In Memoriam: The Cycling Cap

In Memoriam: The Cycling Cap

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We gather here today to pay our respects to one of the icons of our great sport, the cycling cap.  The perfect union of form and function and an excellent example of why the former follows the latter, and why together they are beautiful.  The brim is just long enough to shield the eyes from the elements, but is short enough to allow the rider to gaze up the road with head tilted in determination as steady drips of water fall from the apex of the brim and and tap out the rhythm of the stroke.  The cloth construction is comfortable under a helmet or hairnet, and allows it to be easily stuffed into a jersey pocket when not needed.

It’s appearance is clumsy; the short, stubby brim can be flipped upward or downward and, generally made of cotton, cap’s shape is soft and floppy.  Yet, it has been worn by the Greatest Greats of our sport with a transcendent sense of cool. Over time, it became a badge of honor for those of us living La Vie Velominatus; wearing a cycling cap in public amongst the uninitiated felt almost like bragging that you were in on a secret – the cycling cap was what we used to recognize one of our own in a crowd of nonbelievers.

Then something started to change.  Frist this guy, and these guys, and then this fucking guy started wearing our sacred headpiece, and rather than being mistaken for Giants of the Road, we were mistaken for douchebags. The unpalatable and tragic truth is that almost overnight, the history and culture that the cycling cap represented was mistaken for little more than a social prop used by hipsters who suck even more than cyclists at picking up dates at the local cafe.

Slowly but surely, the status of the cycling cap has diminished to where we are today, with the brim of our noble cap barely visible beneath our compulsory helmets only on days where the weather merits its use and  Rule #22 forbidding it’s use off the bike.  We’ve arrived at a place where the men who climb upon the podiums of our storied races wear something more akin to a baseball cap than to the cap that brings back memories of the hardmen of our sport.

I leave you, my fellow Velominati, with some of the great images that show our fallen icon at the height of it’s status as a Symbol of Cycling.

Slideshow:
Fullscreen:

Thanks to @Geoffrey Grosenbach for inspiring this humble eulogy.

// Folklore // In Memoriam // Nostalgia // The Hardmen // The Rules

  1. Forgive me if this link has been posted elsewhere. This two-part film is a perfect match for so much on this site. Go to You Tube and type in Vive le Tour. 20 minutes of 1962 Tour magic in stupendous, sharp color. Wool jerseys, raids on cafes, Rik van Looy in pain, bandages held in place by cotton caps, insane descents, Anquetil, Darrigade et al, – it’s all there. Heartbreaking footage of a rider riding to the point of unconsciousness. Today’s guys are tough, these guys were tougher. One of the best bits of retro film I’ve ever seen.

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=vive+le+tour&aq=0

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3EHJjHP6yc

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B6ZycaBelU

  2. @Collin
    Robot has a special kinds of eyes.

    Oddly I find that most people who denigrate the humble hipster seems merely to be envious of them. Whether it is there ability to rock skinny jeans and a jauntily place hat/cap or pulling some new-fangled fixie-trick*, it is envy that drives people to call them clueless. Just like there are fucknuggets in the road cycling world and the MTB world as well as the real world.

    I can ride a fixie without falling off and I can pull some (very) minor tricks on an MTB (even a road bike at a push). What I can’t do is pull any sort of trick on a fixie – not even riding backwards. Those who can are fairly fucking good riders.

  3. I am going to buy a load of cycling caps and wear than all the time from now on

  4. @Jarvis

    Very true Jarvis. There are hipsters that are extremely skilled riders, but I don’t find them to be the majority. I think it is the disregard for the rules of the road that is their cachet that really bothers me. An attitude like, “We are not cars so why drive like them. It would be completely inefficient*,” does all of us on bicycles a disservice.

    We are all part of the brotherhood on the road. The more people that ride bicycles the better. If everybody rode, this world would be a better place. I tip my head to every rider I pass or see while riding, whether they’re rocking a squeaky beach cruiser or a carbon-fiber wonder, because the freedom of making pedals go in circles is a beautiful thing.

    * Actual quote from a recent email discussion, which is completely moot because it is even more inefficient for cars to stop at lights.

  5. @Jarvis I have spent many a fine evening lounging in Dolores Park in San Francisco, observing Homo Sapien Hipstericus in their natural environment. I will speak for myself in saying that I have exactly 0% envy (and I could rock skinny jeans if i felt compelled to), but I don’t go overboard denigrating them either. They seem rather self-involved and seem to enjoy finding a sense of Self and meaning in life by recycling things from the past – ok by me. I have nothing in common with them, and we may as well be from different star systems (likely we are).

    That said, perhaps we are all overdoing this cycling cap thing?? I mean who really gives a shit if hipsters wear cycling caps, really? It doesn’t stop me from wearing them. No one in their right mind would ever mix me up – the dude in the lycra bibs and the wool vintage jersey on the fancy ass steel road bike with a hipster on a fixie. For all practical purposes, they are invisible to me and I do as I damned well please.

