February 26, 2024

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

Just like fishing, skateboarding, and surfing, cycling is a sport that can quickly become a lifestyle, consuming the minds of those who do it all the time and even influencing their fashion, travel, and friendship choices. This means that if you have a cyclist in your life, it’s safe to assume that a surefire way to delight them would be with a gift that relates to their favorite activity.

But given the plethora of cycling gear available these days, picking the right products can easily become overwhelming. As someone who has been riding bikes all their life, from commuter bikes to fixed-gear bikes to gravel bikes and mountain bikes, I’m here to help you wade through the duds and the fluff. I spoke to avid bike riders and combed our archives — from our stories on the best bike lights, helmets, and gear for cold-weather biking— to find the types of things that would make for excellent gifts (at five price points) for cyclists of any skill level, whether they’re training for a race, the hill around the corner, or prepping for a bike commute to work.

Bookman Rechargeable Bike Block Light – Rear
Strategist Tested

Bookman Rechargeable Bike Block Light - Front
Strategist Tested

I’ve been using these Block lights as my main front and rear lights for four years. They’ve got small elastic bands that attach to any handlebar or seat post, and they don’t budge, even while riding over the gnarliest road bumps. They’re so small that I just stuff them in my pants pocket after I lock up my bike. For that reason, the Block lights make great backup lights, especially for cyclists who prefer a brighter set of lights for more visibility. (The front Block light pumps out 50 lumens, and the rear light emits 18 lumens.) Plus, they come in eight different colors.

Catch Up Water Bottle

Must Go Hard Water Bottle

Jhonatan Moloon, the owner of City Bicycles NYC, says year after year, he’s constantly restocking these condiment-inspired water bottles made for cycling, because so many of his customers can’t resist grabbing them as they check out. “Not only are they funny, but they’re made using Specialized bottles, which fit any bike holster and are extremely long lasting,” he explains.

Swiftwick Pursuit Four Merino Wool Socks

Photo: retailer

Those looking for an affordable gift that will please a cyclist can always count on socks, according to bike mechanic Ben Sawyer of CycleMania, who says, “In that world, it’s a style thing as well as a performance thing.” (Several folks echoed this wisdom, which is something other cyclists have told us before too.) While Sawyer notes that cyclists “go through socks a lot,” he says that cycling-specific socks will last a little longer and perform better because they have support in the essential places. Socks made for cycling are “thinner than athletic socks so you get better feedback from shoes and pedals,” Sawyer adds. He particularly likes Swiftwick’s cycling socks, which have been previously recommended to us by cyclist Sebastian Modak, who calls them a year-round essential: “When I’m wearing them, I never even notice if my feet are overheating or cold.”

DeFeet Cush Wool Blend 7in Sock
Strategist Tested

If anyone asks me for wool-sock recommendations, I tell them to buy a pair of these DeFeet cycling socks and not look back. They keep my feet dry even when I’m ten miles into a ride (or when I’m wearing them in suffocating leather shoes, in which other socks make my feet feel clammy). I’m proud to admit that there were a few weeks in 2022 when I wore this pair of cycling socks exclusively for every activity — cycling, running, going to work, with dress shoes and sneakers — and I barely had to wash them. My questionable hygiene aside, they’re currently the most durable pair of socks I own, and despite their wool construction, they haven’t lost their shape, thanks to extra nylon, polyester, and Lycra woven throughout.

Ostroy F This Let’s Ride Socks

Photo: retailer

For a pair of cycling socks with a bit more personality, cyclist Alexa Lampasona pointed us to these. While she says she and her partner have “both been through our fair share of bad jobs, where we dreamed of yelling this phrase to our bosses,” they instead chose to hold their tongues and now wear the sentiment on their feet. But the knit socks aren’t just fun: Lampasona says they’re “breathable, with just the right amount of support.”

RidgeSupply The Skyline - Sunset

Photo: retailer

Another giftable pair of cycling socks with personality comes suggested by cycling coach Robert Evans, who promises that these “stay tight to the foot despite the mileage you put on them and help give you the look of the defined cycling calf.” Plus, he adds, “I love how they are reminiscent of a mountain sunset.”

Chamois Butt'r Original Anti-Chafe Cream

I always keep these handy packs of anti-chafe cream on me in case I get a hot spot under my bib during a ride. It’s a small gift that can be a lifesaver on longer treks.

Specialized/Fjällräven Snack Bag
Very Good Deal

Last summer, Specialized collaborated with Fjällräven to release a line of bikepacking bags and apparel. One of the highlights from the sleek collection is this colorful handlebar bag with a cinch top, which can hold a bottle, keys, tools, or snacks.

Snow Peak Titanium Single 450 Cup

In her guide to bikepacking gear, Strategist writer Katherine Gillespie spoke to New York City–based adventure cyclist Todd Nisbet (a.k.a. Concrete Trails), who recommended this lightweight titanium mug that he uses for both drinking coffee and eating meals from. Its versatility saves weight and minimizes dishwashing while on the trail.

