally geared up at one o’clock and headed out.  There were cyclists everywhere today and I paced behind two going between 14-16 mph for a good distance until they turned off to go over Carpenter Hill.  They gained my respect right there.  That climb was my first nemesis.  (To read about my experience conquering that climb read, “Alpe d’Heuz – Or Something Not Remotely Similar” from January 2011).  Since I was still warming up for Dark Hallow, I continued on the false flats down S. Stage.  As I approached the turn to begin the climb, I went through the litany of things I tell myself to make it over climbs.  It’s all about pacing, breathing and focusing on the few feet of pavement in front of me, not the rest of the climb still looming ahead.

As I started, I suddenly realized how empty the road had become.  There were no more cyclists to pass and very few cars.  I know there are plenty of cyclist who ride these climbs too, but there are also many lay cyclists that wouldn’t dare.  I can’t help but feel a sense of pride when I do this ride.  And as I passed several land marks my mind reflected on past rides, experiences and thoughts I’ve had before.  When I reached the top I was surprised at how quickly I had done it and while I wouldn’t call it easy, it was not as challenging as the last time I did it.  I couldn’t believe it.  I kicked it’s ass.

I feel excited about future rides now, no longer intimidated to rejoin group rides, and proud of all of the hard work I’ve done. My progress in the gym has also made me proud.  I am down to 17% body fat and have visible muscles in my arms now.  They’re little, but they’re all mine.  I haven’t attempted another pull-up yet, but I know I am getting closer every day.

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3 Weeks

3 weeks ago I tried to do a pull up with shameful results.  I didn’t even move.  It was defeating and I wondered often if I really wanted to pursue this goal.  But I have stuck with the plan and worked at it and tonight I had to attempt another one.  I went from feeling happy and carefree to freaked out when my trainer told me I had to attempt another one.  0-60 in 3 seconds!  I’m that good at stress!  But after trying to think of a way out of it I tried.  And I am happy to report that I have made progress.  I am not there yet.  Not by a long shot.  But I moved about 3 inches.  Sounds like so little, but considering where I began, I’m feeling pretty damn good about it!  Now I really believe that I CAN do it.  I will do it.  It is only a matter of time.  It is amazing to reflect on how impossible this felt a few weeks ago.

And because of this new found feeling of awesomeness, I have decided to commit to participating in Ride the Rogue this year.  I will, at minimum, ride the 65 miler, and if I progress faster than last year, I may even attempt the century (100miles).  For the next few months I will be working on building my base back up to around 30 miles and about 3 months before I will begin actively training and increasing my distance.  This weekend, however, I’m looking forward to going on a club ride that will include a hike up Table Rock.

On June 4th, 2011 I wrote a post, “We Reap What We Sow,”  about conquering Table Rock, which you can easily find by clicking on “June” to the right of this post.  It is yet another example of conquering new things.  I would toss the gauntlet down to any of you reading this.  Whatever that secret desire is that you have, the thing you are afraid to voice even to yourself, you really can do it.  It may take time, sweat and tears, but you really can do it.  Let me be an example to you, because not so long ago, I was probably very much like you.

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Why Goals Suck

Goals are bad.  Very, very bad.  I am the queen of setting goals and have always given them ringing endorsements.  I need direction.  I need something to work towards to give my hard work and dedication meaning.  But sometimes goals hurt and like to give you a sound beating.

So yeah, this blog is called “The Novice Cyclist” and so maybe I should just stick to writing about that.  But once I began cycling, so many other things changed in my life that I think are worth noting.  I can’t help but write about those things as well.

Last week, I met a long held goal that I rarely voiced for fear of never meeting it.  It was the goal of getting to the “lean” zone of body fat.  Technically, my first trainer put me in that zone, but once I started with my current trainer I realized the first guy was too nice.  He pinched body fat too gently so I am only now, finally there.  I am at 19% body fat.  My trainer and I discussed goals.  What did I want to do now? Do I want to work for a six pack?  Drop even more body fat?  Seeing as how I hope to get pregnant some time in the future it may be now or never.  It may be all downhill after that.  Who knows when or if I will ever have the time, luxury or money to be able to devote so much time to fitness again.  I decided to spend a little time thinking about it to be sure I really wanted to continue to push myself.

A few days later I decided, why not?  Why not see how far I can really go?  And on top of that, a voice in my head reminded me of a secret goal I have always had, but never had the guts to go after, let alone tell someone that it was a goal.  This goal is to be able to do one . . . just one . . . pull-up.

