Well, it’s that time of year again. You’ve survived the potential minefield of politics at Thanksgiving dinner, you’ve started into the onslaught of holiday treats (but it’s ok, after all, you do ride bikes), and before you know it, we’ll all be singing Auld Lang Syne as we ring in the new year. But before we pop the bubbly, many of us will be celebrating one holiday or another, and if you’re looking for gift ideas for yourself or a loved one who pedals, 2015 has provided a lot of options.
Obviously, we know that many things in these lists will be well beyond the threshold for reasonable gifts. In that case you can consider these lists as compilations of some of the best products of 2015 – or maybe, the big ticket items are the ones you’ll have to gift yourself… Happy holidays!
2015 was a good year for bucket list rides for me which included shredding Downieville with the Specialized crew in nearly perfect conditions. The bigger surprise was the incredible riding around the Lakes Basin in nearby Graeagle, CA. The Gray Eagle Lodge is a perfect spot to post up for base camp, and a few days will provide the opportunity for spectacular riding both in Graeagle and Downieville. If you haven’t been before, it’s a must.
Otherwise, no matter how many different places I ride, favorites will always include fat bike adventures to any beach, and day trips to indoor bike parks during the winter like Ray’s MTB or the Louisville Mega Cavern.
I’ll start this by qualifying that I love road biking and road bikes in general, but if I was to live in an area that they weren’t a necessity, I would find far more room in the stable for mountain bikes than road bikes. That would probably mean looking for a single road bike to meet my needs, in which case something like the Kona Roadhouse would fit nicely. The steel frame is fitted with most modern appointments, including flat mount disc brakes, clearance for bigger tires, and the price is actually attainable at $2,399. There are a number of cutting edge road bikes out there I would love to have, but something like the Roadhouse seems like a great balance between fun and practicality.
These days, there are so many great mountain bikes that for a bike to truly stand out, there has to be a bit (or a lot) of sex appeal. Like fawning over the sensuous lines of a Ferrari or aggressive styling of a Lamborghini, a truly great bike will stand out for a number of reasons. While I haven’t actually ridden the new Evil Insurgent, I want it. And surprisingly, with complete builds starting at $5,299 for SRAM X1, it’s somewhat affordable as far as carbon bikes go.
Otherwise, this has been a big year for plus bikes so it should come as little surprise that some of the biggest stand outs also have big tires. Even though the Scott Genius LT Plus slid out from under me resulting in my worst riding injury to date, it was still one of the most fun bikes I’ve ridden. Same goes for the Salsa Pony Rustler (without the injury).
If you’re looking for an easy upgrade to just about any mountain bike, wider rims are almost a sure thing. I’ve had a great time on the Ibis 741 carbon wheels, and when fitted with the right tires (i.e. big volume and wide), they are transformative. If you don’t want to run the biggest rubber out there, rims a bit narrower will still do the trick. Wider rims are relative – XC racers running 17mm internal width rims will benefit from a 20mm+ internal rim, whereas enduro riders will find the widest rims an improvement. Either way, the results seem to be greater traction, better ride feel, and fewer pinch flats.
Runners up would include the SRAM GX1 drivetrain which finally allows for true 1x conversions that are affordable (as are the replacement parts), and the Schwalbe Nobby Nic 27.5 x 2.8″ tire which is easily one of the best plus size tires currently available.
There are so many things the “gear” category could include that it’s hard to narrow it down. But, since safety while out on the road has become such a hot button issue, Cycliq’s Fly6 and soon to be available Fly12 top the list. At minimum, the lights provide illumination so that courteous drivers see you ahead of time. At worst, the continuous recording of the integrated hi-def cameras will record evidence if you’re involved in a crash. In addition, when the Fly12 is available it will double as a hi-def action camera to record your adventures.
Other great ideas for riders like me would be anything from the Sweathawg line up which I’ve come to rely on for almost every ride, or helmet and light combos like the Bontrager Lithos with Ion 700 light. The Lithos is one of the best I’ve used for light integration making it easier, and faster than ever to get ready for your next night ride.
For me, 2015 was the year of the mountain bib liner with pockets. For a number of rides, everything needed can easily fit into the pockets allowing you to leave your pack at home without relying on saddle bags or the like. Also, the fact that the pockets are on the liner means the contents won’t bounce with every bump of the trail the way they would if the pockets were in the jersey. When it comes to bib liners with pockets, Specialized has the market cornered on a pocket for everything with their latest SWAT bib, while Pearl Izumi is relying on a simple 3 pocket design but with supreme comfort.
Super light, carbon soles – my favorite shoe of the year has neither. OK, the Shimano SH-M200 has a carbon infused sole, but it’s designed to flex laterally for comfort while pedaling and getting rad. Which it achieves, along with plenty of protection and all day comfort that pedals lighter than its design would imply.
Close behind are the Specialized 2FO Cliplites which cater to a similar market. I suppose the real shoe I want is the Teva Links. My last pair is finally starting to wear out and I have yet to find a suitable replacement for the sadly discontinued shoe due to its prowess and comfort both on and off the bike. Update: I had forgotten about the Zoic Prophet, so I’m interested to see how these will compare to my beloved Tevas.
…and three small things
If your parents still insist on buying you socks and underwear for Christmas, they might as well be cycling socks. One of the biggest surprises this year were the Ultra Cool Lite Crew socks from Wigwam. That might not be a brand you associate with cycling socks, but their 110 year history says they should know a thing or two about socks. And it shows with one of the best fitting, most comfortable, and durable socks that is worthy of the $14.00 price tag.
Tool rolls are a great way to keep your flat-fixing kit organized, whether that’s from jersey to jersey, bike to bike, or pack to pack. Camelbak’s tool roll is big enough to fit mountain bike implements, and the zippered compartments mean nothing will bounce out on the trail.
Finally, the Fix It Sticks Replaceable model would be a great stocking stuffer for your favorite cyclist. The tool combines the usefulness of a T-handle with the convenience of multiple bits, all stashed in a little pouch.
More than any thing though, more time on trails and hanging out with friends afterwards would be juuuust fine.