PORCUPINE PINE-TARRIEST SOAP
Twenty-percent Scandinavian pine tar. I think it’s from Finland, but at the least, Sweden ( apologies to Swedes—I’m just commenting on rareness.)The pine tar soap you’ll go to eventually, if you like pine tar soap at all. Pungent Quotient: 8. Two 1/4lb bars for $13.
GRANDPA’S PINE TAR SOAP
the one we’ve sold more than 24,000 bars of. It used to be piney, then something changed and it got a little weird. We complained, even send them a chunk of Porcupine Tar as an example, and now it’s back to where it was before, but still not as piney as Porcupine. A good “starter” pine-tar soap, and the one my (Grant’s) wife still prefers. Pungent Quotient: 5
LORD OLIVIER’S LIQUORICE SOAP—available Dec 5
It takes 5 weeks to Made just for us by Megan in Portland. Laurence Olivier used to be Larry, then Laurence, then Sir Laurence, and then damn, on a roll, he later became the honorary Lord Olivier. We like to think he’d have liked the soap. Pungent, delicious licorice (derived from anise) flavored. In England it’s spelled liquorice and pronounced “liquor ice,” because in the old days when iceboxes and licorice were common but clean water was rare, they’d actually freeze chunks of licorice to use in certain alcoholic beverages. You get a 5oz bar, big by any standards and gigantic by hotel standards. Pungent Quotient: 9.
GOAT MILK + WALNUT SHELL HAND SOAP
It will shred your face, but it’s the best grease-cutting handsoap out there. It looks like a big chunk of brown, and doesn’t suds up like soap. In fact, it’s nearly suds-free, which is weird for soap of any kind. If your hands often get gunked up with pine sap or go gray with grease, get this. I/Grant suspect it works by cutting through the top layer of skin. Walnut shells go way back as a cleaner, by the way. Ask your grandparents, they’ll tell you. Pungent Quotient: 5
MUSGO REAL Portuguese shaving cream
You can’t get it at Target and only about one in every 5,000 shavers have even heard of it, but if you shave with a brush you ought to try this—it has the No. 1 smell in the entire world of men’s toiletries. A toothpaste-cap sized blob of it lathered up with a brush gets as big as Santa Claus’s beard. When you’re finished shaving, you’ll want to save the remainder, like your grandfather did. Pugent Quotient: 3.5.
TWO T-SHIRTS, SEVERAL HATS, AND WINTER-STYLE GLOVES
RIVENDELL POCKET T
Will’s favorite T, the Gildan Pocket-T, short-sleeved, all cotton, with our round logo on the pocket and a salmon on the back. Navy with cream ink.
WORK HARD / BE NICE T-SHIRT
We’ve had stickers and patches with this, so T-shirts were the next logical step. It’s not our original slogan, we just like it. Same “Will’s Favorite” T-shirt. Comes with a Work Hard / Be Nice sticker and Patch.
RBW BALL CAP
Organic cotton, adjustable, made in USA, and embroidered. Olive with goldish logo.
All wool, smooth and thin, made in Nova Scotia, fits under a hat or helmet, good sleeper, ideal base for your head-warming layering system if you’ve got one. Not to be used by itself for walking around Saint Paul or Buffalo in January. Wads up to the size of a corn-nut, packs away anywhere, super useful. Everybody needs this for something—a light wool beanie, a base later to turbo-charge a thicker one, a sleep cap.
Note about the following woolish things: Longtime customers know we’re all for the wiping out of Australian possums from New Zealand, and have heard this tale before, but here it is again for the benefit of ye who ain’t: Australia and New Zealand are both islands, but they were formed differently. Australia broke off from a bigger mass of land that already had mammals. NZ is a volcanic island, like Hawaii, made by volcanoes and was never had any mammals, so its animals evolved without ways to escape from them. Like, NZ birds nest on the ground and don’t fly—that sort of thing. The plants and animals native to NZ depend on one another and neither is able to fend off mammals.