This probably seems silly to many of you, and as a cyclist, probably even more so.  Cyclist have notoriously weak upper bodies.  But remember back to elementary school.  Remember the fitness tests they use to make you do?  How fast could you run a mile?  Could you climb a rope?  Touch your toes?  How many sit-ups could you do in a minute?  Push-ups?  And then the dreaded pull-up.  In my life, I have never, ever been able to do a pull-up and always failed that test in school.

So I found my courage and called up my trainer and told him that not only was I willing to go for it, see how far I could go, but that I also had this silly, secret desire to do a pull-up.  I have been a ball of anxiety since that conversation, leading up to my training session tonight.  Why?  Because I hate to feel weak and incapable and here I am putting it out there . . . my weakest most incapable ability.  And of course I had to attempt a pull-up in front of my trainer so that he could assess what he is working with . . . which is sadly nothing.  I barely moved in my attempt to do a pull-up.

He was very kind and supportive, not to mention encouraging and motivated to help me reach this goal.  But it was a very difficult training session for me.  I can’t even compare it to when I first took up cycling, when even a few miles seemed tough.  Because even then, I could still RIDE my bike.  I could still make it down the street while peddling.  I can’t do anything that remotely looks like a pull-up currently.

My trainer promised me that in 2 months I will be able to do one if I work hard, which of course I will.  I’m not built to do anything but work hard.  But this goal is going to beat me up emotionally every time I’m working on it.  I don’t feel good about this right now, even though I still really want it.  So for right now at least, goals are very, very bad.

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The Best Training Tool

Last week my trainer at the gym gave me a new workout routine to do.  When I saw what was written down I knew how hard it was going to be.  I whined a little and felt like having a little bit of a temper tantrum and then put off doing it until Friday.  I went through almost every emotion possible while doing it.  At first it wasn’t so bad because it began with a familiar exercise.  So initially I felt confident, motivated and strong.  Little by little, however,  that gave way to frustration, disappointment, anger toward my trainer, despair when I felt like I wanted to cry, sadness when I felt like quitting, rebellion when I determined I would finish despite my exhaustion and my trainer’s apparent plan to try and kill me, and finally elation when I made it all the way through.  It is a rare thing for me to be that exhausted after a workout at the gym.  It is one thing to be working out with my trainer and have him pushing me, it is a whole different thing to be pushing myself to that level.  Because really, if I wanted to, I could slack off when my trainer isn’t there.  But that is when I really think character is built.  Who’s really winning or losing if I slack off?  Although it felt like I was losing a horrible, bloody battle on Friday, ultimately I’m the one winning.  I am down to 19% body fat and am at a place where everything is new again for my body.  How far can I go? It is a good question.

And while everything I just wrote could seem related to the title of this post, I’m only now going to tell you what the best training tool is for cycling.  Kids.  Yesterday we were invited to go on a ride with one of our friends that we’ve done several rides with before.  This time, however, his wife wanted to join us.  Which is awesome, but in order for them both to come on such short notice meant that their 4 kids would be coming with us.  Initially the plan was for our friend to haul the baby and toddler in a trailer attached to his bike, his wife to haul one, and Dan to haul one.  The route picked out was 20ish miles of fairly flat terrain.  Seeing as how sore I was from Friday, I was pretty happy with this plan.  When we met up, the plan changed.  Our friend’s wife hasn’t been on a bike in awhile and they were unsure how 20 miles would go, so now the plan was for me to haul a kid. This is what the contraption looks like:

Suddenly I had gained 50 pounds and my balance was out of whack.  Add to that a squirrely kid and suddenly you have the best training tool!  Small inclines are suddenly mountains, and due to the unexpected movements of the kid it feels like you are constantly being buffeted by winds.  Within a few miles my hands were cramping due to my deadly grip on the handlebars.  At one point Dan and I switched kids, which made a huge difference.  Now my partner, although she weighed a bit more, was less squirrley and even helpful at times.  The kids on the trail a bike can’t brake to slow your progress, but if they pedal, their effort helps.  Dan started taunting my passenger that they were going to pass us, and suddenly she became real motivated.  On the flats she could completely propel us at times. Other than a “small” mishap (where we fell over at a dead stand still and I broke our friend’s child!) it was a fun experience and definitely a good challenge.

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Is it Spring, yet?

