gift guide panic mode

2023 Gift Guide - Week 6: Panic Mode

You don't have time! You have parties to attend, lights to put up, a house to decorate. You have turkeys to buy, recipes to nail down, you have driving to do. You have stockings to hang, a tree to cut (I don't know about you, but we still cut a tree - from an authorized area - in our house and we love it, minus the putting up the lights part), or a menorah to...well I guess Hanukkah is almost over but the point is that whatever you celebrate, you don't have time to deliberate over what to get for people - you need to make decisions, fast, so you can get to the stuff that matters most - the people.

We've got you. Here are some slam dunks. Go get 'em, take care of yourself and others, minimize shopping time, maximize visits and fun-having.

And in case you missed them, here are links to Gift Guides from the last five weeks (lots of good stuff in there):

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5

Wera hex key set

Wera's L-Key Hex Key Set is what we like to call a can't miss gift idea.

Wera L-Key Hex Set

On sale again at this time of year! We recommended it in 2020 and again last year. Even if you give this to someone that already owns it, they'll still be happy to get a Wera hex key set (or a Torx key set), so they can either create a travel kit, or re-gift it to someone else. You cannot go wrong. This past year I even made use of the 1.5mm Allen in this kit - it's the only 1.5mm I own and it resurrected my digital shock pump because I was finally able to replace the battery (SRAM, in case you're wondering, and Blackburn - I think Fox's digi-pumps still don't have replaceable batteries).

  • 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10mm Allen keys with colour-coded plastic sleeves
  • Hex-Plus allows socket head screws to live longer
  • Ball-heads on the ends

If you're unsure about whether your recipient already has this, go for the Torx set. More and more, Torx bolts are becoming relevant for riders, and for someone that works on their car or truck, all better.

Wera L-Key Hey Set: 39.58 US / 43 CAD
Wera L-Key Torx Set: 42.48 US / 54.00 CAD

You'll grease the landing with this one: useful, awesome, well-priced, and colorful - it's the gifting trifecta.


The Accu-Gage is the perfect gift for your buddy who thinks the 'finger-gauge trick' still works with modern high-volume tires (it doesn't).

Accu-Gage Tire Pressure Gauge

The hand gauge does not work. Especially with today's larger, more voluminous tires, you need a gauge, and you need to check your air before every ride. We've recommended this one before as well - several times, but it's an enduring favorite with the NSMB crew and everyone I've recommended it to. Once again: they're reasonably priced, accurate, and durable. If you drop it hard enough to mess up the calibration, you can re-calibrate it.

$14.57 US on Amazon


Velocio's 5-panel wool hat is a beauty. Hat-wearers will fight over these.


Velocio Trail Wool 5-Panel Cap

This one is a bit more specific, but if you're shopping for a hat-wearer, a wool (!) 5-panel cap is a really good bet. And unlike a lot of 'wool' hats out there, this one's legit: 78% wool, 18% nylon, 4% PU spandex. So it's going to behave like wool: good on warmth, breathability, No one wants a smelly cap perched on their head and way too near their sniffer. But more importantly, it's good looking and adds a touch of warmth for the season but won't be out of place come Spring, either. It's early days for Velocio and MTB gear but so far we've been very impressed. This is just a hat, but it's sharp looking and fairly priced. Good work, Velocio. And good work, you, if you pick one of these up for someone special.

Velcro Trail Wool 5-Panel Cap: 40 USD

Smartwool Smartloft Jacket

The Smartwool Smartloft Jacket is a versatile, comfortable piece to wear whether you're getting active in cooler weather or need an outer layer for mixed conditions (minus outright rain) or warm mid layer.

Smartwool Anchor Line Shirt Jacket Charcoal

The Anchor Line Shirt Jacket works for drafty cabins as well as for chorin' outside. It's a proper (wool) flannel, but it's also cozy.

