The Best Gift Ideas for CyclistsPublished on 05/13/2023 · 9 min readShopping for the cyclist in your life (or maybe just for yourself)? Cycling expert Zaal Rottunda recommends some of the best items to buy.
Photo by Daniel Frank
Gift shopping can be a challenging experience, and shopping for a cyclist can seem like an impossibly daunting task to pull off. With brand preference, unique riding styles, equipment specifications, and sometimes overzealous aesthetic preferences, choosing a good gift for that special cyclist in your life can sometimes seem like finding a needle in a spoke stack. In this article we’re going to break down some of the best gift ideas for each discipline of riding, whether they’re specific to one style or just great gifts that any bike lover can benefit from.
Styles of Cycling: Road vs. Mountain
Having spent over five years and thousands of dollars in the cycling retail industry, I have seen hundreds of nervous gift buyers struggling to find that one perfect gift for that special road cycling or mountain biking figure in their life. After so many years in the cycling industry, I’ve tried my hand at nearly every cycling discipline from BMX to road riding to downhill mountain biking - and have seen the best and worst in gift ideas.
The esoteric nature of cycling can confuse even the most seasoned gift givers. We’ll start by quickly addressing the two main disciplines of riding, road versus mountain, and the best gift ideas for each discipline, before diving into gifts that will be applicable for every discipline.
Top 5 Road Cycling Gifts
While there are many facets of road cycling from aerodynamic tri-bike riding to gravel bike riding, there are some constants that make the following gift ideas great options for anyone shopping for a road rider.
1. New Kit
Everyone loves a new outfit, and cyclists are no exception. One of the greatest gifts you can give to cyclists is a new “kit,” which typically consists of a pair of padded bibs or shorts and a lightweight cycling jersey. The great thing about buying someone new cycling clothing is that due to the lifespan of most cycling materials, cyclists can almost always benefit from another set of shorts and jersey to extend the lifespan of their other kits. While some kits can start out as low as $80-$100 (for shorts and jersey), higher end kits can make an exceptional gift with some full kits can range between $200-$300, making a kit a perfect gift option no matter the budget.
2. CO2/Tube Restock
Unfortunately for cyclists and exhausted bike shop mechanics, flat tires are impossible to completely eradicate and can easily turn a great ride into a punishing reminder to keep inflation sources handy. Many road cyclists opt for carrying CO2 cartridges with portable inflators, both to streamline their cargo and to save weight. While not as glamorous a gift option as perhaps some other cycling gear, CO2 cartridges and tubes are used often enough that gifting them together will surely be a very welcomed gift for any road cyclist, not to mention demonstrate that you really understand what they may need down the road! Just be sure to get the right tube size for their tires, which can be found on the sidewall of most cycling tires (ex. 700 x 28c, 650 x 23c, etc.).
3. New Helmet
Unless the person you’re shopping for just received their helmet last year, chances are they are in need of a new one. Most helmet manufacturers will recommend replacing your helmet every three to five years, barring any serious crash/impact that would necessitate an immediate replacement. Because of the compression of EPS foam in most helmets, many helmets slowly lose their structural integrity due to minor impacts and the gradual loss of volume in the helmet shell. While style and color preference are subjective to the rider, knowing the rider’s head size in centimeters is going to make the helmet shopping process infinitely easier to navigate.
4. Carbon/Titanium Components
A big focus for many road riders is being a faster rider, and being lighter weight will help them reach with greater ease. Most if not all the components on a bike, from the handlebars to the water bottle screws, can be replaced with a lightweight alternative, like carbon fiber or titanium. While there are some specification requirements depending on the bike part you are looking to upgrade, buying something as simple as titanium bottle cages or even carbon fiber pedals will bring the road cyclist in your life that much closer to their goals.
5. Cycling Computer/Mount
As technology has grown more and more sophisticated, so too has our integration of these tech features into cycling become more and more commonplace. One of the most useful ways that cyclists are integrating technology into their rides is using cycling computers and navigation systems to track their rides and receive live GPS tracking and directions. Depending on the level of data each cyclist is looking for, cycling computers and smartphones are an excellent way of tracking your riding progress. Smartphone apps like Strava and Trailforks give riders an easy way to calculate mileage on their rides, and for such riders a mountable phone case to display their ride is often an excellent gift. For riders looking for more detailed training data, cycling computers such as Garmin or Cateye computers will give riders more in depth information such as cadence, speed, heart rate, and power (requires power meter) calculations.