Ah that old familiar feeling has returned!  Last Friday the stars aligned and not only did I have time to ride while it was light outside, but it was a beautiful warm day.  All morning at work I was counting down the minutes until I would be free at last on my bike.  I rushed through all of my errands, got dinner started, and changed into my gear to ride.  Shorts!  I was able to wear shorts!  Man, it really saves a lot of time when you don’t have to bother with winter riding gear.  And then I was off!

It was the first time I rode from my new home we just moved into, and the first trick was clipping in while flying down my short, steep driveway.  I envisioned my neighbors (who I know are also into cycling) peeking out their window as I took off, seeing me face plant and slide down my driveway on my face.  Fortunately, everything went smoothly and I don’t have road rash on my face! =) The only thing I had decided about the ride was that I would leave our neighborhood and head over to Colver Rd., since it is a familiar place to ride.  From there, I turned whenever the road looked interesting.  I have never done this before.  I always have a plan, or at least a general idea of the route I want to do. Primarily I planned routes  for  training something specific, like climbing, pacing etc.   By turning at whim however, I found some new great places to ride and a new climb.

I ended up on Wagner Creek Rd. which is a steady climb that eventually leads to dirt roads and potential mountain biking, but I stopped before reaching the dirt roads.  I passed a few other cyclists, which confirmed that I had found a good route.  There is nothing more calming to me than getting into a steady rhythm of breathing while cycling outside and it was great to feel that familiar burn in my legs.  Of course, the next day it rained and should continue to do so for several more days, but I am excited to return to the routine.

In the gym I have been working on gaining back all of the fitness I lost from my break.  In many ways I think I have surpassed previous abilities.  I have definition in muscles in ways I have never had before and am feeling strong again.  But it is frustrating when the old mental blocks I thought I had overcome, return.  I’ve been working with my trainer on my nutrition, which I thought I had already mastered.  I was in a state of no longer having to worry about what I would eat each day, because I knew what I could eat to maintain my current weight without having to plan so much in advance.  However, to make any further progress in my fitness, I am having to change once again.  In reality, the changes are minimal, but emotionally I am struggling with old feelings.  I have a habit of sabotaging myself with food when I don’t make progress as fast as I think I should.  I also struggle with trusting people, and I am having to work hard to trust that my trainer knows what he is talking about.  I should trust him.  He has helped fix several physical things I was struggling with, but food is too tied to emotions for me.  Nevertheless, I am staying the course.

Other than that, I am currently in search of a goal.  I need something to work for to help focus my training and give it a purpose.  Mountain Lakes Challenge???  Might be too lofty of a goal this year, but I will find something to commit to soon.

Thanks for reading!

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Winter Riding

Last weekend we committed to going for an easy “welcome back” ride with a friend of ours.  It is a good thing that our friend was coming or we probably would have changed our mind when we woke up Saturday morning.  It was foggy and a frisky 24 degrees Fahrenheit.  For the most part, I felt that I would be prepared to deal with the cold with the clothing I had accumulated last winter.  I wore my long, lined Canari tights, base layer top, long sleeve jersey, cycling jacket, and a really light wind breaker that is florescent yellow (great for visibility!).  I also wore a skull cap and ear warmers.  But most exciting for me, it was my first adventure with my new shoe covers. They are Pearl Izumi softshell shoe covers.

The coldest ride I have done before was 32 degrees, and at the time, I thought that was the coldest I could handle.  This ride proved I was wrong.  We only completed 20 miles and for the most part rode a fairly flat road at a leisurely pace.  It felt wonderful to be on my bike again and my toes only began to become cold over the last 4 miles or so.  I think with a better pair of winter socks, I would have been comfortable the entire time.

This weekend my hubby and I went on a road we have never ridden before that is the beginning of the Mountain Lakes Challenge they do in Ashland every year.  It was in the mid 30′s and sunny when we started.  However, the first half of our ride included an intense headwind.  We only did 15 miles today, but it included some climbing.

These last two rides do not compare to the distance and intensity I was able to do last fall, but it doesn’t really bother me.  I know I will get back to that level but am just focused on enjoying myself again.  I kind of feel like I’m lulling my bike into a false sense of calm, so that it will be ready when I unexpectedly begin hammering again.  It is coming.  The weather might hold me off for a bit, but I feel it beginning to build.  The desire to conquer a climb, or ride, and beat it into submission is slowly crawling back into my consciousness.

