Have you ever come up with the perfect Christmas gift for somebody? One of those things where you see it in a little shop and instinctively know that the loved one in your life will literally swoon when he/she opens it? Okay, maybe not swoon -- at least not if he's a he. Guys don't swoon much. But he might just kind of tear up a little bit and turn away, saying that some dust got in his eye. His voice will go deep when he says it, too.
These dream gifts usually happen when your loved one off-handedly mentions something back in the spring or summer ... but you remember it weeks or months later, and you hunt tirelessly through the mall -- or at least eBay -- trying to find just the right one. When you see it, you don't even look at the price tag, but buy it immediately, imagining how pleased this is going to make him/her, and how he/she will say those magic words:
"It's perfect! How did you know?"
You rehearse your response. "Oh, I just remembered you saying something about it." Or, "I just had a wild thought." But what you mean is this: "I paid attention to you. I listened to what you said, or saw how you looked at this, or talked to a friend or family member who told me about how you always wished you had this thing."
The bottom line: "I know you. I get you. I LOVE you."
That's what the perfect gift says. And that's why you will probably never give the perfect gift.
I mean, c'mon! Get you? Puh-leeze!
Not that I haven't tried. One year, RandoGirl pointed out something in April, and I snuck out a couple of months later and bought it. I hid it all summer and fall, and it was one of the first things that I wrapped and stuck under the tree that year. When RandoGirl opened it, she gave me this quizzical look, as if she suspected that she might have somehow opened somebody else's gift.
"Remember?" I said. "You showed it to me in a magazine back in April."
"Hunh," she said. Then, "oh, yeah. I remember. It's perfect." That was "perfect" without the exclamation point, mind you.
Now, I must be honest here. There is one time that I hit the gift home run with RandoGirl. It was our 25th wedding anniversary, when I had a new gold ring made using diamonds from a ring that my father -- who RandoGirl was very fond of -- had left me, with a ruby that she and the RandoDaughter had found panning for stones in north Georgia. So the perfect gift can be done. Bear in mind, however, that between all of the Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries, and so forth that RandoGirl and I have had together, I'm now hitting .0001.
The point of all of this is that I, in an effort to make your life better, I am going to give you some holiday gift ideas for the cyclist in your life. Many of these are things that are actually on my Christmas list -- or on the list of some riding friends. This is why I write the buying guide blog entry every year: I'm too lazy to miss this opportunity.
Light and Motion VIS 360
This one's on my list. Basically, it's a 130-gram helmet-mounted front white and rear red light that charges from a USB port. The run time on this may not be sufficient for overnight brevets, but is perfect for getting to and from work, particularly since you can charge it at your computer. The front light is 110 lumens, which is more than enough for even the darkest road, and the four-lumen rear light -- particularly since it's helmet-mounted -- should make you easy to see.
Topeak Mega-Morph pump
This is also on my list, although I feel a little silly about it. I've got three floor pumps and frame pumps on two of my bikes -- why do I want another one? Well, mostly because this is a floor pump that folds up so I can put it in the hard bike case, which I plan to do this summer when I go to France for Paris-Brest-Paris. Sure, there will probably be one or two floor pumps in France. But, if I have to borrow someone else's floor pump, would I be totally self-supported? Think about it.
This isn't on my list, but it is on a friend Ken's list. Or, at least, it should be. He recently lost a lot of weight and has been asking me about cycling. He likes the idea of just going out and riding a bike in pretty countryside for a long, long time, and doesn't want to spend much more than $1,000 for the bike. I asked Lynn Greer at Gran Fondo (a.k.a., The Bike Shop That Has All of the Above Stuff, Plus Even More Things That Actually May Be the Perfect Gift for Your Beloved Cyclist), and he recommended the Imola. It's a steel frame with a carbon fiber fork, has mount points for a rear rack, clearance for wider tires, and comes with good wheels.
OK, I raved about these last week. Again, these are on my list this year. They make great stocking stuffers, and not just because they're shaped like feet so that pulling them out of the stocking is really funny. Gran Fondo had these at the counter last week, so if you want to try some go there first.
Wool Neck Gaiter
Rivendell Bicycle Works used to sell something similar to this called the Triple Tube, but they've been out of them for a while. Basically, it's just a thin tube of merino wool -- kind of like a turtleneck. You can wear it to keep your neck warm, or pull it up a little to cover your ears, mouth, and/or nose. Jeff Bauer wore one a couple of weeks ago when it was 25 degrees at the ride start, and then used it as a hair scrunchy when the day warmed into the 40's. I've got one, but would like to have another for "wash days." Ibex stuff is usually high quality, so hopefully this will do as nicely as the old Rivendell version.
You can't have too many of them. A tip for the non-cyclist purchasing these: You'll probably want Presta valves, size 700c x 18-25, and you might as well get at least 52mm or 60mm long valves (in case your cyclist also has racing wheels).
Busch and Muller E-Werk USB Charger
OK, this one's pretty cool, but it's only for really hard-core randonneurs. You hook this up to a Schmidt Dynamo Hub -- which many randonneurs use as the hub on their front wheel to power their headlights -- and it will charge your USB devices. For long brevets, you can use it to charge your cell phone or iPod during the day, when you don't need to run the headlight. I guess you could use it to charge your Light & Motion VIS 360 ... but you shouldn't need that if you have the headlight hooked up to the hub. For camping tourists, you can also charge your camplight, radio, computer ... or even your electronic socks. Like I said, very cool, but it's not very useful if you don't have a Schmidt Dynamo Hub wheel.
That should be enough to get you started. If you need more, go here for some good ideas. If your cyclist regularly goes to Gran Fondo, go see them for some great ideas, too. Lynn can remember most people's clothing sizes off the top of his head, as well as what kind of tires they like, the best shorts for them, and so forth.
And if you don't get that perfect gift this time, don't give up hope. Even if you can't read your loved ones' minds, the fact that you tried should be enough to show them that you really care.