It is the holiday season again, and family members across the world are struggling to find the perfect (or at least passable) gift for their loved ones. Typically these gifts are determined based solely on a few key words or phrases that a family member uses to identify you. If your aunt Sara introduces you as her nephew Frank, who just loves cats, you should expect aunty Sara will get you kitty litter, or maybe a toy mouse for your beast. On the other hand, when a family member knows you as that uncle who rides his bike and drinks fancy schmancy beers, then you somehow have managed to work yourself into a black hole that confuses gift givers. With so many varieties of bikes and beers, most people are utterly confused at what is a sensible gift. Close relatives probably have a little context, they might know you prefer hoppy beers and mountain biking as opposed to stouts and track racing – but more distant relatives might have no clue.
So that being said, the following is my take on bike and beer related gifts. Nice for good ideas, and Naughty for not so great ideas.
[Hi family, no, this is not meant to be a list of hints, love ya!]
Source: Flickr User Evan Lovely
Perhaps the most important and useful bike accessory is something that can be called upon to carry your delicious new purchase from the store, or brewery, to the point of consumption. Fortunately a bike is a wonderful way to carry beer!
Gamoh FR-1 Cargo Basket – Modeled in the urban “porteur” style that is very popular these days, this Gamoh rack is perhaps the best porteur style rack suited to beer portage for one simple reason – a built in bottle opener! Available in either black or silver (note, it is important to determine the desired color scheme of the intended bike), with handsome wood planks as a base this rack will turn heads. And it is more than capable of handling six or more of your 12 oz. friends. ($135 at Soma Fabrications). NICE
Swift Industries Ozette Rando Bag – Another bike accessory that is slowly gaining more popularity is the handlebar bag. No, not the droopy old back-pack material bag attached using velcro – the classic and voluminous randonneur style bag. Some may technically claim these are not handlebar bags, as they often do not attach the the bars, but that is a digression from their main purpose, easily carrying your cargo in an easy to use, easy to access, multi-pocketed bag. I own a version made in the USA by Acorn Bags and it is invaluable. It can carry anything, up to and including a growler or a six-pack, with room to spare for keys, a lock, wallet, sunglasses, etc. It’s kind of like a purse for a bike, and I’m proud to own one. I am picking Swift over Acorn in this list as the folks at Swift offer complete color customization, and tend to be a little easier to obtain than the Acorn bags. ($210, large at Swift Industries). NICE
Walnut Studio Leather Beer Can Cage – Having proper hydration on a bike is important. But a leather water bottle holder designed to hold a can of beer out front of your handlebars? First of all, why carry only 1 beer? If the answer is so your loved one can pound a PBR and ride – then I have another question… do you want/need cops to harass your loved one and potentially arrest them for DUI? I thought not. Now, the fine folks at Walnut Studio do make some finely crafted items, but holy moly, $72 to hold a can of PBR! I think it is better to leave this mono-tasker at home. ($72, Walnut Studio) NAUGHTY
Top Tube 6 Pack Bag – A number of companies make six pack holders that are designed to go across a flat top tube on a bike. In concept these seem like a solution to a problem that a rack or bag could solve better, but their ease of removal from the bike (as opposed to being a nearly permanent fixture) is a bonus. I remain skeptical however, as the width of the bag may cause you to swing your knees out bow-legged while riding, adding stress on your joints and awkwardness to your trip. Of course, through my non-scientific observations, everyone has a natural knee path, and everyone is different – so maybe this isn’t a problem for your rider. Some manufacturers rely on the strength of the cardboard six-pack for these bags – danger alert, do you trust that the cardboard won’t split and send shattering glass into your tires?. The model linked to above seems to be a decent option. ($69, Uncommon Goods) NICE (if it works) / NAUGHTY (if it doesn’t)
