Ya, I know, it’s early… Holiday shopping has no business beginning until at least the majority of the thanksgiving turkey has been consumed, a good sleep had, and a full leisurely breakfast and maybe lunch enjoyed too. Then we should go forth unto the corridors of retail commerce… And maybe browse a bit. But in the latest front in the race to the bottom, the retailers are doing there best to extend the holiday shopping season back to at least valentine’s day, and lest some truly stupid and magnificently useless gifts be bought in the next weeks by and for gearheads, I’d best crank this years gearhead’s gift guide out. And fear not, the annual gearhead turkey roast will be coming next week, assuming I can find an oven big enough to roast GM’s latest supersized pickups… I’ve been shopping the Hostess surplus auctions and still haven’t found anything big enough!

The golden rule of gearhead gift gathering is “gift to others as you would gift to yourself”. Now this doesn’t mean you should rush out to buy your SO or other close relative a small machine shop in the expectation that they’ll frequently invite you over to demonstrate it’s use. It means you should give the kind of quality you’d want for yourself. There’s a reason for such fussiness… For example, tools are used to move hard metal parts, and thus have to be made of at least tough a materials. Tough metalurgy and dimensional accuracy are not qualities found in “tools” made in third world elementary schools/factories… Thus you want gifts made in a democracy and preferably guaranteed for life.

Ok, lets set off on our gearhead’s shopping spree… Our first acquisition is often free, and free is good. No matter what kind of wheeled or even unwheeled stuff you own, there seems to be an online support group. For example, one of the best is http://www.airheads.org , a community of owners of the old BMW “airhead” motorcycles. For a modest annual membership fee you can join and receive their excellent monthly magazine, and for free you can read through the knowledge base at the website and join the e-mail list, which is a cornucopia of everything from tech advice from the gurus to buying advice to social gathering site. Another great example of an online support community is http://www.tdiclub. com , where VW diesel cars are discussed at length. Again, quality is important, so avoid the sites overrun with ads or off topic teabagger trolls. Just saunter over to the giftee’s computer and set a bookmark for the relevant online communities.

But sometimes, you just gotta have hard copy…

ImageBack in the bad ol’ days some of the guys (usually the older managers) would, dumbfounded by my miniscule tech knowledge, ask me “How do you know that”. Well, I read the manual, which those “know it alls” generally hadn’t. I shouldn’t let such gearhead secrets out, but service manuals are just cookbooks for heavy metal concoctions… Follow the instructions and most likely even a newbie can fix pretty complicated stuff. On the left we’ve got the Hayne’s manual for the BMW F series twins, around $30 IIRC. Then VW’s factory manual, about $100 ‘cept when it’s on sale, and sadly not available for newer than 2010 models. Next up is a labor of love by some very dedicated Moto Guzzi technicians, spiral bound but worth every cent of it’s $60 or so price. On the far right we’ve got a well used Hayne’s manual for the BMW airhead, Hayne’s manuals are written from the DIYers point of view and the only better value is free. And speaking of free, I’ve also got a service manual for my Guzzi Quota and a bunch of guides to airhead repair on a thumb drive and a BMW F800 manual on CD, but had to pay for that one. And the background is my brothers Yamaha XS650, unridden since the 80s, and I should buy him a manual for it… Not that I mind it gracing my living room.But sometimes, you gotta repair the rider…Image

‘Taint no ordinary bike, that’s an American made folding Bike Friday. Easy to mount even for stiff old folks like me, and fits most any trunk or rack. And all this goodness will get you riding a whole lot more, and they’re custom built and start at less than a thousand at http://www.bikefriday.com .

But even bicyclists who’ve sworn off internal combustion need tools, and for around $100 Costco will get you off to a good start with the made in America Craftsman set I wrote about a couple posts back. BTW, if your looking for American made Craftsman tools you’ll much more likely to find them at Costco than the “mother ship”, Sears. Amazing how stupid Sears is getting by substituting Chinese tools for the American made brand they took near a century to build, while even bottomfeeder big box Menard’s is carrying some American made tools. There’s some other good deals in tools at Costco too- I drooled over the Danmar portable twin post hoist they’ve marked down to $2000, but the post’s 300 pound weight didn’t sound that portable and my 8′ tall garage would stunt their usefulness anyways. So I bought their $100 low clearance/high lift jack instead… Rodger, it’s the one I showed you when we made the “Costco run” for tech weekend supplies.

Kinda cold ridin’ this time o’ year, dark too…

ImageThanks to Aerostitch, you can be seen in the dark by the blind, and warm and comfy too. Even if you’ve just gotten your new custom made leathers after waiting for years, surf on over to http://www.aerostitch.com and check out their cornucopia of stuff. A whole selection of motorcycling togs, camping gear, tools, and enough books to build a small library too. And versatile enough to work just as well behind a dogsled team as on a bike… What’s not to like! And to give you an excuse to visit Duluth, the San Francisco of the north, you get 10% off for shopping at their very much brick ‘n’ mortar store!

So I’ll leave you with this incomplete shopping list, but you get the general gist: Give quality, give versatility, and gift as much as you can afford!

Oooops, forgot the “big ticket” item…


Ya, I know it should be crimsom red like in the ads Mercedes and such run this time of year. But unlike that pricey Daimler product, this one could actually save you some $$$… If you live in a moderate climate a sidecar can haul lawnmowers, kids, SO’s, a cartload from Costco, etc. year round, and you might be able to go “carless”. And sure as hell beats a rental Prius for parades!