At the Interbike Bicycle Show this year, I spotted an inexpensive gift idea any cyclist will appreciate, CycleAware's $15.95 Stow-Away - The Reflective Packable Backpack. Here's how I wrote it up for the show: Let's face it, jersey pockets are handy, but easily overstuffed. Enter CycleAware's Stow-Away. This featherweight mesh/nylon bag folds into its own pouch and fits into any pocket. Then, when you need a place to stuff your leg warmers, jacket, gloves, that lost garden gnome you found next to the road; simply remove the Stow-Away, open it up and it turns into a mesh backpack. The airy mesh ensures your back stays dry and you remain cool and comfy, and inside you'll find a built-in ID card, a key ring and ample space for all your gear. Plus, the straps are soft, there's a sternum clip to keep them in place and there's a large reflective panel for safety. It's so handy every cyclist should have one.
Another super handy item is the Knog Frog, a very cool safety light that's small, flexible and light enough to mount almost anywhere, such as on a seatpost, helmet, frame, handlebar, pack, etc. This is possible because the Frog is made of stretchy, tough, silicone and has a simple clip closure. Just stretch the Frog's "legs" around anything, hook them on the clip and the Frog sticks in place beautifully. It has a bright LED visible from 600 meters away, flashing and steady modes, over 160-hour run time, and is powered by 2 CR2032 batteries, which are included. Frogs also come in many colors. Most bike shops stock them and they sell for around $15. http://www.knog.com.au/
Also seen at the Interbike show last fall, were Bar Mitts, a nice gift idea for the winter road warrior. Similar to the hand warmers motorcyclists use, Bar Mitts slip over your bike's dropped handlebars and levers forming cozy neoprene pouches that block the wind and wet to keep you dry and warm. They're easy to install and remove and do a nice job keeping numb fingers or worse at bay. You do have to get used to having your hands inside pouches but it's possible to brake and shift even with your hands outside the Bar Mitts so it won't take you long to get used to them and you'll appreciate the additional protection and the quality construction. Cost is $64.95 from http://www.barmitts.com/.
And, lastly, this gift idea is for someone who already has a pro-level bike workshop (or is planning one), complete with an air compressor for inflating tires the easy and fast way. Typically, air compressors come with simple chucks that let you inflate car and bike tires with Schrader valves. When you need to inflate tires with Presta valves, you must screw an adapter onto the valve or you might have one that you've attached to the chuck. Either way, it's an extra step. Also, most chucks do not include gauges so there's no easy way to tell if you've got the pressure right. So, you have to take another extra step and double check with a separate gauge. Things get much simpler when you have the Presta Inflator http://www.prestaflator.com/ $39.95. This beautifully engineered upgrade fits Presta and Schrader valves, has an accurate, easy-to-read color-coded gauge, and is built of heavy-duty steel to last. Plus, it works like a variable-speed drill. The more you squeeze the handle, the faster you inflate the tire, so you will never blow a tire off a rim again. The Presta Inflator folks also stock a full selection of replacement parts and even other chucks your giftee might like. This is one cool tool, so nice that apparently Trek bicycle company equipped all its benches with them.
I hope these gift ideas are helpful. If none seem right for your cyclist, be sure to visit or call your local bike shop where you're sure to find many more great ideas from maintenance packages, to clothing, to the latest components and accessories. Remember that even something as simple and affordable as a new pair of socks or gloves is sure to please, too. Happy cycling holidays!