I remember that Christmas morning well. I was young, maybe 10 or so, and as I descended the stairs there was one gift that caught my eye, looming large over all the rest: a new bicycle. It’s magenta frame sparkled, and I was in love.
I don’t remember if the bike was decorated; it certainly wasn’t gift-wrapped, but it might have had a bow. I can’t blame
my parents Santa and his elves for not trying. Maybe they ran out of gift wrapping paper. Or, maybe they wondered, as I recently did: how the heck do you even gift wrap a bicycle?
And do you even bother trying to disguise it?
To answer those questions, Bicycling spoke with artist Alton DuLaney, who’s known as The World’s Most Famous Gift Wrap Artist. According to DuLaney, there are three ways to approach this process the best. So if you’re scrambling with a few days before Christmas, or want to know how to wrap a bicycle for a birthday down the road, here’s your primer.
Disguised? Go the Box Route
“The number one question I get is, ‘How do you wrap the unusual sized item?’ And the answer is always: put it in a box,” DuLaney says. He even gift-wrapped an entire kitchen once, and all the appliances in it.
Wrapping the bike in a box is your best bet for disguising it—it’s straightforward and relatively quick. Depending on where you buy the bike, it may already come in a box. If it came assembled and it’s a larger bike, swing by your local bike shop and ask for a bike box; odds are they have plenty they need to dispose of and would be happy to give one away. You may need to remove the front wheel or both wheels and the pedals to fit the bike into the box.
Make It Obvious, But Fun
If you do want to gift wrap the bike itself, DuLaney recommends cutting the paper down into long strips and wrapping it around the bike that way. To make it easier, use ribbon instead.
“There are some parts that can be a little challenging. I compartmentalize the bicycle,” DuLaney says. The seat is a small shape, so you can put a small box over it if you’d like, and you can put pizza boxes over the wheels.
And have fun with it! DuLaney says putting tassels on the handlebar ends is a must for him. He also once decorated a kid’s tricycle as a reindeer—antlers, nose, and all.
Be sure to set aside enough time if you are fully gift wrapping the bike. “It could take hours,” DuLaney says.
Wrap a Related Gift Instead
Another option is to not wrap or disguise the bike at all, but to simply keep it in another room and wrap a related gift as a hint, like a helmet. Leave a note inside the gift that points to where the bike is hiding, like “go look on the porch,” DuLaney says.
However you decide to gift wrap the bike, don’t worry about your own creative abilities (or lack thereof). “There’s something for everyone’s own skill level,” DuLaney says. Check out the video above for even more fun tips, straight from Bicycling’s editors.
And regardless of how it turns out, it’s the thought—and the bike itself—that counts.