Bike Hugger HydroFlo water bottle by Purist ($15)
A cyclist can probably never have too many water bottles, but that doesn’t mean one can’t tell a good bottle from a bad bottle. A bad bottle ends up in the back of the cupboard, repurposed as a pen cup, or left at a race venue and only remembered a week later. A good water bottle is the one reflexively reached for. When you reach for the Bike Hugger Hydroflo water bottle by Purist, you grab onto a pliant case with a subtle, three-side cross section that fits the hand well and is easy to squeeze. The valve provides a high flow rate yet virtually eliminates inadvertent dribble. Oh, and it has that classy Bike Hugger logo, too.
Giro Supernatural Footbed Kit ($49.95)
One of the best features of Giro shoes is that they come with the company’s SuperNatural Footbed Kit (insole) that allows a rider to adjust the amount of arch support with 3 pairs of modular arch wedges. You can even tweak the fore-aft position of the arch support to a small degree. But even if someone has a different brand of shoe, the footbed kit is available separately so you can fine tune the fit of your own shoe. It’s a really nice idea as a gift because neither you nor the person receiving the gift needs to know exactly how much support is needed beforehand. The Giro SuperNatural kit is a cycling specific insole, unlike many others marketed to a wide variety of activities such as running and hiking; thus it takes up minimal volume in the shoe compared to most insoles. The top layer uses an X-Static anti-microbial treatment.
Personally, I find that these insoles work nicely in Sidi shoes, which despite being the gold standard for cycling footwear, invariably come stock with crap insoles.
Light & Urban 800 Fast Charge ($180)
The Urban series of commuter headlights from Light & are my personal favourites, and the sweet little Urban 800 Fast Charge is just a bit sweeter still. Throughout the 2014-2015 line, all the Urban headlights have a new charge port access that seals better against water ingress. This is nice if you like to hang the light upside-down on the handlebar leaving the bar tops less cluttered but giving water invasion a helping hand due to gravity. The new seal makes the current Urban lights waterproof at 1M for 30min.
Next, the latest LED tech and firmware allow L&M to squeeze even more output and burn times from these dainty lights. The Urban 800 is actually kicking out 800 lumens on high for 1.5hrs, 400 lumens for 3hrs, and a very practical 200 lumens for 6hrs.
Finally, the Fast Charge version of the Urban 800 only takes 2.5hrs to charge, as opposed to 6hrs for the standard Urban 800. Some riders would suggest that modern bikes are an exercise in planned obsolescence, that the bicycle was basically perfected by the 1970s, but today’s headlights beat the pants off of lights even ten years ago in EVERY parameter.
Rene Herse: The Bikes The Builder The Riders by Jan Heine ($86)
When I was eight years old, I liked Garfield cartoons. I had a grandmother who ever after gifted me a Garfield book ever year at Christmas, straight on till my college years. Don’t be like Gran; if you’re gonna give a book, give them something wonderous and timeless. I suggest the Rene Herse book from Bicycle Quarterly Press.
The Frenchman Rene Herse became one of the most revered names in cycling, and this book is a story about the man, the bikes he built, and the people who rode them. More than that, it is a journey to a Europe of a bygone era, from the interwar years through the decades immediately following WWII, into what most would call the Golden Age of Cycling. It is a book so lavishly illustrated with photographs and anecdotes that you can almost feel the breeze and the sun on your face and smell the French countryside as you spin the pedals alongside those riders. If you put this book on a coffee table, I suggest it be laid out alongside a baguette with jambon de pays and gruyere.
Fizik Performance Classic bar tape ($24-28)
My favourite bar tape is the Fizik Perfomance Classic. It has the Fizik’s durable Microtex (microfibre) backed by a layer of dense foam padding. It is embossed and stitched asymmetrically, so depending on how you wrap your bars you can have more or less texture. It’ll survive many scrapes and it washes up well too. The tape comes in seven colours, but I recommend you do NOT get the “Soft Touch” white. Sure it feels like suede, but it gets dirty like suede too; plus it doesn’t hold up like the white Microtex version of Performance tape. Fizik Performance Classic enhances anyone’s road bike.
Sugoi Zap Helmet Cover ($28-30)
This is kinda a no-brainer, especially if your cyclist lives in one of the cold, wet parts of the world, and especially if he or she has a really nice helmet. Today’s premium helmets are festooned with holes for ventilation, which isn’t actually desirable in a cold, wind-driven rain. Sugoi’s Zap helmet cover stretches over most helmets (sans visor) to give wind and water protection; you can easily stow it in a pocket or commute bag when not needed. It comes in two colours, black and hi-vis yellow. Both have reflective accents.
Abus Lock-Chain 585/75 ($40)
The 575/85 Lock-Chain from German company Abus is lightweight and a handy size. The fabric covered chain and elastomer encased lock head protect the bike’s finish, while the 5mm square-section punches above its weight against cutting devices. While the 575/85 is not the ultimate in bicycle security, it is exceedingly convenient to carry and use, while thoroughly outperforming the majority of cable locks. Available in a variety of colours. For heavier duty, see the Abus Lock-Chain 880 “Steel-O-Chain” or burly 1060/85.
Icebreaker Blast Vest ($260)
Merino wool is awesome because of its ability to provide warmth without excess bulk in a wide temperature range, but synthetic technical fabrics usually win when it comes to wind resistance. Icebreaker’s Blast Vest puts a lightweight 150 merino layer against the body and then adds a polyurethane middle layer for wind resistance and a outer polyester layer to ward off rain. If you’re looking for a more casual piece that works well as a mid-layer, I’d recommend the Sierra Vest ($140) made with 200 merino without the layers. A soft, cozy vest with hand pocket, the Sierra Vest is great for hiking, hanging out, or working on bikes.
Hugga Tool Roll ($40)
My phone, my keys, and my Hugga Tool Roll…things I don’t leave home without. The waxed canvas is water resistant and durable without bulk, and the integrated strap allows you cinch the roll down so it’ll slide into a jersey pocket easily. Drop it into you backpack or pannier when you commute. Snug all you little bike-fix-it trinkets and a tube together and then unroll it before you when you need to work on your bike. I actually wrap the roll around a mini-pump for road rides, or I tuck a CO2-inflator in for mtb rides.