’Twas the (fort)night before Christmas, and all through your head, no present ideas were stirring, not even a shed*.
I know. You’ve got every confidence in Amazon Prime, and its army of self-flying drones (this is a REAL thing people), to provide next day delivery right up til Christmas Eve.
But you really want to get your Christmas shopping sorted and this is the weekend you’re going to do it.
Mais what to buy? (Or to suggest that others buy you?)
Fear not. Monty has suggestions. He has a pret-a-manger Christmas list, which he (I) will share with you now.
So, on (your bike) Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!
Read on below and see what your mitzen.
(*We literally just bought (and I built) a shed for our son’s 8th birthday… the photo is at the bottom of the post…)
In No Particular Order
I’ve taken a James Joyce approach to this list (i.e. a stream of consciousness). In my head, the gift recipient is a cross between me, my sister and her husband. Which really doesn’t bear thinking about.
Also, if my brother-in-law were to read this…. well, I think the element of surprise on Christmas morning may be lost…
The best thing about cycle clothing, from a gifting perspective, is that you can always do with more of it. There’s only so many pedal wrenches you need (one) but you can have (and benefit from having) multiple pairs of shorts, jerseys, jackets, socks and undercrackers.
There’s also the opportunity to buy something a bit more luxurious than the recipient would normally buy themselves. I wouldn’t buy a pair of Rapha socks for myself, but I very much appreciated getting them for my last birthday (along with a Core jersey, which I think I would potentially get for myself).
Regular readers will know that I’m a bit of a broken record when it comes to certain all-weather cycling jersey, but if you are loaded (or more importantly, the gift giver is), something like, er, I don’t know, a Castelli Perfetto or Gabba would DELIGHT any recipient.
Judging by this screengrab that I just took from the Wiggle site, it seems a lot of people might be delighted this Christmas.
If your budget is a little more restrained, then Wiggle’s own brand, dhb, has some excellent gear. I just advised my mum to buy my brother-in-law a dhb ASV Race Roubaix Windslam (wind – be slammed!) long-sleeve jersey (which is really like a jacket).
As far as I know, he’s very pleased with it.
Posh gloves are a go-to gift in the real world for family members for whom you really have no idea what they like.
Good news: all cyclists appreciate the value of warm hands and, hence, appreciate warm gloves.
Tools are a slightly risker gift choice for cyclists. Many cyclists will have the tools they need. Sometimes it can be difficult for the non-cyclist git giver to work out what is good quality and useful, versus poor quality and gimmicky.
Fear not. Direct them to this blog.
So what’s a safe tool (easy…)
Pump Up The
I certainly wouldn’t say no to a nicer quality track pump (or a ‘floor pump’ as some websites call them). Mine is a plasticky affair from Decathlon that I must have bought in the early 2000s (and so, in fairness, has lasted me well).
I have a ‘premium’ hand pump, which, now that I think about it, I’ve rarely had to use. It would make more sense to have a better quality track pump.
Judging by the reviews on Wiggle, the clear choice here is between one of the three track pumps made by LifeLine (and tracking the clicks on my post about Torque Wrenches, the brand seems well-regarded across the board):
- the ‘Essential’ track pump, at the budget end of their range (470+ reviews; 4.6 rating)
- the mid-range ‘Performance’ pump has over 1300 reviews at an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 (but is unfortunately out of stock until mid-Jan, so not really a Christmas gift option);
- the slightly-more-expensive (but not overly so) ‘Professional’ track pump scores 4.7 (with over 250 reviews).
I’m afraid that LifeLine gear doesn’t seem as widely available in the US, so we need to find you an alternative. At this point in any self-respecting article about bike tools (or accessories), the writer should start talking about Park Tool. I was all set to do that, but having read some of the customer reviews, I’d say that the two track pumps made by Park Tool aren’t up to scratch.
Instead, if you can’t get hold of a LifeLine one, or you’re somewhere in the universe other than the UK, the Joe Blow Sport II floor pump from Topeak is both good value and gets excellent reviews on Amazon.
Return Of The Multi-tool
(Which would be the name of my life story, were it turned into a film).
I am a masseev fan of the multi-tools made by Crank Brothers (and judging once again from the reviews on Wiggle, so are the cycling populace at large).
I bought mine so long ago, and it sits quite happily in my saddlebag (which reminds me, you could always buy the cyclist in your life a new saddlebag – here is my guide), so I can’t remember exactly which one it is.
Essentially there are three in the traditional ‘fold out vertically’ format and one that sort of looks like the Transformers logo (you might need to click through and look at the photos…).
The main difference is the number of tools that are multi – from 10 up to 19. If I had to guess (and since I can’t be arsed to go out to the garage to check) I’d say that I have the 17-tool version. It’s as good as any of them, from a gift-giving perspective. Sorted.
