First off, I’m not a fan of stocking stuffers, generally speaking. If something isn’t worth putting under the tree, then really, why bother? Think about it: Growing up, did you ever get a stocking stuffer you really got excited about?
Again, it all goes back to our opening theme of want v. need. Stocking stuffers almost always were things we needed. Underwear. Gloves. Ear muffs. Junk.
So with that in mind, here are some ideas for last minute stocking stuffers that could just as easily serve as a standalone present too. Your choice.
Joe Bender Mountain Bike. I don’t know why I like this little guy so much, but he’s a great companion for the desk or bookshelf or cabinet or workshop, wherever. I have 3 or 4 Joe Benders. You can twist him into all kinds of positions. I even got him doing a flip whip. It’s all made possible by strategically placed magnets on the wheels and frame of the bike. From HogWildToys. You can get them at REI for around $10.
Joby Gorillapods. I carry one of these versatile, flexy tripods with me in my bladder pack for photos when I’m riding solo and want to be in the shot. They’re great. They grab onto anything from a bush sprig to a playground handrail and hold the camera well. They come in different sizes depending on weight and bulk of your camera; I’ve even used one for my camcorder. Useful well beyond cycling expeditions too. Price varies from $23 to $80 depending on size. Also from REI.
Mountainsmith Cyber II recycled camera case. The best camera cases I’ve found because they double-velcro over a backpack strap for extra strength and security and have two ways of enclosing the camera, a quick-release velcro flap and a zipper. I’ve crashed I don’t know how many times and, although my ribs will attest I’ve landed on my camera, never damaged it. Also great for carrying my iPhone (the medium size; small will take many digital cameras but not the iPhone). Under $20.
Planet Bike Superflash tail light. This little guy pumps out incredible brilliance from two AAA batteries that last a long long time. What I like most is the clip. It attaches to just about anything and really hangs on, which is good, because the traffic I ride in demands being seen. What I like second most: The on-off switch is situated and configured in a way it doesn’t accidentally get turned on while the light is rolling around in my backpack. $25.
Topeak Ratchet Rocket multi-tool. This is the only multi-tool I carry, and the only one I’ve found to be worth anything (I’ve tried ‘em all). It’s a tiny little ratchet socket wrench with a bunch of fittings, including the main Allen sizes (2-6) and, get this, a T25 Torx (that’s right, the brake rotor). There’s also a chain tool. It all folds up nicely into a plastic case that fits in the palm of your hand and weighs about the same as a digital camera. $35.
Crank Brothers Power Pump. Small, light and powerful, the PP includes an air gauge and nifty two-stage inflation setting (one for volume, the other for pressure). The twist head takes either Schrader or Presta valves and stays put while you’re, er, cranking. Unlike other Crank Brothers products I’ve owned (pedals), it’s reliable too. Mine is at least three years old and still, er, cranking. I’ve never even had to relube it. $38.
ODI grips. For mountain bikers, ODI was the original non-slip, lock-on grip and still is the best despite a host of imitators. Now it comes in colors (including, of course, pink), and you can also get color anodized clamps (even custom etched). I like the Ruffians but ODI also offers the burlier Rogue model. $26.
Custom anodized valve stem caps. OK, this may seem a little ridiculous, but you can get valve caps to match your blingy color scheme from Purely Custom over the Web. I know this, because I have. They’re great caps, too, high quality and well-designed. They’re so great, I’ve had a couple of sets stolen, if you can believe that. $2.95 each and worth every cent.
Bike Brake. This one will truly impress. It’s a little but powerful elastic band that slips around the handlebar and brake lever, compressing the lever. So what, you say. When you’re trying to lean your bike against a wall or abutment, the Bike Brake keeps the front wheel from rolling and flopping. So the bike stays upright. It’s also advertised as a deterrent to theft but that’s a stretch. Back in the day there was a thing called the “Flick Stand” for road bikes (alas, no longer manufactured) that worked on the same principle. $3.
OK, that’s it for the gift suggestions from Bike Intelligencer this holiday season of 2009. Happy holidays! Now get out ‘n ride!
[In accordance with our review policy, all merchandise discussed was purchased over the counter.]