On Two Wheels: The Christmas Cyclist

Whether it’s a birthday, or looming Christmas, you might have wondered which present will be most welcomed by a confirmed cyclist. Beware: cyclists are fragile and easily offended by incorrect cycling gifts, though they may not show it. A kickstand will definitely not make a downhill rider or road racer happy. Worse, it may be considered raison de guerre! Be serious, do some in-depth research, though this can be tricky if you want the gift to be a surprise.

You can learn a lot about a cyclist’s needs by engaging them in casual conversation about bicycles. The response may be hours long, but will give you much insight into the world of cycling. In fact, it may give you so much insight that you’ll need a notepad, a dictionary, and possibly another avid cyclist to explain it.

A set of safety lights is always a safe, practical and, usually, cheap solution. On the other hand, a Brooks saddle will certainly be appreciated by any cycling aficionado, though it may be more expensive than the bicycle it is intended for. It’s worth noting that saddles, unlike most other bike parts, will fit any frame. If a saddle is not an option, consider a saddle cover. A rarity in Poland (many of us cyclists wrap our saddles in plastic bags to keep them dry when the bike is left outside), they do not bear exorbitant price tags and can be both very practical and stylish.

Bike porn – the coveted Brooks saddle

I strongly discourage buying locks – they are either worthless, or very expensive. If you buy a pump, make sure it’s universal and fits all kinds of valves (which may cost more than you think). Many practical bicycle accessories, such as tyres, come in specific sizes or fit only specific framesets or other parts. You must know this beforehand, by either spying on the target bike or spoiling the surprise.

A bicycle bell is perhaps the perfect gift for the season of jingle bells. Or how about a cycling-themed mug – I got one a long time ago that features a trio of lycra-clad cyclists worshipping a bike on a pedestal. I love it so much that I never dare run the risk of using it. It’s even possible to buy a toilet paper holder with a Shimano XTR quick release knob on its axle. If you are reading this late and in desperation, try Bike Belle at ul. Dietla 45.

If you are a fellow cyclist, you’ll be glad to hear that the city has already given us a Christmas gift in the form of two, red coloured Advanced Stop Lines (or ‘bike boxes’ as they are sometimes called) at pl. Inwalidów and ul. Łobzowska, just before al. Trzech Wieszczów.

The first of their kind in Krakow, they not only help cyclists to cross busy streets, but are part of a wider road safety research project commissioned by the Ministry for Transport. The assessment will lead to major changes in national road construction and traffic sign regulations. The goal is to create more bicycle-friendly street arrangements in Poland. The new regulations are expected to come into force in Spring 2014. Another nice spin-off of this research is that ul. Bożego Ciała is now opened to bicycles in both directions, and scientists are assessing the risk of you riding contraflow in December.

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