Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jim's Awesome Last Minute Cycling Gift Guide

Jim's Awesome Last Minute Cycling Gift Guide
By Jim Langley

You're lucky to be a cyclist when it's gift-giving time because it's easy for your friends and family to find goodies you'll love. To help, here are some ideas sure to please any bicycle nut. These are year-round cycling gifts, so don't feel obligated to use them all up for the holidays. Also, you'll find some of these items and a lot more ideas at your local bike shop. They typically offer gift certificates too so your favorite sprockethead can choose their own cycling toys. You might also gift them a coupon for a tune-up or bike fit - money in the bank for when their machine needs a little professional TLC.

Let's start with something comfortable, stylish, practical and affordable, DeFeet's Woolie Boolie socks and wool HandSkins ($13.50 & $12.50 respectively). These super-soft, wicking, warm socks and gloves stretch for a custom fit, insulate their fingers and toes even when they're wet, and are super durable for long life too. They'll like them so much they'll wear them all the time.

You may have noticed that more and more people are kicking the internal-combusting habit and enjoying the freedom and fun of gliding around town and spinning back and forth to school or work on versatile and elegant city bikes. And note, that even if your cyclist has a nice road or mountain bike already, they probably would prefer to save that for recreational/sport/fitness use and have a workhorse city bike built for the job. To help you select a winner, and a townie that's every bit as unique as they are, I've listed a few hot, new urban bicycles that will change anyone's commuting life for the better.

Keep in mind that, just like that Nissan Cube, what they "drive" says a lot about who they are, so you don't want to gift them just any old bike. It needs to be special, almost one of a kind, something as cool to ride as it is to sit back and admire kicking back on a park bench with friends on their lunch break. And, the perfect choice is Pashley's Roadster 26 (2009 model, approximately £560), as classic, refined and practical today as it was back when Kennedy was in the White House.

With a sweet-riding British lugged-steel frame, simple-to-operate 3-speed drivetrain, powerful and all-weather hub brakes, a fully enclosed chain and fenders to save your clothes, and even a handcrafted Brooks B72 leather saddle, they'll be the envy of their workmates and be tempted to take the long way home every night. No worries, as the Roadster is even equipped with dynamo lighting. Scroll to see my other city bike gift ideas.

Flat tires are a fact of cycling, and carrying a quality pump makes all the difference when they have to fix one. You'll make the job much easier by gifting them one of Topeak's Morph mini-pumps (about $40), which have features that make inflation (often difficult with lesser pumps) a piece of cake. There are Morphs for road and mountain bikes. What makes these mighty inflators special is that they all feature a fold-out foot, T handle, long hose and easy-to-attach thumblock head that fits all valve types. And these innovations let them stand the pump on end, step on the foot and push against the ground for super-easy and fast inflation. The Turbo Morph even has a trick flip-out gauge.

Speaking of city bikes, if they're building their own townie, or getting around town on a bike without any, they'll love receiving Planet Bike's Grasshopper fenders ($115). They won't be available in time for holiday gift giving, but should be by the time the snow has melted. Made of fast-growing Moso Bamboo in a 2 ply laminate with a durable marine-grade finish and rustproof stainless-steel stays, they'll add a major touch of class to their bike and make any ride greener too. Plus, these are the first double-curved (not flat) wood fenders. Contact your local bike shop or visit the company's website for availability.

Whether they're fixing that flat I was talking about or up to their elbows in bearing grease, giving them a proper bicycle repair stand will make all their bicycle maintenance much, much easier. And, Park Tool has just what they need in their Home Mechanic Repair Stand lineup, model PCS-10 or PCS-9 ($170 & $130). They clamp all bicycles securely, hold them up high for ease of seeing what they're doing and so they don't have to bend over, fold for easy storage/portability and are built to last a lifetime. If your cyclist is flipping his machine upside-down to wrench or hanging it from the rafters Park's Home Mechanic Repair Stand will make the ultimate gift.

Coffee table books make super gifts but it's not that easy to find good ones for cyclists. Fortunately, Vintage Bicycle Press has come to our rescue and is writing and publishing some fascinating new reads that any pedal pusher with an interest in classic bicycles will enjoy. Check out their The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles $50 and The Competition Bicycle $60, two books sure to put a smile on their face. Or, consider subscribing them to the company's Bicycle Quarterly magazine.

