It’s that time of year, when friends, families, and loved ones of cyclists face the inevitable question: What the heck do I get this person?
For the non-cyclist, and even some cyclists, the options can be bewildering, so I’m going to try to help you sort through them and pick out a good gift or gifts for that cyclist on your list.
Let’s start with accessories, which can make the bike more fun or more practical, or even safer for your cycling friend.
One good place to start is with the huge array of bags, baskets, and racks that allow a rider to carry things on their bike. Is your cyclist a pure pragmatist, or do they have a sense of style? Observe how they dress, and the things they do with their bikes, and things they talk about doing with their bikes.
- If they’re a dedicated “roadie” with a bike stripped of all but the bare essentials, they might be a good candidate for a messenger bag.
- If, on the other hand, they talk about wanting to try shopping or running errands by bike, you might get them a rack to mount on their bike.
- If their bike already has a rack, and they’ve been toting things to and from the store in a milk crate, maybe it’s time to buy them either a sturdy basket or stylish set of panniers to carry their groceries.
- For the rider who wants to carry a few things, like snacks for a long day ride and a jacket, perhaps something simpler, like a saddlebag or handlebar bag would be best.
In selecting bags, again, observe your friend again ... are they the no-nonsense, black nylon type, or would they appreciate a bag made of waxed cotton and fine leather? Your local shop should be able to steer your toward some good choices based on that information.
Another good gift accessory for the rider(s) on your list is lights. Recent years have seen huge advances in the quality and variety of lights available in bike shops, ranging from as little as $10 to well over $100 and more.
- If your riding friend “never” rides at night, you might consider an inexpensive ($20-30) “blinkie” set, small lights that mount on the bike or the rider, red for the back, white for the front. These are perfect for when they get caught out after dark unexpectedly.
- For riders who don’t want shorter daylight hours to hold them back, invest in a higher-powered set of battery powered lights, perhaps even a rechargeable system ($100 and up). The great thing is that today’s $150 rechargeable lighting system is brighter, lighter, more compact, and last longer than $300 systems from a few years ago.
Many cyclists, whether just starting out or with years of riding behind them, like to keep track of their rides and enjoy measuring their performance. Cyclocomputers are available to track anything from the most basic (time and distance traveled) to the most complex data about a ride (altitude changes, heart rate, even GPS tracking). Ranging in price from about $20 for the most basic on up to $600 or more for a unit that includes GPS mapping and an astonishing amount of information about any given ride, your local shop can help you pick out the right unit for your riding friend.
Clothing can be a tricky gift to purchase, for a cyclist or just about anybody. Sizes, styles, colors ... there are so many choices! For holiday shopping, I generally suggest you keep it simple. A good pair of cycling gloves can be a wonderful gift, as they make any ride more comfortable and pleasant. As an added bonus, they offer a significant level of protection from cuts and scrapes in the event of a fall. Available in fingerless “summer” or full-fingered “winter” styles, a good cycling glove will have a padded palm and breathable fabric back. Some are very “techy” looking, made of lycra and other “high performance” fabrics, while others are more traditional in style, with crocheted cotton backs for summer or knit wool for winter.
Now, many of us probably remember a childhood Christmas when we found a shiny new bicycle by the tree. Adults too, can find joy in getting a new bike for the holidays, but it’s a bit trickier shopping for an adult. If that’s your goal, I think it’s best to have the recipient involved in the purchase of the bike. You might simply go to the store with them to shop for the bike, or perhaps buy them a gift certificate or card to apply toward the bike. Yes, it might take away some of the excitement of surprising them with a bike on the big day, but it’s a safer path to getting the right bike for them. Trust me, everyone will be happier that way.
I hope I’ve given you some good ideas for the kinds of things your cycling friends or loved ones might appreciate this holiday season. I’ve tried to cover some basic suggestions and give you some general information. When it comes time to head out and actually shop, don’t hesitate to ask the advice of the staff at the bike shop. Trust me, they will have suggestions and recommendations for specific items in the store that would make great gifts.
Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season, and looking forward to sharing cycling with you in the New Year!