But then some fur traders imported Australian possums (cuter than ours) to NZ to develop a fur business, and, with no natural predators and an apetite for edible NZ, all hell broke loose. The possums eat 20 tons of native vegetation per NIGHT, and the NZ gov’t is freaking out, so it encourages NZ business to use possum fur, as a way to incentivize killing them, as a way to save NZ’s native plants and wildlife.
Possibly slightly aimed at women. I’m getting one. Midweight possum wool, merino, and silk. It’s got these little things across the lower part, in four layers. I sincerely believe that we’re the only source for these in the country, if not the world. MINT or BLACK or PINK.
NEW ZEALAND NECK TUBE
Holiday season perennials here. A blend of Australian possum and Merino wool. Works as a topless hat/ear warmer. In the cold winter days inside here, many of us wear two at a time. Think of it as a scarf that doesn’t dangle.
All cotton, 22” x 24”, made in USA, the best bandanas in the world. It takes five washings to rid them of their starchy stiffness, which the maker puts in them so they’ll be stiff enough to print. Classic Red, Classic Navy, In-the-Family Dark Green, and Fancy Rodeo. Good wind-sun protection, and for noses (blowing, wiping), and for sopping up blood after crashes until professional help arrives. I wear one in combo with a bike hat on hot, sweaty rides, so sweat never drips in my eyes or onto the lenses of my shades. Soak them and tie around your neck on hot rides. I’ve used them as tie-downs, toilet paper (then bury), and hand-wipes. Crossing my fingers, but so far I’ve not used any for the catching of expectorated sputum. You should have at least 10 bandanas at home, and two on every bike ride that last longer than an hour. You cannot own too many bandanas. Nobody here is saying a bandana or even a wad of them is either a generous or particularly thoughtful gift, but you know how the toe of a Christmas stocking is hard to fill with hard-shaped things? Bandanas stuff in there snugly like there’s no tomorrow. Better than, and always more welcome than mere empty air.
WOOLY DOT PLAIN BUT FANTASTIC AMERICAN GLOVES
About 85 percent wool, 15 percent nylon, and now and then a little racoon fur sneaks in (not making that up). These are all you need for temps down to the mid-40s, but at least that’s Fahrenheit. If you want them fingertip-less for shooting arrows or photographs or texting, simply nip off the fingers at the length you like. They won’t fray and you can still wash them. Magically, these gloves fit most hands, but if you have short fingers or just super dainty hands, we recommend you have them altered locally. Customized to your hands! Let us know how that works, OK?
These are a surprising clash of design intent and function. They’re thin, which suggests they’ll wear out fast. They’re 100 percent wool and thin, which seems to guarantee it. The wool is lambswool, which further suggests fragility, and it’s merino wool, the fragile-est of all wools. So much going against them!
They’re not fuzzy, tho, so there’s no fur to catch or snag, so they wear really well. If you actually wear dress socks for a living, these will be your favorite. If you’re more Paul Bunyan and thought you’d never wear dress socks, but you want a featherweighter that’s all wool and decently durable, these are them. The most bland gift suggestion we’ll ever make. Put them in a stocking instead of diabetes-inducing candy.
ONE WOOL TOPS and ONE KIND OF UNDIES
AUSTRALIAN wool long-sleeved T.
Midweight interlock (smooth, stretchy) 100 percent merino wool. We’ve sold these for about 18 years, stopping only when there was an international business crisis that prevented their acquisition. There have been two of those. An old owner was bought out, kicked out, now’s back and in charge again. This long-sleeved T is totally wearable in any temperature below 68-degrees. As a base layer or top layer, it’s always useful. It doesn’t stink, it machine washes great, there’s barely any shrinkage. Still, don’t dry it. It’ll dry overnight. Own two. That’s what your grandfather’d do.
Fit: I think they’re cut too skinny. I wear a large shirt, but I like a 2x or XL in these.
