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Vienna Pedaler: Holiday Gifts for the Cyclist

Our biking columnist gives a guide to buying for the biker in your life

So, the holidays are approaching, and there’s a cyclist or two on your shopping list. What can you get them, even if you don’t know much about cycling yourself?

Accessories: Your local bike shop is bound to have a wide assortment of cool toys to “trick out” your special someone’s bike (or trike). Options range from little “stocking stuffers” to ... well, the sky’s the limit I suppose.

Lights: One of the best gifts you can give someone you care about is a set of lights for their bike. I believe every rider should have lights for their bike, even if they “never ride at night.” You never know when you might get caught out later than you expect, especially this time of short days, so having at least a “safety” set of lights is a good idea. Available as separate front and rear units, as well as in sets, they range in price from around $15 for basic “safety blinkies” to several hundred dollars for powerful rechargeable or dynamo powered lighting systems. Don’t be scared off by that ... perfectly good, very bright lights are available in the $50 to 60 range, and many fit into a stocking quite well!  Good brands to check out: Cateye, Planet Bike, Sigma, NiteRider and Cygolite are all good, as well as others.

Bell or Horn: Another good on-the-bike accessory, riders can alert others of their approach. I’m a big fan of bells, myself, as horns can sometimes seem a bit abrupt, but others prefer the firm signal a horn gives. There’s a huge array of options out there, ranging from simple $5 bells to elaborate air or battery powered horns.

Gadgets: If the cyclist in your life likes to know how far and how fast they’ve gone, ride to get and stay fit, or they’re just a gadget nut, you can’t go wrong with a cyclecomputer. These handy little gizmos can tell you everthing from the basic speed and distance on up through heart rate, altitude, calories burned, you name it. Starting at around $25 for a basic model, you can again pay hundreds for more elaborate systems, including GPS systems for bikes. But the vast majority of models that serve MOST riders needs are right around the $30 to 50 range. Good names to look for are Sigma, Cateye, and Planet bike.

Tools: Suppose your bike pal likes to tinker with their bike, or at least be prepared for emergencies on the road? Tools are always a good bet for folks like that and you can get everything from a simple set of tire levers for $5 or get a full, professional style toolkit for hundreds of dollars. A very nice gift for the mechanically inclined (or those who would like to be) is a cycling multi-tool.  Much like the famous Leatherman, these tools have a wide assortment of handy tools, but designed specifically for bikes. Tiny and light, they allow you to pack a tool box worth of tools in a pocket or saddle bag, and they’ll get a rider out of most any jam. Names I like are Park Tool, Topeak, and Lezyne, but there are plenty of others out there.

Clothing: Gloves and hats, jackets, reflective safety gear, like ankle straps and vests. If you really know your friend well, and know their sizes and tastes, you could venture into buying a special bike jersey for them. Maybe they are particularly fond of the brand of bicycle they ride, or a famous cycling team or event. There are plenty of options out there for “branded” cycling clothes. And nothing says you care about someone more than buying something that might save their life one day ... a bike helmet! The industry says they should be replaced every few years, so now may be the time to take care of that for someone you love.

Reads: Books related to cycling can also be a fun gift for someone who loves bikes. There are a wealth of ride guides, including the new "Where to Bike Washington DC," a really handy and useful book. If your cycling enthusiast is an armchair adventurer, or seriously interested in long distance travel by bike, pick up something like “Metal Cowboy" by Joe Kurmaskie, who has written a series about his two wheel adventures that are both inspirational and hysterically funny. Pick up any of the many excellent “how to bike tour” books that are out there. For the budding mechanic, the Park Tool "Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair" is a good choice, as are any of Leonard Zinn’s books, or the repair guide published by "Bicycling" magazine. Bicycle history books are also a great read, if your friend has an interest that way. David Herlihy’s excellent "Bicycle: The History" and "The Noblest Invention: an Illustrated History of the Bicycle" are both beautiful and fascinating books. Finally, there are a number of great “coffee table” books that cover various aspects of cycling, from those that highlight hand made bicycles, such as "The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles," to those that focus on a particular event, such as "An Intimate Portrait of the Tour de France."

If all else fails, and you’re at a loss as to what to buy, or you’re worried they might already have “everything”, you can always buy them a gift certificate at their favorite shop. Most shops are happy to provide those, and it’s a great way to make sure your special someone gets just the right thing. It’s also an excellent way around that whole sizing issue. And if you’re feeling really generous, or that loved one has been extra good this year, a gift certificate is the best approach to buying a bike for someone else, in my opinion. It’s always risky to try to buy an actual bike for another person, because of any number of factors, so I’m a big fan of gift certificates in those cases.

I hope this helps those of you who are wondering what to get the cyclist(s) in your life. And I’d like to take this moment to wish all of you a wonderful holiday season. If you’re not otherwise busy, join the crew for a ride on Christmas Eve to view the luminaria on the east end of town. We leave from the shop at 7 p.m., and we’ll have snacks and beverages afterwards.

Some links for products mentioned above

Planet Bike http://planetbike.com/page/

Cateye http://www.cateye.com/

Niterider http://www.niterider.com/

Sigma http://sigmasport.com/us/startseite/

Cygolite http://cygolite.com/

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