Unlike the tongue-in-cheek Christmas gift ideas I posted a couple of weeks ago, our guest poster Jeff Hemmel has some ideas that might actually merit a spot under the tree.
Recently I was asked to write a Holiday Gift Guide for one of the publications I write for in the real world. The task got me once again thinking of all the great things I’ve assembled over the last year for my bike. Looking back, my favorites aren’t pricey, high-end items. Instead they’re simple, smaller products that just make day-to-day riding a little bit easier.
Need something to get the cycling enthusiast on your shopping list…or more likely, a few hints to drop for a stocking stuffer? Here are a few of my road-tested suggestions, all available for under $30.
Fix-It Sticks ($29.99)
I like to keep a small multi-tool in my saddle bag, but my former tool had a few limitations. The most obvious was that its jackknife-style tool design didn’t allow me to generate a lot of torque when trying to loosen or tighten a bolt. I also didn’t like the way it rubbed up against things — like spare tubes — in my compact saddle bag.
Fix It Sticks are a pretty cool alternative. Rather than the typical “jackknife-style” multi-purpose tool, Fix It Sticks are literally two separate aluminum “sticks” that fit together (each stick has a hexagonal hole in the middle to accommodate the other) to form a T-handle wrench. When not in use, they sit side-by-side in a cool, slim case made from recycled tubes. When it’s time to go to work, just fit them together so that one stick forms the handle and the other the working end. The setup generates far more torque than possible with a mini tool, yet takes up less space.
You can get Fix It Sticks in a variety of combinations, depending on what you need most for your bike. I like the simplicity of the original version, with its fixed bits. A replaceable bit version is also available. Buy here
I throw my phone, license, credit card, and a $10 bill in my jersey when I ride. To keep them together and sweat free, I’ve long opted for a bag like the Jersey Bin. It protects the items within, allows me to use the touchscreen of my iPhone through the bag, doesn’t cost much, and is a lot more durable than a Ziploc sandwich bag.
But while I still like the Jersey Bin, this year I was given a thinner, more flexible bag from LOKSAK. Made from a polyethylene blended film and guaranteed to be 100% water and air tight, the aLOKSAK pouch offers all the advantages of the Jersey Bin, but has so far been able to resist the cracking that could plague the latter product with frequent use. aLOKSAKs are favorites of divers, as they’re certified to a depth of 200’. I just know they’ve kept my phone safe — and usable — for about the last 10 months with no problems.
aLOKSAKS are available in a wide range of sizes in three packs starting at $8.39. Buy here.
Bar Fly 2.0 ($24.99)
Like a lot of riders I use a Garmin Edge bike computer, but I don’t like the stock rubber O-ring attachment setup. It just seems a little flimsy, plus I like the idea of getting the computer out ahead of my handlebars where it’s easier to see. There are a number of products on the market that solve the problem, but my favorite happens to be one of the cheapest — Tate Labs’ Bar Fly.
For starters, it’s simple. Just loosen the plastic clamp and slip it over your handlebars, then tighten at your preferred angle with a 3mm Allen key. Once in place, just attach your Garmin with the familiar 1/4-turn mounting system used by the stock attachment. The BarFly 2.0 offers two attachment points, stacked one atop the other, to handle a wide variety of Garmins, including the 200, 510, 800, 810, Edge Touring and Edge Touring Plus. As the mount is Delrin plastic, it won’t dig in or damage the tabs on your Garmin through repeated attachment and removal. The Delrin construction also means you don’t have to worry about over tightening and damaging carbon handlebars. Buy here
BarFlys come in a variety of cool colors, have a lifetime warranty and a “buy one and you’re done” crash guarantee. If you’re lucky enough to run Shimano or Campagnolo electronic shifting, you can also mount the shifting module on the underside. www.barflybike.com
Cutaway Neck Gaiter ($18.00)
Hardcore riders don’t stop when the weather gets cold, but that doesn’t mean it’s always fun…or comfortable. Last year I added a Cutaway Neck Gaiter to my wardrobe, and it’s really made a difference on those really cold rides.
One of the best things about a neck gaiter is its versatility. Sure you can use it just to protect your neck, but gaiters can also quickly turn into headbands, or open-top beanies to cover your ears. I like to pull mine up to over the lower half of my face balaclava-style and fend off the wind chill. The lightweight microfiber is comfortable and breathable. It’s also moisture-wicking, meaning your hot breath won’t end up making it all damp and nasty.
Cutaway’s Gaiters come in a variety of cool prints, including one dedicated to popular Cannondale/Garmin rider Ted King. www.cutaway.us