I’m going to guess that this Christmas was like every other cyclist’s Christmas. You sat by the tree, surrounded by torn wrapping paper, with the random objects that your so-called friends and family thought were sufficiently a reflection of your personality that it was appropriate to buy them and gave them to you.
You will have got any or all of the following: underwear with bicycles on; drinks coasters with bicycles on; a mug with ‘World’s Greatest Cyclist!’ on it; a tie with bicycles on; a book about cycling you already had; ‘bicycle-shaped’ biscuits that were perfectly obviously Mickey Mouse shaped biscuits handed over upside-down by a 10-year-old who was openly laughing at you over this ‘deception’, and who then ate them for you.
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What you will not have got was a new bicycle, a set of wheels, that Assos jacket you dropped all those hints about, or even a set of aircraft-grade aluminium tyre levers. Hell, most of us would have settled for a few inner tubes, so we could at least have saved the money we’d have ended up spending on such things ourselves.
When it came to Christmas shopping, the thought process of your nearest and dearest was very simple. “I can buy him/her anything at all with no reference to whether it’s something they want or need, and they’ll still be delighted with it because I’ll make sure it has a bike on it.”
The problem is this: people don’t enjoy either buying or handing over presents they don’t understand. I remember some years ago asking my parents for a pair of really nice racing tubulars for Christmas — as I recall they were about £60 each, way back in about 1998. Of course, to the uninitiated they looked just like any other bicycle tyre. I remember exactly the look of disappointment on my mother’s face as she handed over the lumpy little parcel.
Essentially it was the same problem that parents have had for decades with much younger children — the demand that a vast sum be spent on some incomprehensible bit of plastic crap. Except the tyres weren’t even in lurid colours, and had no buttons or sirens or flashing lights. Also, I was 25.
People want to hand over the sort of thing they can imagine being pleased to get themselves, which is the basis for the whole market of themed presents. And when it comes to bicycles, the thing they can imagine being pleased to get (a bike) they can’t afford, and the thing they can afford (a nice new chainring, say) they can’t imagine being pleased to get.
(As a side issue, and a clue to another bleak moment under my own family Christmas tree, chainrings are very, very difficult to wrap.)
The irony, of course, is that we cyclists are even worse when the wrapping paper is on the other foot. For example, and trust me on this, no one on the receiving end last weekend will have thought that jewellery made from repurposed cycling components was an improvement on something made from gold or silver or cubic zirconium.
Even bicycle-shaped conventional jewellery makes a better gift, and remember that that is still not as good as jewellery-shaped jewellery.
You certainly won’t have improved your chances of hitting the mark with something you made yourself from a component selected because it was knackered anyway. That’s not a ‘patina’, that’s ‘road muck’.
Still. Christmas. There we were, sitting round the tree. Me sporting a jumper with a drawing of a bicycle knitted by someone with absolutely zero grasp of fork rake and steering trail. Mrs Doc wearing a pair of Dura-Ace earrings. To be honest, these days we both just tape the receipt to the present before we hand it over.