The pro season has begun again and I find that I am not as excited this year.  I think part of it is due to all the team changes.  The lack of coverage on TV is about the same as last year, but I find that since Versus changed to NBC sports, the coverage doesn’t feel as complete.  They shortened the Tour Down Under stages to only half an hour segments.  It really inhibits my ability to get excited over the results of the stage when there isn’t as much build up.  I am looking forward to the TdF or course, and the Olympics are this year.  That’s about it for now.  Happy riding!

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I’m Back!

The fog is finally clearing and I finally remembered this blog. Deciding whether or not to write anymore, or how much I should disclose has been bouncing around in my head for awhile. There are several reasons I decided to return to writing. First, because my adventures are not over. I have many more climbs to tackle, falls to overcome and successes to experience. Second, because I always hope someone out there reading this will be able to relate, learn something, or realize their experiences and challenges are shared by at least one other person. And after I went to my blog today, I realized it is still alive and kicking. People have still been reading my old posts, even though I have been inactive.

So where did I go? Well sometime in October I began to suspect I was pregnant. It was an exciting time for me and my husband. We had been planning for this and looking forward to it with anticipation and nervousness. I was exhausted all the time and on some days I felt I was starving and couldn’t eat enough. That was the beginning of my fitness slipping. Unfortunately, the pregnancy was short lived and I had a miscarriage. It was a devastating time for me, initially. I felt like my body had somehow betrayed me and worried about the future. I have decided to share this, because it wasn’t until after I went through this that I realized how many other women have also had a miscarriage, and go on to have many children. And I wish more people would talk about it openly as a normal thing, instead of it only coming to light after someone has experienced it. Needless to say, it took a very long time for my body to recover. Initially I wasn’t even allowed to exercise at all, and when I was finally able to go to the gym again, it was a huge feeling of loss to see how much fitness I had lost.

Additionally, I lost both of my cats within 2 weeks of each other. One was 15 yrs old and the other was 10. They lived long lives, but it was another huge loss to have it happen so close together and so soon after the miscarriage. Those of you who are animal people will understand the grief that comes with this. We also had a close family member, and a close friend managing some scary health issues. Needless to say, cycling and fitness were on the back burner for several months.

There is some guilt in letting all my progress slip away. Everyone says it okay and understandable under the circumstances, even my trainer, but it is still hard to manage. Things that use to be easy at the gym are challenging again. I’ve gained a little weight back, and I have yet to get on an actual bike and go for a ride. In part, I’m not ready to experience past easy rides feeling difficult. But I’m getting there. I finally feel awake again and committed to getting back into “fighting” shape. And I am beginning to feel the urge to go for a ride, so soon, very soon, I will be blogging about my first return ride. As the saying goes, when you fall you just have to get back on the bike.

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A New Adventure

This last Saturday, Dan and I went for a mountain bike ride with one of our friends around Applegate Lake, a ride neither of us had done before.  It is interesting to hear about a place from others and then experience it myself.    One friend told us the path was fairly wide with only a few narrow places.  I also heard a story about a friend who was thankful to fall against the side of a hill instead of falling the other direction, which would have led to a very steep drop to the lake below.  Nevertheless, I thought we could handle it.

Our friend has more confidence in his bike handling skills then I currently have in mine, and flew around the course.  I started out pretty fast, trying to keep up, while keeping enough distance to have time to react.  I was very pleased to see my ability to navigate switchbacks has improved.  I am also acting more instinctively with shifting my weight around when going over rocks, roots and other obstacles.  It was often necessary to shift my weight behind my seat so that when my weight was thrown forward due to an obstacles, I didn’t end up over my handlebars.

I have to say that my perspective of the course is different than what I had heard from others.  I would say it is single track, nearly the entire way.  And good bike handling skills and a decent level of confidence are needed to navigate the course.  It wasn’t long before I gave up on keeping up and went at a pace I was more comfortable with.  Unfortunately, I didn’t escape without incident.  After we were off the single track and on a gravel road, a large rock flew up from my tire and hit me in my shin.  This resulted in a massive bruise and knot the size of a walnut. But hey, it just gives me another battle wound.

I’m looking forward to roping some more people I know from spin class into joining us on future rides.  However, I also realized I need to find some females who enjoy cycling to make friends with.  All of my current friends are guys.