Bike Beer Growler Holder by PedalHappyDesign – It looks good, is crafted in the USA by a small business, and carries beer on your bike. At first glance, one would think this is a total winner, right? But upon closer examination, you would need to have a saddle that has saddlebag loops (like all Brooks and Velo Orange saddles do), and again this is an expensive way to carry only a single growler. Yes, you can buy attachments that will add bag loops to a regular saddle, but depending on the rail material they might not be feasible. I’ll attest to the pleasure of a well worn leather saddle, but that isn’t for everyone (aesthetically or fit-wise). As a gift, I think this is too risky and too single purpose. ($80, PedalHappyDesign) NAUGHTY
Growler City Bike - Ok, Ok – it’s just an industrial design concept. But if you are willing to shell out good money for a bike that isn’t very attractive and is only intended to carry a single growler. Well then, contact me and I’ll let you know where you can send all of your extra money that you obviously have lying around. NAUGHTY
You’ve managed to get at least some of your beer to your favorite drinking spot intact and not too shaken, but damn – you left your bottle opener at home. Some of you fancy folks are good at opening bottles with a lighter, folded paper or your teeth, but even then you might want a real deal tool to open your beer. Here are a few:
Ahrens Wisecracker – A tool you cannot lose (unless you disassemble your bike). I have owned and enjoyed a wisecracker (stem mounted) for over a year now, the construction is top quality. Orient in whatever manner makes sense for your ride, and pick whichever color/material you want. Ahrens even offers the ability for custom engraving if you ask nicely. For the price, and the fact that it permanently attaches to your stem or seatpost, it is a no-brainer. ($12 to $25, Ahrens Bicycles) NICE
Surly Jethro Tule - Surly rocks. A lot. (And they swear a lot, hide your kids). They also make the Jethro Tule, a 15mm offset box wrench that happens to have a bottle opener. Why is a 15mm offset box wrench needed for cycling? Well, for those with single speeds or fixies, 15mm is the typical size for the nuts that hold your wheels to your frame (you don’t ride with quick release on your fixie, do you?). So, having a tool with you that allows you to remove your wheel is pretty darn important, unless you like walking your ride home when you get a flat tire. The Jethro Tule feels great in your hand, and is designed so you don’t bust your knuckles as your torque down the bolts. I have heard some complaints about not getting enough leverage with the short handle, but if that’s the case, use it to crack open a bottle for your stronger friend. Don’t ride a fixie, there are better options for you. ($25, TreeFortBikes.com) NAUGHTY (if you iron your bike jersey) / NICE (if mud = fun)
Park Tool BO-2, Pedros Beverage Wrench – Anyone with experience wrenching on your bike knows a few universal truths – and one of those is bloody knuckles. The other is a nice cold beer (or 5) helps the repair go much faster, and reaching into an icy cooler helps with the bloody knuckles. So, if your cyclist likes to do his/her own work, or if you want them to start so they stop coming home from the bike shop with more credit card debt, then you owe them a proper beer opening device. Pick your poison, either big blue, or Mr. Pedro – both tools are perfectly nice and compatible with domestic and imported bottle caps. ($6 to $15, buy from your local shop!) NICE
Budnitz Titanium Bike Wrench – BikeSnob hasn’t exactly given glowing reviews of the Budnitz bicycles, but how can you mess up a precision cut slab of titanium? Similar in concept to the Jethro Tule (a box wrench and a bottle opener), this device is a little longer for better leverage, but isn’t as ergonomically considerate as the Surly product. One big advantage that I see is the ability to affix this to your bike using the water bottle cage bosses – reducing the chance that you’ll leave this at home on your ride. Titanium is a pricey material, but some people get all excited about that – think about who you are giving your gift to, are they fancy like titanium, or metal as all hell, like Surly. ($40, Budnitz Bicycles) NAUGHTY (if you don’t want to offend lob) / NICE (if you like fancy bits)
Any good craft beer fan knows – you got to rep your favorite breweries, particularly if they are local! There is a lot of money and sweat built into starting a brewey, and profit margins can disappear overnight if a batch takes a turn south. Buying some brewery gear, be it t-shirts, hats of cycling goodies helps boost the bottom line and offers a little bit of free advertising.
