What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ’s Recession Buster Gift List

It’s the time of year when every cycling journal proffers a list of stocking stuffers or other Holiday gift ideas. Considering the lean economic times that engulf us, never has the moment been so rife for a frugal and lucid list of ideas to make you look it Santa, and save like Scrooge.

– by Corey Sar Fox –

Campagnolo Key Chain
For those of you who know that Campagnolo makes a mighty fine corkscrew, albeit pricey, it should come as no surprise that the gruppo guys from Vicenza also offer a retro key chain. Well, not entirely – I requisitioned an old gear lever (quick release levers also work). The challenge is finding one, not the expenditure.
Expense: most bike shops will give you one free or ask for a pittance.

Kit Capsule
I’m not sure if that’s the proper name for it, but starting today: it is. This is a very PRO and waterproof way to carry around a spare tube, tire levers, snacks, etc. Home-made gifts are always the ones from the heart and the ones cherished the most. To make the Kit Kapsule: take two water bottles (preferably the smelly, old ones) and cut the tops off and then smash ‘em together. Now fill it with a spare tube, small tools, condoms, band-aids, gels or whatever.
Expense: old bottles and about 15 euros (or your currency of choice) worth of stuff inside.

Bottle Cages
Giving the beloved cyclist in your life a new bottle cage is a suggestion that makes it on to most Xmas lists. However, keep in mind this important Cheap-O Rule: although it is an expensive proposition staying ahead of the Jones’s, it’s very affordable to be well behind them (note the drafting metaphor). Expense: whereas fancy carbon fiber bottle cages sell for 50-80 euros, old-school-reliable-Paris-Roubaix-tight-gripping ones go for about 10 (some shops will even give them to you because no one wants them). The most style conscious cyclists realize that combining new and old (Technology + Tradition = Cycling) is real йlan. For example, nothing says, “I get it and I respect it” more than a new carbon fiber bike with an old Ciussi bottle cage. Bonus points are awarded to those of you who recognized the lovely TA cage with the Kit Kapsule pictured above.

Sigg Water Bottle
Ok, now that you’ve got 2 classic bottle cages and a Kit Kapsule that resides in one of them, perhaps an actual water bottle might be an appropriate gift. Sigg bottles are Swiss Made, high quality aluminum and come in a variety of sizes and colors. But most importantly, they never smell like plastic. Warning: this gift recommendation needs to be sparingly applied. When crafting an Old-New School Look it is very important to balance the amount of old to new. Too much old and one will be regarded as a “throwback” which implies being out of touch. For example, if your gift recipient rides a steel bike with traditional bottle cages and you give them this Bartoli-ish bottle, then you might as well fill it with formaldehyde and throw in a pack of moth balls. Seriously though, metal on metal is one of the more annoying rattles to ever spoil a ride.
Expense: 10 – 18 euros.

As one of the first upgrades most cyclists tend to make, wheels are another popular item on many lists. Keeping with the “Downgrading is Upgrading” theme, I recommend 32 or 36 spoke Mavic Open Pro rims with either Campagnolo Record or Shimano DuraAce hubs (preferably older ones). These smooth-rolling-bomb-proof-no-weight-limit wheels say Serious Cyclist all over them, of course with the explicit implication that the Lightweights or Zipps are reserved for racing. Also, one can revel in the pleasure of knowing that their wheels were hand made (and trued) by a real person. Expense: the bike shop down the road is selling a pair for 150 euros (and would gladly take 100), plus your dear cyclist gets to sell those uncouth wheels that came with his bike.

Alternative: substitute Ambrosio tubular box rims for the Mavics to create authentic Hard Man race wheels – costs should be similar.

Veloflex Tires
Giving away this tip is probably a bad idea (selfishly speaking), but… anyone passing through the Bergamo area of Italy can/should buy factory direct, “seconda scelta” clincher tires from Veloflex. The tires are structurally fine, but something is aesthetically wrong. Maybe the label is crooked or maybe the coloring of the carcass is irregular, in any case, the perfectionists at Veloflex choose to sell them factory direct at cost. Expense: 9 euros. (Okay, plus the flight and hotels to get there if you’re coming form abroad… but these can be excluded if you work this into a full-on vacation – ed.)

Campagnolo Jewelry
For those of you who knew that Campy makes corkscrews AND key chains, it will come as no surprise that they also offer a line of jewelry – Shimano supposedly has one too. Chains make great bracelets, either custom sized and very difficult to remove or the more advisable loose fitting model. While the Chorus bracelet is shown, it is also available in Record (weighs less, costs the same) or any of the other gruppos. Lock rings make charming pendants. There are plenty of other round parts just waiting to be hung around one’s neck, so feel free to be creative, but watch out for sharp edges. I recommend only used parts. Expense: most of this stuff will be given free of charge.

Immortal, old men in Italy wear wool undershirts year-round… maybe they’re on to something. The newer version of this classic features a thin cotton layer on the inside, so there is no itchy feeling, while a layer of wool on the outside provides odorless insulation. A few savvy cyclists have discovered that these undershirts are more comfortable and effective than many plastic, high tech offerings. Another Cheap-O Rule states: it is often better and always cheaper to buy stuff not specifically marketed to bikers.
Expense: the cotton-wool undershirt pictured costs 16 euros, most synthetic under-layers require twice as much.

Chain Cleaner
Diesel fuel makes for a great chain cleaner. Due to its high, unrefined oil content, it lubricates as well [note: diesel is not a substitute for a lubricant]. Although everyone has their own trusted cleaning techniques, I’ve never experienced any problems with mine. Yet seeing how chains need to be replaced every 4,000km (or else damage more costly transmission parts), that doesn’t give one a lot of time to extensively test/prove these theories. However, be very careful using it – diesel destroys rubber.
Expense: last I checked, it was about 1.25 euro per liter in Italy.

Caps are always welcome additions to most cyclists’ wardrobes. Make sure to get the 100% cotton ones. Expense: many can be purchased for around 10 euros. I suggest buying last year’s team stuff. For example, Saunier or Gerolsteiner caps are selling for 5 euros. While many believe that it is a bit uncool to wear Pro Tour team kit, wearing extinct team kit is, in fact, quite cool. Wearing small, obscure, old team kit is even cooler and cheaper (this Jolly cap sold for 2 euros).

Wrapping It Up
Christmas gift ideas for cyclists usually mean a wish list of dreamy products and a few cheapies thrown in (like socks). When top bikes cost as much as cars, sometimes it is easy to lose focus and forget that the man is more important that the machine. Despite taking some cheeky liberties presenting this list, the suggestions are sincere. I use all of these products without being paid. This year many of us will have slightly less dreamy aspirations, the reality is that Cheap-O (not to be confused with “just cheap”) gifts can be more meaningful and more practical than costly ones. As a perfect example, why pay real models when Mr. Cheap-O’s adorable children are around?

Merry Christmas and Season’s Greetings to everyone.

Corey Sar Fox is a Yank living in Bolzano, Italy. He often cycles when not consulting or teaching brand strategy. Alarming Fact no.2: Fox doesn’t shave his legs.

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