Coffee For Cyclists
I’m something of a coffee fan and addict. I was once called into a back room in Quito airport (Ecuador…) to have my ‘backpack’* searched because I was transporting a large bag of coffee beans that I had bought at a plantation in Guatemala (I believe coffee is a common masking agent…).
(The man who is El Monty, he says yes).
(* It was actually my backpack that got searched – not my, er… ‘backpack’…)
I’m getting off track.
For some reason, coffee and cycling go together like cheese and pickle, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Ant and Dec. I don’t pretend to know why. But since it is the case, why not give a coffee gift to a practising cyclist?
What the actual fug. I’ve just realised that the people (er, company) that make the Aerobie (“the astonishing flying ring”) SELL A COFFEE MAKER!
I’ve been looking at buying an Aeropress for some time. I make filter coffee in a cafetiere. It’s too big for drinking filter coffee solo. It’s a faff to clean so, once used, it tends to sit (all dirty like) by the sink, sometimes for days.
The Aeropress makes one cup at a time and purports to be much easier to clean than a cafetiere. I tried it out at (of all places) the Hayfield Country Show (in the food tent) and it certainly made a nice cup of coffee.
BUT THEY DIDN’T TELL ME IT WAS MADE BY THE FRISBEE PEOPLE!
The Aeropress (which is available here from Amazon) is actually on my Christmas list, so I’m hoping to review it in the new year for this ’ere blog (you lucky lucky people…).
Tsk, Aerobie… [shakes head]…
Hand-Powered Coffee Grinder
Once you reach tenth dan status in the world of coffee, you must grind your beans on a regular basis. Something to do with freshness. I don’t know.
I already have a small electric coffee grinder and, to be fair, the smell of freshly ground beans is estupendous. What I don’t like about my grinder is that it’s quite difficult to get the ground coffee out, and a challenge to clean.
Purists would also say that, because it uses blades to chop the coffee finely (rather than grinding it), it doesn’t produce a constant ‘grind’. It also risks heating up and scorching the coffee as it does so (yes, this is a thing).
All of which is a long way of saying that (along with the Aeropress) I’ve asked for this hand-powered grinder (again, on Amazon). It uses ceramic burrs to grind the coffee, rather than blades, looks easier to clean, and, as far as I can tell, looks designed to work well with the Aeropress.
Book ’Em Danno
Finally, some book suggestions for the cyclist in your life (or you).
(As a keen Kindle-r myself, it’s a bit of a bummer that you still can’t receive – or give – Kindle books as gifts. For this reason, and since this is a gift guide, I’ve linked to physical books on Amazon. Needless to say, you could always select to get the Kindle version if you want.)
Rather randomly, on a wet day earlier this year, I discovered Chris Boardman loitering in the foyer of a branch of WH Smiths near where I work. I believe he was meant to be discovered, since he was signing copies of his new book. Not that many people had discovered him though, judging by the lack of queue…
Still, the book in question was his autobiography, ‘Triumphs and Turbulence’, which I promptly bought and had him sign for my (extremely lucky) brother-in-law*.
(*A brother-in-law who, since I’ve just asked him for a review in 5 words, texted back “Much more interesting than expected… [my sister] read it too – we both enjoyed it”. More than 5 words, but a write-up worthy of the Times Literary Supplement).
Quick fire! Here are my suggestions if you (or your recipient) is in the market for a book on:
- fitness or training: either ‘The Cyclists Training Bible’ or ‘Fast After 50’, both my Joe Friel
- losing weight: ‘Racing Weight: How To Get Lean For Peak Performance’ by Matt Fitzgerald
- bike fitting: er, ‘Bike Fit’ by Phil Burt (former physio for British Cycling during the 2008 and 2012 Olympic cycles)
If you’re the sort of cyclist that likes to tick climbs off a list as you do them (or you’d just like a curated list of cycling climbs), then the various ‘100 Greatest Climbs…’ books and their offshoots, written by Simon Warren, would make good stocking fillers (they’re the right size at least).
On a similar ragga tip, since Warren’s books are quite UK-focused (though he has written Belgian and Tour de France versions), for a more European alternative, there is Mountain High (“Europe’s 50 Greatest Cycling Climbs”) by Daniel Friebe and Pete Goding.
Finally, if you’re after a bit of humour (and education), I recommend the canon of Ned(ward?) Boulting, starting with ‘How I Won The Yellow Jumper: Dispatches From The Tour De France’ and cantering through the rest of his works.
Phew, I’m Done
Being generous is exhausting.
(And I’ve not even started looking for the non-cyclists in my life).
As many of you know, this blog is supported partially by commissions paid by the likes of Amazon, Wiggle et al, if someone clicks on a link and then buys something (at no cost to the clicker).
If you have clicked on one of my links, either in this post or in previous ones, then please accept my thanks. Whilst individual commissions are small, every little helps.
(And if you still want to click on a link: here is my general Amazon one).
Finally finally, I promised you a photo of a shed (I did). Behold my son’s new workshop (“man-space”):