The Chainlink

Comfort Is King

By Shawn Conley

Happy New Year!  How many of us made a New Years resolution to ride more?  Some of us may have even made that resolution in a drunken stupor.  However we resolve to spend more time on the bike, it’s still a promise that we’ve made to ourselves that, currently, we intend to keep. 


With the help of Strava and that year-end email that they sent me, I know how many hours I spent on the bike last year.  And, if you’re like me, you spend quite a bit of time in the saddle.  Also, because of the same email from Strava, I know how many miles I pedaled last year.  I’d love to get more miles in, but it’s tough to do so with my schedule. 


My girlfriend already says that I spend too much time with my two-wheeled “other woman.”  She even threatens to do unspeakable things to my bike when she’s upset with me.  So here lies the great mystery.  How do I spend more time on my bike, more time with the woman I love, make more money to spend on both, and, still have time left to watch football?  Here are some possible answers:

  • Buy season’s tickets to Bears games and take her with me.  (My doctor has advised me not to watch every second of every Bears’ game so that I don’t endure undue stress.  I told her that Alshon Jeffery guaranteed that we will win the Superbowl next year.  She laughed.)
  • Buy my girlfriend a bike.  (She advised me that this would not count toward time spent together.  I still don’t understand why not.)
  • Win the lotto.  (If anyone has any good numbers, I’m willing to play them.)


Because my chances of winning the lotto are smaller than my chance of being selected to go on the mission to Mars, I’d better figure out something else.  This is likely an issue for many of us with a non-cycling mate.  And, for those of you who do have the luxury of riding more, please impart your wisdom on us.  We need your expertise!


But, back to the original point.  For those of us who are recreational riders and average around 15 mph, we spend just under 67 hours for every 1000 miles that we cover.  If you’re like me and ride about 3000-4000 miles per year, that’s a lot of saddle time.  If you ride a little faster or a little slower, you can figure out how much time you spend on two wheels using your own data.  But, I hope that I can help you ultimately achieve your goal of riding more.  Many of us define riding more in terms of mileage.  If you’d like to cover more miles, you can do so by either a.) riding more efficiently (i.e. faster), b.) spending more time riding, or c.) both.  Hopefully, my suggestions will help you do either or both. 



If you’ve owned your bike for a while, you will probably want to get it tuned up.  I particularly like to do this in the dead of winter.  This is because the bike shops are usually not as busy, and can spend more time giving your bike some attention.  Also, you will have your bike back by the time the weather warms up, and you won’t have to wait until the bike shop can get it back to you.  Many of us wait until that 1st 50 degree day to take our bikes to the shop for a tune up.  I typically take mine in January.  On the 1st 50 degree weather day, my bike is ready to go!  This is usually not that expensive for the labor.  Think $50-$100.  You may need some new parts, which a good bike shop will inform you of this before doing the work.  This will help to set your expectation of how much exactly your tune up will cost you.  You may need a new chain, some new brake pads, perhaps a new cassette, depending on how much you ride.  They can tell the wear on your parts before beginning the work.  I usually just leave my bike there, and pick it up when the shop calls me.  It’s fine because I don’t ride much in January anyway. 

Photo by Oscar Antonio Rivera Jr 

Our good friends at Kozy’s define a tune up as

  • adjusting your brake, headset, crank, hubs, and derailleur
  • lubricate your derailleur, chain, and brakes
  • true wheels (on bike)
  • safety inspection
  • tighten all nuts and bolts
  • check for proper tire pressure
  • wipe down bike (not wash it)


A good tune up, if done properly, can make your bike run good as new.  If you haven’t had one in a while, and you’ve ridden your bike for a whole season, it may be time to get one.



For those of us who have owned our bikes for a season or 2 and ride quite a bit, you may want to get your bike overhauled.  An overhaul is when the mechanic takes your bike apart, and cleans everything from the inside out.  This also includes what would be called a tune up also.  When we ride, the sand from the fine beaches along beautiful Lake Michigan, and the grain from the road works it’s way into our mechanical parts, and over time, affects your bike’s performance.  Because it’s done little by little, you don’t typically notice it until you have an overhaul, and then when you ride the bike again, you wonder why you’re so fast.  An overhaul, as defined by Kozy’s is:

  • Full disassembly and degreasing
  • Replace and grease all bearings, cables, and pads
  • True wheels
  • Clean bike
  • Reassemble with all adjustments
  • Total lubrication of all parts


This is a more expensive undertaking than a simple tuneup.  Think $250-$300.  It’s also time consuming for the bike shop.  They would prefer to do it in the winter when there is not as much demand on their service department.



Ancien Cycles has a good definition on their page about what to expect for a bike fitting.  Many of us haven’t had a bike fitting because of the expense, as it will cost typically about $300.  But, the cost is well worth it.  If you are looking to purchase a new bike, the shop that performs your fitting will generally take the cost of the fitting off the purchase price of the bike.  Additionally, if you’re talking about spending more hours on your bike, you want to be very comfortable, and when you get off, pain-free.  A bike fitting is more than just the hour or 2 that you spend during the initial fitting.  That is the beginning of a relationship that will help you reach your cycling goals.  Afterward, you should be able to put in more time on your bike, and ride with less effort, and again, finishing pain-free is the goal.  So, if you have hot spots on your feet, back pain, or numb hands, you may want to seriously consider this.  A good bike fitting can help your saddle time be a lot more comfortable and enjoyable.  And, take it from someone who spends 200-250 hours in the saddle per year, COMFORT IS KING!


Note:  Kozy’s and Ancien Cycles are good bike shops, but are not the only shops that offer the services that I recommended.  You are welcome to try whatever local bike shop with whom you feel comfortable doing business.  If you have a favorite bike shop that does good work, then please feel free to mention them in the comment section below.

Shawn Conley is a Chicago native who loves road cycling.  He has a passion for helping others discover their cycling legs, which he typically does through the Major Taylor Cycling Club of Chicago (MTC3).  Shawn was chairman of MTC3, and also is a member of the Chicago Cycling Club (CCC) and the Friends of the Major Taylor Trail.  When he is not on 2 wheels, he coaches track and field, and is a real estate investor.  He is a Chainlink Ambassador who has an affinity for pizza and ice cream.  Follow him on Twitter: @ShawnGeauTigers and on Instagram:  antonlove1.


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