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On Biking: Holiday gift suggestions for the cyclist

Posted by Andrew Tran  December 14, 2011 04:31 PM

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Looking for the perfect holiday gift for the cyclephile on your shopping list? Here are a few of my favorite things, each of which will make you very popular with your favorite rider.

When it comes to bicycle purchases is, I’m a big fan of “ride global and shop local.” This means shop your LBS (local bike shop). LBS’s (local bike shops and local bookstores) are what makes a town a community.

Now that I’m done lecturing, lets talk about gear. All cyclists need socks. Preferably made from wool. My favorite is Smartwool’s PhD ultra light mini socks. They’re thin and snug, perfect for warm weather riding. But come fall, most cyclists need a pair of booties to fit over their cycling shoes to prevent their feet from becoming frozen blocks of ice. My favorite is made by Endura. They’re warm, durable and relatively cheap (about $40).

Warm feet are fine, but if your fingers are cold you won’t be doing much riding. My fingers get cold easily. That’s why I use Pearl Izumi’s lobster glove. They’re not cheap (about $75), but they are warm and comfortable. And on a cold winter day, what more can a cyclist ask for?

Okay, the average cyclist asks for lots more than a pair of gloves. Most cyclists like to wear caps (it has something to do with tradition). Sure, a baseball cap could do the job. It’s just, how do I say this, like wearing white socks with a fancy suit. That’s why the cyclist on your shopping list wants a cycling cap. My favorite summer chapeau is made by Castelli (about $15). In winter I like Capo’s wool cap (about $40): it keeps the ears from freezing.

Bike saddles are hard and the parts of our bodies that sit upon them are soft. Before I became a “cyclist” I thought bike shorts were ridiculous. After my first ride I realized looking ridiculous wasn’t so bad after all. What’s tricky is that each company’s bike shorts fit differently. This is why a gift certificate to your Local Bike Shop for a pair of bike shorts makes for a perfect gift. My favorite shorts are made by Giordano, but when it comes to fit, chacun à son goût. But please: make sure to buy bib shorts. The bib means they won’t slip down and create a biker’s version of “plumber’s butt.”

Helmets: wear one. Always. If you have an accident, a helmet can mean the difference between life and death. All helmets must pass the same safety standard, so the differences have to do with weight, venting, and style. For me, Specialized’s are perfect, but because everyone’s head is shaped differently, this is another one of those “I’m going to have to try it on to figure out what fits me” deals.

Helmets tend to get lonely without a bike mirror. When seated properly, a bike mirror will allow you to see what’s coming up behind you without creating a blind spot. And with urban riding, that’s a great way to stay safe. My favorite is Third Eye’s bike mirror. Cheap and adjustable. Words to live by, on and off of the bike.

See and be seen means the cyclist on your gift list needs a bike light. Planet Bike sells a set that will only set you back around $50. Still, when it comes to lights, I believe more is better. That’s why I use DiNotte’s lights. They’re expensive: a front and back light can set you back over $300 which, I realize, is more than what many people spend on their bike. But they last forever and are cheaper than a trip to the emergency room.

Food: if you’re riding far, you must eat. A PB&J sandwich is great, but it’s messy and tough to eat on the fly. That’s why I like Bonk Breaker’s peanut butter and jelly energy bar. It tastes great, and it’s endorsed by Wes Welker. And you can buy them by the box. Perfect for stocking stuffers.

So how do you carry your Bonk Breaker? That’s what the back pockets in your jersey are for (plus a spare tube and pump, cell phone, extra layers of clothing, and a post ride burrito and milkshake). My friend Andrew calls the bright neon green ones “newbie jerseys,” but I swear by them. You will be seen. My favorite is Castelli. It’s so bright it looks like it’s battery powered.

If you want to ride when it rains, you want to be dry and covered. Gore knows dry. After all, they invented Gore-Tex. They have a range of jackets, all of them guaranteed to keep you from melting when it’s raining cats and dogs. Add a pair of fenders and you’ll be even drier: there will be less muck spraying onto you, your bike, or the person riding behind you. My favorite is Planet Bike’s SpeedEZ. They’re relatively easy to attach, and Planet Bike donates 25% of their profits to causes that support bicycle advocacy. Think of this gift as a win-win.

If you’re hoping to encourage the cyclist on your list to do just one thing to keep his or her bike running, tell them to clean their chain. It will shift smoother and last longer. Park’s Cyclone Chain Scrubber makes it easy to practice Zen and the art of bicycle maintenance. Best of all, the box is easy to wrap.

If you’re hoping to encourage the cyclists on your list to do two things to keep their bikes running, remind them to inflate their tires every time they head out. That way they’ll avoid pinch flats. I like Specialized’s Airtool Comp pump. The large gauge is easy on the eyes, and it accepts both Presta and Schraeder valves. The downside: it’s hard to gift-wrap. If your cycling giftee ever does get a flat, Pedro’s tire levers will help him or her replace the inner tube. Best of all, these tire levers are thick, almost indestructible, and bright yellow (which makes them easy to find).

If the cyclist on your gift giving list is interested in learning more about bicycle repair and maintenance, you could always spring for a gift certificate to Broadway Bicycle School’s basic class in bike repair. Located in bicycle friendly Cambridge, the folks at Broadway will help the bike loving person on your shopping list make friends with their ride.

All cyclists love chocolate, and the best chocolate around is made by Taza. They also happen to be local, and even use a bicycle to travel to farmer’s markets. So buy two bars: one for you, the exhausted shopper, and the other for the cyclist you know and love.

No one wants to have their bike stolen. No one wants a root canal, either. Brushing after meals probably decreases your risk for dental problems. Locking your bike up with Kryptonite’s Evolution Mini-5 won’t do much for your teeth, but it will make it less likely that your bike will be stolen. And that, dear reader, is a lovely gift for the holidays.

Feeling flush? You could give that special someone a custom made bike. Sure, they don’t come cheap, but they are awfully nice. And they fit like a glove. Two of my favorite local bicycle builders (LBB’s) are Seven and Firefly Bicycles.

Do you want to encourage your cycling friend or family member to bring their bike with them when they drive over to visit? My favorite bike carrier is the Saris Bones RS. It’s easy to attach, and sturdy, too. Plus it’s made in America.

For the cyclist who has it all (or really isn’t that interested in more stuff), you can’t go wrong making a donation in his/her name. I like Livable Streets (full disclosure: I donate to them), MassBike, and peopleforbikes. These organizations are making our world a better place. Which happens to be the best holiday gift of all.

Jonathan Simmons is an avid cyclist. His book, “Here For the Ride” will be published next spring by Cadence Press.

Readers: tell us about the perfect gift for the cycling aficionado. And check out my earlier column on bicycling books.

Looking for something to do on Tuesday, December 13th? Why not head over to LivableStreets for an evening of presentations on transportation research and advocacy.

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