Cycling caps are a quintessential part of road cycling but they have their uses in the city too – I have a couple that I like wearing for various reasons outlined below.
Often worn alone for racing until the UCI made helmets compulsory in 2003, they’ve been heavily documented perching atop the heads of pro cyclists of the 70s and 80s, the wearers exuding ‘cool’ and quirky racer vibes.
A cycling cap is very different to a baseball cap. It has a peak, but is made of thin material, the peak is more flexible, and the back of the cap is often elasticated to help achieve the perfect fit.
*This is a 2016 update to a 2014 post to keep products up to date.*
Why Wear a Cycling Cap?
The practical reasons for wearing a cap are to keep sweat from dripping into the eyes, likewise rain, and the peak is a sun shield in bright conditions.
Caps come into their own during Spring and Autumn – providing a light layer of warmth that protects the head from the effects of venty-helmets, without causing the rider to overheat, as they might in a thermal cap designed for winter.
They are also great for stopping your hair going too crazy, with or without the helmet. I like wearing one under my helmet in the city as it stops the ridges in my hair if it is still wet when I leave the house. It also stops the MIP’s liner in my helmet from trapping my hair.
You can also wear a cycling cap to mark yourself out as a cyclist when off the bike. This can work if you are a weekend rider and want to show your Rapha stripes while commuting, or if you are a die hard fixie rider and want to look particularly hipster.
Hardcore Velominati-ites would of course disagree on the grounds of Rule 22:
Rule #22 // Cycling caps are for cycling.
Cycling caps can be worn under helmets, but never when not riding, no matter how hip you think you look. This will render one a douche, and should result in public berating or beating. The only time it is acceptable to wear a cycling cap is while directly engaged in cycling activities and while clad in cycling kit.
Of course, most of us don’t live by The Rules, and will wear a cap whenever we like. You only need to wander around some of the more cycling friendly areas of London to see this. I personally keep my hat on quite a lot – especially if I had wet hair before putting it on – saves me from the dreaded helmet hair!
How to Wear Cycling Caps?
A cycling cap can be worn under a helmet, or alone – depending upon your helmet persuasion (which is not a debate to be had here).
Regardless of helmet addition, or lack of – a cycling cap can be worn peak up – or peak down. These are some pictures of Michelle and her partner to demonstrate the options. I have found that the peak flipped up looks a little more stealth, so you can have the benefits of a cap without it being too obvious. However, if you are wearing it under a helmet, sometimes they can be hard to flip up – this is the case with one of my Smith helmets.
What sort of cycling caps are available?
The high majority of cycling brands sell cycling caps. Since the cap itself is a highly expressive item that tells the world ‘I am a cyclist’, you might as well opt for one that tells them what sort of cyclist you are, too (and yes, brand leanings do give a little insight..)
There are also different properties to caps that make them good for specific uses, particularly in the city. Here are a few of our favourites.
Waterproof hats are great for keeping you hair in order on rainy winter commutes. They work even with long hair provided you tie it up in a ponytail or braid. This one from Gore has reflective logos and piping to add a little enhanced visibility to your nighttime excursions.
It is also great for wearing off the bike with a cycling waterproof if it doesn’t come with a hood, or you find hoods annoying. I love this cap.
Rapha branding is relatively subtle, meaning this hat doesn’t stand out. However, those hardcore roadies will know who it’s by, if thats what you want. This one is a winter cap – perfect for adding some warmth to your commute and stopping your ears from falling off at lunchtime.
This banana cap has been super popular and is pretty awesome. I like that the Look Mum No Hands! caps are a little different – great for wearing in a city and not looking too intense.
Its standard cotton so feels comfortable on, is easy to wash and does not make you too hot.
Do you wear a cycling cap?
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.