Smartwool Smartloft Jacket and and Anchor Line Shirt Jacket

Anything merino. This has been the way (for me) for two decades now, and I still have a few base layers that are 15 years old. Over the years, merino wool stuff has been refined in terms of fit and feel, but the benefits of wool haven't changed. Smartwool is a brand that has been around a long time, and I want to highlight these two pieces as ones I love, and that would make great gifts.

Smartwool Anchor Line Shirt Jacket

A bit of a pièce du jour for some brands, but Smartwool has been making this one for years. I recommended the Anchor Line last year, and now that Kitsbow is no longer, this is my new favourite wool shirt/jacket to recommend. Depending on where you set the rheostat, this sucker can be too warm to wear inside, making it perfect for working outside, or even working on bikes or waxing skis in your uninsulated garage. I set my office temp a little lower and wear it a lot while working, and the right mid layer often lets you wear whatever outer layer you want this time of year, and it'll fill in the insulation gaps.

The Anchor Line Shirt Jacket is quite thick, and soft enough to be cozy. I would never have guessed it was predominantly wool (80% merino / 20% nylon) but here we are. It's pricey, but wool always is, and since it really is a shirt OR a jacket, and it looks great while being warm and functional, this is a Worth Every Penny piece for me. I wear it a ton, and it's holding up great.

Smartwool Smartloft Jacket

Merino as a technical layer's insulation is a bit of a new one, but it makes sense (in this case, in blended form). Paired with a nylon chest and back to make it wind-resistant, the Smartloft Jacket is sneaky versatile across a range of conditions. It's not bulky but still warm, and very breathable, making it an easy choice for shoulder season as an outer layer (unless it's pissing) and great as a mid layer in colder weather. The sleeves offer great range of motion and flexibility, so I've been wearing it for other things like golf and will be XC skiing in it over the holidays. For riding, it works when it's cool/cold and dry or in light rain if you get caught out in it, but this is dry/cold weather wear for the bike.

  • Shell: 100% Recycled Nylon. Back/Sides/Sleeves: 47% Recycled Polyester, 38% Merino Wool, 15% Elastane. Lining: 56% Merino Wool, 44% Recycled Polyester. Fill: 50% Recycled Wool, 38% Wool, 12% Polyester.

Smartwool Anchor Line Shirt Jacket: 235 CAD / 200 USD (currently 108 - 140)
Smartwool Smartloft Jacket: 270 CAD / 210 USD (currently 157)
Women's Smartloft Jacket: 235 CAD / 210 USD (currently 147-157)


First up, frame storage. The large size bag easily fits a six pack - what else matters? Photo: Cooper Quinn


By: Cooper Quinn

It's appropriate that I'm writing in the last gift guide here: thus far, I've bought zero gifts for the people in my life who deserve them. F*ck. You can probably apportion blame equally between my lifelong habit of procrastination, and a healthy dose of un-sentimentality. I don't want for gifts, and (often incorrectly) ascribe this philosophy to others.

In the event that you're like me, and the person in your life happens to enjoy Wes Anderson and/or gravel bikes, Specialized and Fjällräven have you covered across a few budgets with some practical, neat, and/or kooky items. If any of these are sold out around you, Fjällräven seems to be making a bit of a push into gravel, running a series of shop-oriented social rides, so I'd expect this line to be replenished and continue to grow.


I've been running these bags for a full summer season; they started out here on my Bjorn. Photos: Cooper Quinn


Attended the pickup ceremony for my new Landyacthz.


And have been there ever since. I've grown so used to having that much space/volume, I'm not sure I could go back to a smaller setup.

On Frame Storage

This isn't the cheapest gift guide around, but let's start with the lowest cost items - the 55 USD Top Tube Bag, and the 90 USD Frame Bag.

There's a million options out there for frame bags and storage, so why pick these?

  • Multiple sizes for the frame bag to find the best fit
  • Mesh side pockets to keep things in place and from rattling
  • Easy to use zippers, with good water resistance
  • Semi-rigid sides for protection, with soft fuzzy inside

Why would you look elsewhere?

