It’s that time again: Christmas is coming, you’re somewhere between done-with-my-shopping and haven’t-started-my-shopping, and you are trying to wrap your head around what to get your favorite cyclist this year. (Everyone has a cyclist in their life nowadays, whether they’re speed-obsessed racers or just low carbon footprint commuters.)
Let’s face it: runners are kind of easy to buy gifts for. Just visit your local running shop and you’ll find something cool to stuff their stocking with. Crossfitters? Just buy them knee-high socks and you’re good to go. Hikers? REI will keep you busy for decades. Pretty much every sport and hobby is kind of easy to deal with around Christmas time. Cycling though? That one tends to be a bit of a puzzle. Cyclists are weird. They’re particular. They’re meticulous and picky. It isn’t like you can just buy them a new set of tires, you know? (They might be 5 grams too heavy or a millimeter too wide.) You can’t buy them a random bike computer either. (Does it have a power meter? What about GPS integration? Does it even work with their favorite smartphone?) A helmet? Don’t even try. Wrong design, wrong color, wrong weight, wrong specs… The deeper you get into the gift selection process, the more of a headache it becomes. Unless you’re in the sport yourself, cyclists are bloody impossible to buy sport-specific gifts for.
Honestly, your best bet is to inconspicuously find out what bike shop they like to spend time in and get them a gift certificate from there. Pro: it helps support a local business. Con: gift certificates can seem a little lazy, especially if you’re trying to make a super awesome special impression.
The alternative, then, is to go find them something cool, something useful, something that will a) complement whatever ‘kits’ they already like to wear, b) impress their fellow riders, and c) serve a purpose (like keeping them warm when the temps dip into the deepest of blues). But how? Where? What is sure to make them happy? Well, this cyclist is here to help you with that quandary of quandaries. To make your 2014/2015 holiday shopping a little easier, I present to you a fail-safe Holiday Gift Guide for cyclists.
In no particular order, here are twenty kickass cycling products that will make even the pickiest cyclists in your life think that you are the shiz and the nit, and then some:
1. Café du Cycliste’s Yolande jersey
Let’s get serious for a minute. You can score super awesome technical cycling clothing from any number of well known bike-focused brands, from Specialized and Sugoi to Castelli and Assos. Most road cyclists already own winter jerseys from at least one of these brands, if not several. Finding good functional pieces isn’t really all that hard. But finding good functional pieces that look completely different from what everyone else in your cyclist’s local club group ride is wearing? That’s not so easy. Enter French brand Café Du Cycliste and its line of high performance but beautifully retro line of cool weather clothes. At the top of their line for me is the Yolande. At its core, it’s just a super nice looking merino long sleeve jersey (with versions for men and women), but you’ll notice the super awesome elbow patches and button closure on the collar. It seems like nothing all that great to a non-cyclist, but for a gearhead, that’s very cool. The Yolande isn’t just stylish either. It’s also comfortable and well designed, making it a legitimate winter cycling garment, not just a fashion statement. Merino wool is an outstanding moisture and temperature regulation layer, by the way. Cyclists probably won’t want to use the integrated sleeve (thumb) loop during a ride but it’s nice to have when they make a pit stop at the local café on their way back from a long ride. The Yolande also comes with three standard pockets, a zippered key pocket, a smartphone/device pocket, even a pump pocket, and reflective elements for extra safety on the road. It’s a no-brainer gift if you have the cash for it. (I’ll take one in each color, thanks.)
€150 – Buy Here
2. Rapha’s Winter Overshoes
Some days, Woolies and oversocks just aren’t enough to keep your feet warm. You need to insulate them properly. For those days, cycling gear companies make booties and overshoes. Nothing super original there: you have your neoprene, your Roubaix inner, your outer layer of weatherproof material, your zipper closure, your velcro… blahblahblah. Most overshoes tend to basically be black and kind of boring. What makes these special is that they’re Rapha, and Rapha is like the Chanel of cycling. You aren’t just buying comfort and super awesome quality here, you;re also buying style and image. It’s a statement purchase through and through, which is to say that you will make whomever you buy these for deliriously happy. You can pick plain old black on black, or pink on pink (both shown in the above pic). My color preference? Both. (Yes, dudes wear the pink ones too. That’s how cool Rapha is.)
