How to Buy Gifts for a Cyclist

12.16.2005 | 5:14 pm

There’s a certain irony in buying a cycling-related gift for a cyclist. Since one of the principal aims of a cyclist is, after all, to be light, any time you buy something for that cyclist, you are in grave danger of weighing that cyclist down.

It’s a terrible, heart-wrenching conundrum, which has no doubt brought you grief and no small number of sleepless nights.

You can stop despairing now. I have a solution.

But you’ll have to wait a few minutes for it.


Announcing the Winners of the Banjo Brothers Bike Bag Giveaway

I really loved the comments for this contest, almost as much as I love the edgy extremeness the knowledge that I fill my tires with flammable gas gives me.

Mostly, though, I just really like to say “flammable gas.”

That said, there were some problems with selecting a winner this week.


Prize For Entry That Was Absolutely The Best Entry But Doesn’t Get A Bag Because He’s Already A Banjo Brothers Dealer

Racer, the owner of Racer’s Cycle Service, has a very lean, spare sense of humor. A week or so ago, I linked to his home movie of him chasing his dog around the shop; the ordinariness of trying to catch up with a dog paired with the brilliant Cake soundtrack made me watch over and over.

Racer outdid himself, though, with his latest. I believe I have watched it more than ten times. Please, click here to watch it now.

“Racer definitely won,” my wife told me when she saw this. I agreed, but the thing is, Racer is a Banjo Brothers dealer. Sending him a Banjo Brothers bag is a little bit silly. Not that I’m opposed to being silly.

“I’ll make a cool bike chain bracelet for his wife,” said my generous and talented wife. “How about that for a prize?”

I think that will do nicely.


Prize for Entry That Was Only Two Words Long But Was Still Really Funny But Doesn’t Get Any Award Because Your Name Explicitly Says You Don’t Want It

KeepYerBag had a genius suggestion for how to take advantage of the newly-discovered explosive properties of the Big Air! canister: “Gu Brulee.” The juxtaposition of the hardiness of mountain biking with the hoity-toitiness of brulee is a hilarious image. But KeepYerBag has said before that he doesn’t bike and has no use for a seatbag. So that’s that.

By the way, nobody gets to leave a comment wondering why KeepYerBag doesn’t bike. I have, in fact, met KeepYerBag, and the reason he doesn’t bike is because he has developed his brainpower to such a degree that he can now levitate (good for short distances and changing lightbulbs) and instantly teleport himself. Oh, and he can also cause people’s brains to hemorrhage at will, so watch yourself.


Honorary Prize For Being An Exceptionally Good Sport About All This

Tony Hollars, the founder and Director of Technology at Genuine Innovations, has been incredibly good-natured about my questions about Big Air! flammability. He has responded to all my email questions, recommending “Dino Foam” as an excellent propane-propelled foaming bath soap, and even answering my pesky question yesterday afternoon, about whether there was a difference between “propane” and “propane propellant:”

The blends used vary from mostly or all Propane to mostly Butane or Iso-butane. Depends on the use and the target pressure for dispensing.

Ours is mostly propane. I suspect Dino Foam is a Butane / Propane / Iso Butane blend due to the slow dispensing rate.

Tony’s award takes the form of my intention to continue to buy Big Air! canisters for the rest of my life.


Actual Prize

Phew. OK. Now on to the actual winning entry for the contest, per Dug, the appointed judging official:

As cycling chemistry graduate students, my officemate Tim and I decided that it was of the utmost importance to research this topic instead of doing less important things like our actual work, so we spent the better part of the afternoon googling densities and what have you. And we may have even consulted a physical chemistry textbook. We learned:

1. Propane is not lighter than air! It is, in fact, MORE dense than air with a density of 1.9kg/m3 versus air which is 1.3kg/m3

2. Your humble rep at Big Air! even told you that it was propane propellant and not actual propane that you are pumping into your tires! [Well, it turns out in this case there’s no difference. So there! — Ed.]

3. Haven’t you ever taken a match to an aerosol can whilst spraying? What kind of pyro are you?

4. If you would like to play around with chemicals and stick some more in your mouth, etc, stop by the lab and we’ll let you have at it. You can fill your tires with a variety of atmospheric gasses we have laying around the lab, including nitrogen, helium, argon, or anything else of your choosing. If we really like you, we’ll let you freeze things in the liquid nitrogen. Just for fun.

