Scott Mercier: A holiday gift guide for that special cyclist in your life
Special to The Aspen Times
Thinking about riding a bike can be difficult when the calendar hasn’t officially ticked over to winter, and we’ve barely had a powder day worth mentioning, but the season will be here quicker than you know.
With the holidays approaching, you may be wondering what to get for that special someone in your life. If that special someone loves to ride a bike, I’ve got a few ideas for you.
The ultimate cycling gift, of course, is a new bike. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s a road bike, mountain bike, fat bike, e-bike or a townie, a new bike brings out a smile in everyone. Gravel bikes seem to be the rage of the day, but unless you’re planning on traveling to ride, leave that one for the flatlanders. The dirt roads around here are mostly smooth enough for your road bike, and the rough ones are so rough and steep that you’d be wishing you’d ridden a mountain bike rather than a gravel bike.
Of course, new bikes can run well into the thousands of dollars, so if that’s out of your budget, but your special someone has been complaining about getting dropped on every ride and how they need to shave some weight, a new lightweight carbon wheel set can be nearly as good as a new bike. The light rotating weight of a good set of climbing wheels makes a meaningful difference on the climbs.
At the other end of the price scale, a bell is a nice addition to any bike. The Rio Grande and the local trails tend to get crowded and a cool bell can be a great way to warn others that you’re coming up on them.
Cyclists go through clothing like nobody’s business, and there are a lot of accessories you need to ride comfortably in our inclement weather. Leg warmers, arm warmers, a shell jacket and/or vest, and shoe covers are all necessities for riding in Colorado.
If you have an eye for safety, LED lights are a great idea. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 30% of bicycle injuries occur when a cyclist is hit by a car. Some of the newer LED lights also have a warning system and make a noise or vibrate when a car is approaching and have cameras to record what happened in the event of an accident.
Helmets and shoes are also great gift ideas. Regardless of how well you take care of your helmet, they tend to get nicked up and should be replaced every three to five years. Many cyclists make the mistake of buying a lower quality pair of shoes. Your feet are a primary contact point with the bike and a good pair of shoes can have a meaningful impact on both your comfort level and performance.
If your special someone is really into cycling, and he or she wants to improve or has an event to target, hiring a coach is a great idea. We have two excellent local coaches in Dean Hill and Scott Leonard. They’ve both been involved in the local cycling scene for years.
The ultimate gift, in my mind, is a cycling experience. A cycling trip to France, Whistler, Hurricane or Tuscany would be hard to beat.
Any of our local bike shops will be more than happy to give you some great ideas, as well. They’ll have all the items I’ve listed here and dozens of others as well. If you’re still not sure what to give, or if you’re special someone has everything and then some, make a donation to a cycling organization. Roaring Fork Cycling — http://roaringforkcycling.org/support/ — supports hundreds of kids from Glenwood Springs to Aspen in all aspects of cycling, from those just wanting to ride, to those aspiring to be Olympians. Another great one is BikesForKids — https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/bikes-for-kids — where just $10 gets an orphan child in South Africa a push bike.
Regardless, take a moment to give thanks, pray for just enough powder and enjoy the winter season.
Scott Mercier represented Team USA at the 1992 Olympic Games and had a five-year professional career with Saturn Cycling and The U.S. Postal Services teams. He currently works in Aspen and can be reached at email@example.com.