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Holiday Hints: Stocking Stuffers!

Smaller gift ideas from the cycling universe

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Looking for some smaller items? Here’s a list of stuff that’s come by my desk or corpus lately...

CEP Compression Socks

Need some socks for spring training? Compression wear is here to stay in cycling, and CEP Compression has a nice array of choices for not much scratch. I’ve used a pair of the Men’s Dynamic Ultralight socks for a couple months, and they do very well the things you’d want in a compression sock:

  • They fit perfectly, without a loose swatch of fabric anywhere (turns out that’s really comfortable);
  • They feel stable, reducing the vibrations of your muscles that constitute a bit more of the wear and tear of riding. Taking those vibrations out of the equation means faster recovery.
  • They hold up well, having been put through a dozen wash cycles and the ravages of a house with a very fluffy dog. None of the above has stopped them from sporting a fresh, clean, solid look.

They have quite an array of choices of compression socks, sleeves, and orthopedic fabrics to choose from via their website. My wife is a distance runner nowadays, so she actually needs these even more than I do.

Blackburn Lighting

Another company I’ve talked about before, because they make a growing list of cool stuff at a reasonable price. One of my favorite developments is lightweight strap-on lighting — not because it will melt the retinae of oncoming riders (it won’t), but because it’ll do nicely in the city for my commutes and rides that run a little late. Why would that be? Because I don’t always want to move a large lumen-cannon and its particular (and breakable) base from bike to bike, when instead I could pop the Blackburn Click in my pocket and know that if I need it, I’m two seconds away from popping it on my bars and continuing on my way.

The Click is probably more of a be-seen-level light, but I’m actually using it in tandem with the Central 100 Front light, one facing forward and one down at the road, to get me through even a completely dark Burke-Gilman bike trail. Either alone would be OK once I get on lighted city roads. The two together have made the old lumen-cannon approach to mutually-assured retina destruction a thing of the past. They’re cheap ($17 for the Click, $33 for the Central 100) and easy to recharge via USB. They won’t get stolen (I hope) and they won’t destroy the vision of oncoming cyclists. And they will get you home safe, if you know how to deploy them.

blackburn click

ABUS Helmets

New from Germany, ABUS — maker of truly excellent locks that I gushed about two years ago — have entered the helmet business, which they officially launched this past Monday. I should have a longer review coming, but for now, know that they are out there and that they probably come with the same top quality their locks are known for. Check out the array of choices, from the minimalist full-shell Yadd-I model to the six models of racing helmets. If you aren’t seeing prices, it’s because they aren’t in stores yet but the company says they will be available mid-December. But the Hyban is $70 and the Urban-I is $100.

ABUS helmet

Paul Components Q-R Skewers

Here’s an interesting one, which I haven’t received yet but will check back in when I do. Not much has been done to update the quick-release skewer in a while, as far as I know. Obviously companies look for ways to make them strong and light, as the performance level of the associated wheel demands, but otherwise the technology is the same: you flip a handle to pull in the unit length-wise in order to create tension and hold your wheel on.

Paul Components are taking it up a notch, with a skewer that uses indexing spacing that you can mark with a push of the orange button as your tension sweet spot. The internal cam mechanism also promises a smoother performance than the old ones with their springs exposed. $69 a pair. Check the website for how to measure your bike so you can order them in the correct length.

Paul Components QR skewers

Silca Hex Set and Mini-Pump

Got a loved one who likes to wrench their own ride? Like, a really loved one? Then dropping a bit of coin ($185) on a beautiful and functionally kick-ass set of T-handle wrenches will probably get that message across. Silca -- purveyors of beauty and practicality in a revived but deep-rooted Italian tradition — offer the T-Handle Folio set that will complete somebody’s dream workroom.

Silca T-Handle Folio

Silca also recently announced its Tattico mini pump ($55), which is up their alley as a premiere pump-maker going back to their Milanese roots in 1917. The company moved to the USA in 2014, and they are catching up on lightweight portable pumps like the Tattico. For its small size, the Tattico expands large for some serious air delivery. It also uses an easily attaching hose, eliminating the risk of snapping your air valve that comes with the typically rigid small pocket pump.

Silca Tattico

Pickle Juice Sport Shots!

I’ve been meaning to say something about these guys for a while. Know what I love? Pickles, and my garden overflows with cucumbers every August until I find time to buy several gallons of vinegar and get down to business. Know what I love having for a long day in the saddle? Pickle Juice Sport.

The Pickle Juice Company makes 2.5-ounce shots of ... pickle juice ... to eliminate cramps from your endurance rides. But it’s not quite your grandma’s pickle juice (or mine, TBH), because in addition to water, vinegar and dill the Pickle Juice folks have added zinc, potassium, and Vitamins C and E. Hence the name Pickle Juice Sport. That makes it a source of electrolytes, and a cure for cramps. Scientists studying the benefits of juice from the bottom of a pickle barrel determined that it would relieve cramps almost as soon as it hits your stomach, by soothing the nerve that’s under duress. Professional cyclists and triathletes are starting to pick up on this and tucking one of the little bottles into a pocket for long days in hot weather.

I haven’t had cramps too often since I started keeping some around, but I also drank them proactively. So do they work? Probably, says I. Definitely, say people who actually know stuff about them. I’m willing to take their word for it... because I hate cramps. And because, truth be told... Pickle Juice Sport is delicious!

These folks seem to like it. Those bottles look like the 8- or 16-ounce versions, for longer-term use, but I like the tiny 2.5-ounce ones for easy inclusion on a nice day’s ride.

Pickle Juice Sport

Brooks Does Books

Want to read up on what makes Brooks England one of the world’s more beloved companies, thanks to their signature saddles? Now you can, in big-picture format, only it’s not a PR brochure, it’s a “compendium of cycling culture” featuring various artists, writers and David Millar, talking about what makes a good experience and other elements of quality saddlery.

Brooks book

Oh, and here’s a film by Blackburn about riding the Great Basin in Nevada. It’s part of their Ranger program, where they sponsor people to go on epic cycling adventures across America. Something I’d do in a heartbeat if I weren’t old and in the way of things. Enjoy, and wherever you turn, happy shopping!