As the Fat Cyclist, you would really love our research. We do stuff with lipids all of the time. And we ride bikes. I mean, we are seriously the coolest ever. Really.

—your humble cycling chemists Sarah & Tim

Dug explains why this is the winning entry thusly:

The winner of today’s contest is Sarah and Tim, humble cycling chemists, for a variety of reasons. First, they diss you, multiple times. Second, they will let you freeze stuff in liquid nitrogen (if they like you). And third, they contrapose. That is, they tell you they are “seriously the coolest ever.” And then they call themselves your “humble” cycling chemists. And finally, if you go to their website, their first sentence is this: “The broad aim of our research is to elucidate the structure and dynamics of membrane proteins, fibrous protein aggregates, and other insoluble macromolecules important in biology.” Turns out, that’s my broad aim too. Crazy coincidence, eh?

Congratulations, Sarah and Tim! Email me with the kind of seat bag you want and your shipping address. I’m afraid you two will have to figure out which of you gets the bag, though.


Let’s Go Shopping

Wow, that bit about the contest really got away from me. I was serious (well, “serious” isn’t really the right word) about having suggestions for what to get cyclists as a gift though. It’s remarkably straightforward, really. Get them what they’d otherwise have to buy for themselves in the course of being cyclists.

Here’s what I mean:

  • Tubes: Find out what kind of tubes the cyclist uses, and buy a bunch of them. It’s really nice to have a stash of tubes sitting in the garage whenever you need one. This isn’t all that great of an idea if your cyclist friend has switched to tubeless.
  • Genuine Innovations’ Microflate: An inexpensive, sturdy, tiny, easy-to-use threaded CO2 (or propane, as it turns out) cartridge valve. I really don’t understand why anyone would use anything else.
  • CO2 and Big Air! canisters: Make sure that the canisters you buy are compatible with the valve your friend uses.
  • Sports food / Sports Drink / Gel: If you know what they eat, drink, or ingest (I have to say “ingest” when talking about gels, because neither “eat” nor “drink” is the correct word), buy them a bunch of it. Be careful you know the correct brand and flavors, though.
  • Helmet: This is something many cyclists replace too rarely. Be sure to get the right size.
  • Messenger Bag: Everyone needs a messenger bag.
  • Entry fee and commitment for support at a race: If your cyclist races, this is a very nice gift indeed
  • Socks: Several pair of the same kind, so that as the cyclist wears them out, they’ve still got matching socks.
  • Lube: Be sure to get the kind your cyclist has settled on. It’s nice to have a year’s supply of lube sitting in the garage, just like it’s nice to have a year’s supply of tubes in there.
  • Shoe cleats: Do you know what kind of pedals your cyclist uses? Buy a new pair of cleats for those shoes. Most cyclists go through a couple pair of these per year, so they’re nice to have.
  • A Floor Pump: When getting started with cycling, most cyclists pick out a cheap floor pump. Then they regret it. But while those cheap floor pumps never quite break — allowing cyclists to discard them in good conscience — they never really work great, either. Go to your local bike store and ask the mechanic what pump they recommend for someone who uses a pump every day (road cyclists in particular pump their tires up before practically every ride), and you’ll give a surprising, exciting gift. I am not kidding. Cyclists love a great floor pump.

You see what I mean? Get cyclists the boring stuff — they stuff they make dozens of trips to the bike shop over the course of the year — and you’ve bought them gifts that will get used for sure. How rare is that?


Presents to Avoid

There are things you want to be careful of when buying gifts for cyclists:

  • A Bike: In principle, this is one of the coolest of all possible gifts. However, bear in mind that most cyclists have something very specific in mind for what their next bike is. If you don’t know what it is and don’t have a clever way to find out and are dead set on your present being a surprise, don’t get your cyclist a bike.
  • Jersey: Your cyclist already has too many.
  • Shorts: There are too many sizes and types. Unless you have specific instructions as to the correct kind to get, you’ll get the wrong ones.
  • Shoes: Same thing as the shorts.
  • Glasses: Same thing as the shoes.

Oh, by the way, just in case anybody is curious: Racer says there are a few size medium Fisher Paragons still in stock.

You know. Just in case you were wondering.


