Friday, December 21, 2012

Bicycletiquette: Stocking Stuffers

Dear Jasper,

I’m looking to buy some inexpensive gifts for cyclist friends and family. I see your colleague, Val Garou, has suggested gifts to avoid, but do you have any recommendations for stocking stuffers that I should buy?

Happy Holidays,

Miss L. Towe

Ah, Miss Towe, I have fond childhood memories of rising early of a Christmas morning, starting a blazing fire in the grate, slaughtering the family goose, and unpacking my Christmas stocking. 

What small wonders I recall digging out one by one: a lump of coal, a bent stick, a few linty bon-bons, a vial of cod-liver oil, and, in our more prosperous years, a firm parsnip or rutabega in the tippy toe. Of course, Santa always included something for my bike, be it sparkly handlebar tassles or a homemade reflector fashioned out of a turkey wattle. Such, such were the joys!

Nowadays, Christmas gifts have become more elaborate, of course, and the cycling catalogues are full of shiny, silly, and, often, outrageously expensive, products. However, Miss Towe, I encourage you to consider sticking with simple, practical gifts for the cyclists on your shopping list. Here are my recommendations, all of which can be acquired for under $20.

Socks with Pockets: This ingenious design ensures long-term warmth on cold rides, by allowing the wearer to insert a warming agent into the toe-top envelope—perhaps a small handful of hot coals or several rashers of warm bacon.  

Pipe Tobacco: Every gentle cyclist, no matter how young, should carry a pouch or two of fortifying tobacco in his or her breast pocket. For cold weather cycling, I would recommend dark leaves with a touch of peat moss or eucalyptus. For the youngsters and womenfolk, consider a fruity brand of smoke, something with apple or watermelon.

Rough Hanky: Indispensable, under-appreciated accoutrement for all cyclists. I recommend one made of a sturdy, fibrous material such as tweed, jute, or hemp. For the DIY-er, try cutting up an old work sock.  

Pantaloon Clips or Straps: A practical item that every cyclist needs from time to time to protect the trouser legs. I like to make my own out of a hunk of leather, old barbed wire, or chicken intestine. 

Woollen Underwear: A balled up pair of underwear in one's stocking is a holiday tradition. Nothing keeps the meat and two veg toasty warm and dry like woollen undergarments. Rivendell makes a high-end version, but for the more frugal, like me, consider purchasing woolly gotch second hand or from ebay.

Moustache Wax: It's always a treat to pull a tin of fine sculpting pomade out of a stocking. You might even want to blend your own out of beeswax, lard, and Vaseline. 

Miniature Bottle of Mateus: The most versatile and refreshing cycling beverage, the original energydrink. There’s no better way to say Happy Holidays, Cyclist! than a tiny flask-bottle of cheap Portuguese magic.

Dusty Musette: A simple old feedbag is a classic gift which folds up nicely into the toe of a stocking. Hey, it’s not a rutebega, but you could always stick a rutabega in the musette, sling the bag over your shoulder like a mini St. Nick, and off you go.

Best of the yuletide season to you, Miss L. Towe, and to everyone out there.


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