It’s the holiday gift-giving time of year again. And once again, I’m stuck for gifts for cycling friends. Last year my suggestions were pretty broad: lights, bells, pumps, bags, and multi-tools. They still hold, but here are five more things that the cyclist in your life might like:
If you (or your friend) are commuting with a bike with flat handlebars, then you might consider a set of bar ends. These are extensions to your handlebars that give you an extra hand position when riding. They help with your positioning on the bike, avoiding numb hands, and give you an extra bit of leverage when climbing up the hills. Bar ends are easy enough to mount to a bike yourself, and are reasonably cheap. There are lots of different styles and shapes. Available at any of the local bike shops, a set of bar ends might run you $15-$50.
2) Pedal cages or clipless pedals
If you (or your friend) does anything more than a light amount of cycling then you’re going to want to find some way to keep your feet in an optimal position and take advantage of the power of pulling up on your pedals as you bring them around in a full circle. There are two basic options here: cages for your pedals, or clipless pedals. Cages are toe-clips that attach to your pedal with nylon straps. These nylon straps also cinch up around the top of your foot, forming a “cage” or “trap” that you slip your foot in while pedalling. The good thing about cages is that they don’t require special shoes to use. The bad thing about cages is that they do significantly constrain your foot, so if you need to put your foot down quickly, it can be a bit of an problem. Bike cages can cost $10-$30.
Clipless pedals, on the other hand, involve locking your feet directly into the pedals. They require special pedals and special hardware in your shoes. Typically this will mean buying some cycling shoes as well, but you can get clipless pedals that have a regular pedal platform on the side opposite the socket so that you can ride your bike in “regular” shoes for those more casual rides. The advantage of clipless pedals is that they keep your feet in place better, and are generally easier to get in and out of than cages. The downside is cost: the pedals can cost $50-$200, and on top of that you have to have some shoes that will accept the cleat that fits into the pedal’s socket.
3) Bag covers
Bike commuting in Vancouver inevitably means dealing with the rain. Whether you’re hauling stuff around on your back or in panniers, your stuff runs the risk of getting wet. Good bags will keep your things pretty dry, but as the bags age they become much less water-resistant. A good solution for this is to buy some bag covers. Bag covers will provide an extra layer of protection from the rain, and you can take them off to dry quickly and easily. Bag covers are a good under-$20 gift.
4) A new lid
Not everyone likes wearing helmets. I get it. And not everyone likes the “sporty” “racer” look offered by many modern helmets. This is where the Portland, Oregon company “Nutcase” comes in. They make a series of “visual and expressive” skate-style bike helmets designed to be interesting and appealing to the less hardcore crowd. Take a look at all the different designs. A Nutcase will cost you $60-$80.
5) A bike
No, seriously. Head down to Ride On Again on Broadway and take a look at their used bikes. They can set you (or your friend) up with a fully tuned new-to-you bicycle in no time, for less money than you might expect. Many people don’t ride because of something they hate about their current bike: either it’s in disrepair, constantly requires maintenance, or something specific (like how it shifts, or something). So, help your friend rediscover the joys of cycling with a new ride.
In the “too late to get now” category, something to keep in mind for later are a set Kickstand Cyclery comic books. You *do* read Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery, right?