$85 – Buy Here
3. Defeet’s 6″ Woolie Boolie 6″ winter socks
Speaking of keeping your feet warm, I have been wearing these socks on the coldest winter rides for two years now, and words cannot express how comfortable and perfect they are. 1) Perfect insulation without bulk. 2) Perfect moisture transfer (the right kind) so your feet won’t stay wet or get cold. 3) They tend to cling to your ankles and shins like a perfect second skin. 4) They’re so comfortable that you’ll want to wear them around the house.
So look… I get it: this isn’t the sexiest gift in the world. Socks? Meh. But you know what? They’re plenty sexy when everyone on a cold winter ride is complaining that their feet are cold except for riders wearing these. You can have the best tights and jerseys and jackets and ear covers in the world, none of it is worth a whole lot if your feet are cold. If you feel bad that they only cost $17, combine them with other base layer gifts or buy two or three pairs. I can tell you from personal experience that a cyclist can’t ever have too many of these. They are worth every penny.
$17 – Buy Here
4. Twin Six Thermal Vests
The Northwoods Race Club Thermal Vest
I’ve been a fan of Twin Six for a while now. These guys make some of the most original gear you’re likely to see on the roads and trails. This thermal vest caught my eye for a number of reasons: 1) It’s a thermal vest. In other words, it’s designed to work as an insulating shell in cold weather. (A lot of vests are much thinner than that and don’t really provide enough cold protection.) 2) The woodsy camouflage print is pretty fly. 3) The three pockets in the back don’t look like it but they are super elastic. You can stuff a ridiculous amount of stuff back there.
Style-wise, there’s a pro and con thing going on that you need to be aware of: the orange accents look amazing if you happen to also own an orange long sleeve jersey or a kit that has orange in it. (That includes helmets, gloves, shoe covers, and so on.) If you don’t, the orange might clash with, say, a red long sleeve jersey. So… you’re going to have to be a little diligent with the accessorizing here.
$110 – Buy Here
The Bare Knuckles Brigade Thermal Vest
This is the exact same thermal vest as the Northwoods Race Vest but in black, with Twin Six’s signature white BKB branding. You get all the same performance and perks but it’s a lot easier to fit into a cyclist’s winter wardrobe (which… you know… tends to be predominantly black, with some red and white here and there). If your favorite bike fiend likes the slick black look, this will be a big winner. Bonus: a cyclist can never have too many vests.
$110 – Buy Here
5. Cafe du Cycliste’s Pierette Windbreaker Merino Jersey
From the folks behind the Yolande jersey comes this unusual but super clever looking piece. We’re definitely jumping from old world style into modern Euro style territory now, but that’s just as good. This is cycling: style is style, Euro is Euro, and modern is as good as retro as long as it’s done well. The Pierette is exactly what it looks like: a smart-paneled cool weather piece that aims to shield the torso from cool air in the front with a windproof layer, and allow moisture to transfer away through the rear. The full front zipper, 3/4 collar and full buffet of rear pockets makes this a legitimate stand-alone long sleeve jersey for cool rides, but the fact that it is so lightweights means that you can easily use it as an intermediate layer for deep winter adventures. (This is a great piece to have on a long ride, especially if you expect big temperature changes between the start and the finish of your ride and need to shed layers along the way.)
Again, the unique look of this piece from French apparel Café Du Cycliste will make whomever you buy this for deliriously happy. (Especially if you’re buying it for someone living on the US side of the big pond.)
€170 – Buy Here
6. Specialized’s Mesta Wool Liner winter glove
Everything Specialized makes is pretty rock solid, so you can’t really go wrong with any of their stuff (bikes or gear). Gloves can sometimes be tricky though. It’s easy for cyclists to err on the side of too warm and overdo it. A lot of cyclists buy deep winter gloves (too warm for most rides) and cool weather gloves (a little too thin for cold winter morning rides) but don’t have a pair of gloves for those cold days that fall somewhere between arctic blizzard and cool November morning. A good answer to that problem is the Mesta: part glove, part liner, what you get is a super versatile piece that fills the gap between too little and too much. Bonus 1: It’s thin enough to work as a liner in thicker deep winter gloves. Bonus 2: it lets your cyclist use touch screens, which is handy whether they’re taking a photo with their phone or cycling through menus on their favorite bike computer. Bonus 3: It’s only $45 for a pair, so if your budget is $50, you’re right on the money.