Top 5 Mountain Biking Gifts
Just like road biking, mountain biking has undergone several changes to its original discipline, which resulted in the creation of several new classes of racing and styles of riding. For the sake of keeping the list simple, we’ll stick to five gift ideas that will be a good gift for any mountain biker.
1. New Helmet
Just like road cyclists, mountain bikers can benefit from a new helmet even if their old helmet hasn’t completely fallen apart yet. Because of the different styles of mountain biking, the helmet selection gets a bit more technical than road cycling, so I’ll briefly break down the different types of mountain helmets.
- Cross-Country: Lightweight and well ventilated, these helmets resemble road bike helmets and are often interchangeable for either discipline.
- Enduro: More of a middle ground in terms of riding style, enduro riding focuses on climbing and descending, and as a result, needs a balance of full protection without being overly cumbersome. Enduro helmets will typically have low profiles to cover the base of the skull, and depending on the model can come equipped with additional ear coverage or removable chin guards.
- Downhill/Gravity: While some riders prefer to go with open-face helmet options for comfort, there is no doubt that full face helmets offer the most protection. Downhill-rated helmets offer riders extra protection compared to other helmet styles, so for anyone thinking of hitting up the bike park soon, be sure to give them a downhill specific helmet.
2. Protective Gear
Let’s face it, with the latest viral outbreak still spreading through parts of the world, now is the worst time to have to visit the hospital. Protective gear like elbow pads, knee pads, chest braces, and padded short liners all offer riders additional safety so that they can feel confident in pushing their limits, without a trip to the emergency room! Some riding styles may allow for more protective gear, such as downhill riding, where climbing isn’t a priority, but for other disciplines such as cross country or enduro, knee and elbow “sleeves” might offer a better combination of lightweight comfort and protection.
3. Hydration Packs
Fairly new to the scene and offering a much needed alternative to frame mounted bottle cages, hydration packs are a great option for riders to carry much needed riding essentials, including water. Recently the mountain bike scene has witnessed the emergence of “hip packs,” which are smaller packs worn around a rider’s waist, giving riders an alternative if they aren’t a fan of the backpack-style hydration packs.
4. Tire Sealant
One of the most common upgrades riders do on their bikes is converting their tires to tubeless systems, where the tires are made air tight and injected with a quick acting sealant that helps prevent flats. Because sealant dries out over time, and it’s not uncommon for riders to lose sealant in between rides due to holes, gifting tire sealant not only shows you understand the rider’s needs, but also that you’re thinking of something they’ll need down the road.
5. Dropper Seatpost
Arguably the best upgrade you can gift to a mountain biker, a remote dropper seatpost is a game changer for any mountain biker. While very specific to each rider and bike size, a dropper post is an excellent gift that will enhance a rider's abilities by giving them on the fly control over their seat height. Because they come in so many sizes, the key things to know before shopping for a dropper post are rider height, seat post diameter, exposed seat post length on current bike, inseam length, and cable routing (external versus internal).
Top 3 Gifts for Any Cyclist
While most riders fall into a specific style of rider, there are certain gifts that simply never go out of fashion for cyclists. Below I listed some easy gift ideas that would make great stocking stuffers or supplementary gifts that any rider can benefit from.
1. Chain Lube
Every cyclist needs it, every cyclist wants it. Chain lube is essential to keeping a bike running smoothly, and as a result is used quite frequently if a bike is maintained properly. While certain riders have brands they like/dislike, your best bet is to look at what type of lube is offered (dry, wet, muddy, ultra dry) and match it to the area you think the rider will encounter most.
Cycling is hard. Not only does vigorous riding take its toll on the bike, it also takes its toll on the rider. Nutrition is an excellent gift option for any rider as we can all benefit from a bit of extra nutrition in our diet, especially after a long hard workout. Cycling nutrition ranges from protein, to electrolyte salt tablets, to CBD recovery mixes, and all of them offer vital nutrients that your body needs to ride further and faster. All you have to do is get the flavor right!
It’s no secret - cyclists love socks. Not just your average calf-high socks, but the zanier and more detailed the graphics and the more performance-oriented the better. Because of the changes that happen to a rider's foot during a ride, it's also a great idea to get thin socks or compression socks to help keep riders comfortable on longer rides.
Shopping for gifts is always a challenge, and the more specific the gift type, the more daunting the task of finding the right gift may seem. Hopefully you’ve learned a bit about what kind of gear and goodies cyclists rely on year round, making the next gift shopping experience that much easier.