Traditional gift-giving for the winter holidays is not so much about giving and receiving presents, as it is about the act of giving itself. Still, there are specific types of things that we tend to gift at this time of year, and these things tend to be symbolic: Light-hearted and sparkly gifts symbolise celebration. Warm and cozy gifts symbolise familial ties. Luxurious gifts symbolise good fortune in the year to come. Keeping these themes in mind, I have sought out the cycling-specific equivalents* of some popular winter holiday gifts. Not meant to be taken too seriously, but hopefully a fun read!
Traditional gift: Chocolate Truffles
Reinterpreted for the cyclist: Classic Bicycle Bells
Holiday chocolates in festive wrappers are fun, shiny and celebratory. It is not even about the taste, but about the shiny look and the crinkling sound they make as you unwrap them. Champagne and sparkling wine is often brought into the mix to enhance this effect. How better to interpret it from a cycling perspective, than with a cheerful classic brass bell? Starting at as little as $8 (the Velo Orange version), they are a good match for the expensive holiday truffle offerings. Plus, long after the joy of the chocolates is gone and the crinkly metallic wrappers have been disposed off, the trusty bicycle bell will continue to bring good cheer to its recipient.
Traditional gift: Socks and Gloves
Reinterpreted for the cyclist: 100% Wool Socks and Gloves
Though there are plenty of cozy-looking, fluffy socks and gloves for sale this time of year, much of what is available tends to be made of some blend of acrylic and cotton with only a touch of wool, if at all. But it is amazing what a difference 100% wool makes in protecting your hands and feet from the cold - especially while cycling. Why not get the real deal for those you love? Surprisingly, the prices are not even that different: the Ibex "Knitty Gritty" gloves (100% wool) are $20, whereas the Gap "Knit Gloves" (100% acrylic) are $14.50. Both are available in a cheerful red colour, but the wool version will keep the cyclist happy through the winter months.
Traditional gift: Fragrance and Bath Products
Reinterpreted for the cyclist: Fancy Chamois Creams
A gift of a soothing bath experience is easily translatable to a gift of a soothing cycling experience. Though many are embarrassed to discuss this, chamois creams can be extremely useful in preventing chafing and infection on some of our most cherished body parts during long rides. Many of them have herbal ingredients that smell especially festive for the holiday season, and the packaging of the new ladies' version of DZ Nuts is quite gift-appropriate as well. At $20 per tube, it's a good equivalent to most mid-range body lotions and bath products.
Traditional gift: The Gourmet Food Basket
Reinterpreted for the cyclist: The Bicycle Basket
Nothing puts a smile on people's face like the traditional bicycle basket. It's adorable, it's extremely practical, and maybe, just maybe it will make motorists more kindly disposed towards the cyclist when they see it. There is something about baskets - be they for picnics, for mushroom-picking, or for cycling, that evokes images of the good life, and an innocent hope that things can be nicer, simpler, and more fun in the future. Those are pleasant thoughts to have during the winter holidays. And after all - here is no reason why the food basket and the bicycle basket gifts can't be combined. It would be fun to fill a wicker bicycle basket with the gift recipient's favourite treats. Prices vary in the $30-60 range.
Traditional gift: The Magazine Subscription
Reinterpreted for the cyclist: The Bicycle Magazine Subscription
Magazine subscriptions make good gifts for the winter holidays, because they reinforce the yearly cycle and the idea that something new and exciting will start to happen in the new year. Plus, it is not just a one-off gift: the recipient will continue to receive a little something throughout the year that will remind them of the person who gave them the gift. There are many bicycle magazines on the scene nowadays, including Momentum for those interested in transportation cycling, Bicycling for those interested in racing, and, my favourite, Bicycle Quarterly, for those interested in bicycle touring. Prices for subscriptions in the $20-30 range.
Traditional gift: The Cashmere Sweater
Reinterpreted for the cyclist: The Leather Saddle
Entering the territory of the more expensive gifts, one traditional one is the classic cashmere sweater. So beautiful, so luxurious, so delicate and light... and so easily destroyed by red wine spillage, or your adorably clingy cat. The leather saddle communicates the same ideas of luxury, quality, good taste and tradition - except it is infinitely more durable, particularly for the cyclist. A gift that is not only luxurious, but will last and can be used daily, is truly a gift to remember. The retail price of the Brooks saddle pictured above is $99 - just like the cashmere cardigan from J. Crew.
Traditional gift: Heirloom Jewelry
Reinterpreted for the cyclist: The Custom Handbuilt Bicycle
If expensive jewelry is to be given, the winter holidays are a traditional time for it. The idea is that jewelry is "forever" and the holidays are a good time to reaffirm that sentiment and commitment. The recipient of the jewel will wear it close to them - maybe even daily - and think of their special relationship to the gift-giver in the year to come, and hopefully all the years thereafter. A fine handbuilt bicycle frame can communicate the same sentiment to the person who is truly crazy about bicycles. Not only is it bound to be a very cherished possession, but the cyclist will likely ride it frequently and enjoy it immensely. Plus, if the bicycle is lugged, their filigreed forms are not dissimilar from actual jewels. Like the Tiffany's diamond earrings above (the .22 carat version), the stunning Mercian frame is priced at around $1,000.
Regardless of which holidays you celebrate (for those in the "Christmas and Hannukah" camp, the holidays stretch out for an entire month this year!), I hope you find them fun and enjoyable. And if any of these gift ideas are of interest, there is no harm in accidentally leaving your laptop open where your loved ones can see it, now is there?... They might even get the hint!
[* The products pictured here are not endorsements, paid adverts or part of any promotion]