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THE BALANCED LIFE | Choosing her Christmas cycling gift carefully

T he woman in your life loves cycling, and you love that she’s a cyclist too. Choosing her Christmas gift should be easy. Select a bike-related item, find someone capable of wrapping it perfectly, and it’s a fait accompli.

The woman in your life loves cycling, and you love that she’s a cyclist too. Choosing her Christmas gift should be easy. Select a bike-related item, find someone capable of wrapping it perfectly, and it’s a fait accompli.

This is a cautionary tale, my male cycling friends. The road to successful gift buying for a female cyclist is littered with relationship-ravaging potholes, rabbit holes, and pitfalls.

Think about the hundreds of rules dictating what not to buy a non-cycling wife for Christmas. Those ill-conceived choices that are certain to elicit an eye-roll, or worse, that pathetically disappointed look of a child whose popsicle falls off the stick after one bite. A kitchen appliance or utensil, cotton pyjamas, a diet book or gym membership, clothes (trust me— it’s inevitable you’ll get both the style and size wrong); you know the list.

It’s the same with bike stuff. Don’t even think about gifting her spare inner tubes, a new tire pump, or chain lube. I’m no psychologist, and don’t understand exactly why utilitarian items are a bad choice, which further proves the point, but experience and a strong sense of self-preservation shouts, “Don’t do it.”

Instead, when you’re on your next ride together, follow her eyes as her friend Sally wheels up on a new bike, or with her usual bike freshly outfitted in the latest gear. Where is she looking, what does she comment on? That’s what to buy her for Christmas. Just ensure the thing you buy is a newer version or more technically advanced than Sally’s.

Listen to what she says as she rolls her bike out the front door to go for a ride. If she mutters under her breath, “I wish this bike had this or that,” she’s likely not talking to herself. Full marks if you pick up on the comment and that item finds its way under the tree on Christmas morning.

If she twists and turns in her sleep and mumbles anything about a bike accessory, I’ll leave that up to you to decipher.

Gifting her a new cycling jersey can be risky because it’s so personal. Would you dare post on her Instagram or Snapchat account? Is it about how you see her, or how she sees herself?

You think of her as strong and athletic, so you buy her a jersey that says, “Be the woman who decided to go for it.” She does enjoy that cycling makes her strong, but mostly she cycles because she knows in her heart that if she rides a hilly 100K on the road, or clears a double-jump on her mountain bike, she’s bad-ass. You should have gone with the jersey that had “Shouldn’t your eyes be on the road?” emblazoned across the back, or said, “My other ride had a headache.”

If you feel you absolutely must gift the woman in your life a jersey, when you give it to her, suggest that either her kid(s) or her mother helped you pick it out. That way she’ll feel obligated to wear it.

No matter her level of cycling experience or expertise, nothing says I love you like a rear-facing bike radar unit. Seriously. She’s flying along a rural Pelham road, lost in thought, when a series of ragged potholes and broken pavement obstruct her lane. She grips the bars tightly, forced to react in a milli-second. Pivot into the traffic lane to avoid the holes, lift off the seat and ride them out, or hit the shoulder and hope for the best? Did she just hear a vehicle approaching from behind? Not the easiest time to glance over your shoulder for a look is it?

For approximately $250.00 a bike radar unit, mounted to the back of your bike and paired with your phone, will immediately alert you to approaching vehicles. Pair it with your handlebar mounted GPS unit, and tiny flashing lights will advise how far back the vehicle is, and how fast it’s closing.

Does she ride alone? Whether it’s road riding in the wilds of Wainfleet, gravel riding in northern Ontario, or mountain-biking along Twelve Mile Creek, a fall detector can be a life-saving gift.

Six weeks ago in the Huntsville area our group of friends were just setting out to ride relatively remote gravel roads and trails. Testosterone got the better of a couple of the guys (let’s say “Bill” and “Bob”), and they took off at full tilt without a warm-up. Five minutes later the rest of us rounded a corner to see Bill and his bike both lying on the gravel road, with Bob nervously attempting to comfort him. Bill had felt the lack-of-oxygen induced dizziness coming on, slowed his bike, and almost dismounted before he keeled over. A few minutes rest and some extra hydration later, all was good, and we rode on, chastened but safe.

Had this incident happened while Bill, or your Jill, was alone, a fall detector would have sensed that their bike was no longer upright. The detector would have screamed a 113 db alarm to anyone within earshot, dialled the first of three preprogrammed phone numbers to notify someone that Jill was in trouble, and then provided the GPS coordinates of her location.

If the woman you’re shopping for is a mountain biker, a newly designed dropper seat post will dramatically improve her riding experience. Droppers allow a seat post’s height to be adjusted on-the-fly via a handlebar-mounted lever and cable or an electronic switch. A tall seat position improves climbing ability, dropping the seat allows one to quickly shift their weight lower, rearward, right or left, for safer descending on steep and bumpy single-track.

If she’s a gravel rider, the same principal applies while coasting down a washboarded gravel hill.

Even aggressive road riders can benefit from the extra ability droppers afford for shifting weight to change one’s centre of gravity as necessary.

Is throwing a leg over your bike’s seat making getting on and off more difficult as you both age? Recreational and touring riders are using droppers now for no other reason than to lower seat height while mounting and dismounting.

Most importantly, I’ll 99 percent guarantee that Sally doesn’t have a dropper on her road or hybrid bike yet.

If you’re really stumped on the appropriate cycling gift, ask her to accompany you to her favourite bicycle dealer under the pretext that you need to pick up a couple spare tubes or water bottles. Stall for time with the clerk, and watch where she lingers as she drifts around the store.

This might give you a clue as to what you can pick up for her later —or she may decide to buy a new bike while she’s there, like my wife did.

Knowing she’s all-in with a new bike and fresh enthusiasm for another season turned out to be a great Christmas present for both of us. Happy shopping.