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Pity the poor loved ones of devoted cyclists. When the weather’s good, they abandon you for the open road. When the weather’s lousy, they’re down in their bike cave, elbow-deep in chain lube and tire sealant. Then comes the challenge of finding an acceptable gift. Anything too practical, like a helmet or a pump, they probably already own. (Plus, they Have Definite Opinions on what they prefer.) Cycling Tights Waterproof
Then there’s the whole subculture question: Does your cyclist identify as a mountain biker or a bikepacker? Do they watch every hour of the full-length, early morning Tour de France telecast? Or do they scorn spandex and all who wear it. We hear your pleas for help, and we’ve pulled together an assortment of presents to keep every pedaler—mountain bikers, road riders, commuters, or anyone on two wheels—happily rolling along.
Portland Design Works Otter Cage Kit (about $35 at the time of publication)
Sure, staying hydrated on a long ride is important. But that’s not the real reason you ought to give your favorite cyclist Portland Design Works’ Otter Cage Kit. Part of the set’s proceeds go toward supporting wildlands and wildlife, but that’s also not the real reason. It’s not even the glass-based protective lining that coats the inside of the matching “Wotter” bottle and keeps flavors from clinging to the bottle. (This is the same substance used in one of our water-bottle picks, the Purist Mover. Purist makes this bottle too—and almost every cycling bottle I’ve ever bought.) No, the real reason is this: Who could possibly resist those adorable webbed paws and Clouseau-vian whiskers? Not me.
Inside Line Equipment Work Apron ($70 at the time of publication)
If your beloved cyclist is spending more and more time hip-deep in tools and spare parts, congratulations, you’ve got a budding gearhead. This means they’ll also probably need a shop apron to keep chain grease off their clothes. The Inside Line Equipment Work Apron is sturdy and stylish, and it has half a dozen pockets to corral hex wrenches and chain whips and extra spokes. (It also comes in Cordura nylon, though I prefer the broken-in look and feel of the waxed canvas.) Credit where credit is due: I heard about the ILE apron from my boyfriend, who first brought one of them home. He also wears it while tending our outdoor pizza oven. Double the duty, double the value.
Sealskinz Waterproof Heated Cycle Glove ($240 at the time of publication)
When the going gets cold, fair-weather cyclists retreat to their Peloton-equipped pain caves, where they spin till spring. Other cyclists, though, prefer to continue riding outside through the rain, slush, snow, and wind. If your beloved falls into the latter camp, they might appreciate a pair of waterproof, windproof, heated Sealskinz gloves. (Regular winter gloves don’t stand a chance against the frigid rushing wind of steady riding.) On my last holiday visit to my family in New England, I pedaled out wearing these gloves on a low-30s morning, and the PrimaLoft insulation alone kept my fingers warm. But a few days later, when the temperatures dropped into the single digits, it was time to bring the heat. I tapped the red button on the back of each glove to turn on the heating elements embedded in the polyester linings (they’re powered by a pair of removable, USB-rechargeable batteries tucked into the wristbands). The “medium” setting was enough to restore feeling to my numb digits and let me steer, brake, and shift safely. Be warned: Sizes run a little small.
Road Runner California Burrito ($100 at the time of publication)
If your favorite cyclist doesn’t already own a handlebar bag, that might be intentional. (I resisted getting one for years, until I borrowed a friend’s, and it converted me.) Now we have a guide to handlebar bags, and our top pick is the Road Runner California Burrito. This nylon cylinder attaches with straps that can be moved to accommodate whatever else (like a bell) your cyclist might have on their handlebars. Plus, there are side pockets for small items they might want to grab quickly. And think of all the things it can carry: Clif Bars! A windbreaker! A hand pump! A tube of sunblock! Half of the enormous sandwich that didn’t get finished at lunch! It all fits.
Ornot Winter Bolt Sock (about $25 at the time of publication)
Speaking on behalf of every cyclist I know, we can never have too many pairs of socks. These socks in particular, from the San Francisco company Ornot, are cozy (they’re made with merino wool), help the planet (they also incorporate polyester from recycled plastic bottles), and are not nearly as garish as many cycling socks I’ve seen. (I have them in Sapphire; there are three other color combos available.) Sizes run from small to extra-large. Thicker and cushier than most other cycling socks I own, the Winter Bolts kept my toes warm at 10,000-plus feet of near-freezing elevation on a recent mountain-bike trip in southern Utah’s Escalante Mountains.