  • Not the lightest option
  • Frame bag zipper only on right side - bad if you shop at the Leftorium
  • Slow drying

I'd been running a much smaller frame bag (an Apidura) for my day-to-day use and for the BCBR Gravel race I did last year, and now that I've gotten used to all the storage offered with both of these bags, it's really hard to think about going back. My phone/wallet/keys fit on top, and what seems like everything and the kitchen sink fit down below. After a full season of hard use, they're showing almost no signs of wear. These two are currently sold out online, but there's a few other options like this handlebar bag.

Specialized/Fjällräven Expandable Hip Pack

I'm not really a fanny pack guy. But now that I'm often toting around snacks, possibly a toy car, and the ever-present pouches, I've given in to the utility. The small size is often more appropriate than even the smallest backpack, and it's undoubtedly cooler in the summer months.

Where this piece differentiates itself and excels is the ability to also become a backpack. Like you just did, I also raised an eyebrow at this initially. Its proven quite handy.

  • Did you get a text to pick up a couple items at the grocery store on the way home? Unroll the bag, pull out the straps, and boom. Put 'em in the backpack.
  • Did your toddler leave the house wearing every item of clothing under the sun, and suddenly decide to take them all off? Boom. Put 'em in the backpack.
  • Did your partner and kid leave town, and you're on a bike/hike adventure requiring multiple sets of shoes? Put 'em in the backpack, and then size down to a hip pack for the hike.

The Expandable Hip Pack is neither the worlds best fanny pack (although its a pretty good one), nor the best backpack (the straps are unpadded, there's no chest buckle), but it's a very versatile, functional piece that's exceeded my expectations in many ways.

Available at Specialized for 120 US or at Fjällräven for 150 CAD

Specialized/Fjällräven Prevail 3

There's something about having the right tool for the job - and I freely admit I've fallen into a bit of an N+1 trap with helmets. From full-fledged DH lids, lightweight enduro full faces, all the way down to this very lightweight, very ventilated road/gravel number. It's by far and away the coolest* helmet I've ever had, which means it sees heavy rotation in the summer months. The weight and fitment also mean it's the most comfortable helmet I've ever had. As you'd expect at this price point, it's MIPS, ANGi-ready, and all the other dials and bells and whistles you'd expect.

*temperature... I'm no judge on fashion. See below.

Fjallraven-Specialized Prevail - 380 CAD


It's a bit ridiculous, and I've grown to love it.


There's lots of riding-specific details, like these little flaps with bungees to help keep your hands dry.


And tons of reflective detailing - a welcome feature around here as it gets dark around 4pm these days.

Fjällräven/Specialized Poncho

I shouldn't like this thing. I certainly didn't expect to. But I've ended up loving it. I mean, no, I'm not wearing it mountain biking. Hell, I'm not even wearing it gravel riding (although it'd be good for some folks). But for around town puttering, pedaling my three year old to daycare on the cargo bike, and just standing around in the rain, this thing is amazing. Its got all kinds of clever straps and bungees inside that help when you're riding, its got silly little flaps that go over your hands to keep them dryer, it folds up into itself like an old-school poncho my mom and dad used to have, and it has a GIANT reflective logo on the back.

Yes, I realize this thing is a bit silly, but if its in your budget and your giftee likes being warm and dry, it's honestly great. Its fashun.

Fjällräven/Specialized Poncho - 370 US

Showers Pass EcoLyte Vest Banshee Enigma NSMB Andrew Major by Meg Taylor (4)

Kali Invader 2.0. The acoustics are so great it's like wearing an open lid and it's surprisingly comfortable even on smoking hot summer slogs. Review here. Photos: Steve & Meg.

Kali DH Invader NSMB Andrew Major by Steve and Meg

Kali DH Invader. With all of the same awesome acoustics, but it runs a bit warmer and carries a DH rating. Same fit though, thankfully. Review pending.

Kali Invader 2.0 & Kali DH Invader

By: Andrew Major

For some folks, the biggest family gathering of the year is fast approaching. I don't know who needs to hear this, but if your kin don't have a firm no-politics-at-the-table policy then consider for a second that you and whoever it is you always argue with are probably both right this year. The person at the top of your government has long, long, overstayed their welcome and the most likely person to replace them is a way worse candidate.

