Following on from the first installment of The Sticky Bidon’s Christmas gift guide, today we have a few ideas centered around accessories for cycling. Same format – I’ll break it down into price brackets and we’ll go from there.
So, without further ado…
Gifts Up to $50
There’s a million out there in the sub $50 bracket, but just stick to one of the good brands, like Cateye, or Echowell. You should be able to get one that is wireless for around $50, but more likely between $50-$70 (easier to install and much better looking) and all the information you need if you don’t need cadence and heart rate sensors.
Recommendations: Cateye Velo for a cheaper one, or Velo Wireless (not sure if they have been replaced with the Micro) for a bit more, or Echowell’s U10W for a wireless computer for $50. Quality should be the same as the Cateye for a bit less money.
Not very exciting, but one of the most practical items there is for a bike commuter. One ride in the wet will/should convince any commuter of their worth.
Recommendations: If you want a smaller stocking-stuffer item, grab one of these from Ass Savers if your cyclists is a roadie or similar. A clip-on rear mudguard (there are many) will do for many people and are easier to stick on and discard in a hurry. SKS make a pretty good quality mudguard. At the lower price range there are a million cheap and nasty, but nevertheless effective, plastic sets. The cheap full guards aren’t a very exciting gift, so maybe I’d go for just sticking an Ass Saver in the stocking.
Up to $100
With this budget you can afford a much nicer set of full coverage, high quality mudguards. There are a few really nice hammered metal (effect) ones on the market, like Velo Orange’s, but I’m going to have to give the nod to Planet Bike, because they are really high quality with good, stainless steel fittings, easy to fit, and 25% of their profits go to bicycle advocacy. The Cascadia should do it for most commuters.
If you are going to want to put mudguards on a nice frame that doesn’t have eyelets to attach them to properly, then I would avoid ones that strap to your frame. They work well, but – you use mudguards when it rains. When it rains your bike gets filthy. When it gets filthy it gets grit between stuff that rubs together, like chains, gears, rims and brake pads, etc. Like the strap-ons I have been using over the last number of years (mudguards, people), over time grit will sit in between the straps and the frame/forks to which they are strapped around, and your frame/forks will show the evidence of this. I’m quite sure that my crap rain bike that I neither care about nor clean more than once every number of months is a victim of my negligence, but I don’t think that any amount of care will prevent at least a little marking of your frame/forks over time. If your frame falls into this category and you don’t need a full-coverage mudguard, consider the following:
Recommendations: BBB Roadprotector. Fits pretty much anything with a caliper brake bolt, keeps the frame from getting marked, removed and put back on instantly with a quick release, and really minimal to save face in front of your roadie friends (who are smug, but wet and miserable). Will get a pair for less than $100.
Up to $250 (or thereabouts)
Sure, any backpack will do if you just want a sack to hold things. There are of course some better options that can make the commute more comfortable and enjoyable. Aside from being more comfortable, a better backpack will last longer and function better. Deuter makes really high quality packs, and they have had a line of specific cycling packs for some time now. Rain covers are standard, as is room for a hydration pack, and some models will have specific storage for your helmet. Sizes are from around 12 litres to nearly 30, which can all (I think) be expanded or kept to the standard size for a tidier fit. Aside from being made very well from very good materials, one of their main features is the ventilation they offer which minimizes a sweaty back.
Recommendations: My pick would be the Race EXP Air. It’s on the smaller side of the size range, but that makes it better to ride with. You get their extra light shoulder straps and the better of the two venting systems, meaning that sweat build-up is kept to a minimum. Helmet storage, the built-in rain cover, and it’s still expandable, so there is enough room for most people, I would think (lunch, change of clothes, the usual personal effects and cycling spares). You’ll get plenty of change back from $200.
Well, you’re still going to struggle to get anything much better than what the basic $50-75 computer, as the GPS enabled, heart-rate and cadence sensor equipped computers are typically around $300 and up, so you’re going to have to part with a bit more than $250. With that said, Echowell does a great little unit that doesn’t do maps or GPS tracking, but does include heart-rate and cadence for less than $200.
I’d hesitate to say with certainty that it’s the most popular choice for the $300-ish price bracket, but I’ll say it with some: Garmin 500/510 is probably the safest bet. Yeah, it’s not perfect, but what is. What it is is reasonably user friendly (the 500 more than the 510), compatible with most other computers and electronic bits and pieces for the bike (anything ANT+ or Bluetooth for the 510), and pretty nice design. Magellen is a little newer to the cycling computer category, and come with a pretty good unit, even if it’s obvious that they’re targeting Garmin with the design (they’re not alone).
Recommendation: If you want to splash out a bit, go for the Garmin 510 ($349 for just the device), but if you don’t need the touch screen and Bluetooth junk, then get a 500 while they are still around. Should be able to get the performance bundle (speed/cadence sensor and heart rate strap) for about $300. If you want to keep to within $200 and just want all the stats, heart rate and cadence, then have a look at Echowell’s MW10G. Yes, it’s a basic display and the overall packaging isn’t quite as slick as more expensive units, but it’s cheap, ANT+, and it works (it’s not bad looking at all).
If you spend a significant time in the saddle, then you need to be fitted to the bike correctly. If the cyclist in questions has complained about being uncomfortable on the bike (sore back, neck, shoulders, etc), then a bike fit might be a good gift. Know this, however: bike fits are one of the dark arts, and everyone approaches it a little differently. Some are fantastic, some are alright, and some are absolutely shocking. This has nothing to do with how much they cost. Some of the most costly can be some of the worst. If a bike fit is desired, I would ask around (not on a forum – anything but a forum!) to see if you can get one that at least a few people can personally vouch for. Or roll the dice. Cost can be from as little as $100 to an astonishing $600-700 plus. My advice? Go to someone reputable with a good reputation, but keep in mind that sometimes all those lasers and cameras and the big song and dance are just smoke and mirrors, so don’t just pick the flashiest one. Sometimes all they want to do is sell you as many new parts as possible. Someone who knows their trade will listen to you, look at you, and then fit you. Simples.
I just came across these yesterday. I really have no idea if they’re any good, but if listening to music is important but they worry about hearing what’s going on around them, then these might be a good idea. Personally, when I do have earphones in, I just have one in (curbside ear). Has the same effect. Then again, you can look like an undercover cop with these in, and if you touch your ear while reporting the rego number of the car that is behaving badly into your chest, that could be a lot of fun!
I haven’t used these so I can’t vouch for them in any way, except to say that there are some features that look like they would actually be pretty functional for cycling (light, stays in sweaty ears, won’t get blown out on a fast descent), however I do have my doubts about the sound quality. Even they don’t sound convinced in the video below (“surprisingly good”?). The video is really infomercially (it’s a bit shouty – except when it talks about the Amy Gillet Foundation, where the voice-over gets all emotional… and it’s pretty much the same video from 3 years ago when it had nothing to do with cycling…) and makes me want to stop watching, but these things might be up your alley nevertheless.
Well kids, that’s all we have time for today. I’ll get at least one more of these up next week, hopefully Monday.
As always, I encourage you to visit your local shop and spend some money in your own neighborhood.
Header image: source