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By Karen Kefauver
December 13, 2012

Link to Sentinel Article

Gifts for cyclistsAfter all these years of bike riding, I still find it amusing that cyclists, during a group ride, may not know one other’s names even after hours together in the saddle. Yet they will typically know what kind of bike a fellow cyclist is using, sometimes describing it in great detail.

The bike itself becomes a key to an identity. By extension, the cyclist’s other gadgets, accessories and clothing also become part of that identity.

So how can you make a cyclist in your life a happier, safer, and yes, more stylish rider this holiday season and well into 2013? Here are a few gift ideas I collected in a highly unscientific survey of a handful of Santa Cruz County cyclists who race, commute and relax on their bikes year-round. Naturally, I also added my two cents.

The goodies that were mentioned most often fell into a few categories. Here’s how cycling wish lists are shaping up.

1. Let there be light

I have to agree with John Fuchs that when it comes to cycling, safety is top priority. Of course that means wearing a bike helmet at all times, but it also means being more visible. The owner of John Fuchs Properties and Construction in Aptos wrote, “There is no substitute for quality night lights for your bike. It’s important to see where you’re going and to be seen!”

Greg McPheeters, a long-time cycling advocate and commuter, agreed, “Everyone can use more (lights), especially in the winter.”

Lights on bikes are supposed to be mounted on both the rear of the bike (red light) and the front of the bike (white light). All local bike shops carry lights, with prices ranging widely on different models.

2. Bike to work, school, around town

More people are parking their cars and wanting to save gas, get exercise and reduce pollution by biking instead of driving. Or so it seems, based on how many people considered bike bags, designed for cycling commuters, an ideal present. Jennifer Joy, who recently relocated to Santa Cruz from Austin, Texas, noted that devoted cyclists would enjoy “Banjo Brother’s Market Pannier for the farmer’s market runs.” Other riders also mentioned favorite brands. Eric Smith, a recreational and racing rider, recommended Porcelain Rocket frame bags by Scott Felter, while Karsten Mueller, who has been commuting daily for 25 years rain or shine, said his top bag choices are Nashbar or Ortlieb panniers “that allow a biker to truly commute and get groceries in waterproof style.” Whatever brand you select, make sure the bags fit your bike properly.

3. Boost your bottom line

Want to enhance your mountain bike riding with a little more suspension on your fat tire bike? Mark Davidson, president of Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz suggests checking out a “dropper post for an all-mountain or trail-style mountain bike.” If that sounds like Greek to you, it means a type of bicycle seat post that automatically adjusts itself up and down according to the conditions you are riding in. Most notably, this type of seat post can improve confidence on downhill sections and should be purchased according to the style of bike you are using. Santa Cruz County-based companies X-Fusion and Fox make quality dropper posts, among others, noted Davidson, who strives to support the regional bike industry by making purchases locally.

4. Accessorize

You don’t necessarily have to spend a bundle to make your riding more pleasant and make a fashion statement while you are at it. Jennifer Joy suggests Swiftwick or Smartwool socks “to keep feet warm and happy even when it’s wet and windy.”

Sabine Dukes, the founder of women’s cycling team and club Velo Bella, added her stocking stuffer idea: “Jimi Wallet!” she gushed. “No more handing the cashier your nasty, sweaty money. Made in USA out of recycled products.” The website states: “the wallet for people who hate wallets” and all products sell for under $16. Another budget idea from Karsten Mueller: “Clear or yellow safety goggles, available at most hardware stores for under $10, keep wind and other things out of eyes in cloudy conditions and at night when sunglasses are inappropriate.” And to complement your style (and think green) local artist and athlete Lauren Junker, founder of Totally Tubular Design, makes fun purses, bags and more out of recycled tires.

5. Give cyclists a hand

Thanks to transportation planner and avid cyclist Cory Caletti and her husband John Caletti, of Caletti Cycles, I recently discovered that there are gloves that can be worn for biking and dialing a cell phone. Not that friends let friend ride and dial, but it’s much easier not to have to remove your gloves when it’s time to send a message. Chef Jenny Brewer asked husband Eric Hand, an exercise physiologist at Dominican, what he considered a good gift and he agreed gloves are key.

“On brisk morning commutes I’m grateful for my Louis Garneau WindDry Eco Gloves,” Hand said. “Windproof, waterproof, insulated makes these gloves great for commuting, road riding and mountain biking in cooler weather. I’ve used the same pair for over five years and they still look like new.”

6. Karen’s list

I confess I lust after a GoPro camera to mount on my helmet, though who knows if I would ever edit the footage. Also, I’d like a new mountain bike helmet that doesn’t make me look like Darth Vader’s sister, and some capri-style pants that will make my frame look lighter (and I don’t mean my bike frame).

Despite my material cravings, I believe there are some nobler gifts to give and receive in the world of cycling.  A few that I have noted this past year and celebrate are the tireless and generous volunteers who have worked at bike races, cycling events and built miles of trails; the folks who helped launch and maintain the local chapter of Trips for Kids Santa Cruz and the woman (and her supporters) whose sheer determination brought the Amgen Tour of California back to Santa Cruz County in May. Like me, I imagine you can think of long lists who of cyclists, groups and companies that deserve kudos. Ultimately, as Santa Cruz yoga teacher and avid road cyclists Gabriel Reese Benjamin noted, “It’s not about the gear,” he observed, but instead, it’s all about the sheer joy of biking.

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