Care: We have special wool soap: Kookabura, but just wash them on warm with whatever poison soap you run your grosses sox through, and it won’t hurt this.
The same 100 percent merino wool. In a pinch you can wear them five days a week without washing them — just invert every other day. They wear well. A little thick for hot weather, but mostly fine. As with the tops, I like to size them UP one or two, but you’re on your own there. A 30-inch waist, if there are any of those around, can wear a small. But what’s the harm of buying huge? They won’t fall down. They’ll still be tighter in the legs than pure boxers. Do what you want, but there’s no returning underwear. Most people buy the size they think they fit, and they do. I still say, go up a size. A little swing and dangle won’t hurt you. As your granddad—he’ll tell you.
FIVE SACKVILLE (our brand) BIKE SACKS…simple, easy to use designs made in Connecticut with the best fabric and stitching.
Put it on the handlebar, saddle, or outside a basket—a true and genuine triple threat! The minimal bag any bike ought to have is one of these. Fanatically detailed, miminally featured, so easy to use.
Our smallest rectangularly shaped saddlebag, deeper than the old Saddlesack Small, but with the same other dimensions, and now with D-rings for a separate kangaroo pouch to hold keys, wallet, knifes, phone (cell-type), and tools. Big enough for light shopping and long, foul-weather day trips.
The best large-capacity saddlebag for big bikes with at least 11 inches between the saddlebag loops and tire. If you’ve got a rack or fenders, you can go with 10 or so inches. Basically, if you’re a tall guy with any bike or a medium guy with a too-small 26-inch wheel mountain bike, this is the best big-capacity rear bike bag we got.
HAPPISACK MIGHT NOT COME IN TIME
Brand new model based on the SaddleSack Medium. It’s not an improvement (the Medium is unimprovable), and the differences are tiny: The original Medium has two flap-straps and no end-of-flap dowel, and comes with a kangaroo pocket, and costs more…and by the time you read this, will be no longer available. But no biggie, because the dowel+single flap strap closure on the Happisack pulls evenly all the way across, so you don’t need the second strap; and it comes compatible with, but not actually with, a Sackville Kangaroo pouch, which you now have to buy separately, but guess what? You don’t pay for it, so with the money you saved you can buy it separately, and even in a different color, for that Scottish patchwork look.
Three sizes, M and L and CLEM to fit the M and L and CLEM baskets. All big, all zippered with handles and a separate zippered pocket inside for etcs. You can tie or zip-tie or mini-biner them to a basket, or trust that they’ll stay in (which they will on roads), or use them with the thick blue nets we have. If you have a basket and shop or commute, this is the bag you need.
THE BOOK OF NONSENSE
Edward Lear’s magnum opus from 1848 is still a book no child should be without. Cover to cover insane stories and limericks that, taken as a whole or read one at a time, prove Lear’s genius. For an early reader, there isn’t a better book. This is an Everyman’s Library Edition, printed in Germany with a hard, gold-gilt, cloth-bound cover, using archival quality paper (library-stitched for decades of durability), and finished with a stitched in satin bookmark. Contents aside, this will be the best-made book in the house, a lifetime keepsake.
THE SONG OF HIAWATHA
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a contemporary of Edward Learn but probably neither enemy nor bosom buddy of his, came out with this book within a couple of years of Lear’s, and these days we’d say it was for a totally different audience. Adults read it, but back then all all thru the 1960s a lot of kids did, too. It’s notable not just for its 8-syllable lines and the tale of Hiawatha’s life that it tells so fascinatingly, but also because it came out at a time when white men were eradicating Indians/Native Americans as fast as possible, and then here comes Longfellow with his pro-Indian epic poem that, for the first time ever in America, portrayed the Native Americans as soulfull, emotional, sentient humans just like white man; and that didn’t sit well with the majority who preferred to think of them as heathen savages.
