It’s getting harder and harder to get them that special gift isn’t it? This is for the cyclist who knows that simply throwing money at something doesn’t make it discerning, it just makes it brash and vulgar.
There’s no need to waste time wrapping a titanium computer mount here, or a carbon ceramic oversized derailleur pulley doodad so your wallet can breathe a little bit easier. What they’re after is something with a refined mix of style, elegance and the need for things to be just-so which is impossible to define and even more awkward to buy for. This might help avoid a repeat of that present you bought them last year that you never saw anywhere near a bike but unbeknownst to you the selling of which on eBay paid for that other new thing that did.
This was a discerning present a long while back but it makes an unapologetic and worthy return, as within that time it’s disappeared and made a glorious comeback with the addition of some related clothing and a collection of simple and healthy Italian recipes to look at on the website.
There are three oils in the Racing Cavanna range, one pre ride and two for after. We love a bit of pre-ride massage oil for exuding that “I’m ready if you are” message with coffees at the start but I’m going to plump for the post ride Rosa oil purely because printed on every bottle are the words: ‘la calma è la virtù dei forti’, which translates as ‘calm is the virtue of the strong’. This is a commendable mantra. In our quest to climb higher and race faster we forget it is during the calm of rest that we become stronger and massage can help reduce the anxiety, pain and stress associated with training, and also in the general day to day screaming at the world. Rosa oil contains a calming and restorative blend of ten natural plant oils including eucalyptus, geranium, jojoba, lavender, peppermint and tea tree.
A chain whip doesn’t need to be light, in fact it probably helps if it has quite a bit of heft to it but you know… the Silca 3D Printed Ti Chain Whip is pointlessly lovely. The 11” handle is printed in hardened 6/4 titanium and the whole tool comes in at a giggly 80g. There are only eight links of 11-speed chain as the tool head uses printed teeth to hold firm the cassette.
The handle is internally reinforced with spiral riffling, I don’t really know what that is but it sounds amazing, but not as brilliant as the disclaimer that it’s designed to only be used on well-maintained bikes as it’s not compatible with cheater bars. If that isn’t an excuse for you to not “just have a look” at your neighbours bike they’ve dragged out the back of the shed I don’t know what is. You’ll need to pair this up with the similarly priced Silca Titanium 3D Printed Lock Ring Tool for perfect results though, maybe ask for that for your birthday.
Sorry, another tool, but a decent tool is an absolute joy, both in design aesthetic and in use. The discerning rider knows the height of their saddle off by heart, they don’t need to refer to a bit of paper or guess ‘about there’ and spend half the ride moving it up and down, no matter how much they’d like to pretend they’re Eddy Merckx and the mechanic is doing it on the move from the car.
The Abbey Bike Tools Saddle Height Bullet is a magnetic plug that fits centrally into the crank arm fixing bolt or the preload cap of Shimano cranks that means you can concentrate on measuring the height of the saddle instead of having the tape end floating vaguely in the centre. You had no idea you needed this until now.
Multi day adventure bike-packing, or touring as it used to be called, is quite the thing these days and having kit that covers a multiple of uses is key to keep packing minimal and weight down. The Albion Zoa Insulated Jacket does this by being cut for use both on a bike for the cold miles of dusk and dawn, warm for walking around a field in and then packable into its own pocket for use as a travel pillow.
A 100% recycled Pertex Quantum outer fabric keeps things wind and weather resistant while Primaloft Gold Eco breathable insulation keeps you cosy. An adjustable hood helps with snugness and is helmet compatible, there are two pockets for keeping thrust hands toasty and there’s a concealed rear pocket that the jacket pillows into for sleeping on. It’s a cosy cycling jacket that’s just at home in the Cairngorms or on the way to the CoOp.
By day Bentley Components design, develop and manufacture bespoke scientific equipment and at night they design and make shiny things to keep their inner cycling magpie happy. Their deftness with a machining tool is readily apparent and among their showcase of bike jewellery is a large collection of headset top caps in alloy, titanium and brass.
All of them are very pretty, a lot of them have a Yorkshire bias and some of them might not appeal to your or your discerning friend’s sense of humour, but there are some in there that might take them down a self-righteous peg or two, or just release their inner Chris Froome…
Demon Frameworks make very very beautiful bike frames and have justifiably won awards at both Bespoked UK and the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. The level of artistry and work involved means that Tom Warmerdam can only produce a few frames a year so it’s probably too late to get one for Christmas but you can buy (and more likely just about afford) the next best thing.
Demon Frameworks have an offshoot Emporium where they’ve collated a collection of high quality and highly desirable pieces, these spectacular Highballs are the larger siblings of their very popular Lowball beverage containers. Precision machined from 304 stainless steel in small batches they hold 380ml (13.375 fl oz) which is enough for a bottle of craft ale, naturally. A blend of art-deco, brutalism and industrial design they look quite heavy, and at 1111 grams they’ll make having a beer a great workout for your puny cyclists arms.
Cycling and coffee are two parts of a holy trinity to many, with cake or strava being the subject of much theological discourse as to which may lay claim to being the third. Coffee roasted by actual cyclists must then be pretty high up there in the sanctity levels as Boost Coffee founder Rachael likes cycling enough that she used to work as editor of off-road.cc, this sites dirty sister.