The Radavist Jackal Camp Hat

If the cyclist in your life enjoys riding on gravel or dirt, there’s a big chance they’re familiar with the Radavist, a Santa Fe–based blog about all things bikes. The blog’s branding (and the design for this hat) is done by LAND, a design studio based in Austin.

Fidlock Twist Bottle 590 + Bike Base

I use this magnetic setup instead of a water-bottle cage on my gravel bike. The bottle snaps off and onto the frame with an easy flick — which I find easy to do mid-ride.

Showers Pass Knit Waterproof Glove

In our roundup of the best cold-weather cycling gear, New York City bike messenger Paul Solis says these waterproof gloves from wet-weather-apparel brand Showers Pass have “already survived a couple of winters.”

Ottolock Combination Bike Lock

Photo: retailer

Jeff Selzer, the general manager at Palo Alto Bicycles, recommends this colorful, simple bike lock as a cheery gift for any cyclist. “You don’t need to worry about losing the key, as it uses a combination lock,” he explains. “And they’re surprisingly durable locks for how lightweight they are.”

Pearl iZumi Cyclone Gel Bike Gloves

Selzer also likes these Pearl iZumi gloves because their thoughtful construction takes into account the differences between male and female hands. “We used to complain that companies would just ‘shrink it and pink it’ to make women’s gear, but Pearl iZumi doesn’t just put the men’s palm pads in the women’s gloves and size them up,” Selzer explains. “Instead, their palm pads are smaller because women tend to have smaller hands.”

NiteRider Bike Lights

Photo: retailer

This pair of lights is used by cycling coach Evans, who told us that “with four light levels, I use these on the brightest of days and at nighttime for maximum visibility.” He adds that the lights’ rubber-strap mount makes them “easy to swap from bike to bike” and that their 650-lumen brightness is more than enough for even the darkest ride. “For hardcore nighttime use, I always recommend a front light with at least 500 lumens,” Evans says.

Flandriens Hero Cycling Figures

As much as a cyclist would like to be on their bikes, they can’t always ride, City Bicycles NYC’s Moloon reminds us, for any number of reasons. To remind them of what they’d rather be doing, he suggests a gift of these “iconic” Flandriens hand-painted cycling figurines, which lots of his customers say they keep on their desks. The sets ship from Europe (the price shown includes a $9 shipping fee), and if you’re feeling extra generous, Moloon says the Dutch company can make custom sets featuring your recipient’s favorite jersey upon request.

[Editor’s note: Condor Cycles lists its prices in euros, so the price shown is an approximate conversion to U.S. dollars.]

Weed Sport CBD Muscle Rub

Artist Timothy Uriah Steele, who bikes to his Sunset Park studio every day, told us he slathers this balm on religiously to combat the muscle tightness that comes with extensive cycling. “It’s the best rub I’ve found for finding and releasing strange tensions,” he promises. “I even put it on my neck because of the tension that sometimes forms there from riding with my backpack.” If a topical CBD rub sounds up your recipient’s alley, but you want to shop around, there are several more to choose from in our guide to the best CBD products, according to cool people.

Spurcycle Original Bike Bell

Given how many pedestrians have things in their ears these days, City Bicycles NYC’s Moloon says it’s especially important to have a clear, loud bell to help avert any accidents. This Spurcycle bell has been on his bike for seven years, and Moloon says it’s the favored bell of many other cyclists, too. He calls it “very loud and very clear,” adding that it’s small enough not to look dorky and that it can be “mounted pretty much anywhere: sideways, upright, upside down — whichever works best for your bike.”

“Uncle Rinne” Art Prints by Tetsuro Ohno

Pit Viper Original Polarized Sunglasses

These retro polarized shades come in a bunch of colorful lens and frame designs, and they’re super-customizable: There are two widths to choose from, with the option to add on prescription lenses.

Baba Tree Bicycle Basket (Medium)

Photo: retailer

Strategist contributor Ariel Kanter says this sturdy, colorful bike basket earned her respect from cyclists in Highland Park, Illinois — a place that “feels like the biking capital of America,” according to Kanter. She writes that “these baskets have an heirloomlike quality that’s impossible not to notice.” They are handmade in Ghana, come in small, medium, and large sizes, and a number of colorful patterns.

If the cyclist in your life likes to pedal alongside friends, they’ll appreciate how easily this Bluetooth speaker can clip on to various parts of their bike to play a soundtrack for group rides. Weekend cyclist Arielle Swedback, an associate producer at a documentary-film company, says that her JBL Clip has provided tunes for “plenty of warm-weather group rides” and that its battery “lasts for more hours than anyone can ride in a single day.” She’s not the speaker’s only fan: Two of our writers use versions of it too.)