Wera Hex-Plus SB L-Key 950/9 Hex Wrench (about $45 at the time of publication)
If your cyclist works on their bike at all—even simply to adjust the saddle height or to replace a worn-out brake pad—they should own a set of metric hex (aka Allen) wrenches. In fact, they most likely already do (one of our picks, we hope). But your favorite cyclist probably doesn’t have a set of these Wera wrenches. Made in Germany, these high-quality wrenches won’t, for example, round out a bike’s lightweight bolts (ask me how I know), and their bright colors bring a pop of joy to my otherwise-mundane bike-maintenance chores.
La Maison du Savon de Marseille Tradition Grand-Mère Olive Soap Slice (Set of 3) ($35, plus $10 shipping, at the time of publication)
Years ago, on a bike trip in Provence, I bought a slice of olive-oil soap at a village market. The twine loop was charming, and the soap smelled good. But what I didn’t realize until I got back to our rental house was how effective it would be at getting chain lube off of my hands and out from beneath my fingernails. No regular soap I’ve tried since has worked as well. If your cyclist leaves telltale grease streaks on towels and clothing, wrap up a slab of this soap and drop it in their stocking. If you can’t find online the particular brand of soap I have—La Maison du Savon de Marseille—any other true, “traditional” Marseilles olive-oil soap, such as Marius Fabre, should do. Just be sure it’s labeled “72% pure” and contains olive oil—some manufacturers, such as Compagnie de Provence, make a version that uses palm oil, which I can’t vouch for.
WaterField Cycling Tote (about $140 at the time of publication)
When I first saw this tote, produced by the same San Francisco company that makes one of our favorite pieces of under-seat luggage, I thought, dismissively, Oh, who needs a cycling-specific tote bag? Then I remembered the (multiple) times I’d put the bike rack on the back of my car, loaded up my bike, and driven three exits down the freeway, heading to a distant ride, before realizing I’d forgotten my cycling shoes. Or my helmet. Or my water bottles. Or all of the above. So I guess I’m the person who needs one. If your favorite cyclist is prone to similar bouts of absent-mindedness, get them this bucket bag. The tote has pouches for two shoes and two bottles, a central space big enough for a helmet and a pile of clothing, and a zippered pocket for any valuables. No more forgetting one essential piece of gear … as long as your cyclist remembers to bring the bag itself.
Therabody Theragun Mini (2nd Generation) (about $200 at the time of publication)
On two different bike trips with two different sets of friends, somebody brought along a Therabody Theragun Mini massage gun to share with the rest of us weary, less-equipped riders. Pummeling the gun on our tight quads and even tighter shoulders each night made the day’s riding melt away. A smaller sibling to the Theragun Prime, one of our massage-gun picks, the Mini has only three speeds, versus the Prime’s five, and an amplitude of 12 mm, compared with the Prime’s 16 mm. (The greater the amplitude, the deeper the massage, so goes the theory.) But the Mini is half a pound lighter and more compact than the Prime—small enough for your traveling cyclist to take with them. (The second-generation version came out in November; it’s smaller, lighter, and as strong as the 1.0 version I’ve used, which you may still be able to find online.)
Timber Quick-Release Model Trail Bell ($25 at the time of publication)
If your favorite mountain biker likes to ride on low-visibility singletracks or heavily wooded trails, this bell will win them friends among hikers, horseback riders, and even other cyclists. Unlike a regular bike bell, which you have to intentionally ring, the Timber bell acts like a cow bell, pealing continuously as you roll along. (The clapper silences with the flick of a thumb for more-open territory, where the constant dinging tips toward unnecessary and maybe annoying.) This quick-release version attaches to the handlebars with a silicone strap, so it’s easy to move from bike to bike. I’ve had fellow trail users actually stop me to thank me for using the Timber—it’s one small step for wilderness harmony. If your recipient just needs a regular bell, though, I love the Spurcycle Original Bike Bell, which will work on any bike and any terrain.
Paul Component Bottle Opener Tool (about $25 at the time of publication)
Made of anodized aluminum by the geniuses at Paul Component Engineering, in Chico, California, this two-fer bike tool has a disc-rotor-truing slot and 15-mm brake adjuster on one end and a bottle opener on the other (ideal for mountain bikers who tend to favor disc brakes and IPAs). It comes in a handful of colors: We’ve got an orange one in our kitchen drawer, but I’m thinking my boyfriend might need a pink one too, for the bike shed.