With roasts like Trail Ahead and Venture you know where these bean’s allegiances lie and I like the pre-ride aspirations of Mountain Pass, a Peruvian single origin it’s sweet, juicy and velvety, it says here, with a zesty pink grapefruit finish and hints of nutmeg. It also comes from ethical sources where human rights and the environment are respected which should matter to you.
Remember that year you bought them the triple pack of socks from M&S in three shades of navy because they matched their bike, that went frosty in a way that not even the thermal qualities of those socks could warm up. The cycling market is awash with socks and they’re a big thing for the discerning cyclist who likes to show a neatly turned ankle, it’s a confusing and never ending carousel of choice but currently these “Solitude” socks by Pas Normal Studios are top of the wish list and while I’m at it we’re going to champion the return of the classic white sock as a blessed relief after too many years of black and wackily designed footwear.
The subtle but assured wording showing the reason why many ride their bikes, and should divert any polite gear ratio/tyre/width/l-shaped cranks chit-chat that might pop up should anyone find themselves on your wheel. Not anti-social just pro solitude as someone once said.
Restrap make all sorts of rugged bikepacking bags and accessories but these bags are designed for the more casual, comfortable and equipment heavy traveller to keep all their kit nicely organised. With three differently sized bags (18, 11 and 6 litres) you can divide all your things neatly wherever you're headed, be that a few days away or just to the races.
Hand-made from waterproof fabrics and with a YKK zip they’re perfect for dividing your stuff into separate bags for clothes, shoes and wash kit. They’re available in three different colours but the best option is probably the mixed bag so you know your socks are in the orange one.
We all know the fake smile that’s cracked open upon the unwrapping of one of those books that appear by the till every Christmas, that people only buy for people they don’t know what to buy for... avoid that awkwardness by selecting a volume that might actually interest and inspire. “Where There’s A Will” isn’t just a straightforward account of a ride or a training manual, but a thoughtful journey through hardship, love, friendship and loss via the medium of pedalling a long way. This should see any cyclist safely and quietly in the corner through the entire EastEnders, Michael McIntyre, Strictly… and Mrs Brown’s Boys marathon.
Runwell make a range of exquisite tools based around the concept that perfect tools should have the right feel of texture and quality. Coming from the metalworking area of Tsubame-Sanjo in Japan they’re steeped in a history of tool making and we have one of their 15mm spanners despite not having anything on a bike that it fits, but because it’s just lovely. This oversized allen key shaped bottle opener is made from chrome plated steel, you may or may not be able to use it to tighten something on your bike but that doesn’t matter.
You don’t have to be discerning to get bored pretty quickly with standing in a ditch by the side of the road thwapping away like a teenager with fibre broadband trying to inflate a new tube into a punctured tyre with your oh-so-minimal and oh-so-svelte pump that slips beautifully unnoticed into a pocket. It’s even more annoying when it’s your riding pals doing it and you’re standing around getting cold, and when that pump casually extracts the valve core, well… that’s how lifelong friendships end. A pump doesn’t need a pressure gauge or bluetooth so your phone knows how much air you’re putting in or any other fancy geegaws it just needs to get air into a tyre, and fast.
The Zefal HPX has been on the planet for longer than you’ve been cycling and can inflate a tyre quicker than anything you’ve ever bought at twice, three times the price, and it’s significantly more environmentally friendly than all those CO2 canisters you’ve used up for their speed and convenience. Made of proper metal it’s not going to fold in half, the push and flip-lock pump head won’t rip a valve off or suck out any parts and you’ll be back on the road long before your mate has asked if you can have a go on his because his arms hurt.
Sorry, another another tool. A multi-tool might be the most boring thing in the world and have you tip-toeing through the minefield that is “Christmas Presents That Are Useful” alongside a hedge-trimmer or a new iron, but a good one will be gently smiled upon every time it’s called upon, and quietly unobtrusive and unnoticed the rest of the time. It helps that this Lezyne tool is very very pretty in its shiny machined stainless steel and responds well to being idly fiddled with.
It comes with all the things you might need to fix a modern bike by the roadside; seven Allen keys, three Torx heads, a flat and Phillips screwdriver, chain breaker with integrated spoke wrenches, a rotor tweaking tool, bottle opener, tubeless tire plug kit and a super neat magnetised chain quick-link holder. It’s not the smallest so calling it a mini-tool would be brave but it will easily hide in a rear pocket or tool bag and not rattle or rust until its emergency services are called upon.
Riding off road on drop barred bikes is all the range now, and they’re brilliant fun and immensely capable machines, but there was a time when people ventured off road on drop barred bikes that were patently not up to the challenge. And they still had fun, and they still rode (or carried and pushed) further and over rugged terrain than your discerning cycling friend most probably has on their fancy gravel bike with all the bags and holders you could possibly strap to it, and whichever tin mug matched their socks that day.
Further Adventures in Rough Stuff is the recently released follow up to the The Rough Stuff Fellowship Archive and Rough Stuff Cycling in the Alps books and is another wonderful chronicle of the antics of the Rough Stuff Fellowship, the oldest off-road cycling club in the world. Thanks to an exhaustive trawl through the Rough Stuff Fellowship’s massive photo archive and complimented by excerpts from old RSF Journals this book showcases a time when cyclists did all of what’s fashionable now on bicycles with fewer gears, thinner tyres and worse brakes, with nothing but a jam sandwich in their back pocket and no chance of an oat milk flat white for miles because they hadn’t been invented yet. You might stop to brew up a cup of tea and smoke a pipe though. If you’re feeling generous it’s available in a bundle with Volume One.
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Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.