Making a broad, sweeping generalisation (because who doesn't love those?) - cyclists come in two types. There are the cyclists that just love bikes. They love anything with a bike on, made for bikes, for people going on bikes. These are Type I cyclists, and are easy to buy for - they'll be delighted with anything with a bike on. You don't need a gift guide for them. Then there are the others.
Ah, the others. My cyclist is, of course, an other. The others get little enjoyment from cycling. Cycling is far too important for that. It's all about pain. Pain and money. Pain and money and carbon. The others are of course the Type II cyclists. And buying for a Type II cyclist can be an absolute nightmare. See following sample conversation between me and my mother:
Mother: "What does the cyclist want for Christmas?"
Me: "....... I don't...... I can't....... It's just.......... I can't have this conversation right now. I'll call you back." *Bursts into tears, slams phone down*.
A straw poll of Twitter cycling types revealed strong desires for swanky threads. A tip here for anyone attempting to buy cycling clothing as a gift for a Type II cyclist (or even a Type I with moderate Type II tendencies) - now is not the time to be using your initiative. Your Type II cyclist will have a specific wish list detailing the garments they want. This wish list will have been meticulously researched, cross referenced and ranked in order of preference. Web pages will be marked, catalogues will be left open with a particular garment circled and annotated with such helpful hints as 'THIS ONE', 'THIS ONE RIGHT HERE', 'I'M A L', 'IN BLACK PLEASE', 'DON'T BUY ANYTHING ELSE COS I'LL ONLY CHANGE IT FOR THIS AND SULK'. Seriously, do not go off piste on this one. They know exactly what they want, and quite possibly will not thank you for buying them what you think they want.
Another extremely popular answer when polled about what they wanted for christmas was bling-y bike bits. Interestingly, only one person actually wanted a new bike - all the others wanted a flashy or shiny or carbon bit for an existing bike, which almost certainly proves something about something about cyclists. Odds on, if you are seriously considering buying your cyclist a flashy and expensive bit for their bike (be it wheels or Di2 or whatever), you've been dropped hints for months, and know the exact thing they want, and probably bought it months ago. If anyone is genuinely thinking 'Hmmmm, I wonder if my cyclist would like an 11-speed Di2 for christmas - I'll get one just in case', you have far more money than sense and should send me your bank account details for safekeeping immediately.
Little Presents (little being a relative term)
Now, this is where I thought you might like some help, and where I might just be able to help out. I have compiled a little list of cycling related things I (and the cyclist) absolutely love, or stuff I've seen that I genuinely think might make an interesting and thoughtful gift.
- hand blended massage oils for cyclists.
The range consists of Verde, a pre-ride energising oil and Rosa, a post-ride restorative oil. Available from Velobici or direct from http://il-dolore.myshopify.com/
In the mid-90's, the cyclist raced a few seasons in Belgium and Northern France. A few times he has mentioned a weapons-grade embrocation called Sixtus, with a particular smell, and his desire to get his grubby paws on a bottle.
Over the years I have conducted no fewer than 2 half-arsed google searches for the product in question, only to come up empty handed - I suspect it's been banned - but one whiff of Verde, and he was back in that Belgian changing room, about to get his skinny and terrified British ass handed to him by several dozen enormous Belgians, born straight from the mud like those nightmarish Orc creatures from The Lord of the Rings movies (that's a touch disingenuous, the cyclist didn't do that badly over there - especially with the lay-deez). Ah! Sweet, sweet reminiscence!
Rouleur Mugs by Richard Mitchelson
Available from http://rouleur.cc/shop Please also check out Richard's other fantastic work at http://www.richmitch.co.uk/
I just love these so much.
There are plenty of cyclists to choose from, either singly, or (if you are particularly filled with the warm glow of the season) in sets of 4. It genuinely hurts my heart that we own none of these (my finger hovers over the Buy Me! button more often than I'd care to admit), but we have a combination of horrible small children who are basically savages and have no respect for anything, and tiled floors throughout our house that would guarantee a heartbreaking slow-motion smash scene that it brings a lump to my throat just to imagine. But just because we can't have beautiful things doesn't mean you shouldn't. Also, particularly with the British Cycling licensed set illustrated above you get the added bonus of knowing your gift is perfect (on the general basis that nothing with Laura Trott's face on could possibly offend), and plenty of opportunity for double-entendre based hilarity* as you slink off to the kitchen to put something hot 'n wet in the 2012 hero of your choice!