  1. Comment by Unknown | 12.16.2005 | 5:49 pm

    What? No marshmallow launcher? EVERY cyclist needs one of those. As it turns out, Sarah and Tim’s broad aim( “The broad aim of our research is to elucidate the structure and dynamics of membrane proteins, fibrous protein aggregates, and other insoluble macromolecules important in biology.” ) is merely a fancy schmancy description of marshmallows. Big words make doctoral theses read better. See the connection now? And they are cool, yet humble cyclists.

  2. Comment by Unknown | 12.16.2005 | 5:52 pm


  3. Comment by Unknown | 12.16.2005 | 6:37 pm

    your advice to not buy a bike for a gift will destroy many an xmas this year. only some, probably a minority, of your readers are what you would call fanatical cyclists. most would probably welcome a bike as a gift, assuming the giver did some reasonable asking around.and even if they are as nutty about riding as you, it could still work. last year ricky’s wife, michelle, went behind his back to racer, and got ricky a brand new gf rig for his b-day. the year before, she went to racer and got ricky a complete xtr kit.what, you wouldn’t like those as gifts?

  4. Comment by Unknown | 12.16.2005 | 6:50 pm

    Naaaah. Fatty is completely right. If my wife got me that Trek Madone full Dura Ace and a ticket to pick it up and France and ride it in L’Etape du Tour, but screwed up and got me the one with the 44 tooth chainring instead of the compact 39 ring, I’d go completely nuts and probably have to slap her around some. It’d be the worst Christmas *ever*, except for the one where she went to my suit shop, Tom James, and had them make up gray flannel suit to my measurements, then bought the a belt in the wrong shade of Cordovan to go with it. I didn’t talk to her for months over that one, the wench… That woman lives to make me miserable, I swear…

  5. Comment by Unknown | 12.16.2005 | 7:02 pm

    Inappropriate question of the morning: Does Ricky’s wife Michelle need a boyfriend (for Xmas)???? She obviously understands a cyclist’s needs (vs. wants)….

  6. Comment by Unknown | 12.16.2005 | 7:08 pm

    Mrs. Maviva: It has come to my attention that individuals lacking certain perceptivity could completely unreasonably misconstrue my client’s earlier representations. On behalf of my client, I would like to point out that in addition to having some expectation of privacy in his blog commenting activities, Mr. Maviva was clearly and incontrovertibly joking and satirizing the individual hereafter (and hereto) known as "Dug" whom, upon information and belief, many presume is either a shameless acolyte, or an equally shameless avatar of the individual commonly referred to as "The Fat Cyclist." Any commentary by Mr. Maviva found herein which you might find offensive was merely fair use / satire directed at individuals who would look a gift bike in the steering stem, and ask why it has the Ksyrium SLs, instead of the ES’s. Moreover, the presence of indicia of humorous intention should be non-non-obvious, since by acclaim all who know both you and Al know that you would probably kill him in cold blood should he ever dare raise a finger toward you, thus the statements made by Mr. Maviva are both factually incorrect, and quite obviously not intended to constitute a colorable threat. Additionally, everybody knows that if a high end gift bike doesn’t quite work out, well, that’s what they make E-Bay and the Velo News classifieds for, and that Serotta is probably only too happy to "re-flag" an Otrott as a vintage Schwinn Varsity. Moreover, Mr. Maviva is not interested in a Trek Madone, but has made representations to the effect, on multiple occasions, that he would not decline the offer of a Surly Cross-Check, frame size 58, On One Midge Bars, Fi-Zik Arione saddle, Deep Vee or Open Pro rims, Black. And some Assos Butt’r, the 10 gallon "Super-Soother" size.Your Servant, etc./SAl Maviva’s Lawyer

  7. Comment by Tom Stormcrowe | 12.16.2005 | 7:21 pm

    A good pair of cycling shorts would not go amiss!

  8. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 12.16.2005 | 7:46 pm

    I need to start by addressing the judge:dug – if you think your lifes work is “The broad aim of our research is to elucidate the structure and dynamics of membrane proteins, fibrous protein aggregates, and other insoluble macromolecules important in biology.” it just proves that you don’t know what you’re doing and you probably don’t know what you’re talking about either. Nothing personal.fatty – you are 91.7 percent psychic. Your list of 11 items are in fact 11 of the 12 items on my Christmas list. The final item on my list would never be on your list because you associate with whippet like cyclists of the highest order, and I’m certain that liposuction would be wasted on most of them.