Brewery Jersey – This is a super appropriate gift for a beer loving cyclist, but it could also dangerously backfire – so be cautious. First of all, bike jersey fit is typically smaller than regular clothes, if you wear a large t-shirt, you’re likely an XL jersey. Second, a lot of downright ugly designs exist out there – so you really need to be in tune with your biklers preferences. Lastly your loved one might just not like a certain beer or brewery – I tend to stick only to breweries I know and frequently enjoy. After all, they are getting free advertising! But, if you do your homework, then this can be a super gift – particularly if you can find a jersey from a favorite, but perhaps not local brewery. ($40 to $80, varies) CAUTIOUSLY NICE
Beer Socks – Unless you are a triathlete, socks are important when biking. They help protect and cushion your feet from any friction as they push the pedals thousands of time a ride. Perhaps you got a little scared from the bike jersey idea but still need to find something – well then beer themed socks are just the thing – just estimate a shoe size and you are done! Socks can be much less garish in design, but are still a good canvas from which you can display a little bit of crazy beer love. Just go for it! ($8 to $15, various) NICE
New Belgium Brewery Bike Light – Many breweries have little bike accessories for sale, like bells or whatnot, but New Belgium has these awesome lights for a very reasonable $6. Why is a light a great idea? Well, they help keep you safe, that’s why! New Belgium is bike crazy, and the few employees that I’ve met are super nice people, and the beer is good…. (am I gushing?). I have a few of these lights, and can attest that they are nice and bright, and popular. At least 2 have walked away from my bike while parked outside a bar. ($6, New Belgium) NICE
Beer Concentrate – Does your bicyclist love escaping to the outdoors for a few days or weeks, living off the land and taking in beautiful scenery. Do they lament that they can’t take any beer with them because the weight would be too much to carry? Well Pat’s Backcountry Beverages has come up with a really novel beer concentrate, and no it is not just dehydrated beer. It is an entire new brewing process that uses minimal amounts of liquid and energy. Just add some cold refreshing river water, and use the carbonator to add some fizz and bam – you have fresh beer! Talk about “Taste the Rockies”, this is for real! This is one product I really would like to get my hands on for testing. ($40 for carbonator, $10 for a 4 pack of concentrate) NICE
Beer View Mirror - It never hurts to have eyes on the back of your head when cycling – but for those times when your mutant abilities are a little embarrassing, a rear view mirror will suffice. I think this helmet mounted style is more useful than those on your handlebars that are never adjusted and require you to take your eyes way off the road. Instead a simple glance in the mirror and you know what is approaching. These spiffy rear view mirrors are handmade in Baltimore from recycled beer bottle caps and wheel spokes – and are customizable to your favorite brew. Not a bad deal! ($15, ReBcycle) NICE
A Brew-centric Bike Tour Adventure – This is the real diamond ring / new Lexus in the driveway kind of thing that Adventure Cycling Association could probably craft into some great web advertisements – sign up for a beer themed bike adventure! If you want to be budget conscious, then try to develop something like my Hoppy100 ride. Use google to find local breweries and use google maps bike routes feature to help find suitable roads. If you want to bump up the wow factor a bit, then there are plenty of awesome packages, from local rides (like this one in Cooperstown, NY to Brewery Ommegang), or destination adventures, like the 10-day trips to Belgium offered by BeerCycling or the German trips by Beer & Bike Tours. ($0 to $5000+) SUPER NICE
A bike themed six-pack – This speaks for itself! A little digging at your local craft beer purveyors should net enough to create a six-pack. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. My review of bike themed beers can be used as a starting point. ($2 to $15 per bottle) SUPER DUPER NICE
Note: I don’t own all of these products, and I haven’t been compensated for any reviews. Images sourced from individual company pages, or my own photographs