It raised a ruckus, but Longfellow stuck to his guns, and fortunately, even in his lifetime, this book was finally well-received. It didn’t save the Indian, though. This is a beautiful book-length poem that is a million times easier to understand than even the easiest of Shakespeare’s sonnets.
Well, I wrote it and so what do you expect, but the thing is, it’s still really good. I don’t think I’d change a word in it. It’s a good book that’ll help unRace you, help you see the glory in the practical, fun, non-competive, mellow wonderful, useful, everyday & lifelong side of bikes and riding.
EAT BACON, DON’T JOG
My contribution to the low-carb fad, which is actually one of the best things to come down the food pike in a century. There are lots of books on it. EBDJ explains all you need to know in short, direct sections you can read in two to four minutes each. It has helped dozens of our customers lose 30+ lbs easily, and probably hundreds or maybe even a thousand others that I haven’t heard from. Kind of an aggressive gift, I gotta say, and not the one you want to give for an extended family gift-opening party.
THE ULTIMATE BIKE OWNERS MANUAL
Eben Weiss wrote this (and three other bike books) better and easier and faster than anything I’ve written, and this is the book I had outlined and stopped working on as soon as it came out, because it’s better than I’d have done. It’s SO DAMN GOOD that we give a copy away with every bike you buy here, which means, I’m sure, that we buy more of them than any other non-Amazonian bookseller. If you DON’T have it, you should. We’re not going to give you a free one for past bikes. Just buy one...excellent book!
Ann Patchet’s most famous novel, soon to be a movie or Broadway play, something like that. Ours are hardcover and signed by Ann herself, and we’re selling them shamefully cheap because I overbought when we had Bike Book & Hatchet. Ann came by and signed a bunch. We sold a lot of them, but not as many as I bought. So: $15
Oh—it’s a beautiful book, a great story involving terrorism and opera. This is the book that made me buy a bunch of opera music.
FAT TIRE FLYER
Charlie Kelley’s perfect history of the mountain bike, but it’s more than that. It’s well written, has good stories on every page, tons of neat photos, and facts that. If you have fun on tires bigger than 35mm, you can attribute that to the work that Charlie and a handful of other contributed in the mid ’70s. This book should cost $50—with all the photos, the hard cover, the paper weight and all—but it’s just $35. Is that a lot for a book? No! It’s super cheap per hour of education and entertainment. Seriously, get this book for somebody.
Made in Portland for now, at least. It’s basically a plasticoated steel-kevlar sandwich combination lock zip-tie, and we’re impressed with its toughness and cleverness, easy of use, weight, all-around near perfection for low-risk bike locking. If you park your bike publicly and in places without scoundrels, hoodwinkers, and thieves, this is ideal. Easy to use, lighter than helium. Just 3.5 oz for the 30-inch size. Whatever lock you have now, you also need this one. Combination lock.
SMALLEST TOUGHY (ABUS BORDO Mini)
Made in Germany by the inventor or most lock styles, including U-locks and those short-shackle jobs you see on people’s storage lockers. It folds to fist-sized, about, and weighs 23oz/1.4lbs. Combination lock.
The best by far way to keep your feet and shoes dry. Why they haven’t been copied is beyond me. I expected it decades ago. They’re basically a strap-down umbrella for your shoes. On and off in a flash, work with all shoes in the world, keeps the sole free and useful. Too cool to wear FootSplats? Well, then, OK, be a prideful sad sack and let thine shoes get soggy.
GRUNDENS (BRAND) SOUWESTER
The best rain hat in the world. Grundens is an old Swedish raingear maker/specialist/tacticianist firm. They make these in Portugal, the fishing capital of the old world. These are the hats their grandfathers wore, and maybe yours, too. Yellow. Get one of these bad boys, and your head will be rain-set for life. Ask your Portuguese or Swedish friends—they’ll tell you.
