Everyday Cyclist: Can’t Miss Commuter Guide

It’s that time of year again. The holidays are here and it’s time to think about how you’re going to convince your favorite bike commuters that they’re loved. And of course, there’s no better way to do this than by buying them stuff! Here’s a list of ideas.

LOCAL BIKE SHOP GIFT CERTIFICATE: This is just for last-minute cop-outs. This gift does not fully illustrate your devotion to your bike commuter. You could do worse, but you can do so much better. Read on.

KEEN AUSTIN PEDAL SHOE, $120: If your bike commuter must clip-in when they ride and they want a normal looking, everyday, non-bikey-looking shoe, then the Keen Austin Pedal is a great daily driver. It’s a men’s shoe, but Keen has the Presidio for women that appears to be equivalent feature-wise. These shoes are SPD compatible and as such, you get the best of both worlds: you can clip-in when you ride and you can walk on wood floors without destroying them. They’re leather; they’re water tight. They have a nice Keen-sized toe box for medium-weight wool socks, and they look normal. They’re comfortable to walk in, too.

RAINSHEILD O2 CYCLING RAIN JACKET, $30: A perennial favorite. Yes, you can spend a ton more money on a much higher quality rain jacket. But no matter what the ad says: the fancy jacket will not “breathe” any better when your beloved cyclist is jamming up the hills of Spokane. Yes, the O2 is delicate. Be sure to note that fact on the accompanying holiday card and the O2 may last your cyclist up to two years. This jacket will become one of your cyclist’s favorite items. It’s great as a wind block, as an emergency shell, and as a rain jacket. It packs up tiny and weighs just over half a pound. And it’s cheap! Slam dunk.

WOOL BASE LAYERS, $25-$85: At a minimum, every bike commuter in the Inland Northwest should have a thin wool beanie-style hat for under the helmet. If your beloved commuter doesn’t have one, then there you go: another slam dunk. Smartwool sells these caps for about $25.

The days of “scratchy wool” are long gone. If the fear of the scratch is keeping your commuter out of wool, then surprise them with an Ibex merino base layer shirt. It’s silly how soft and warm this stuff is. And it doesn’t stink, which pays off for you, too.

RIVENDELL MUSA CYCLING PANTS, $65: If the cyclist on your holiday list is a guy, or a woman that doesn’t mind wearing basic (guy) pants, then you’ve got a lot of good pant options to choose from. A consistently great cycling pant is Rivendell’s MUSA. MUSA is an acronym for “Made in the USA.” These pants are just smart in their details. They were clearly well thought out designs from a daily cyclist: good room in the thigh; deep pockets; reflective bits at the ankles; gusseted crotch; relatively normal looking; and really well made. The latest version of the MUSA pants hold up much better than the earlier versions. And they also dry fast. You must go to rivbike.com to buy them.

GORTEX MITTEN SHELLS, $ DIY: Want to show your love by making the perfect gift for your commuter? Sew them up a nice light set of Gortex mitten shells. Think small, light, simple and then get stitching! The idea with these shells will be to slip over existing light wool or poly mittens. Your goal is to sew up a shell that will keep out the wet and wind in the difficult conditions known as “wet and low 30s.” We’re not looking for gauntlet-style Everest-climbing or Harley-driving shells here.

RACK N BAGS, $50-$200: If the commuter on your holiday list is still using a backpack to schlep their stuff around, you should consider getting them a rack n bag solution. This can be tricky if you’re not a bikey person, since some bikes do not make mounting racks easy. But if you know that your cyclist’s bike can take a rear rack, you cannot do better than the Tubus Fly (about $100). And you can’t put a better bag on the Tubus Fly than an Ortlieb Front Roller (about $100).

If that’s too rich, then find a no-name aluminum rear rack for about $30, and go to Pedals2People and learn how to make bucket panniers for about $20. Bucket panniers are made from recycled food container buckets and are great solutions for bike camping and daily commuting alike.

CUSTOM ELEPHANT BIKE, STARTS AT $2,000: Yes. Buy your beloved a dedicated custom commuter bike. Don’t you think it’s strange that the bike that many cyclists use every single day is their junkiest bike? That their “commuter” is nearly a throw-away heap of bike-shaped object? We’ve profiled Elephant’s Glen Copus in OTM before, but if you missed it, Spokane happens to be home to a really accomplished bike builder that creates beautiful, functional, and super high-value steel bikes. “High-value” in this context means not expensive—not just compared to other customs, but to most quality bikes. If your commuter rides a Frankenbike with zip-tied fenders, duct-taped lights, and a rear rack attached to the seat post, then consider contacting Glen at www.elephantbikes.com.

John Speare grew up and lives in Spokane. He rides his bike everywhere. Check out his blog at http://cyclingspokane.blogspot.com.

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