Wild Rye The Kaweah Women’s Bike Short
Very Good Deal

If your recipient is more of a mountain-and-trail biker than an urban one, consider gifting this pair of shorts that Adventure journalist and cyclist Morgan Tilton swears by for her more-adventurous rides. “As a woman, finding mountain-bike shorts that don’t sag yet aren’t restrictive is a challenge,” Tilton says. “My go-to pair is the Kaweah, made by Wild Rye, a woman-owned brand that specializes in shorts for ladies and has some stylish, beautiful patterns.” She likes these shorts specifically because they’re at a “lower price compared to the brand’s premium designs” but are still made with high-quality materials. “The breathable polyester-elastane fabric is treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish, so if you get caught in a drizzle or splash through a stream, the shorts don’t get soaked,” she explains.

POC VPD AIR LEGS Kneepads

Photo: retailer

Tilton also told us that after recently starting to use these kneepads, designed by POC, she “wondered how I’d allowed my shins and patellas to endure the wounds they have over the past two decades.” She says they are “lightweight, streamlined, and well ventilated,” adding that “the shape smoothly contours around my kneecap.” According to Tilton, they’re a year-round essential (making them that much more giftable). “They don’t bake me in the summer months, but the extra layer adds a comfortable wall against windchill on fall-season rides,” she notes.

Gore Wear C5 Gore-Tex Glove, Men's

Photo: retailer

These cycling gloves have Gore-Tex’s water- and wind-proof technology but, as Andrew Crooks of bike store NYC Velo says, come “straight from the source” because they’re designed and sold by Gore-Tex. “They have a bike division called Gore Bikewear, which these are from,” he explains. “It’s the cycling glove of choice for our staff.”

Wahoo Tickr Fit Heart Rate Monitor Armband

Photo: retailer

For riders who like to track their heart rate (whether for health reasons or as part of a fitness goal), Palo Alto Bicycles’ Selzer recommends giving this Wahoo armband. Lots of similar trackers will wrap around the chest, which can be problematic — especially “for women, because everyone is a different size,” Selzer says. In addition to being more comfortable to wear, he notes Wahoo’s armband monitor “won’t move or bounce around like a chest band.” The tracker comes with two different-size straps to accommodate the thinnest or thickest of arms and features a rechargeable battery that Selzer says goes “for well over 100 hours” on a single charge.

Ortlieb Saddle Bag, 1.6 Liters

New York City bike messenger Paul Solis told us that his “favorite thing right now” is this saddle bag, which “fits right under your saddle but expands out really big.” He says the nice thing about this bag is its size, explaining that, while it looks small, it expands so widely that he can ditch his backpack on shorter rides because he can fit everything he’ll need inside. “It rolls up and snaps in and is the sweetest thing I’ve got,” Solis says. “The other day, someone gave me a bagel; I put it in, and it still had space.”

K9 Sport Sack Dog Carrier Backpack

Although it’s designed to be worn while hiking or walking with dogs who would rather get a lift than use their feet, this backpack works just as well for cyclists who want to give Fido a ride, according to Candy Godoy, who uses it to bike with her influencer pug, Boogie, on her back. (She’s one of four dog owners who recommended the backpack to us but the only one who wears it while cycling.)

Velocio Micromodal Trail Tee, Women's
Very Good Deal

Velocio Micromodal Trail Tee, Men's
Very Good Deal

This trail tee is a favorite of journalist Tilton, who says it’s the one she “keeps pulling on for my daily adventures.” After testing a range of cycling shirts, she says this one is superior thanks to its “butter-soft material and extended sleeves, which help prevent sunburn and chafing when I wear a backpack.” Another detail she appreciates is its longer hem, which ensures her skin stays covered “during dynamic movements, like lifting or pushing my bike over unrideable features.”

Rapha Brevet Gloves

If you’re looking to splurge a little on a nice pair of gloves for the cyclist in your life, consider this reflective pair from Rapha. These have been my main gloves for the past two years, and I’ve used them for riding in all types of conditions — from long, hot summer rides to blustery, wet park laps — and they haven’t shown any signs of wear. I like how Rapha put generous cushioning on the palm, which keeps my hands from getting sore on longer efforts. And when it gets dark, the reflective strips on the back of the hands help me stay visible to drivers and other cyclists.

Chrome Barrage Cargo Backpack
Very Good Deal

“Durable, properly structured, waterproof, and weight distributing” is how artist Timothy Uriah Steele describes this backpack that would surely get lots of use from cyclists who ride primarily to commute. He goes on to explain that “the extended cargo net on the back of it” can be stuffed with “your shoes, helmet, or lunch,” noting that it’s a “rare, great thing” to be able to pack so much and “still not have an enormous backpack that’s wider than your shoulders.” Adding to its appeal is the fact that the back of the backpack is padded, ensuring that it never digs into your back, no matter what’s inside, according to Steele.