I also made the decision to start with a new trainer at my gym.  I mentioned in several blog posts months back that I was uncertain about continuing with my last trainer.  I finally came to the conclusion that if I wasn’t happy, it was silly to continue to waste my money.  So, I ended up meeting with another trainer recommended by my original trainer, who turned out to also be a manager at the gym. Unfortunately,  he couldn’t take on any other clients, but he spent a lot of time talking to me about what I was looking for and set me up with his recommendation.  (That’s a lot of recommendations!)

Long story short, I have a new trainer that I am very optimistic about working with.  I like that this is his career, so it is unlikely he will leave, as my first trainer did.  He also seems to really care about the people he works with, and a discussion about my thoughts around what we are doing appears to be integral to the process.  This is really important to me, as I think it is important to have a trusting relationship with a trainer.  And being able to talk about my feelings helps to form that relationship.  I also know how influential my thoughts are on my physical performance.  I had a very unique workout experience today.  I have been wanting to correct issues with my shoulder due to a past injury for a long time.  I also want to correct the issue with my calves trying to cramp up all the time.  The workout today focused on those areas in a way that didn’t leave those areas aggravated. I am cautiously excited to see where this will lead me physically!

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Bikes have feelings, too!!

Is it possible?  I don’t know, but my bike appeared to take revenge on me today.  What could my bike possibly be pissed off at me for, you ask?  Probably neglect.

I have an excuse.  Well several actually, but the true culprit is laziness.  Laziness is like a virus that spreads invisibly through the air.  You don’t know you have the virus until WHAM!  You are flat on your back.  It’s the same with laziness.  It didn’t start out as intentional.  I had a week of recovery after working up to my huge ride I had been training for.  And then scheduling conflicts prevented the normal amount of riding until the only exercise I was receiving was a few visits to the gym a week.  I woke up a few pounds heavier and motivated to get back into things.  And then the virus thing really did happen.  I was sick.

Add to these excuses, on the days I could have gone out for a ride, I fell into the old trap of convincing myself that laying on the couch for 3 hours was much better for me than a bike ride.  Laziness begets laziness. And thus, why my bike might feel a little neglected.

This week I have been back on top of my workout routine and was motivated to sneak a ride in today before it grew too late in the evening. I came home excited to jump on my bike. I dressed in my gear, ate some much needed calories to prepare my body for the energy output about to happen, pulled my bike out and realized my rear tire was flat.

Ok.  No big deal.  Annoying, but easily fixable.  I changed the tube, won my battle with our pump (that hates me – yes, it has feelings, too) and aired up the tube.  Alright!  Ready to go.  I then hop on my bike, complete a few revolutions and hear an irritating noise on the rear tire.  Ugh.  Ok, now my brakes are rubbing.  I tried the old trick I like with TV’s of hitting it a few times.  Nothing.  Hmmmm . . . guess I’m going to have to play with my Allen Wrenches that I always conveniently carry in my bike bag. I have never messed with my brakes before, so it took me about five minutes of messing with everything to figure out how it all worked and adjust it accordingly.  Being as I was impatient, I didn’t get it adjusted perfectly, but well enough to finally get going.

Phew!  I am flying.  Enjoying the feeling of being on my bike again, my friend, my companion that suffers with me and triumphs with me.  9 miles in, my rear tire goes flat again.  And now, I’m on the bike path halfway between two exits off of the path.  I give up.  This is not a good sign.  I must have pinched the tube when putting it back on, or there is something I didn’t see stuck in the tire.  Either way, I’m not going to fix it well enough to finish the 25 mile ride I had planned.  I called my hubby, who fortunately was off of work and requested that he meet me at the next exit off of the bike path.  I pulled out my CO2 cartridge and aired up my tire, hoping it would be enough to get to the exit.  Nope.  A few revolutions and I’m completely flat again.

Now I have to walk.  If you are unfamiliar with road cycling clipless shoes, let me explain the ridiculousness of trying to walk in them. These special shoes allow you to clip into your pedals, thus making you feel like one with your bike.  They are great.  However, the part that clips in sticks out from the sole of the shoe and runs across the ball of your foot.  Walking in them is like walking on high heels – if the heel was in the middle of the shoe!  I only made it a quarter of a mile walking in them before my calves began to seize up.  Off came the shoes!  Now I was walking bare foot, carrying my shoes in one hand and maneuvering my bike with the other hand. I had to walk about a mile.

So now you tell me, was my bike trying to get even with me?

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