How to Buy Gifts for a Cyclist

12.16.2005 | 9:35 am

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.


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