Sunday, 15 November 2009

Gift List

The holiday season has officially begun! Today, I got the annual email from my dad with his Christmas wish list.

See, our family has long abandoned the romantic notion that Christmas gifts should be a surprise, because (a) we're picky, (b) we usually just buy stuff we want for ourselves, and (c) we're too lazy to come up with something awesome every year.

Still, we are materialistic bastards. The year my sister made charitable donations in our names, we were somewhat less than enthusiastic. So, now we just send each other wish lists.

Unfortunately, not every family is as practical and cold-hearted as mine. So, in the holiday spirit of helpfulness, I've put together a list of gifts the cyclist in your life might appreciate. Plus, I've included some items NOT to get him or her. If you stick to these suggestions, you can rest assured that the excitement your cyclist shows on Christmas morning will be sincere.

Now if someone I know were to see this list, and decide to get me a couple of these items, I wouldn't be opposed to it. But, again, this is about giving to others. Just want to make that clear.

Starting with the naughty, do NOT get your cyclist any of the following:

A jersey with a cartoon character. Now, your cyclist may actually want that Spongebob Squarepants jersey, having circled it in the Performance catalog left slyly on the kitchen table. But you are doing him a huge disservice by enabling this fashion disaster. Just don't.

A team jersey. Also a faux pas. Retro team jerseys are acceptable, but the team must be at least 15 years old, and the more obscure the better. Lance's Postie jersey does not qualify as retro. Speaking of which, yellow jerseys, especially replicas of THE Yellow Jersey, are best avoided, unless your cyclist actually happens to have been a GC leader in the Tour de France.

A squeaky toy for the handlebars. I have a bin of these things from my office Secret Santas. Your poor cyclist will feel compelled to install it, only to come back from a ride with some story about getting mugged and handing over the toy.

Any technical doohickey. Unless responding to a specific request, it's best to stay away from this stuff. And by "this stuff" I mean almost everything. You may think it's a non-technical piece of gear, but cyclists will spend hours querying online forums about what inner tubes they should buy.

With all these "don'ts" what CAN you actually give your beloved cyclist that he doesn't already have?

Road ID. This company dropped some serious coin on marketing this year, with ads all over the Tour coverage and Bicycling magazine. Levi shills for them, along with the Tour de France announcers on Versus. Just in case Phil Liggett is run over by a camera dolly, his emergency contact info will be right there on his wrist. Shell out for the Elite version, and go with basic black. Also, don't fool around with that online info service. Just get the emergency numbers on there. You don't want the EMTs to have any question about what to do.

Madonna del Ghisallo medallion. Nothing like having the patron saint of cyclists on a gold chain, nestled in your chest hair on a hot summer day. Actually, unless your cyclist is committed to the Eurotrash look, it's probably best to just sew this into his saddlebag or hang it from his keychain. Keep it small and light. Obviously, not the best choice for your Muslim or Jewish cyclists.

Socks. Cyclists love good socks, and the fashionistas have declared that white tall socks are in. Even more bold, you can go with argyle. It's a risky move, akin to getting someone a pair of giant aviator shades - not everyone can pull off this look. It's a bit much for me. I like these diamond ones, but probably wouldn't wear them on the bike. Also tough to go wrong with Smartwool.

Cycling cap. I like 'em. I do. Pace makes the best ones.

Loaded coffee card. Find out where he stops with the other roadies.

Cycling books.
  • Odysseus' Last Stand, Stamboulis (globe trekking hijinks)
  • Catfish and Mandala, Pham (Vietnamese American searching for his roots on a bike - love this book)
  • Miles from Nowhere, Savage (a classic in the bike touring genre)
  • The Rider, Krabbe (a classic in cycling literature)
  • A Dog in a Hat, Parkin (the gritty side)
  • Rough Ride, Kimmage (a polarizing figure in the doping wars; Armstrong hates him)
I haven't read the next two, but have heard good things (ahem):
  • Ten Points, Strickland
  • Off to the Races, Abt
Cycling magazines. There's the usual newstand fare, like Bicycling or Velonews. Cycle Sport is by far the best of the bunch, and only available online as a subscription or perhaps at your local bike shop. If he has all of the above, you can pick up an issue of Embrocation or Roleur. Whether you want to spend $20-$25 on a fancy-pants magazine is your call, but it's the kind of ridiculous purchase your cyclist might not make for himself.

Mad Alchemy Embrocation. Your cyclist will love a little pre-ride rubdown with this stuff. Smells real purty.

The Stick. Sure, it's overpriced and plastic, but if it even saves you one trip to the masseuse you'll come out ahead. I haven't had to see poor Doug all summer, thanks to some regular Stick love on my IT band.

A puppy. Cyclists LOVE puppies. God, who doesn't?

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