Freehub Magazine subscription ($50 per year at the time of publication)
Whether your favorite mountain biker is looking for inspiration in planning the next trip or just wants fodder for armchair adventuring, Freehub will, as they say, send it. Each issue of the glossy quarterly (which is printed on heavy, color-saturated paper) highlights famous and lesser-known singletrack destinations around the world. Recent issues have featured an all-women bikepacking expedition through the Ozarks; the best trails in the former timber town of Oakridge, Oregon; and Arizona’s Rezduro Invitation, the Navajo Nation’s first-ever enduro race. In an era of increasingly consolidated cycling media, the mag’s indie voice and vibe are refreshing.
WonderlandYCC Mountain Bike Earrings ($18 at the time of publication)
Looking for a more-decorative cycling-related gift? A friend bought me a pair of these earrings at a gallery in the Canadian Rockies, where the designer, Tiffany Teske, lives and works, but you can find them in the US on Etsy. Teske makes her earrings by hand, out of stainless steel; they come in silver, gold, rose gold, and black finishes. The earrings aren’t dangly, so they don’t get tangled in my helmet straps. What’s more, they capture what I love most about mountain biking: mountains and, well, bikes. They’re like emojis for my ears.
The Handmade Cyclist Greg LeMond Espresso Cup & Saucer (about $35 at the time of publication)
Espresso is the unsung hero of road cycling. It fuels the ride, and it also provides an excellent excuse for a café stop. If your cyclist also likes to drink espressos at home, give them one, two, or a whole set of these made-in-England bone-china cups from The Handmade Cyclist (shipping from the UK runs about $10 for one cup). My favorites come from a series emblazoned with motivational (goading?) quotes from famous cyclists, including US world champion Greg LeMond (“It never gets easier. You just go faster”) and multiple grand-tour winner Fausto Coppi (“Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill”). Looking for something a little less combative? There’s always the Vive La Rest Day cup.
Mountains: Epic Cycling Climbs (about $55 at the time of publication)
If your beloved Tour de France fan perks up when the riders reach the mountains, they might just love this coffee-table book, the seminal handbook of the best climbs in Europe. Mixed in with the dramatic photos are accounts of what it’s really like to climb them, by such famous riders as Sean Kelly, Philippa York, and Lizzie Deignan. The appendix shows the gradients of each climb, perfect for anyone inspired to follow in their tire tracks.
Ostroy La Caravane Cap (about $30 at the time of publication)
Should you not feel qualified to buy clothing for your cyclist, your instincts could well be correct. A cycling cap, though, is a safer, more one-hat-suits-all option. Caps provide a great extra layer of warmth and windbreak under a helmet on chilly days, and they’re equally useful for hiding helmet-compressed hair after a ride. Ostroy’s version is made of polyester but feels like cotton, and it comes in 14 prints. My favorite depicts La Caravane, the untelevised, beloved flotilla of sponsors’ vehicles that precedes the Tour de France racers and entertains the waiting crowds.
Foothill Products Trainer Tray (about $50 at the time of publication)
Although those early pandemic concerns about the wisdom of outdoor exercise have long since vanished, lots of us cyclists still own the indoor trainers we bought back in March and April of 2020. This winter, if your beloved rider has rediscovered their trainer—dusting it off to revisit Zwift’s mythical land of Watopia when foul weather keeps them inside—get them this handy aluminum trainer tray from Texas-based Foothills Products. Clicked into a bike-computer mount (the tray comes in Garmin- and Wahoo-compatible versions), it has a non-slip surface and holds my phone, earbuds case, and TV/display remote control between the bike’s handlebars, right where I need them. (Note: Purpose-built exercise bikes, such as Pelotons, tend to have their own displays or display holders, so a tray wouldn’t really be as helpful as it is with an indoor trainer.)
The Rough-Stuff Fellowship Archive (about $40 at the time of publication)
If your beloved road cyclist has discovered the joys of gravel—that is, riding drop-bar bikes on unpaved, blessedly car-free routes—they might be interested to learn the trend isn’t new at all. Founded in Herefordshire, England, back in 1955, the Rough-Stuff Fellowship at first numbered about 40 members, a mix of genders as well as ages. What they shared was a passion for “taking your bike on a nice hike”—spurred, perhaps, by growing traffic on paved roads after petrol rationing ended in 1950. The Fellowship’s annual photo contest ensured that its outings were recorded—the highs (glorious mountaintop vistas, trailside picnics) as well as the lows (hauling one’s heavy steel bike over a locked gate, pushing it through knee-deep snow). This paperback collection of images draws from an archive of adventures that would inspire any present-day gravel enthusiast.
