I know I'm a cyclist but please don't buy me this for Christmas, here's what we actually like

We're a particular bunch, but there's a lot we do like - here's how to avoid the common pitfalls

Cyclist riding along a snowy trail on Christmas
(Image credit: Getty Images - Justin Paget)

Buying Christmas gifts for cyclists might at first seem easy. After all, you know they like bikes, and beside a slew of cycling accessories you're sure they'll use, there are also plenty of two-wheeled themed items, from jerseys to socks to beer glasses. How can you go wrong?

I'm here to suggest that you can. And quite badly.

I'll assume the role of the Grinch for a second as I explain that cyclists are a particular bunch. They know what they like. And what they don't. It's likely an opinion formed through trial and error and many, many miles of figuring out what works for them. 

To the non-cyclist, one bottle cage looks much the same as any other. As do a whole host of seemingly good stocking fillers. But to the battle-hardened rider there's a rhyme and a reason for all their equipment choices (probably best not to ask them unless you have time to kill) and substitutes are not welcome.

And then there's the novelty cycling gift. While I'm sure there are plenty of cyclists who are happy to celebrate their passion through the medium of printed t-shirts, embroidered ties and garish socks, I'd hazard a guess there are just as many who aren't. Me included.

So here's a gift guide created with the hope of making buying for cyclists less problematic. It's important to note that everything listed here is gift worthy but with a few pointers of what perhaps to avoid, or to be wary of unless you've done some research - as well as a few alternative suggestions that are a little harder to get wrong. 

Campagnolo Big Corkscrew

Campagnolo Big Corkscrew

(Image credit: Campagnolo)
Campagnolo Big Corkscrew

Campagnolo Big Corkscrew

US: from $279.36 at Amazon
UK: from £179.99 at Condor Cycles

The story goes that in the mid 1960s Tullio Campagnolo was so unhappy with the performance of his regular corkscrew he set about designing his own. And so the now legendary Campay corkscrew was born. The current version is still made in Europe from steel and can be bought in a number of finishes, including bronze and chrome. It's sheer size, dwarfing all other corkscrews, is its calling card, alongside the high quality construction and finish.

For the true Campagnolo aficionado, the Big Corkscrew might well be a present that's greatly received. But I'd suggest that most cyclists who are fond of Campagnolo products prefer them on their bike rather than opening a bottle of their favourite red. Even if they are in need of a new corkscrew there are plenty of good ones out there, made by kitchen utensil specialists, that do the job superbly for a fraction of the cost. 

So I'd suggest that you put the corkscrew back on the shelf and instead look for a gift that will help your recipient out on the road. For the price of the Big Corkscrew you could gift a new Campagnolo component, such as a cassette or a front derailleur, but you'd need to make sure you knew exactly what you were buying so not to fall foul of compatibility issues. Better still, choose something that will help their prized Italian drivechain run smoothly, prolonging its life in the process...

Such as this 'Ultimate' cleaning kit from Muc-Off. Like the Campy corkscrew it's no ordinary gift. As the name suggests it's designed as a do-it-all solution, with a host of brushes and cloths for different parts of the bike alongside lubes, sprays and cleaning fluids. It all comes in practical toolbox, hopefully preventing the items from becoming strewn around your garage! 

Given the high price of drivechain components these days, as well as road and gravel bikes in general, it's a practical gift that will keep on giving, adding many miles and smiles along the way.

The Muc-Off Ultimate Bicycle Cleaning Kit 

The Muc-Off Ultimate Bicycle Cleaning Kit 

US: $124.99 from The Pro's Closet
UK:
was £100, now £63 from Sigma Sports

This 10-piece kit lives up to its name, featuring pretty much all you need to clean and lube your bicycle. It includes a bike cleaner, a microcell sponge, a soft wash brush, a detailing Brush, a two-prong brush, a microfiber cloth, a drivetrain cleaner, bike spray and some wet lube - and comes in a sturdy toolbox for handy storage.

Novelty cycling socks

United Oddsocks cycling socks

(Image credit: United Oddsocks)
United Oddsocks On Your Bike socks

United Oddsocks On Your Bike socks

US: $26.99 at Amazon
UK:
£15.99 at Amazon

A pack of six to be worn as three 'odd' pairs, the On Your Bike socks features different vistas, with a cyclist riding along on each one. They're made from an 80% cotton, 19% polyamide, 1% elastane blend and are designed to sit mid-calf.

Receiving socks for Christmas is an enduring joke, likely because it's still played out year after year. I've been on the receiving end a few times but truth be told it's the particular socks in question that make them unwanted rather than socks per se. 

Take these novelty cycling socks. While they might seem like the ideal gift from the perspective of a relative who believes that you like cycling so much you need it emblazoned on anything and everything you own, to you - the actual cyclist - they're really not much use. Too gaudy to wear with street clothes and unsuitable for actually using on the bike, they're more likely to find a permanent place at the back of your sock drawer.

So instead, if you're set on gifting hosiery to a cyclist, why not opt for a pair of quality cycling socks that are fit for purpose? For me, especially in the colder months, there's none better than DeFeet's Woolie Boolies. 