$45 – Buy Here
7. One Year Premium Subscription to Strava
Strava rocks. If you aren’t familiar with what Strava is yet, here’s the short version: it’s an app for cyclists and runners that records, maps and analyzes your runs and rides. So… you get maps of all of your rides, detailed speed and elevation profiles, progress tracking, heart rate profiles, effort analysis, and there’s even a social gamification component that allows you to share your activities with friends, compete virtually against them, earn achievement badges, and on and on and on. The freemium app is so rich with features and easy to use that it is a favorite among cyclists of all levels.
On top of being a wonderful training tool, it’s also a motivation platform, which, in the winter months, can be equally important. (Aside from being able to track goals, Strava offers monthly challenges that keep cyclists engaged and in the saddle even when motivation wanes. It’s the app that got me into winter cycling.) And best of all, the app works with tons of different devices, from smartphones to GPS-equipped watches and bike computers, so chances are that your favorite cyclist will be able to use it without having to buy a $300 electronic gizmo.
$60 – Buy Here
8. Hincapie Power Tour Jacket
In my experience, Hincapie Sportswear is hit or miss when it comes to gear. I’ve loved some of their pieces and I’ve hated others. (Their stuff doesn’t always fit everyone’s body type consistently.) Having said that, I LOVE this lightweight insulating shell. The fit, the weight, the fabric… it’s all good. Hincapie Sportswear really did everything right here. I just tested one of these bad boys in 35F weather a few weeks ago, and it was perfect. The high neck isn’t too tight, the sleeve length is just right, the fit is racy enough to keep you streamlined but not so tight that it will only look good on a cyclist with the bodyfat of a greyhound. It’s perfect. I also dig the two-sided zipper (you can unzip it from the bottom for ventilation) and the three slim but generous pockets in the back.
Now for a bit of clarification: 1) This is not a heavy winter layer. You’re going to want to take care of your temperature control with your base and intermediate layers. 2) I am pretty sure that this jacket will repel moisture pretty well, but it isn’t technically an all-weather shell. (The seams aren’t waterproofed.) In other words, this jersey is a pretty versatile piece but if you plan on riding in northern Finland in February or brave a rainy day, you might need to pack something a little thicker or more waterproof. On the plus side, this piece is pretty unique, super well designed, and your favorite cyclist will think it is the cat’s meow. It is easily a $200 layer priced $50 lower than it should be.
$150 – Buy Here
9. La Passione Cycling Couture’s Flamme Rouge Merino Wool Jersey
This jersey is a year round piece. You can wear it in the spring, winter and fall (and early summer mornings before it gets too crazy-hot). That’s the beauty of Merino wool: the fabric’s moisture transfer and temperature control qualities makes it kind of ideal for most weather. Specifically as a winter garment, it can be used as a base layer, or on top of one with a pair of arm warmers (with or without a vest or jacket). Bonus: it’s an absolutely gorgeous piece with amazing design details like the central rear pocket zipper and the Tour-inspired racing stripes. It’s also made in Italy, so you have the added old world pedigree to brag about. I can guarantee that it will be the envy of your special cyclist’s merry band of Saturday morning hammers and drafters. The only drawback is that La Passione can sometimes sell out of their pieces pretty quickly (demand tends to exceed production speed), so availability can be hit or miss. Terrific company though, and an amazing all-weather jersey.
€79 – Buy Here
10. Defeet’s Wool Kneekers or Armskins
If your budget allows for a $60 purchase, buy the arm warmers and knee warmers together and give them to your favorite cyclist as a kit. Otherwise, $30 will cover one or the other. If you aren’t familiar with what these are for, it’s easy: cycling in cool to cold weather is all about layering. On a long enough ride, temperatures will sometimes rise or fall, and 10-20 degrees changes (F) aren’t uncommon in many parts of the world. To address that sort of problem, cyclists try to layer with modular garments that they can easily take off (or put on). Arm warmers basically act as removable sleeves. Cool temps at an early morning start might require a little extra insulation on the arms, but as the sun comes out and temps start to rise, your cyclist might want to lose the extra layer. It’s a matter of convenience. The same thing is true of knee warmers: you might need a little extra layer on the legs to keep you comfortable at the start of a ride but not so much two or three hours into it.
Again, a cyclist can’t have too many arm warmers and knee warmers, so don’t worry about giving someone something they already own. Cyclists could easily own ten sets of these and not think it’s a problem. Besides, it’s unlikely that your favorite cycling enthusiast has a set of these. Most arm warmers and knee warmers these days are Roubaix-style pieces (brushed fleece inner), so these will stand out. They’re super effective but a little old-school, which usually makes cyclists very happy.
