Should I Wear a Cycling Cap? Cycling Caps Guide

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.

Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 16.43.56

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.

Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 16.53.09 Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 16.53.52

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.

Gore Equipe GTX cap – £29.99

GoreTex waterproof cycling caps

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 Winter Hat – £45

Rapha winter 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.

Look Mum No Hands! Cap – £10

LMNH banana cycling cap

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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27 Responses to Should I Wear a Cycling Cap? Cycling Caps Guide

  1. MJ Ray 25/09/2014 at 8:23 am #

    Yes, cap in summer, beanie in winter. Unlike most helmets, it folds up into a pocket and does the most important task of any headgear: deflects overhanging branches.

  2. Peter 25/09/2014 at 7:58 pm #

    there is a whole twitter world on this subject . I love the different caps I have that I swap round to suit my mood and what I am riding. As they say “Chapeau”!!

  3. Harvey Gallagher 25/09/2014 at 8:01 pm #

    It covers up helmet hair après ride, of course!

    • Diggs 25/09/2014 at 8:21 pm #

      Or covers up après hair *dreams of bygone days of worrying about helmet hair*

  4. Josh 25/09/2014 at 8:21 pm #

    i own two ‘look mum no hands’ caps. They are great perfect for this time of year when having sun glasses seems a bit odd when is grey in the morning.

  5. Vincent 26/09/2014 at 12:48 am #

    > Why wear a cap?

    Why wear a helmet?

    Decades of experience in urban cycling.

    • seamus king 30/09/2014 at 4:20 pm #

      I pefer a baseball hat sinc eit keeps the sun or the rai off my glasses,.

      but the cycling hat would be Campagnolo Cycling hat a sthese wre the bst ones!

  6. Michiel 26/09/2014 at 10:21 am #

    Why would you wear a cycling cap under a helmet? What exactly are you trying to say as a statement?

  7. Michiel 26/09/2014 at 10:22 am #

    What is the statement to be made with a cap under a helmet? You wouldn’t wear a woolen hat and a helmet over it would you?

    • Jon 12/09/2016 at 4:58 am #

      You definitely would wear a thin wool cap if it was cold out! I have many times in the winter. You wear a cap under the helmet to A) protect your hair, B) block cold autumn winds, and C) so the brim can block sun and rain, something which helmets do a pretty poor job of.

    • MJ Ray 03/10/2016 at 10:55 pm #

      Please do not wear anything under your helmet unless the user manual says it’s OK. Most don’t.

  8. Andrew Wilcox 26/09/2014 at 12:40 pm #

    A cap is good for wicking away the sweat. Without it my glasses are awash. The foam strips in the helmet are of little use for this function.

  9. Montyz 26/09/2014 at 2:49 pm #

    …and finally, whether on or off the bike, a cycling cap must be worn on ‘Your Head’… very important.

  10. Tony 26/09/2014 at 3:25 pm #

    Firstly, it stops light rain and gives a little shade. Secondly, when off the bike, elasticated cycling caps are great for the bald peanut heads, like me. Baseball caps look awful on me and rarely fit well.

  11. Richard 26/09/2014 at 4:10 pm #

    Have a look at our handmade cycling caps … passionately preserving and promoting the classic cycling cap. We have no rules …we wear them on and off the bike. Cheers

  12. Christine 26/09/2014 at 7:00 pm #

    I’m a pretty recent convert to cycling caps, previously assuming I would look like a twit in one (maybe I do, but no more than anyone else) but this year I discovered wearing one actually keeps my hair pretty neat, even in the peak of summer – my helmet alone crimps my hair and a healthy sweat sets it nicely, but no more!

    Also it’s a nice weather defence, keeping at least the feeling of rain off you (that’s all I ever care about) and sun out of your eyes.

    Not to mention how everyone thinks I look really pro 😉

  13. Montyz 26/09/2014 at 11:51 pm #

    Pro-cyclist I hope

  14. Alehouse Rock 28/09/2014 at 9:09 pm #

    [[[[[ Those “RULES” (Velominati) are a hoot—all of them. Pretty much tongue-in-cheek, but you can either swear by the rules, or swear AT them. Also, caps go back decades before “the 70’s and 80’s”….and the peak may be “thin cotton”, but it’s also stiffened with a rigid plastic insert, and if you pull it down, it keeps the rain out of your eyes very well, and—curiously—the cotton ones actually absorb light rain, and then the wet evaporates as you ride…..and for those folks who believe in helmets, a cotton race-cap will keep the wind off your scalp. All in all, a brilliant bikie’s accessory

  15. Donna @OrdCyclingGirl 30/09/2014 at 2:44 pm #

    I bought my first cycling cap at the Grand Depart for the Tour de France this year – I say, I bought, actually it was my other half who bought it for me. I wanted one for the very reasons you have outlined. They’re pretty cool, they make you look more pro and everyone knows how much you love cycling! They’re kind of a membership card for a certain club even when you’re not dressed in lycra. In all honesty though, I look a little bit of a numpty in it – but it’s good for hiding the inevitable helmet hair.

  16. Dave 18/10/2014 at 7:28 am #

    What I like most about them is that they not only look cool, but give exactly the same protection as a helmet against brain damage. Or if one has that already, a cap looks way cooler than a bandage.

  17. Doug 12/04/2016 at 11:07 am #

    I LOVE cycling caps, especially the 4-panel cotton variety I grew up on. This affection despite the fact that I’ve had to use them when racing sick in several different countries. Sadly, the icon of my cycling identity proved itself very handy to wipe my exploding arse mid-race while losing my breakfast biscuits on my bar tape. Ah, the glamourous sport of cycling!
    Contrary to some who feel a cap cannot be worn unless astride one’s steel steed (YES, I said steel!), I cling desparately to the ever-fading vestige of my youth by wearing cycling caps everywhere, justifying it as shade for my bald melon head here in sunny Hawai’i.

  18. Montyz 18/04/2016 at 10:17 am #

    Brings a whole (or should that be hole) new meaning to “going, Cap in hand” 🙂

  19. D. 21/10/2016 at 3:46 pm #

    I have a black Endura cap and a stripy grey-and-reflective Vulpine rain cap. I wear one or the other most days, unless my wife catches me before I leave the house in the morning, in which case I wear a Bern helmet…

  20. carlos 12/11/2016 at 8:05 pm #

    Our own belief, of course, is that a cyclist should wear a bike helmet. We are helmet advocates, after all.

  21. Jenny 19/11/2016 at 7:25 am #

    It’s necessary especially when it’s raining.

  22. Karen Jones 27/08/2017 at 7:24 pm #

    I had no idea this was a thing that existed. I have noticed a problem with glare in the morning when I wear my sunglasses, so I have a golf visor I sometimes wear under my helmet instead to deal with the early morning low-angle sun. I didn’t realize there was a cycling-specific product for this. Seems like a good idea to me. 🙂

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