The 2009 Christmas Wishlist

For each of the past three years (2005, 2006, 2007) I’ve posted a list of Christmas gift ideas you can use to either help you shop for other cyclists in your gift-giving circle, or to forward around, in the hopes you might get something you like.

I just reviewed these lists and am happy to confirm that they’re top-notch. You can and should still use them.

For this year’s list, then, I’d like to get a little more thematic.

Basically, for Christmas this year I want two things:

  1. To have the means to learn to start doing some basic bike maintenance.
  2. To fight cancer.

And since I (rightly, I’m sure) assume that each of you is exactly like me, I will now expand on these two “wants,” and then you can forward them to friends, families, and coworkers with the subject line “hint hint” as you like.

1. I Want To Become Less Clueless About Maintaining My Bike

I intended to start this section by saying it’s ironic that I’ve been cycling for fifteen years and yet have not yet learned to do even basic bike maintenance. Except if you know me, you’d realize that it’s not ironic at all.

Why? Because I don’t do even basic anything maintenance. I don’t mend the fence. I beg neighbors to assist me in draining the sprinkler system each fall. I buy Hondas so I don’t ever have to worry about fixing the car.

So why do I suddenly want to start fixing my bike? I don’t. I just want to be able to do some basic maintenance — the equivalent of putting gas in the car’s tank. I want to be able to properly degrease a chain. I want to be able to adjust a derailleur. I want to be able to adjust the brakes so they don’t squeal. I want to change my single speed cog. And maybe — I know this is pushing it — I’d like to be able to swap out the brake pads.

Why? Because my two favorite bike shops — Racer’s Cycle Service and SLC Bicycle Company — are each about a 45 minute drive from my house. (Yeah, there are several closer shops, but they either don’t know me or don’t like me at those shops.) It’d be nice if I could take care of a few things myself.

And that means I’m going to need some stuff. Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • A bike stand: As a home mechanic, I’m going to want a more sophisticated way to keep my bike upright than my current technique, which is to lean my bike up against my car. I’ve been looking around and am tempted to get a wall-mounted bike stand. I am, however, interested in counter-arguments and recommendations.
  • Some bike tools: Really, all I want is the right tools to do the basics that I mentioned above: clean a chain, make adjustments to derailleurs and brakes, and maybe — when I’m feeling ambitious — swap forks. The problem is, though, I have no idea what tools I need for all this. Is there a pre-fab toolkit I should buy? Or should I get the parts piecemeal? Also, should I buy a tool apron, to make me look dapper?
  • Lessons: I know, I know, I should just buy a Lennard Zinn book, but I’ve bought DIY books before, and they just make me sweat and panic. I need to hire Racer to just teach me how to do the stuff I want to do. I’d hire Brad, but I’ve noticed that his bikes break more than anyone else’s, which isn’t all that confidence-inspiring. Is anyone aware of bike maintenance classes? If there isn’t such a thing out there, why not?

2. I Want to Fight Cancer

OK, the truth is I don’t even really care very much about whether I get the stuff I need to start doing some DIY bike maintenance. In fact, come to think of it, I think it might be best if I don’t get that kind of stuff, because I know it’s just going to sit in a corner, unused. And then when I go to the shop to get my bikes worked on like I always have I’ll just feel even lamer about my lameness.

And — trust me — while it sucks to feel lame about not knowing anything at all about bike maintenance, it sucks even more to feel lame about your lameness because you have everything you need to fix your bike…but you don’t.

So, instead, what I want to do is fight cancer for Christmas. Here’s the letter I’m sending out to friends and family — anyone who might conceivably be buying me a present, and many who would never buy me a present, but I think I can shake down, anyway:

Dear [person’s name here],

I know you’ve been lying awake at night, wondering what you ought to buy me for Christmas. I imagine that your train of thought goes like this: “What should I get Elden for Christmas? Something really unique? Something really functional? Something really expensive? Something all three?

And while I would normally be glad to encourage and facilitate that line of thinking, this year I’d like to ask you for one very specific thing instead:

Help me fight cancer for Christmas.

See, I’ve signed up to raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, because I’ve seen firsthand what good work they do. And frankly, I can’t think of any cool toy in the world that I’d rather have than help someone who has cancer, or help someone who’s working on a cure for cancer.

So if you want to give me a Christmas present this year, here’s what you do.

1. Go to this website:

2. Donate as much as you would normally spend on a present for me.

I’ve seen too much cancer in my family — my sister’s had it, my grandma’s had it, my dad’s had it, my stepfather’s had it, my stepmother’s had it, and my wife has it. I can’t think of another fight that is this personal, or this important.

So, if you want to get me a present for Christmas, help me fight cancer, and know that I’ll regard it as the best present you’ve ever given me.



PS for Team Fatty Members: Feel free to use a variation of this letter yourself.

PPS: As of today, Team Fatty has raised more than $50,000, and have 312 team members. Thanks to everyone who has helped Team Fatty — especially Shimano, Masi Bicycles and Twin Six — with a great start!

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