I'd like to present WWVB's First Annual Christmas Gift List for Bicyclists. I urge you to eschew the web, shun the big-box retailers, and Support Your Local Bike Shop.
Supporting your Local Bike Shop (aka LBS) is in the Spirit of Christmas, and if your cyclist decides to return/exchange your gift it'll give them a reason to visit their shop. Every bicyclist likes to have a reason to visit their LBS. I certainly enjoy visiting my LBS.
Bicycles generally don't come with bells anymore, but they are required by law. They're not sexy-cool but they are very practical. They're used to get the attention of a pedestrian or another cyclist, generally to convey the message "Hey I'm over here, don't get me killed n'at". Bells are more civilized than air horns or electric buzzers. A bike bell is a universal signal; people get bells much more than they understand secret insider phrases like "on your left". A basic black bell is always a safe bet.
New Water Bottles
Every bicyclist uses them, even the riders who have CamelBacks. The best water bottles to get are ones depicting the logo of their LBS. It's a tribal thing.
There is an interesting new product that meets the "better mousetrap" criteria: the Clean Bottle. The Clean Bottle opens at both ends, resulting in less nano-nasty in your drinking water.
There is one exception to the LBS Bottle / Clean Bottle prescription for bicyclists that suffer from OCP (Obsessive Compulsive Poseur) Syndrome. You'll be able to recognize OCP Syndrome if the rider's helmet, shoes, clothing, and bike all "match". They'll often choose a Gatorade flavor based on which colo
CO2 Tire Inflator
Flat tires are inevitable, what with two tires on every bicycle. Your cyclist probably already has a pump, a tube and/or a patch kit. If you give them a CO2 tire inflator, they will gratefully think of you whenever they get a flat, or even think about getting a flat tire. It's akin to giving a driver a AAA membership.
I suggest that you want a minimalist inflator that works with both Presta and Schrader tire valves. Again, buy it at the Local Bike Shop. Note whether the inflator uses threaded or unthreaded cartridges, and pick up a few spare cartridges to include with the gift.
The term bento comes to us from Japan, signifying a small lunch box. In bicycling, a bento bag is a small bag that mounts above the top tube that keeps power bars or snacks accessible to the rider. I usually keep a few Fig Newtons and a few Starbucks honey packets in mine.
Pack of Power Bars
This is a gift you can only give effectively if you know the rider's preference. Generally, people like one or two flavors/brands, and the remainder are anathema to them. (You never want to give anathema as a gift) Banana Malt Flavor? Cookies and Cream? Clif Bar? Guessing is not good.
"Effective Cycling" by John Forester
This book discusses the physics of riding, the various causes of accidents, the nature of bicycle gearing, and the science of lighting and night bicycling. If your bicyclist thinks that OEM reflectors are sufficient to keep them safe at night, get them this book.
Forester advocates a philosophy of Vehicular Cycling (VC), which holds that bicycles are vehicles that belong on the road and in traffic. I own several copies, and usually most of them are loaned out. This is a gift you're not likely to find in your Local Bike Shop.
Uncertain? Fancy jersey? New tires? Spring tuneup? If you're not sure what to get your cyclist, but you want to give a gift that shows you grok them, consider the LBS-GC (Local Bike Shop Gift Card). It supports the cyclist, they get to choose what they want most, and - once again - it gives them a reason to visit their LBS, which is always a good thing to do.
If your bicyclist doesn't have a relationship with an LBS (perhaps they bought a bike at Sears.com), then a LBS gift certificate is a great gift and a great way to get them in the door.
Finally, if the bicyclist in your life is named Alberto Contador, you might consider getting them a membership in the Exotic Meat of the Month club. (via bikesnobnyc)
We Cannot Recommend: BICYCLING Magazine
You may be tempted to give a subscription as a gift. Don't do it. Friends don't give friends subscriptions to Bicycling magazine. There are only 14 actual issues of this magazine, and they just present them in a different sequence with updated photos every year.