Here's Your Holiday Gift Guide for Cyclists
If you're trying to figure out what to get your cyclist friends or family members this holiday season, don't resort to another gift card. The thing about cyclists is that they're incredibly predictable, which means you can definitely find them something to use.
So here's our recommendations:
Your saddle is arguably the most important part of your bike. Tobin Shreeve, manager of the Freewheel at 914 Valencia (there's another Freewheel at 1920 Hayes) recommended a Brooks saddle, especially a B17, as an upgrade to make the commute easier on just about everyone. He also noted that proper security for that relatively pricey saddle by way of a seat leash.
A Brooks saddle secured with a makeshift seat leash.
Sasha Barsky, owner of Citizen Chain at 2064 Powell, pointed out that consumables, like new tires, tubes, chains, and bar tape or grips, are always a great gift.
"It's not the most romantic gift, but if you ride a bike, you're gonna wear out the chain," he said. "And most people don't even realize that their bike is wearing for the worse."
I like to try to get gifts for people that they wouldn't normally buy themselves. I like this suggestion from Shreeve for that reason. "For any rider, an aesthetic upgrade like any item made by King Cage, would be awesome," he said. "They make stainless-steel toe cages that don't cut up your shoes like classic cages, stainless steel water bottle cages, and even a behind-the-saddle flask holder."
Other great options that can make a commute easier: good racks and lights. It's hard to undersell the advantages of having your stuff on a rack instead of on your back, and you can't really put a price on the safety of lights. One local rack maker worth checking out is Pass & Stow, a one-man shop that will make a big utilitarian front rack to fit your bike.
Even a cheap basket, like this one from Wald, can prevent a sweaty back.
If you're buying gifts for someone who uses words like "base miles," then you're probably already dealing with somebody who has plenty of gear. One thing that road cyclists can always appreciate is calories. Spring for a case of Clif Bars, GU, or any other calorie-dense individually wrapped snack and you're sure to make a road cyclist happy (and full).
Beyond enough to eat, those who are trying to ride a lot during the winter months have to deal with two things: cold and dark weather.
Light-weight, easily removable, but powerful lights are a clutch gift for any roadie hitting the pavement early or trying to squeeze in a ride after work.
Road cyclists are also almost universally vain. If you buy them any kit (code for clothes) make sure it's fashionable. Locals Cedar Cycling make simple attractive wool pieces. Rapha -- while opulently expensive and made in China -- is fantastically well-made, has a nice cut and makes you look good on a bike. If you want to spend even more money: Brandt-Sorenson makes much of its line by hand in downtown L.A. -- it will even offer custom-tailored sizing for "riders with unusual proportions."
Cyclists need fancy clothes, too.
The Fixed-Gear Purist
If your cyclist won't ride anything with brakes, the best thing to do is buy them a brake. Barring that, this type of cyclist will almost definitely need new tires every few weeks, since without brakes they'll be skidding through them.
Tires wear out.
Another thing that could work for anyone, but is especially prudent for those going for the messenger chic appearance, is some casual-looking technical apparel. Outlier is a New York-based company that makes attractive and functional clothing in technical fabrics. Swrve is another Los Angeles-based company that does the same. Neither will fool you into thinking that you're wearing jeans -- and that's a fantastic thing when it's wet or cold. Cadence is another local brand that sort of splits the difference, offering both cycling-cut casual clothing and stylish performance wear.
The Mountain Biker
For the mountain biker, Sasha Barsky of Citizen chain said that, a multi-tool upgrade might be a smart gift idea for a mountain biker. Specifically, a multi-tool with a T25 Torx wrench, since this is the tool you need to tighten up disc brakes. But multi-tools are are now including more than the just wrenches. "A few companies are pushing new ideas," Barsky said. "Serfas is now making a multi-tool with an integrated C02 inflator. Tire levers and patch kits are also integrated into the design."
Crusty multitool ready to be replaced.
A good multi-tool can make the difference between riding home after your bike breaks down and a long walk in cycling shoes.
If you want to get the gift that your mountain biker would probably never buy themselves, consider a set of Kettle Cycles SICC carbon-fiber disc brake rotors. They're not only lighter than traditional steel rotors, but they promise better performance and heat management. That's key on long descents where brakes can over heat.
The General Biker (AKA "Anyone")
If you're looking to go big on a gift, get the cyclist in your life in line for a new custom frame from a frame builder in the area. Usually, you will have to put down a deposit and then wait a several months to several years for delivery. What you get at the end is a custom-fit, custom-designed, entirely unique bike that should basically last forever. The Bay Area is full of frame builders that range in price, style and specialty. From Ahrens in San Jose, Black Cat and Rock Lobster, in Santa Cruz, Broakland in Oakland, Hunter in Watsonville, Mikkelsen, in Alameda, and many more.
Photo by K. Steudel on Flickr Every custom frame is a special butterfly made just for you.
While I've bemoaned the lack of coverage in the initial bike-share pilot in the Bay Area, I think it'll get better. If you're buying a present for a new cyclist or someone who's interested in ditching the car, then a Bay Area Bike Share membership might be just the ticket.
Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He's can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.