Today, I was asked to write a holiday gift guide featuring TPC products. Well, this isn’t exactly that. I don’t know if this is true for you, but I find that most holiday gift guides often feel completely bogus. I browse all the products and think, “Why would I want that?” or “When would I ever use that?”
Every year, I get random cycling gifts that appeared in some gift guide and they always end up unused in a dark corner of my garage. While I do appreciate the thought and effort that goes into getting these gifts, I think the best possible cycling gift for me is completely free. I’ll tell you what that is below, but if you insist on buying something for the cyclist in your life, I also have a few tips for how to get a good and meaningful cycling gift that a dedicated cyclist will actually use.
[button]Don't Want to Read On? You Can Shop Random Bike Gear[/button]
The Best Cycling Gift (Part I): All I Want Is Time
I dream of having the time and freedom to experience this sort of solitude.
With a young child, pets, a demanding job, and household chores all competing for my attention, my bikes don't get used as much as they used to. That means the best thing anyone could give me is more time to ride.
Does that sound lame to you? Well, for me, it’s the most valuable cycling gift possible. The holiday season is when I traditionally start planning my race, event, and travel calendar for the coming year. To accomplish my goals, I need blocks of time where someone can take care of my son and household chores so I can take a weekend to travel to an important out-of-state race or camp out in the desert. In its less extravagant form, I need time to get in the long ~3-5 hour rides necessary to maintain my endurance (and sanity).
My wife gave me this gift last year by allowing me to do regular long rides on Saturdays and leave home in the middle of the week for my events. During these times, I was free and unencumbered, while she committed to holding down the fort. I did something similar for her — she got Thursdays and Sundays for long gaming and yoga sessions and had blocks of time to disappear for events of her own.
Is it possible to turn “time” into a more material gift that can be given during the holiday season? Sure. You could be cute and make paper coupons — like the ones I used to make for my parents in grade school offering to take out the trash and mow the lawn. (I would actually LOVE that.)
I'm getting 12 extra hours the week after Christmas to help me knock out the Festive 500.
My wife takes a much more practical approach: she blocks out time on our family Google calendar and she chooses green for these blocks to make them festive. Boom, there you have it. The perfect gift for the dedicated cyclist, and it’s pretty much free!
The Best Cycling Gift (Part II): Tools Are the Safest Cycling Gift
Okay, okay, maybe “time” is a bit too intangible or esoteric. Or your giftee is single, child-free, or already has plenty of time and freedom to ride. If so, what do you get?
Here’s what I think. Most novice to intermediate cyclists are probably missing a lot of the key tools that make maintaining their bike easier, so tools and other maintenance items are my top gift suggestion.
Gifted bike tools are much less likely to go unused, even if it’s a tool that a rider already owns. I actually have duplicates of many of my tools, which make my life much easier because I often misplace tools or I need extras in different places (I have a hex wrench set in my garage, trainer room, car, and travel bag).
This is the point in this post that I will submit to my bosses and present 3 gift ideas that I’d actually appreciate getting:
1. A Basic Bike Cleaning Kit
You know how I don’t have enough time to ride? Well, I definitely don’t have enough time to keep my bikes clean either. Dedicated bike cleaning sprays make it much easier to give your bike a quick wash or wipe down, but I’m generally too cheap to buy them for myself. A handy kit with spray bottles like this one from Pelli would be super nice and thoughtful.
2. The Fanciest Hex Wrenches
As I said, I have a million hex wrenches. Any good home bike mechanic should have a set (or two, or three). But not all hex wrenches are made equal. Bad ones round out bolts and ruin your life. Also, experienced mechanics will know that you ALWAYS lose the 4mm wrench. That’s why this Silca set was probably the best cycling-related gift I’ve ever received. I’m way too cheap to buy wrenches this nice for myself, and because they’re so nice, I’m obsessive about never losing them.
3. The Best Bike Stand
Every cyclist should have a repair stand. If they don’t, this is the best one on the market. It’s super easy to use, super stable, and it packs up small for storage and traveling. I want this stand, but again, I’m too cheap to buy it for myself. I’d be super stoked to get one to replace my heavy and ancient repair stand.
(There it is, Jay, I did it! I made a gift guide with TPC products! You can’t say that I didn’t…)
The Best Cycling Gift (Part III): Seriously, Just Ask Them What They Want
Here’s one more thing I want to emphasize: Experienced cyclists tend to be very picky about their gear. If you’re shopping for a rider who’s “hardcore” about cycling, my advice is DON’T buy them any components, gear, apparel, accessories, or consumables unless they have explicitly said (or at least hinted) that they want a particular product.
It’s best to simply ask riders what they want, or you’re likely going to be adding to some stash of unused gear like the one I keep in my garage. That’s no good for anyone.
If they’re the type to be wishy-washy about actually asking for gifts, here’s the top 5 gear categories I think you should offer to buy for them:
High-quality cycling apparel can make the biggest difference in someone’s riding experience, and it’s something many riders don’t have enough of. It’s hard to pick the right items though unless you know a rider’s tastes, needs, and most importantly, size.
For more affordable items or stocking stuffers, I’d consider:
- Consumables: Chain lube, tubes or tubeless tire sealant, tires
- Nutrition: Carbohydrate, electrolyte, or recovery mix or a box of energy chews or gels
- Knickknacks: Water bottles, lights, books about bikes or cycling
The Best Cycling Gift (Part IV): Experiences Can Be Better Than Objects
Again, this might require actually asking someone what they want, but I think the most meaningful cycling gifts aren’t physical objects. Here are some examples of what I mean:
- A Professional Bike Fit: A lot of riders are hesitant to spend money on a high-end bike fit because they’re unsure if it will be worth it. If it’s gifted to them, you relieve that pressure.
- A MTB Skills Clinic: Teach them to fish… Don’t buy them a product that claims to make them a better rider. Actually make them a better rider. I like Lee Likes Bikes and Ryan Leech clinics.
- Race Entries: I would love to do more races, and I have a lot of dream events that I haven’t done yet, but I can’t afford to do them all! This is one of the best gifts my dad has offered me. He paid the entry fee for one of my gravel races and its the gift I've remembered for years since.
- Riding Destination Activities: An AirBNB, hotel room, or campsite in a famous riding destination. A shuttle service for a legendary trail or bike park lift tickets. A guided tour through a scenic area. There’s a lot of fun to be had out there, and amazing memories are often the most valuable gifts.
The Best Cycling Gift (Part V): Check Out My Old TPC Gear Lists
I said most gift guides aren't useful, but if you really must, I’d suggest checking out some of my old posts on my favorite bike products. I’m a bit biased, but I think they’re a lot more earnest about what gear cyclists actually want/need/like than most of the holiday gift guides you’ll find out there:
[button]10 Essential Bike Tools for the Home Mechanic[/button]
[button]10 Bike Products I’m Thankful For[/button]
[button]The Best Bike Products We Bought in 2023[/button]
Hopefully, there’s something in these posts that will inspire you. Good luck! Happy Holidays.