With that settled, may I suggest a change of topic? Keeping it controversial, of course. Full face helmets, everyone should wear one. I know, I know, they aren‘t cool. Especially when combined with glasses instead of goggles.

Trail bikes, all mountain bikes, Enduro bikes, XC bikes, heck even rigid bikes are way faster than they've ever been before thanks to a combination of geometry, tires, brakes, and at least for all but the latter example, suspension. Speed is an injury amplifier and a single new tooth, never mind the discomfort of a busted face, is more expensive than every full-face helmet option on the market.

Formula Cura4 Marin El Roy Marinster Truck Andrew Major by Steve

It's been a couple of years now since I've done any mountain biking without a full-face helmet on. Even on the hottest days of summer, any discomfort is minor. Photo - Steve & Meg.

I put the Kali Invader in the title as it's the trail-worthy full face I get along with the best. I've been riding the DH-rated version lately (review pending) and while it's not quite as breathable it magically maintains the amazing acoustics of the original. I can hear all my open-lid friends just like I'm wearing a bucket. But if you have a different trail-worthy full face you love then gift that (to yourself or someone else). Once you have one it‘s hard not to wear it.

The beauty of a fixed chin bar is that it's all full-face all the time. I'll note that my friends who've donated teeth to the trail gods in the past few years have all done so on benign trails where their chin bar would have been strapped to their handlebar or hip pack. No one likes a lifetime of I-told-you-so moments, so if you gift them a trail-worthy full face, chances are they'll wear it.

Kali Invader 2.0 - 225 USD / 310 CAD
Invader DH - 260 USD / 360 CAD


Long time friend of NSMB, Obsession Bikes in North Vancouver has a great selection of parts and services.

united strangers

Once a corner store, now a great coffee shop and local goods outlet, United Strangers is a Bikes Forward establishment.

Local Shops and Businesses

ByDeniz Merdano

Well, it's couple of weeks out of opening presents and you haven't moved a finger yet. Maybe because the town is busy or you just dislike the idea of present giving on demand. Whatever the reason may be, the season is always in for supporting local businesses. Maybe it is your bike shop, or maybe it is a coffee shop. They take care of you all year long, you might as well remember them when they need you the most.

It is no secret that the retail industry is suffering deeply at the moment. The inflated prices of early covid days are gone now with the surplus inventory and the overall lack of customership, there are "Out of Business" signs everywhere you look.

Maybe a gift certificate from one of those places you pass by every now and again is a good idea for a last minute stocking stuffer. How about springing up for a little tune-up for someone at Obsession Bikes (or whatever your LBS may be), or a few coffees or local goods at United Strangers Coffee Shop (or...again...your LCS - local coffee shop).

Your local selection may vary but believe me, the longer they stick around, the better we'll all be!

DSC07100-denizmerdano ryan akta aparel

The Akta Trail Gloves impressed Ryan Walters, and Graham Driedger is a huge fan, too. That's two ringing endorsements that'll make them a great gift.

Akta Trail Gloves

By: Graham Driedger

The folks behind Akta have worked for various entities of the MTB clothing game over many years. With a sharp focus on the utmost quality alongside sustainability, Akta debuted their minimalist technical apparel line earlier this year. There aren't many apparel brands which can say their entire catalogue is Bluesign approved but Akta can - meaning an independent entity verifies that their gear is manufactured with strict safety and environmental requirements. In theory this is great, as long as your gear is good. Luckily, the Trail Gloves are positively stellar. You'll not find any knuckle panels or schnoz wipes, only a super thin glove focusing on handlebar feel with a light compression fit. Sure, there are hot days when I'd prefer to not wear gloves, but sweaty hands compromise grip, and the Aktas saved me every time. While they're not quite as breathable as gloves with vented panels at the finger webbing, though they've held up far better with double-stitched seams. They're also comfy in temps down to 5 degrees celcius or so. 