$29 / $29 – Buy Here
11. This Is Cambridge’s Winter Road Cycling Cap
You can buy winter cycling caps from pretty much every cycling apparel brand on the planet, but again, many cyclists like unique, out-of-the-way gear. It’s part of the psyche. So here we have a super comfortable and stylish piece from This Is Cambridge that will keep your favorite cyclist’s head and ears warm even in the coldest rideable weather. It also looks super nice just sitting at the coffee shop (or the pub) either before or after that chilly winter ride. Bonus: The coverage of the ear & neck flap is perfect. Also, don’t worry if the cyclist you are buying this for already has a skull cap or a winter cycling cap. They don’t have one like this, and they will love it. (I’m a dude and I would totally wear this thing everywhere.)
£55 – Buy Here
12. Café du Cycliste’s Heidi winter jacket
The Heidi is a super cool looking winter piece, but let me throw in a little bit of context for it: it wouldn’t be my first choice for long or competitive winter club rides. I think this piece falls more into the ballade cycliste category of apparel: something you would wear on nice easy rides in vineyard country on a nice frosty day. Winter wine-tasting cyclo-escapades. That sort of thing. And you know, there’s definitely a place for that kind of layer, so it fills a much overlooked gap in the market.
And don’t get me wrong: the fabrics are solid. The construction is outstanding. Everything about this jacket works the way it’s supposed to: it will keep your favorite cyclist warm, the moisture transfer is outstanding, it’s tough, it’s gorgeous and stylish… but it isn’t exactly packable the way that a lot of performance cycling pieces are packable. In other words, once the temps go up a little and he or she starts to feel a little warm, they won’t be able to roll it up and stuff it in a jersey’s rear pocket the way that they would lighter outer layers. (Translation: unless they have a support vehicle following them, they will be wearing this on their entire ride.) Given the Heidi’s long list of super awesome pros, one con isn’t a show-stopper by any stretch of the imagination, but it is worth mentioning.
Having said that, the Heidi is an amazing piece in every way imaginable, and it makes a kickass gift for riders of all levels. Believe me when I tell you that any cyclist you give this to will find reasons to wear it all winter long. (This was the piece that led me to discover Café Du Cycliste. It looked so good that it caught my eye across a very crowded room.) Not the cheapest item on this list but worth every penny. It isn’t as versatile as other pieces on this list but it is outstanding nonetheless. Available in men and women’s models.
€185 – Buy Here
13. Rapha’s Women’s Long Sleeve Brevet Jersey & Gilet
Okay look… I know. This isn’t the cheapest thing on this list. Three bills is nothing to sneeze at. But… look at this thing. It’s gorgeous. It’s versatile. It’s super well made. It’s modular. It’s Rapha. If you really want to impress her (or him – there’s a men’s version) this is the Christmas gift of Christmas gifts for cyclists (aside from showing up with a brand new wheelset or a bike). Anyone wearing this on a winter ride won’t just be super comfortable, they’ll also be the envy of every cyclist in a radius of at least twenty zip codes. So listen… if you are looking to spend some cash on your cycling-obsessed significant other, you could do a lot worse. And guys, if you are looking for a super sweet gift for your girlfriend but want to keep rings and diamonds totally separate from her Christmas morning experience, this is a really solid way of expressing your love without crossing any awkward expectation streams: proposals aside, she’ll know that you really really care, and you’ll even score points for your impeccable taste. (And if you’ve already proposed, congratulations. This will be the icing on the cake.)
$295 – Buy Here
14. Black Sheep Cycling’s Spotted Jacob kit
Black Sheep is pretty new on the cycling scene so I haven’t had a chance to test their stuff. Having said that, this kit looks amazing, the branding is pretty cool, and if your favorite cyclist is always on the lookout for kits that none of his ride buddies have ever heard of, this is a good place to start. Now… I know: this is not a winter kit. I get that. But a) indoor cycling classes are big in the winter months, and cyclists need summer kits for those, b) warm days will happen again soon enough, and c) if you don’t buy it now, it might be out of stock by the time you finally get around to thinking about spring kits. Trust me: no cyclist will hate this. It’s a beautiful, beautiful kit, and super original to boot. (I’ll take one in Medium, thanks.)