Machines for Freedom Summerweight Cycling Jersey 2.0 (about $170 at the time of publication)
Buying clothing for someone else can be tricky. But the splashy prints this cycling jersey comes in are so very fun, and, even better, the jersey is available in an inclusive range of sizes: XXS to XXXL. The Southern California company makes women’s cycling kits only, tapping fit models of varying sizes and shapes. The resulting jerseys (and bib shorts and sports bras) suit as many bodies as possible. Another thing I like: The jersey has long sleeves, and the fabric is rated UPF 50+, reducing the need to stop and slather on more sunblock in the middle of a ride. And if you’re still feeling uncertain about what size or color to pick, order a gift card and let your rider choose for themselves.
Topeak Ratchet Rocket Lite NTX+ (about $70 at the time of publication)
If your favorite cyclist has carbon bikes in their stable (to find out, just ask them!), this pocket hex-wrench set might save them from damaging a carbon part (by over-tightening a stem bolt or seatpost collar) while making roadside repairs. (I’ve seen a carbon seatpost snap mid-ride, and that guy was lucky to escape with just a broken collarbone.) Use the ratcheting handle and bits alone (it comes with seven hex bits, three Torx bits, and a Phillips-screwdriver bit). Or insert the torque attachment, which indicates how much force (up to 6 Nm) someone is producing as they tighten. The set includes a chain tool as well.
Salzmann Scotchlite Spoke Reflector Bicycle Clips ($17 for 72 at the time of publication)
The commuting cyclist in your life surely already wears a helmet, but reflective bike spokes can make their trips around town even safer. Made with reflective Scotchlite material, for better visibility, these spoke clips snap on easily. And they come recommended by cycling enthusiast and Wirecutter senior staff writer Tim Heffernan, who uses them on his rides in and around New York City. Pro tip from Tim: “They’re longer than necessary, so I bought a single pack—enough for one wheel that has up to 36 spokes—snipped each in half with kitchen shears, and got two wheels’ worth for the price of one.”
Proviz Reflect360 Cycling Jacket (women’s and men’s) (about $130 at the time of publication)
A few years back, I asked my parents for a Proviz Reflect360 Cycling Jacket. It’s waterproof and well ventilated, but, more importantly, the whole thing lights up like Liberace when the faintest ray of light catches it. In daylight, the color is a sedate gray. While cruising through intersections at night, I’ve more than once spotted a driver stopped at a traffic light with a look on their face that read, “What is that thing?” Made you look, I think to myself. And that’s the whole point. The jacket comes in a wide range of sizes (women’s 2 to 18 and men’s XS to 5XL), and the fit is more relaxed than that of a lot of cycling kits.
Garmin Varia RTL515 Rearview Radar and Tail Light (about $200 at the time of publication)
If a cyclist you love often pedals alone on busy roads, the Garmin Varia RTL515 Rearview Radar and Tail Light can provide both of you with peace of mind. The taillight, which alerts riders to rear-approaching cars, uses radar to detect the cars, and it displays an orange dot on the screen of the rider’s Garmin bike computer (or the Garmin app on their phone) to represent the car getting closer. (It also sounds an audible warning as soon as it “sees” the car.) When I first took the Varia out on a spin, I wondered what real benefit it added. Riding up a long, gradual hill, I could hear approaching cars a good five seconds before the Varia did, and I would move over to the shoulder. But then I noticed that the Varia consistently detected when a second or third car was hidden behind the first—something my ears usually fail to do—and it kept me from prematurely moving back into the middle of the lane. By the time I started my descent (with the wind preventing me from hearing anything at all), I knew the Varia would warn me of any cars getting too close.
This article was edited by Hannah Morrill and Jennifer Hunter.
Christine Ryan is a senior editor at Wirecutter overseeing the teams that cover travel, outdoors gear, beds and linens, home decor, and more. (She also edits and writes about cycling equipment, which gives her an excuse to sneak away from her desk and go for a ride.) Previously, she was an editor at European Travel & Life, Gourmet, and Sunset.
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