Ryan Walters reviewed these gloves last spring, but I've gladly thrown my hard-earned dough down for a couple pairs. Currently on sale for $33.50 Canuckistan dollars, these are a no-brainer for a last minute holiday gift idea, regardless of the cycling denomination you subscribe to! 

Akta Trail Glove - 33.50 CAD

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+1 Cam McRae

There are a couple good sources in the lower mainland (and rest of BC) for Wera:


KMS has similar good pricing on the set - nice find. Ultimate has some sales on other Wera stuff.



KMS tends to cycle the wera key sets on and off sale month by month, so if they aren't a deal it's worth lurking until their next sale cycle.



BC Fasteners has $13.55 Wera hex-plus Allen keys if you don't want the colour coatings on them


+1 Pete Roggeman

Wow, that's a gorgeous shirt, thanks for that one! And the framebags as well, always been bag-curious - this could be the year.

Cooper, are you going to model the field suit later next year?


+1 DanL

I'm not an on-frame storage person for mountain biking, but for drop bars its awesome. Big fan. 

I'm also not sure a romper like the field suit is for me... but how about an Adventure Vest?!



The rest of the spesh/fjallraven catalogue is going into some amazing Clem Fandango territory


+1 DanL

There's a bunch of nice, very functional stuff. Then it all goes a bit.... weird.

+3 DanL Andrew Major mudhoney

I was very disappointed Cooper didn't include photos of him wearing the poncho - I should have made that mandatory, but I didn't include photos of me in the Smartwool stuff, so...



I don't have any! Which, agreed, is a real downer.

+1 DanL

Smartwool is doing some good stuff. For awhile there (4 or 5 years ago) I thought they might have lost a step and were starting to look a bit tired, but I may have just taken my eye off the ball. The Anchor Line shirt jacket alone is killer but I'm intrigued by the Smartloft. And I have a jersey I'm due to write up that got lost in some other gear when I went away this summer. I found it again and am going to write it up for spring - it's a long-sleeved thin wool blend jersey that kicks ass. Hoping they keep kicking out some great stuff - for MTB and not.



I've got something similar from IceBreaker and the combo of thin sleeves and some light loft on the front makes for an excellent mid layer or full outer


+1 Pete Roggeman

Thanks for explaining the links Pete. The story goes: I started removing pivot hardware to replace pivot bearings, got to the final bolt for the main pivot which has T20 and T25 on opposite sides. The rest of the pivots were all T20’s, single side. I had a T20 socket bit, but no others. My only set of solid torx keys were in the car that was 700 km away with my wife visiting relatives.  I had a tamper proof set of torx keys (can’t remember why), chose the T25, went to loosen the bolt and sheared the end of the key off; it was jammed into the bolt. Took me half an hour to pick and pry it out Ipro tip - wear safety goggles). Went to the store and bought another set of solid torx keys and a set of solid torx socket bits.



The Wera hex keys have a little bit different head design than most, giving a bit more grip IMO.

Great call on last minute gifting!

+3 Alex_L Skooks Kos

There's also a 'keeper' option with a small ball bearing in the ball head of each one. That version is more expensive and not everyone loves it, but for some it's really useful.

They do grip better than inferior Allen keys, though, and there are times when I use them on rounded bolt heads and they make quick work of it. If I had to toss all but one set of tools, the Weras are the ones I'd keep.



The CAD link for Wera torx keys is for Tamper-Proof Torx Screws. Not recommended for bike use, imho, but ymmv. Ask me how I know.

The US link goes to (not .com) but has the Wera torx keys for non-tamperproof screws.


Thanks, Daniel. I fixed the CA link to not point to tamper-proof, but only because I want to hear your story! I wasn't aware that could be an issue, so let's hear it.

If you're logging on from Canada, amazon links will always point to a .ca hosted product (it's the way we have the system set up). I could just post a single link and it'll appropriately send Canadian, American, and at least British readers to the right marketplace, but in this case I put in separate links because the pricing and sales were different.


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