$300 for the jersey and shorts – Buy Here
15. La Passione Cycling Couture’s Merino Wool Urban Polo Shirt
Here is another great street piece from La Passione that pulls double duty as a legitimate urban technical piece and a stylish addition to any cyclist’s everyday wardrobe. It looks great, feels great (you may have noticed that this list looks like an infomercial for Merino garments, and for good reason), and perfectly combines function and style. This is the kind of piece that a cyclist will love wearing off the bike because it’s just so… ‘cycling’ but without being too technical or form-fitting.
€59 – Buy Here
16. Specialized’s Merino Wool Short Sleeve base layer
Winter cycling is all about layering: Base, insulation, shell. The beautiful, high tech, expensive layers tend to be the middle (insulation) and outer (shell), which means most cyclists fork out major cash for the perfect piece but neglect to stock up on base layers. Since you don’t necessarily want to break the bank spending as much on a winter cycling jacket as you would, say, a Sony PS5, the alternative is giving them something they probably don’t have enough of to begin with: a kickass base layer. Think of it as giving them the gift of warmth and comfort. There’s also a long-sleeved version of this, but I find that the short sleeve piece is a little more versatile. (If your favorite spinner needs more insulation for his/her arms, separate arm warmers will complement this piece nicely. See #10 on this list.)
$70 – Buy Here
17. Ellum Bag Works’ Handmade Tweed Cycling Caps
Hand-made tweed cycling caps from really nice people who really know what they’re doing? Just take my money already. Ellum makes a ton of cycling caps for all kinds of weather and tastes, so whether you’re looking for a special gift for a recreational cyclist, a serious racer or just someone who likes to ride down to the coffee shop once or twice per week, you will find what you are looking for. I just happen to love these tweed caps. You can wear them under a helmet or just to hang out in your back yard, and at $30, they’re a steal. (Totally unisex, by the way.) Bonus: you’ll be supporting a US business. (Did I mention customer service is out of this world?) Seriously, you can’t go wrong with these and nobody looks bad in them.
$30 – Buy Here
18. Twin Six’s Stainless Steel Fly Flask
I know, this is just a stocking stuffer. But you know what? If you’re on a budget and you are going to give a cyclist whisky flask, it doesn’t get much more legit than this thing. It’s a great gift that doesn’t require you to break the bank (and it’s a lot sexier than a pair of socks). Bonus: it fits snugly into a jersey’s back pocket.
$25 – Buy Here
19. La Passione Cycling Couture’s Reversible Urban Vest
Not everything needs to be a technical garment. This vest isn’t something I would wear on a 50-mile country group ride. It’s a city piece that cyclists will want to wear to stay warm while riding to and from their congratulatory post-ride latte/beer/chili party. It’s also a pretty handy vest for bike commuters or just to ride around the city or chill out in. I personally really dig the black, but the reversible yellow/fluo side adds a nice degree of safety/visibility to the piece, especially if the weather gets weird or night starts falling a little too fast. The yellow side also has reflective strips in the back for added visibility, and you can access pockets no matter what side (black or yellow) is showing. The fact that it’s Italian and super well made only makes it 2x, maybe 3x cooler than other vests of its type made by US brands.
€69 – Buy Here
20. Rapha’s Merino Drawcord Hat/Snood
Rapha sells this piece as a hat, but it pulls double duty as both headwear and neckwear. (Shown here as neckwear.) It’s also a unisex piece and comes in all kinds of colors, so have a blast picking the one you like. (Hell, go crazy and buy more than one.) Your lucky cyclist will luuuuve you on cold days when he or she gets to slip this thing over his or her throat, chin and face to cut the wind’s bite a little. It might seem like an odd little garment, but it is absolutely vital if you ride in sub-40F weather. I also wear mine on hikes, runs, or just to hang out and look like a stylish pirate when the weather is a little chill. At $50, it makes a really great gift. Bonus: it’s Rapha. Cyclists love Rapha.
$50 – Buy Here
Okay, that’s it. I mean… no, it isn’t it. There are tons of other cyclist-friendly products to choose from out there and really cool boutique brands just waiting to be discovered, but these 20 items will do the trick if you don’t have time to kick your research into super high gear. I’ll do another one of these in the spring to help you discover some other brands and products that might not yet be on your radar. And remember: regardless of what you end up buying, be sure to support your local bike shops whenever possible.
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Disclosure: I haven’t been compensated in anyway for this piece. None of the above brands even know I am including them and their products in this post. Reviews and opinions expressed in this post are, as always, entirely my own.
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