*could wear thin pretty quickly.
(Wiggo, if you're asking. Or Cav. Or Ed Clancy. Love the Pantani one too.)
Gloves and Overshoes
Keeping hands and feet warm and dry is basically the main battleground in the war of cyclists vs. elements. And your cyclist (or you, if you are the cyclist) will need something that keeps their hands and feet warm and dry 80% of the sodding time, thank you Great British weather. A quick discussion with the cyclist has basically distilled the requirements to two words - Gore. Tex. Seriously, if it's not Gore Tex, don't bother. The cyclist has Gore Gore Tex overshoes, and hasn't slagged them off, so they must be good.
There are matching Gore Tex gloves too.
There are loads of great cycling magazines, and taking the cyclist as the benchmark for all cyclists, I am therefore bound to conclude that all cyclists have a cheeky little magazine habit. Under these circumstances (the ones where they pop in to WHSmiths unaccompanied and come out 10 minutes and 30 quid lighter with a very heavy carrier bag and a faraway look in the eyes once a month), a subscription could actually save you a small fortune.
I'm going to say this once and own it - My name is Rebecca and I'm a wanky Rouleur reader. And I'm not even sorry. I love it. I love the smell of it, and the weight of the pages. I love the quality and breadth of the articles (seriously! I only get it for the articles!) and the melancholy beauty of the photography. Reading it makes me feel dead intellectual and that (until I totally ruin it by putting Rouleur down and picking up Now! - but I think what's missing from Rouleur is in-depth analysis of Kerry Katona's latest relationship crisis). I buy it with the cyclist as an excuse ('Look darling! I got you the new Rouleur! Then I read the whole thing cover to cover, dog-eared 50% of the pages and spilt tea on the 3rd part of the exposé of the cycling scene behind the Iron Curtain!') - but I also buy him Privateer, which again covers a huge spectrum of topics (and which he prefers - hell, I'll even let him read it first. Sometimes), and has the same wonderfully-smelling thick pages, and principles of brilliantly constructed pieces coupled with gorgeous and stylish design.
Adorable lucky wooden talisman for attaching to your bike or wearing about your person, brought to us by Andreas Klier - what's not to love? The company also supports the Plant for the Planet foundation - 1 MyKnoaky = 1 tree planted - and has a special Ride for the Kids edition.
CO2 Pump and Cartridges
Filed under 'Things the cyclist wants but has never got around to getting' is a CO2 pump and spare cartridges. Practical, useful and innovative, any cyclist will send tearful, grateful prayers of thanks for this on the inevitable occasion they find themselves on a back lane in February, with no phone signal and the early signs of hypothermia, trying desperately to finish repairing a puncture with fingers that stopped working 20 minutes ago.
Cycling Souvenirs Mugs
It's not just cycling that unites cyclists. The vast majority are also completely obsessed with coffee and cake. These beautiful mugs, uniting the twin passions of coffee and iconic cycling climbs and races were brought to my attention when asking for gift ideas on Twitter, and I am only sorry I hadn't discovered them before.
There are literally thousands of books available on all aspects of cycling, including a whole host of fascinating biographies on almost anyone you can think of. The two that have crossed my mind as being excellent (and crucially non-contentious - The Secret Race might not be everyone's idea of a light Boxing-day read) gifts are Made In England - The Artisans Behind the Hand-Built Bicycle (which frankly looks gorgeous and fascinating) and The Cycling Anthology, a collection of essays by leading cycling writers.
As an aside, here's a link to Cycling Food On The Go - a collection of 20 recipes for cyclists in an e-book raising money for the charity Mind.
If you still require inspiration, the links below are to other guides to buying the perfect Christmas gift for your cyclist, both better researched and written than this!