Apart from occasional spiritual moments with certain suspension setups or tire and rim combinations, I’m not religious in any way. I’m not even suffering on the cross bike for others this season. But since people all over the world have been celebrating the turning point of winter since they first lined up Stonehenge for the midwinter solstice sunrise around 5000 years ago, I’m happy to join in. Especially as it’s normally greeted with extra food, exchange of gifts and generally being nicer to people – even if that’s through gritted teeth at times.
Given the current chaos surrounding shipping stuff around, about now is when you need to get your gifting game together if you’re not just going to end up grabbing whatever rubbish you can at the last minute. But before you just open your laptop and buy the first/cheapest thing you see for people, have a think about where and who you’re buying from and maybe add a few extra people to the gift list this year.
You can’t listen to the news, eavesdrop other people’s conversations or go round to their houses and keep your coat on without realizing times are tough for many of us right now. And commercially it’s generally the smaller folk with less financial fat on their bones who are really shivering. But you’ll also find a disproportionate amount of the smallest companies are making the biggest efforts to do things right by profit sharing, sourcing sustainably and generally being good people. And at the risk of sounding biased, I’d say buying from actual mountain bikers seems to ramp up the ‘good people’ factor too.
So if you’re going to buy someone a warm hat for now or a T-shirt to remind them it won’t be this cold and wet forever, go look at Rider Resilience, the inspirational not for profit #bikesaremedicine charity set up by Nils Amelinckx. Know someone who likes coffee? Then maybe get a bag or even a subscription from ex-website editor and now enduro coach Rachael at Boost Coffee. Short of alternative tree decorations? Be ready for the Can't Quit Cartel drop on Friday. Need a calendar? Get a daily dose of wild landscape inspiration from Munro mountain biking, northern light hunting writer and photographer Pete Scullion.
We all know that you can get a ton of content for 'free' these days but gifting great words as well as pictures to another rider (or yourself) is a great idea. Maybe subscribe to Cranked or Shredder or get yourself a yearbook or EP ‘zine from the Misspent Summers team. Like to take in your media through eyes and ears? Then show some extra support beyond a 'like' for the podcast, Insta account or YouTuber who’s content you enjoy. Some of them have Patreon donation options or merchandise to let you help directly but even a positive comment, a share or a public recommendation on the socials or whenever you meet mates can make a massive difference to a one person band trying to be heard over the drone of corporate chatter.
Obviously, these are personal recommendations based on people I know to be doing good things – and cards on the table I work for a few of them so if they keep going, so can I. But I’m sure you could throw an entirely different list together based on your own experience and enthusiasms and it goes without saying that's totally fine. And if you don't, while the internet has a lot to answer for its also a brilliant place to search out some fantastic people and products from personalized bike packing bags to ‘tallywhacker’ top caps for your headset. Plus knowing that when you place an order it’s likely to be processed and packed by the person who made it, is –in my opinion – something really special. Because it’s people like these who are passionate/ stubborn/brave/stupid enough to follow their hearts not just the algorithm or pure profit that make our world a far more interesting and richer place.
Not so random acts of kindness
And at the risk of really ruining my reputation of being a grumpy old northern sod who’s idea of a gift is to put another climb into a ride where people are already hanging, and then wrap a ribbon round an extra gear halfway up even if means I might throw up and be dropped, here’s another idea. Have a think about people who’ve gone out of their way to help you and pay that back. Someone fitted you into the workshop late on Saturday so you could ride Sunday? Did someone work late to rush a fork or shock service through so you didn’t die of dodgy damping on your annual Alps trip? Do you know who helps create and curate your local trails? Go take them some beer or stick something random in the post. If anyone who looked out for you on a ride or messaged you the day after you seemed quieter than normal to see if you were OK, wrap them something up from Santa so they know that it was really appreciated.
Hell even just make the next month the one where you make an effort to say hello to people at the trailhead, check people stopped by the trail or looking confused at the map board are OK, or just turn up with a box of mince pies to hand out at the end of a ride.