You can't fit a bike into a stocking—or a helmet, cleats, and pretty much all of the glamorous but wallet-draining gifts cyclists dream of. But the little things really do make all the difference. Our picks are the specific but essential items that your giftee may not have thought to buy themselves. And they're all under $50, so let your generosity run free.
Road ID ($20)
A Road ID is the first gift you should put on the list for cyclists who ride without identification. Each brushed aluminum plate can be engraved with custom details that a driver or EMT might need in case of an incapacitating accident, including name, address, emergency contacts, blood type, and drug allergies. A $10 per year subscription service lets you add an Emergence Response Profile, which is accessible to emergency personal via phone or Internet. IDs are available in a variety of styles, including wristbands, shoe mounts, and military dog tags.
Ritchey Multi-Bit TorqKey ($20)
With all the carbon fiber parts on bikes these days, small adjustments on bars, stems, seat posts, or other critical spots can feel as harrowing as tapping out a bottom bracket. This TorqKey measures the force you are tightening—5Nm, the most common setting—so you don’t risk over-tightening and cracking those expensive parts. Ritchey wisely opted for a magnetic, interchangeable bit system, including the most used sizes of 3, 4, and 5mm hex and a T-20 Torx.
Doma La Bicicletta Coffee ($18)
This medium-bodied coffee will make our Christmas list every single year: we’ve found no better joe out there. The bag graphics are stylin’ and some of the proceeds from the sale go to support a local women’s racing team in Post Falls, Idaho, the company’s homebase. But mostly we just love the smooth, chocolaty balance of Indonesian, Ethiopian, and Peruvian beans at the start—or finish—of any ride.
Craft Cool Mesh Superlight Sleeveless ($50)
Every single rider will benefit from this lightweight Craft undergarment. Lots of base layers look like this, but the Craft piece wicks and disperses moisture better than anything we’ve ever tried. The company guarantees that wearing it will make you six degrees cooler than going without, and we believe it based on our experience. So whether your favorite cyclist doesn’t currently wear a base layer or wears a different brand, he or she will thank you forever for this performance upgrade.
A Good Read from Velopress ($17-$25)
I’m the sort of guy who prefers to spend my time on the bike, not reading about it. And yet, Velopress has been killing it this year with irresistible titles. Goggles and Dust ($17) is a gorgeous coffee table book with 100 archival black and whites that capture the grit and spirit of road racing in the 1920s and ‘30s, complete with wool kits, dirt roads, and riders with cigarettes and champagne. Rusch To Glory ($19) is an easy read about the rise of Rebecca Rusch from an average Chicago kid to one of the best known female cyclists in the country and the determination it took to get there. And Racing Weight Cookbook ($25) is a 256-page guide to healthy eating for athletes, with light and simple recipes that might come in handy after the holiday gluttony.
Fits Pro Trail Performance Quarter ($17)
Sure, socks are frequently the oft-derided fallback gift for shrewish grandmothers, but these aren’t your mom’s Hanes. Stitched from lightweight, non-scratchy merino wool, Fits are the most tailored socks we’ve ever encountered. The construction resembles a shoe more than a sock, including a flat, seamless front foot and a shaped heel that cups the heel and Achilles. They are soft and well padded, good for hours of comfort. If they weren’t so luxurious, we’d probably complain that they come in only three, uninspiring, colors.
Specialized Keg Storage ($20)
For anyone who switches between two or more bikes, it’s easy to forget your emergency kit (tube, levers, tool, inflator) on the spare bike. Seat bags can be fiddly to switch back and forth, so we prefer the Specialized Keg, which is basically the bottom half of a water bottle with a screw-top lid. It fits all the essentials, including a handy hiding spot for patches in the bottom of the lid, and can be shifted from bike to bike as easily as a bottle. A pocketed wrap is included for binding all the tools together and preventing them from banging or knocking.
Lindarets Rocks Belong T-Shirt ($22.50)
This new mountain bike apparel company hasn’t released any technical gear yet—they have some designs due out this spring—but we can’t wait to see their product based on this clever tee. Featuring a mountain goat and a tag line that reads, “Keep mountain biking technical,” a dig at the tendency these days to over-manicure trails and remove all technical difficulty, it’s as much political statement as it is clothing. Good message, soft cotton, cycling identity—what more do you want?
Lezyne Hecto Drive LED Pair ($65)
Okay, this pair of lights is more than $50, but the added safety of riding with illumination is well worth the extra $15. Not much bigger than a wine cork, the Hecto lights sturdy, waterproof CNC-machined aluminum tubes with two solid and three flashing settings, light indicators that monitor battery life, built-in USB chargers, and easy snap-on mounts that fit almost any diameter tubing. The white front light’s 100 lumens is powerful enough for navigating city streets, while the 15-lumen red rear is for blinking visibility only.
Topeak Mini 18+ ($33)
Mini tools are like car keys: easy to misplace or lose, and a nightmare once you do. So you can’t have too many mini tools, and this Topeak packs the most bang for the weight of any we’ve tried. There are 10 Allen keys, two screw drivers (flat and Phillips), two spoke wrenches, a Torx 25 drive, an emergency tire lever, a bottle opener, and a foldout chain tool. If you can’t fix your problem in the field with this tool, you’re probably going to have to go to the bike shop anyway.
Rapha Merino Drawcord Hat ($50)
It won’t fit under a helmet, but this Merino wool toque is so playfully stylish that you wouldn’t want to cover it up anyway. We love the versatility, too: cinch the drawstring, and it works as a hat; loosen the cord, and you’ve got a neck gaiter. It’s the perfect beanie for biking down to the grocery in the snow or biking to the bar for a couple brews with friends.
IMBA Membership ($50)
He or she has it all? Get ‘em a gift membership to the International Mountain Bike Association, the preeminent trail advocacy group in the country. You get a pair of socks to commemorate the purchase (or a tee-shirt or jersey if you subscribe at more than just the basic level). But more importantly, you’re buying the certainty that your cyclist will have access to trail riding for years to come. The easiest way to purchase a gift membership is by calling IMBA directly at (888) 442-4622.