USA-made, using USA-grown merino wool you're getting a product that's sustainably produced and made to last - so much so Defeet socks come with a 5-year warranty. Vitally the cuff stays up, while the padded footbed really does add comfort - both on and off the bike. They've kept my feet warm for years and I'd be happy to receive another pair this year to add to the collection. 

Image

Defeet Woolie Boolie socks

US: were $24.99, now $18.74 at Backcountry
UK: were £27.99, now £25.19 at Merlin Cycles

The 6" cuff is ideal for cooler months, while the padding makes them really comfortable whether your in the saddle all day, hiking in the hills or taking your dog for a walk. Over the year the traditional charcoal color has been joined by a few more offerings, including a fetching green. 

Fluro bar tape

Fizik Vento Microtex Tacky Bar Tape Fluro Yellow

Fizik Vento Microtex Tacky Bar Tape Fluro Yellow

US: was $29.99, now $15.19 at Competitive Cyclist
UK: £21.94 at Halfords

The Vento Microtex bar tape at a slender 2mm thick is created for handling and control, while still providing some cushioning. The tacky finish works especially well in wet conditions. Available in a range of colors.

Now bar tape isn't a bad gift. In fact, it makes a good stocking filling for most road and gravel cyclists. But because it's available in such a range of styles and colors, it's fraught with danger for the uninitiated gift giver. 

A lot of non-cyclists might have a tendency to go with a fluro option whenever possible, be it jersey, socks or the bar tape in question. And while this choice is rooted in keeping their loved ones safe, most cyclists I know either match their bar tape to the color of their bike or keep it traditional and stick with black or white tape. I prefer black because it hides the dirt and pretty much matches with any bike.

So by all means buy the cyclist in your life some new bar tape this Christmas, especially if you've noticed that theirs is looking like it's seen better days. But before you do, do a little digging and find out their preference - for thickness, for finish, and most importantly for color. They'll thank you for it.

Lizard Skins DSP 3.2mm bar tape

Lizard Skins DSP 3.2mm bar tape

US: $43.99 from Jenson USA
UK:
£45.00 from Sigma Sports

The Fizik tape referenced above is good stuff, and you can get it in black and white. However, to provide a little choice I've selected Lizard Skins DSP 3.2mm tape here.It's much thicker than the offering from Fizik, highlighting the variations on offer, and is of course available in my preferred color, black, as well as plenty of others. 

Saddle bag or essentials case

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Blackburn Grid Seat Bag

US: From $24.95 at Competitive Cyclist
UK: Was £25.00, now from £13.50 at Merlin Cycles

I've chosen the Grid bag here to illustrate my point. It's a great bag that's really well made with some really neat features, including the dividers for separating kit and the little tail light loop. However, it's offered in three sizes, which range from 0.4l to 1.8l - a significant difference, which means you'll need to have a good idea of just what they carry as their ride essentials before you buy.

Like the bar tape, a saddle bag or an essentials case can make a great gift for a cyclist. But again there's just much to get wrong, turning it from a gift designed to be used for every ride to one that needs to be exchanged... if you can find the receipt.

Not so long ago a saddle bag or tool roll was a pretty standard affair, made so by the uniformity of the gear we all used. On the road, in pre-tubeless days, tire widths were typically in the 23-25mm range and therefore inner tubes were narrow. Given that pumps were often fitted to the bike, the only other item found in the bag was a set a tire levers, a few patches, and perhaps a small wrench or allen key. 

But not anymore. An all-road or gravel bike might be ridden tubeless and the choice of tubeless repair tools vary in shape and therefore the amount of space they take up. If the cyclist in question is still running tubes they will be far larger than your skinny road equivalent given that the tire width might be north of 40mm. And then there's the extensive choice of multi-tools, saddles with carbon rails...the list goes on - all which means the humble saddle bag now comes in a plethora of styles and sizes. The same goes for the essentials case - after all all one person's must-haves for a ride won't be the same as another's. 

So of course you could ask a friend, or do a little research, to enable you to buy the right bag or case. Or you could opt instead for the Silca Hypalon Utility Strap. Using a Boa dial to fasten, it allows you to secure a combination of pump, tubes, tools, etc. of varying sizes.to the seatpost or frame meaning you don't have to know exactly what the recipient of the gift carries with them on a ride for it still to be very useful indeed.

Silca Hypalon Utility Strap

Silca Hypalon Utility Strap

US: $30.00 at Jenson USA

Made to Silca's typically high standards, the Hypalon is like a fancy Voile strap, making it a nice choice for a gift (as are the very handy Voile straps). Will be appreciated by road and gravel cyclists alike, especially if they're used to using Boa dials on their shoes.

Freelance writer

Luke Friend has worked as a writer, editor and copywriter for twenty five years. Across books, magazines and websites, he's covered a broad range of topics for a range of clients including Major League Baseball, the National Trust and the NHS. He has an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University and is a qualified bicycle mechanic. He has been a cycling enthusiast from an early age, partly due to watching the Tour de France on TV. He's a keen follower of bike racing to this day as well as a regular road and gravel rider.