  9. Comment by tayfuryagci | 12.16.2005 | 8:26 pm

    I’d like a Fisher Paragon, the red’s pretty cool if only:-It wasn’t going to cost me as much as a Trak Fuel 9.9 to ship it here-I had the clams to pay for it:D:D:DA bike would always be a good present, even if you didn’t like the components you can always throw in a BMx hub, strip some parts off and have an SS. Hmmmm Bianchi Pista with a flip-flop rear hub Bike-a-licious….

  10. Comment by pete | 12.16.2005 | 9:32 pm

    Good evening. I have many comments to make today.Winner: good choice.Racer: Jeebus! Shouldn’t he be too busy selling bikes at this time of year to spend hours messing about with video editing software? Bloody funny all the same and I, for one, welcome our new tyre-incinerating overlords.Christmas List: Would have been useful two days ago, but has been rendered pointless by the concept of setting fire to things while on your bike.Propane vs. Propane Propellant: One of us has misunderstood and I don’t think it’s me, although I did finish for the holidays today and am slightly drunker than you should be. Mr "Big Air!" describes Dino-Foam as a propane/butane/iso-butane mix; I don’t think he means this is what constitutes the soap. I believe (although he did write to you and not me) he means these are the constituents of the propellant, which is why it has less explosive release. Therefore, while traces of propane will escape from a Big Air! can, this is not the main ingredient. IANAC.Sarah & Tim, the "cycling chemists": Hyper-specialisation?Tayfur: Just because we all thought of the same thing, doesn’t make it bad. In fact, I would say that none of us actually "thought up" this particular idea: it was so good it was suggested to us all by the planet’s collective unconscious. Emm.. So, is Bradley less or more original for being the first to think the the same thing as everyone else?Fatty: Yes, back to you. Surely the mechanics in bike shops all use those natty electric pumps? And exactly what sort of "lube" are you pushing?Cheers, Pete.

  11. Comment by Julie | 12.17.2005 | 12:21 am

    I am so glad others have free time during this holiday seaon to bring joy and laughter unto others. It "lights" up my day.

  12. Comment by Glen | 12.17.2005 | 12:44 am

    Racer – what a legend….a grass roots researcher with his finger on the pulse and a keen ear for a soundtrack ! Bit concerned about the lack of saftey equipment though (wearing a welding mask for example whould have hightened the tension and demonstrated his willingness to put his body on the line for bike science).

  13. Comment by TIMOTHY | 12.17.2005 | 3:00 am

    I just now watched the video of racer chasing his dog around the shop. Not only is the video amusing, but I must say that his choice of music is OUTSTANDING! Cake is one of the best bands ever – and not shy at all about their political views. Their website is awesome:

  14. Comment by Rick | 12.17.2005 | 4:14 am

    To Racer: You never stop to impress. Brilliant piece of work. Nice soundtrack and nice job of giving props to Johnny. I’ll see you soon. I have a few items I’d like to try to blow up.To Fatty: Thanks for the ideas. My wife, Michelle (thanks Dug), would never go for those items. They’re entirely too ordinary. Why does life have to be so complicated?To Racer, I mean Michelle: For Christmas, all I’d like again is all your love. I’d also like a nice Bontrager wheelset for my gf Rig just like Kenny’s. Thanks I love you.To Zuke: My wife, Michelle (thanks Dug), would be happy to be your boyfriend for Christmas. She just needs your pocketbook to be effective.

  15. Comment by Carolynn | 12.17.2005 | 7:41 am

    Thanks for the gift list, son, but it would be more helpful if you had included all your specific details. Does this mean that such gifts would please you more than a porcelain doll?

  16. Comment by tayfuryagci | 12.19.2005 | 4:04 pm

    4 days since last post, 3 days since last comment! WHERE’S EVERYBODY? FWS (fatty withdrawal syndrome) is starting to take its toll on me. Is it me or is the name of the syndrome changing everytime I mention it?

  17. Comment by Unknown | 12.19.2005 | 6:44 pm

    To RICKMX: Touche’!! Heck, I must have $, cuz I still have more checks left…

  18. Comment by Ariel | 12.19.2005 | 10:55 pm

    I’m so glad you made the shopping list. I need to find a christmas gift for my stupid cyling boyfriend. But really, a floor pump would make him happy? And socks…? It seems so boring to me. Any other suggestions. If not I will try your boring suggestions.


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