While I'm on the subject of books, allow me to plug my latest tome, Your Home Bicycle Workshop ($19.95). Note that this is an e-book, so you can download it for instant gift giving joy, and it will open immediately on any computer. Plus, it's chock full of my advice, how-to's, tips and tricks for setting up a custom home bicycle workshop, which is the perfect winter project and a sure-fire way to add another level of fun to their cycling. Not to mention how much money maintaining and fixing their own bikes can save.

Vintage ten-speed aficionados Velo-Retro offer an impressive selection of classic-print T-shirts that will garb your bike nut in color and style. Plus, they'll have something truly unique to wear around and show off to their pedaling pals. At just $19.95 for a custom-printed tee, you may want to get them several styles.

And now, for something completely different, how about gifting the cycling woman in your life an education in bike repair at United Bicycle Supplies Introduction to Bicycle Maintenance for Women? You guys could head up to beautiful Ashland, Oregon this summer and you could take in the scenery while she spends a wonderful week wrenching and learning the ins and outs of bicycle repair - a dream experience for those taken with all things spokes, chains, cables, bearings and gears. The class runs from July 26 to 30, costs $850 and is a little tricky to find on their website. Go to click on Curriculum over on the left navigation bar, and you'll then see Introduction to Bicycle Maintenance for Women listed under Mechanic Course Descriptions. Or just give the good folks up there a call at 541 488 1121, and tell them Jim Langley sent you.

I've been riding on Neuvation wheels for a few years now (that's about 20,000 miles), and they've been excellent and completely reliable. But, what's even better for the gift giver is that these quality hoops are as affordable as they are desirable. Neuvations offers super-low pricing for their quality wheels by cutting out the middle men and selling direct, so you can get their M28 wheelset and blow away your cyclist with a sweet pair of hoops for a mere $249, or go with the R28s for $220. (That's today's prices and they may change.)

You can't give a more important gift than the gift of safety, and a nifty little safety widget every cyclist will love is Knog's Frog, a weird little rubber flashing LED light that attaches just about anywhere. It wraps around their seatpost, handlebars, or even their helmet and is held by its own built-in clip. It's easy and fast to install and remove and no tools are required. And, it's so small they could attach several to be even more visible. Knogs come in a few fun colors, offer steady and flashing modes, include the battery and sell for $17.95.

Every cyclist needs a good lightweight jacket for those tweener days and Gore Bike Wear makes a winner in their Paclite Power Lady Jacket ($200; men's versions are available too). Made of Gore's weather-resistant Gore-Tex and Windstopper fabric with a tuck-away long tail and high collar, this cozy top will give them the protection they need and top comfort too, with its shaped elbows and tailored cycling cut for excellent freedom of movement. Other fine details include the adjustable cuffs, stow-away pocket, drawstring elastic waist and reflective logos.

All bicycles have provisions for bottle cages so you can take along a drink and have easy access. But there are bottle cages and then there's the King titanium bottle cage ($60), a handcrafted in the USA (by Ron Andrews), piece of titanium artistry that says loudly and clearly that your cyclist doesn't put just any cage on their machine. Made of rugged, super-light, rustproof and non-bottle-marking hollow 3Al/2.5V titanium, the King cage weighs only 28 grams (watch their surprise when they open this gift). But, the most impressive thing is how tightly it holds bottles. No matter how hard they ride or how rough the roads and trails they'll never have a bottle bounce out when they're using a King Cage.

Now, back to those city bikes I promised. Gift them Raleigh's Alley Way and they'll be zipping around on a green machine that's as comfortable and stylish as it is high-tech and practical. Sporting a light and nimble Reynolds butted-chromoly frame, easy-rolling 700c wheels, a wonderful Brooks leather saddle and easy-to-reach arc handlebars, it's a joy to ride. Plus, it boasts a belt-drive drivetrain, which means goodbye chain lube and grease stains! And, they also get disc brakes, fenders and 8 gears that make easy work of the climbs. Check with your local Raleigh dealer for pricing as this beauty is new for 2010.

And, there's nothing like a touch of Dutch to pedal around town in style and comfort. Get them Electra's Amsterdam (2009 Girard 3i shown), and they'll enjoy the natural upright riding position, the riding ease of the laid-back frame that lets them put both feet flat on the ground anytime they want, and a simple-to-operate 3-speed drivetrain. Other sweet features include the full chainguard, skirt guard, built-in lighting system, handy rear rack, plush spring seat and low-maintenance hub brakes. Don't miss the custom paint and matching bell that makes these sweet bikes as beautiful as they are fun and practical.

I hope these ideas help you find the perfect gift for the cyclists in your life. Thanks for reading and ride safe!
Jim Langley (jim @