A gift guide to bike stuff that people actually want
Photo: Adams CarrollI’m not going to hate on shot glasses with bikes on them or leather holsters for carrying wine bottles by bicycle, but if you want to give someone a bicycle-related gift this holiday season that is actually useful on a daily basis, this guide is for you. I’ll start small and build from there.
I’m a fan of these. If you’ve got wrenching skills, offer to fix your pal’s basic bike problems, like flat tires or out-of-whack derailleurs. If they’re interested in bike commuting but are feeling some trepidation about the idea, offer to be their riding buddy, advise them on clothes and basic riding skills, or go for a weekend test ride.
The little things
It’s difficult to have too many bike lights. They’re always getting lost or loaned to a friend to ride home from a late dinner party. There’s an unbelievable variety out there, but you can find some of the better representatives of each type here.
If you are getting a gift for someone who regularly uses a cable lock to “secure” their bicycle, the most valuable gift you can give them is the gift of keeping their bicycle un-stolen — with a far more theft-proof u-lock.
Made right here
There’s a growing cottage industry in homegrown bike craft in this country — and it’s not relegated to Oregon, Seattle, the Bay Area, and Brooklyn. You can now buy custom messenger bags in Ohio, cycling caps in Nebraska, u-lock holsters in Philadelphia, and lots more. Check out this listing of bike crafters all over the world.
And if your gift recipient knows how to work a sewing machine, why not empower them to make some gear at home? Pair this cycling cap sewing pattern with a yard of cool fabric. You might help launch the next basement bike start-up.
Get your fix
Does your giftee have a bike that they might ride more often (or at least more joyously) if the squeaks and bumps were ironed out? Give them a gift certificate to a local shop for a tune-up. Better yet, give them a book on bike maintenance so they can do repairs on their own. I learned from Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance and The Chainbreaker Bike Book, but there are many other good options.
Do you dream of going on a bike tour with your bestie or significant other? Warm them up to the idea with Barbara Savage’s classic travelogue, Miles from Nowhere, the inspiring story of a two-year, around-the-world bike tour Savage took with her husband. Or maybe your friend is ready to start poring over these cross-country U.S. bike maps and rounding up his touring gear.
Support the cause
Give your favorite biker a membership with her local bicycle advocacy organization or activist group — or make a donation in their name to their favorite bike blogger. If there is none, choose a national organization like the lobbying group Transportation for America or Streetfilms, an outfit that has created an advocacy toolbox of short movies from around the world.
The ultimate bike-related gift
Photo: WickedVTYou got it — a bike.
If your loved one is new to biking, proceed with caution and sensitivity. The nation’s garages already hold plenty of dusty bikes that either represent the dreams of the spouse they don’t belong to or the fears of the one to whom they do.
My suggestion: Take them on a weekend getaway where you can rent bikes and cruise around on mellow streets and trails. It’s a thoughtful gift, you’ll both have a blast, and the experience will help them figure out what they do and do not want out of a bike.
Then, go down to your friendly local bike shop. Steer clear of the big box stores. A true parable of the American Dream, the bikes they tout are irresistibly affordable yet tend to fall apart faster than they can be maintained.
If your giftee is an old hand at cycling, that’s another story. Just ask them to describe their dream bike — and be ready with a pen to write down the detailed description. Then head for the afore-mentioned local shop.
If you have several thousand dollars to spare, thrill them beyond reason by commissioning them a custom bike from your local frame builder. If your budget is more modest, find a local outfit that will powder coat their beloved but rusty old ride to whatever fresh new color scheme they desire.
If you think adult bikes on the big box market are bad, kids’ bikes are worse, even at regular bike shops. The exception is “balance bikes” for toddlers — pedal-less alternatives to trikes or training wheels. Younguns push themselves along with their feet and learn to balance on two wheels, saving a lot of scraped knees when they make the transition to a pedal bike.
You tell me
What bikey gifts do you recommend? Is there a burgeoning bike craft scene near you? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.