a bicycle inner tube is a boring secret santa gift

You’re probably here because you are doing a “Secret Santa” at work and you have to buy something for your co-worker who you know – for a fact – is a cyclist. The natural thought process is “oh, I’ll buy a good gift for a cyclist.”

But here’s the thing. If you know they’re a cyclist, they’re probably an avid cyclist. They either commute to work and walk into the office carrying their helmet, have race numbers hanging in their cubicle, or they talk about bikes all the time.

These are the types of people who know very well what they want. They know better than anyone – better than you, better than me. So it’s going to be hard to choose a gift for them, even with the help of some internet strangers (no matter how hardcore of a cyclist they may be).

You run into two big problems when gift shopping for a cyclist:

1. They probably own most of the low-priced items they might need (assuming a $20 price limit for the exchange).
2. They have very specific preferences and whatever you buy them might be a waste.

So, like a Grinch, I’m going to tell you what NOT to buy. (At the end though, yes, I will give you some suggestions that might work.)

Do NOT Buy: Energy Bars & Gels

Energy bars and gels make perfect stocking stuffers. They’re small, colorful, and you can buy a wide variety of them for $20.

The problem is that food preferences are so personal. Some cyclists use gels, some don’t. I would love a box of Gu gel, but other people wouldn’t touch it. They might prefer the gel from Hammer Nutrition or Science in Sport. Or maybe they do like Gu gel, but only certain flavors.

Some cyclists stick to bars, while others can’t digest solid food while riding. A few will suffer severe gastrointestinal distress if they consume a gel. (You don’t want those memories associated with your gift!)

Quite a few cyclists might stick to liquid calories from sports drinks. What about sports drinks then? Nope. The flavors are even tougher to get right. Plus, you have to get the one with the right amount of electrolyte content.

To pull this off, you’d need to know more about their dietary preferences. A lot more. (More than most co-workers share with each other.)

If you know for sure that the person likes gels, and have an idea what food they like, you could try Gu gels because they offer such neat flavors: peanut butter, French toast, birthday cake, cola, etc.

The only exception is energy waffles. Everyone likes energy waffles. ($20 on Amazon.)

Do NOT Buy: Tools & Lube

Tools are fundamentally important to riding. Everyone needs them. But that means that any avid cyclist will own all the tools they need.

Sometimes it’s good to have multiple tools, but who knows, maybe this person already has two or three of each important tool!

Degreaser, chain lube, and things like that seem like better options because they are consumables. You’ll always need more. But, personal preference really comes into play here. Some people only use dry lube, some people often use wet lube, and some people wax their chain instead. (A lot of cyclists are even pickier about chain lube than they are about energy bar flavors!)

If you want to go this route, consider a fancy brand of tool, or something that’s uncommon. Perhaps a fancy set of Bondhus hex wrenches (metric of course), which now come color coded. ($14 on Amazon.)

Or perhaps the Park Tool bottle opener ($7 on Amazon), which seems like it’s meant to be a gift (rather than something a cyclist buys for themselves).

Do NOT Buy: Spare Tubes

First of all, can we say boring? I can’t imagine a more boring present. Gifting a spare tube would be on par with white tube sucks.

Second, you have to get the right size tube. That’s both the correct diameter and the correct width. The right type of valve stem. The right length of valve stem. The correct material (butyl, latex, etc).

And if the person rides tubeless wheels (an increasingly popular option on mountain bikes and road bikes), the tubes would be pointless.

Do NOT Buy: Gloves, Grips, or Handlebar Tape

While these are all great gifts that can be found for $15-25, they’re too hard to get right.

Gloves are something you have to try on to ensure the correct fit.

Grips and bar tape are a little easier, but you still need to know the right color, style, and material.

These are all items that play a critical role in the comfort and enjoyment of riding, and as such, cyclists are rightfully picky.

Do NOT Buy: Bike Lights

If a cyclist needs lights, they’re either going to own lights already, or they’ll be saving up to buy a proper set. (Lights under $20 are generally not worth buying or using.)

It’s also possible they wouldn’t be riding in situations that require lights, so they wouldn’t want to add stuff onto their bike for no reason.

The only option that might go over well would be a fun, decorative light like the Nite Ize spokelits (disco color, obviously!) Just $16 on Amazon.

Do NOT Buy: Water bottle

For $20, you can get a great water bottle like the Camelbak Podium Chill or the new Camelbak Podium Reign.

But, again, there is a degree of personal preference with water bottles. Not everyone wants insulated bottles. Some people want a 20 ounce bottle, some people want the 24 ounce. Some people will only ride with two matching bottles (same size and color). It’s a crap shoot.

And most cyclists have too many water bottles already. (We get them free in goodie bags at races and events, and they pile up in our kitchen cabinets.)

Do NOT Buy: Chamois cream

If you’ve never heard of chamois cream (sometimes called chamois butter), let me say this: it’s something that gets slathered onto our taints before we slip into cycling shorts, to prevent chafing.

This is too personal to be buying for someone that’s not a close friend.

What You CAN Buy a Cyclist for Christmas

You’ll still have to use your best judgment, but here are some gift ideas that are relatively safe. These items are either unique, not well known, or something you can never have too many of.

A Funny Coffee Mug

The go-to gift for office gift exchanges, you can find funny coffee mugs for cyclists. (Typically $15-25.)

Here are some of my favorites on Amazon:

Cycling Socks

While socks would be considered lame by teenagers, good quality cycling socks with fun designs are wonderful gifts for adults! You can never have too many socks!

Make sure you buy a good brand – Defeet, Darn Tough, and Swiftwick are all good choices.

Make sure you buy a good material. You can’t go wrong with wool.

Short on time? Buy these! The Swiftwick Pursuit socks are a popular choice. $20 at Amazon.

Make sure you get the right size. Fortunately, there aren’t that many sizes to choose from, and you can probably make a good guess just by looking at their shoes.

There is still some risk, but socks are the best choice, least risk item for cyclists.

Cat Ears

Not the Halloween costume type of cat ears…

These are small additions to your helmet straps that cut down on wind noise and allow you to hear better. (Excellent for bike commuters who need to hear traffic, as well as anyone doing races or group rides so you can hear other riders talking.) They’re so simple, and useful, but not widely known (so it’s unlikely they already have them).

Learn more at www.cat-ears.com. (Buy for $17.95 at Amazon.)

Bike Brake

This little strap is sort of like a parking brake, for a bicycle. All it does is apply the front brake. But, it helps more than you might think!

$2.99 at bikebrake.com

Bicycle Chain Crafts

This is a little cliche, but some cyclists will like these additions to their desk!

Look around Etsy – or Pinterest if you prefer to DIY – for any office supplies made out of upcycled bicycle chains. Picture frames are common. Post-it note holders are an excellent choice.

Right now I see a business card holder ($10 on Etsy) and some tea light candle holders ($12 on Etsy).

Still not sure? Just buy the socks!

Looking for more gift ideas?

Check out this gift guide for cyclists and this gift guide for all endurance athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

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