Gift Guide: These holiday helpers make it easier to drive, ride and wrench

Busy hands and minds are always hard at work trying to figure out more convenient or comfortable ways to drive, ride or wrench your way around the garage.

This year yielded a bumper crop of new products. Some of them made my list of cool newcomers. Depending on the size of your stocking, you might think of including these on your wish list for the holidays.

Entrepreneur Kevin Murray says his company, Velomacchi, builds high-quality motorcycle gear designed to withstand high speeds and harsh weather. The Speedway knapsack is the perfect size and shape for motorcycling commuting or weekends away. It’s rainproof, windproof and reportedly crash-proof — though I hope never to test that part. Ergonomically ingenious and fitted with a snap-in clasp that holds it snug, the roll-top 28-liter sack can be ordered with a variety of tie-down straps and internal storage sleeves. The bag isn’t cheap, but it might be the last moto knapsack you’ll ever buy. MSRP: $269 at Velomacchi.

I’ll freely admit what my riding friends already know: I hate washing my bike, and often let fall arrive with summer’s mud still baked onto the fenders. So it was with some anxiety that I tested the new Motorcycle Total Wash product from the lubricant geniuses at WD-40. What if it worked? Then I’d have no excuse for riding dirty. Well, it did work. The recipe of spray on, wait and rinse off removed a ton of grime from my dual sport machine, without requiring any elbow grease from me. The dreaded task was over in no time. The bike looks good. A follow-up application of WD-40’s related Motorcycle Total Shine product should keep it that way. MSRP: $12.99 for Total Wash and $11.99 for Total Shine at Autozone.

One of the many challenges of being my own mechanic is my poor eyesight. On my knees, crouching in a dark garage, trying to fit small wrenches onto hidden nuts, I am often frustrated by my total inability to see what I’m doing. So I was glad to meet up with this pod light, which has a magnetic base that can attach to anything metal and a swiveling eye that can be pointed anywhere. Now, if I can just find a way to correct my poor judgment and general lack of knowledge... MSRP: $19.99 at Mychanic.

The battery is the Achilles heel of almost every motorized vehicle. No matter how sophisticated the engine, chassis, design or technology, a dead battery will turn the most marvelous machine into a boat anchor. Engineers at Weego propose a simple solution: a lightweight portable battery charger that carries enough juice to jump start a car or motorcycle on the spot. The Weego Jump Starter 22 model I have used weighs less than a pound, and requires under three hours to fully charge. The manufacturer claims it will hold that charge for a year between uses and is good for 1,000 starts. It’ll even fire up your cellphone. MSRP: From $79.99 at Weego.

I live near downtown Los Angeles, high on a hill, where there’s always a delightful breeze blowing. And on that breeze, it seems, is a lot of crud. When my cars are on the street or in the driveway, uncovered, they get dirty in an astonishingly short period of time. So I was happy to find that this new one-step auto wax product is so quick and effective. It goes on easily, wipes off quickly and polishes up smartly. Afterward, fresh grime doesn’t seem to stick quite so badly, and comes off with a wave of the garden hose. It doesn’t make my rod run any better, but it sure does shine. MSRP: about $17.99 from online and auto parts stores

I’ve used Tourmaster riding gear for years, but I was dismayed when the company made some “improvements” to a jacket that I really admired for its versatility. The old garment had removable liners that made it warm and/or waterproof in cold or wet weather, but was lightweight and so well vented that it could be worn all summer long; the new one had lost some of the venting. Now Tourmaster has reinvented that all-season jacket with the new Pivot Touring. Like its predecessors, it has built-in crash protection, zip-in liners to protect against the cold and wet, and a tuck-away hood that can be worn under the helmet during a downpour. But importantly, Tourmaster has brought back and improved upon the removable front panels I admired on earlier jackets, in the form of a “zip and roll” chest intake system that allows air into the front of the jacket and out through “exhaust vents” in the rear. Available in men’s and women’s sizes, and several color combinations, the Pivot Touring has a $249 MSRP from Tourmaster.

On the topic of rider comfort in Southern California, keeping cool in summer is often more difficult than keeping warm in winter. During a massively long-distance ride during one of this year’s most insistent heat waves, I broke down and bought a “cooling vest.” I had limited expectations. The concept seemed simple enough: You soak it in water, put it over a T-shirt and let the wind blowing through your vented jacket evaporate the stored water and cool you down. But, how much cooling could that possibly provide? Well, a lot! A 105-degree day felt more like an 85-degree day, and I was able to ride comfortably for several more hours. Many companies make them. The one I like is the BMW Cooling Vest, sold online for $115 to $125.

For years I experienced terrible cramping during or after a long day of dirt biking, snowboarding or tennis. I tried a variety of products to quell the muscle spasms, and found the most efficient was pickle juice. Then one of my daughters, laughing at the huge jar of pickles in the refrigerator, said, “You know you can just buy the juice, right?” I subsequently became a big fan of Pickle Juice, made by the Pickle Juice Co. The magic elixir, sold in a wide variety of jar sizes, contains no actual pickle products. Instead, the company says, it is a 100% natural “superbrine” that happens to have a pickle-like “flavor profile.” I prefer the 8 oz. bottles. MSRP: $19.99 for a 12-pack at the Pickle Juice Co.

The folks at accessories company Winnergear describe this Montar device as “the world’s strongest smartphone car mount — the only device that will never fall.” I haven’t put it through sufficiently rigorous testing to prove or dispute that claim, and I haven’t tested enough other devices to know whether this is the only one that will never fall. But the Montar is sleek and smartly-designed, installs easily and can rotate into almost any position. Besides, the company offers free shipping, a two-year warranty and a 60-day money-back guarantee. Current MSRP: $29.99 at Montar.

Twitter: @misterfleming

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