It’s the holiday season and I thought it might be helpful to answer the question; what should I give the cyclist on my list? I thought it might be a good time to write up a gift giving guide so you would be armed with some answers if you are stumped like my wife was.
First up is the true answer to the question of what every cyclist wants for the holidays. A new bike! It doesn’t matter if they just bought one or if they have been riding the same bike for years, every cyclist secretly wants a new bike. With all of the technological advancements that occur year after year as well as tons of new models that are introduced at a rapid pace, there are many options that weren’t on the market when the last bike was purchased. Couple that with the fact that all cyclists are, at their heart, gear junkies and I can tell you that your cyclist really wants a new bike. It isn’t even always about wanting a new bike for their primary riding; some cyclists are perfectly happy with their road or trail bike but may want a shiny new cyclocross bike. They may want a new downhill bike to ride when they aren’t on the road or they may want a new trail bike to ride with the family when they aren’t on the club ride, but they want a new bike. There are limitless possibilities for purchasing as well. There is the $15,000 Vis Vires from Factor (www.factorbikes.com) down to a starter bike at a local bike shop. Personally I have my eye on either a new Domane 4 series or a Scott CR1.
While we are spending a lot of money, you could always give your cyclist a riding vacation. You could send them away to a cycle training camp where they can learn to race and train at a higher level. There are also cycling tours of California Wine Country or cycling regions of France and Italy. You can also send your cyclist off to ride actual Tour de France race routes with local guides. Even if you aren’t a cyclist it is the perfect gift to give because most cycling trips tend to be amazing destinations where non-cyclists can find plenty to occupy their time while the cyclist is off riding. Some training camps offer non-cyclist itineraries to make sure that significant others have as much fun as the cyclist. If you send your cyclist off to France or Italy it would be rude of you not to go with them as a traveling companion wouldn’t it? Sometimes the gift can be as simple as planning a vacation for the family around a cycling destination. You can encourage your cyclist to spend a day or two riding guilt free and still have a great family vacation.
A new bike or an exotic cycling vacation is rarely in the budget for most gift givers, especially if your cyclist already stretched the budget when they bought their current cycle. The next gift idea is a great way to make their current cycle feel brand new, new parts and pieces. Most cyclists love to upgrade their current ride almost as much as getting a new one. There are always new parts that live on a wish list in their head. Some of the most common include new carbon fiber bars or forks; which are a fairly easy way to change how the bike feels and performs. Depending on your cyclist’s level of experience they might like to upgrade to clipless pedals. These pedals will require special shoes, so make sure that you budget for them. Another area where cyclists always seem to want to change equipment is their saddle. If your cyclist is always bringing home a new saddle you might want to buy them the next one. It takes a long time and much trial and error to find the perfect perch. Most bikes can use new wear items like brake pads or tires. Even if your cyclist doesn’t need them now, they will sooner or later. A quick trip to your cyclists’ favorite local bike shop should yield some great ideas from the staff. Come armed with the make and model of the bike and a general idea of what your cyclist might be looking for and they can offer suggestions. Another option is to find out where your cyclist likes to buy their gear and purchase a gift certificate for them to be used for a specific item like a new seat or pedals.
Just like most cyclists are gear junkies, so are they data addicted. If you ask most cyclists how their last ride went they will be able to go into mind boggling detail about time, distance, and ranking of how that ride stacked up against their personal best on the same loop. Some will probably even be able to tell you where they ranked on Strava for the ride. All of this knowledge is gleaned from their cycle computer, but this is another category where most would love an upgrade. The simplest computers will tell a rider how far they have traveled and how fast they are going by a magnet fixed to a spoke and a sensor to read how many times it passes. The readout is mounted to the handlebars and looks like a small digital watch. The most advanced use GPS positioning and look more like a car GPS than a digital watch. These units can tell a rider almost anything, from directions to stay on course to the amount of power being applied to the pedals. Most cyclists use computers that fall somewhere in between. A basic computer can sell for as little $20 and the most advanced Garmin unit can top $500. If your cyclist is happy with their computer they might still need accessories to go with it, such as heart rate, cadence, or power sensors which all tend to be sold separately. This is why you should be careful if you are buying a computer that it includes the sensors that you are looking for. Often the computer’s packaging will tell you that it can provide a specific piece of data like cadence, but only with an additional sensor that is not included in the basic package.
Gear and gadgets are great ideas, but it is hard to surprise a cyclist with one of those gifts as you really need to know what they want to change before buying the gift. If you are looking to surprise them a gift of clothing might be the way to go. The options are limitless here and the best thing to do is to raid their closet while they are out. You can find out the sizes they wear as well as get an idea of their style. Some cyclist wear what is known as “team kit” or cycling clothes that mimic professional riders’ uniforms. Some cyclist follow a specific team while others follow a specific rider. If all of their outfits say Radio Shack, sticking with that team’s colors will be a safe bet. While not all riders will want to wear replicas of professional clubs, all riders want their kit to match. Keep that in mind when shopping. Most riders will attempt to get a complete set of kit, jersey and shorts or bibs, at one time and keep them together. Some riders will be loyal to one manufacturer such as Castelli or Pearl Izumi. Other riders like myself go for generic color schemes with unbranded jerseys or shorts so you can mix and match. The final option is to head to your cyclists’ favorite local bike shop. Almost all of them will sell shop kit that is sure to be decent quality at a fair price, although once you know your riders’ size and taste you can go almost anywhere or order online. I tend to shop at REI and Eastern Mountain Sports or head to my local bike shop.
What if you want to spend a little less than these options? You can always hit the internet and head to REI, Eastern Mountain Sports, Dick’s Sporting Goods, or almost any other sports equipment retailer. There are a limitless selection of bags, bottles, baubles, and bolt-ons to fit any budget. Cyclists are always in need of spare CO2 cartridges, tubes, tires and everything else. Gloves wear out and everyone always needs base layer shirts or socks. Finally, and most importantly, if you are really at a loss as to what to buy and need some personal assistance head to your local bike shop for help. These brick and mortar stores are the most knowledgeable about what your cyclist needs as they already have a relationship with them. They are the professionals when it comes to the best fit and have the inside track on what your cyclist really needs. They can offer suggestions from the smallest bag right up to the new bike and the best part is that you are giving back to your local economy by shopping from them.