Athletes are notoriously hard to shop for. They are loyal to brands, obsessive about materials and more conscious about fit than America’s Next Top Model. However, many are gear junkies and see nothing wrong with having 3+ bicycles, half a dozen pairs of shoes, and multiple suits and swim goggles. Sometimes the extra gear is for training and racing or sometimes for different conditions such as roads, trails, snow, etc.
I have recently been unimpressed by the numerous gear guides for the holidays and wanted to put together a definitive list based on my experience. I think it is very thoughtful to buy gifts to keep your athlete comfortable, warm and performing their best. I also see nothing wrong with earmarked cash or gift cards to their favorite stores. However, if you are willing to go the next step, be prepared to put on your detective hat.
First check out their training log and equipment stashes. You can quickly discover their shoe brand preference and size and swimsuit preference and size. These are consumable goods and you can just buy a new pair of the same model and size. It is much tougher to figure out clothing as they are sized as club fit or casual fit. Club fit is for the more serious (no body fat) rider. However if you can finagle your athlete’s chest and waist measurements, you can get pretty close.
Sunglasses are a pretty easy gift. While there are brand loyalties, everybody can use a new pair of shades as they get scratched up, lost and the new styles are cool.
A few things on my list this year included a replacement pump head (Tanaka, Harame, KNC) which every cyclist would appreciate, a pair of running gloves which you will probably get wrong but will be suitable for at least one temperature range, and a mesh swim bag which is multipurpose and can be used for any sport.
Another tip is to query their friends. Your triathlete may be coveting some new wheels, swim lessons with a local coach or antagonizing whether to get some physiological testing done. In this case a gift card or cash with a picture of the training facility or wheel set will fit the bill. Another overlooked gift for an athlete is coaching services. This one will be even tougher to figure out so earmarked cash may be the only way to pull this off.
A final tip is to buy local. Your detective’s hat review of the credit card receipts will reveal their favorite stores. Don’t freak out if you see $100 for a pair of running shoes or a pair of cycling shorts. That is the nature of the beast. Your athlete can exchange sizes and brands without shipping things back and forth across the country.