POC Omne Air Spin Helmet

Photo: retailer

While the cyclist you’re shopping for may already own a helmet, that doesn’t mean you can’t give them a better one. Cycling expert Melvin Onyia says that after going through a few helmet brands looking for the right one, he was thrilled to discover POC. “Their main focus is safety, whereas other brands are focused equally on performance and aerodynamics,” he says. “They have the most up-to-date impact-absorption technology, and the strap is much more comfortable than other helmets’, with a really nice padding.”

Shokz OpenRun Headphones

Palo Alto Bicycles’ Selzer told us about these ingeniously designed wireless cycling headphones that allow you to safely ride while enjoying music. They “don’t get into the ear canal but sit outside it, so you can still talk to people and hear cars,” he explains. And because they use bone-conduction technology, which delivers sound through vibrations against your skull, only the wearer can hear what’s being played. He told us he uses them all the time (and sells a lot to his customers), promising that “you don’t notice them, and they never make you sweat, unlike earphones.” After trying a pair ourselves, we found all this to be true — and discovered the headphones work just as well for listening to real-time directions from Google Maps.

PEARL iZUMi Quest Barrier Convertible Cycling Jacket, Men's

PEARL iZUMi Quest Barrier Convertible Cycling Jacket, Women's

Cycling in the shoulder seasons, like spring or fall, means that weather can change in a second,” Lampasona says of a reality that any cyclist — or person — knows all too well. That’s why she loves this not-too-expensive jacket from Japanese cycling brand Pearl iZUMi, a highly regarded bike brand that we heard about a lot when reporting our guide to the best bike clothing. She says the jacket “has been particularly handy” whenever she’s been on her bike as winds or rain picked up. The ultra-thin outer layer has a ton of features that cyclists look for, from a water-repellent exterior and removable sleeves to a cord-lock waist that helps get a tight fit in colder weather. Lampasona owns the women’s version, but we’ve included the men’s style here too, which has all the same features.

Topo Designs Women's Boulder Pants

Topo Designs Men's Boulder Pants

Strategist contributor James Lynch uses these Topo Designs pants for pretty much everything, including bouldering, errands, biking, and working from home. He likes the Boulder’s discreet design. “I’m usually wary of wearing technical outdoors gear in my everyday life,” he writes. “It feels a bit showy: ‘Look, guys — I play in the outdoors! Let me tell you about my pants’ technical features!’ But these pants are subtle and stylish.”

Blackburn Frame Bag

Photo: retailer

For the cyclist who wants even more on-bike storage, cycling coach Evans says this frame bag would make for a very functional gift because its design allows it to neatly slot into the awkwardly shaped empty space in the center of a bike frame. “If you don’t use or don’t have water-bottle mounts, this holds water, tools, and food and is perfect for long days in the saddle,” he assures.

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt Bike GPS Computer

Photo: retailer

Four of the cyclists we spoke to say a bike computer from Wahoo would make for a highly useful gift. The wireless gadget, which can be programmed with whatever route a rider wants to take, attaches to a bike so that its screen serves as a live map for them to follow, much like the GPS systems found in many cars. But it’s not just for getting from here to there: Palo Alto Bicycles’ Selzer adds that this can “track your speed, distance, elevation gain, and air temperature.” In talking to him and the other cyclists who recommended this computer, we learned that Wahoo is the brand to beat when it comes to tech accessories for a bike. Onyia describes the gadget’s giftable appeal this way: “It helps me keep track of my progress, and it’s safer too — being able to track stats and follow a map on a screen at the front of my handlebars, rather than looking at my phone or watch, allows me to always be looking forward.” If you’re up for spending a little more, cyclist Diana Sacks says Wahoo makes a more-expensive Elemnt Roam Computer that does everything this one can but has a longer battery life and color screen.

Alpine Luddites Pinnacle Rucksack

Photo: retailer

Andrew Crooks from NYC Velo says he’d gift this larger backpack to anyone who takes multi-day bike trips. He describes it as a “re-creation of a classic French mountaineering bag, but in modern materials,” meaning it looks a bit more stylish but can still hold a lot and, as he notes, is “especially durable.” He appreciates the backpack’s craftsmanship, telling us it’s entirely made by hand.

Wahoo Fitness Kickr Core Bike Trainer

The Kickr comes recommended by Earl Walton, head coach and owner of triathlon training studio Tailwind Endurance. When it’s nasty outside and you’re itching to ride, you can connect your bike to the Kickr for a full at-home workout. You can sync the Kickr to cycling apps like Zwift, which give you access to workouts, training plans, and virtual races. (If you’re looking for a stationary bike for workouts and training, check out our Best in Class guide for eight options for every budget and type of cyclist.)

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.


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