GRUNDENS (made 4 rivendell) Bike Poncho
Listen, I’m just going to lay it out there kind of loosely and hope it doesn’t come off wrong. First, you’re either a poncho fan or not. If you’ve never tried one but like the idea, you’re likely a fan, we can call you a fan, put you in the Poncho Fan box for now. OTOH, if you look at them and snicker and worry about how they’ll slow you down or make you look unathletic, I don’t want anything I say pro-poncho coming up to sway you. Dig in your heels, you’ll never dig it, won’t wear it, and your owning it will prevent somebody who wants one from EVER getting one, because these are the last of them forever, period.
Here’s why I like mine and how I use it—and then why this Grundens one beats any other I’ve used (three other brands).
A poncho functions like a body and upper leg umbrella without the stiffeners, and the stiffening is your arms. They open up the poncho and get it off your body, so when the rain hits, it hits the poncho and not you. I find that a far less dreary feeling than getting pelted by rain bullets, as it works with a rainjacket. Rain jackets are the best for some things, even MOST things, but for a bike ride across town, I’d much rather wear a poncho.
A poncho always fits over your clothes, and a rain jacket doesn’t tolerate bulk beneath it as well. A poncho ventilates much better, so you don’t get as hot, and you can flip it up for a second or two during a dry bit and evacuated whatever humid air has accumulated beneath it.
Ponchos go on and off faster than sleeved-things. They cover down to the tops of your shins. Even mid-shins. WAY more than a jacket covers. Many years ago we had “shin shields” made that covered ankles to lower knee, but people thought they were too weird, so it took four years to sell them. I still like mine. Splats go below them, and you’re fully covered except the hat, but a Grundens Souwester or any other hat or helmet will do your head.
The warm yellow Grundens poncho is super visible anywhere, and makes you look friendly, even if goofy. Goofy-friendly. It’s not a look everybody can deal with, but there’s no way around it with a poncho.
I’ve used 3 brands of bike ponchos over the years, and I like the Grundens the most. It’s not featherweight, and doesn’t pack well, but the weight keeps it from being too flappy in the wind. You can wad it up and pack it if you like, but if you’re just going short, no need, and if you can hang it up when you get there, it’ll be ready when you leave, and will have drained off tons of droplets.
Grundens won’t make these anymore. Grundens rainwear is the best, maybe in the world, and these are special, and we bought what we thought was the last of them last year, and sold them all fast for $65 or so—which was less than our old cost. Now they tell us they found fifty more, all Larges, but the price isn’t as low as last year’s ponchos, but we can still sell them for $70. A lot of money for a goofy garment, but it’s really good for rainy short trips, or sitting around in the rain waiting for somebody.
TITANIUM CAMPY STUFF, by Snow Peak, and made in Japan
Snow Peak is a Japanese maker of fancy-Dan camping gear, for car camping or hike/bike camping. They’re all over the map, but everything they have seems to be special, and is often the best of its kind, and so it is with the Snow Peak stuff we have. Unfortunately, you can get it at REI and Amazon and everywhere else, and some of those place may buy it by the thousands and snake a better price, or just use it as a loss leader to get you to buy it so they have your contact information. But we buy it for X and sell it for MSRP, and every piece in our collection is likely to last you 50 years, so does it really matter if the bowl or spork or plate costs $3 more?
It’s a Redwing Stoneware mug, from Redwing, MN. They’ve made mugs for a million years, and Midwestern ladies in the ‘50s collected them like they were going out of style. Some still do. Jenny here picked the style for us, and insisted on the flat-topped handle with the extra diving board for you thumb, so it won’t slip. Genius! My oldest daughter did the art when she was a mere 23, although it may look as though she did it when she was nine (she was good at nine). A stout mug, and it holds 12oz of water-weight beverage. We have only 50 of them, and we have never not sold out. They take forever to get.
Let the SOBs pick out their own stuff! The “unimaginative but always appreciated sure-bet.” Ask your grandparents; they’ll tell you.