    Whenever I am on my bike (unless it’s hot, which is rare), I wear my cap, and I often wear it off the bike, if I am in transit somewhere on the bike, have finished and am still in cleats or kit, or just hanging out with my bike somewhere like an outdoor cafe. They’re the only hats I can actually wear, oddly enough (i look stupid in baseball hats, etc). Why don’t we just wear our caps when and where we want and stop giving away one of our cherished cultural icons to the damned hipsters?

    Bottom Line: NO Velominatus should ever be confused with a hipster anyway. We are cyclists and should proudly own our tradition regardless of what is trendy in certain impermanent sub cultures.

  6. I am wondering whether Rule #22 might need an adjustment or amendment. It seems like so much of our concern about our caps and when we should wear them is a “reaction” to them. Why are we reacting to them? It’s our icon.

    I say we own ours and stop fretting like a bunch of old English ladies about whether we are committing some cosmic faux pas if we wear a cap into a cafe. The V should trump #22. They can pry my cycling cap from my cold, dead hands…

  7. You wanna talk caps? Oli’s the man for caps…

  8. I thought the hipster issue had less to do with hipsters wearing caps while riding or the nature of their bikes, but rather the ubiquitous breach of Rule #22, which cheapened the cap-wearing experience.

  9. I wonder if those two prominent protuberances seen coming out of Merckx’s left side is the socket where he plugs in the V hose for a fill-up. Either that or broken ribs he never bothered to really get fixed because he was too busy winning races.

  10. @Marko
    I’d been wondering what they were for too. I like your idea but I think you have it wrong. Surely that’s where they plug in the hose to drain excess V into lead-lined barrels preventing him exploding catastrophically from a dangerous build up of V between races?

  11. @George
    ++1

  12. My first (and only) cycling cap was one I found in a box when I was 7 or 8. Said “Campagnolo” on the brim. Used to wear it while riding my BMX bike.

    I think I’ll have to find another one.

  13. The “protuberances” will be the buckle of his braces – no bib-shorts back then, fo sho!

  14. They’re actually V-nipples for lesser riders to suckle from… I believe the Flemish term is “Vippelen”

  15. I just got given another cap, a cool Livestrong one. And I’m wearing it now.

  16. I’m big fan of cycling caps and can’t even wear a baseball-style hat at all anymore – they feel so big and bulky atop my head. I don’t care who the hell else is wearing them or has appropriated them, I’m going to keep wearing mine.

    Look, most of us can discern rather fast if someone is a hardman and rides like one and has a passion for cycling or is just some jackass. I try not to spend a minute concerning myself with the jackasses.

    As for the cap rule – I ride a bike just about everywhere since walking is so pedestrian and I don’t own a car. This means I have a cap on most of the time, whether on the bike or just off of it. This is the one rule I’m not that concerned about breaking. I ride everyday and commute by bike to most places I go. Caps keep my hair out of my eyes and provides a sun visor when I have eyeglasses on and not contacts + shades.

    Maybe the Velominatus can create reduction system whereby you can do work off rule infractions by doing extra grueling pedaling in the big ring?

  17. i’m wearing a cap right now, but only because I’ve just been out for my first ride in a couple weeks. It’s a classy little pink brooklyn number.

  18. Yes, Brooklyn make fine caps, I have a pert blue one

  19. Caps is good.

    So are Velominati kits, by the way. Note: I always ride with a helmet, but this discussion seemed to warrant an old-school cap look.

  20. @Steampunk

    That dog is checking your kit out.

  21. I ran across this today in my attic, not a cap, but certainly from BITD.

  22. @michael

    Oh wow, I’ve been scouring the internet looking for a hairnet, got this crazy idea that wearing one with a cap underneath would be a cool accompaniment for the Bozzie…

  23. @mcsqueak
    Perhaps, but better than the angry fucker who chased me for several hundred metres last week. Not exactly a “V” moment, but I put in a pretty good sprint…

  24. @Brett

    Dude! I would totally show up for a group ride in that thing.

  25. Steampunk :

    Caps is good.

    So are Velominati kits, by the way. Note: I always ride with a helmet, but this discussion seemed to warrant an old-school cap look.

    Cyclops approves of this.

  26. @Cyclops
    Nice! And thanks. What you can’t see is that I swiped his brandy barrel as I rode past.

  27. Oh whoops! Brett cut my lunch!

  28. Oli Brooke-White :

    I just got given another cap, a cool Livestrong one. And I’m wearing it now.

  29. That was my hairnet when I was 15-16 in 1984 which is, I believe, the last year you could wear these. I won my first race wearing that. I think I’ll sport it later when I’m peaking.

  30. Hairnets available here: http://ow.ly/2JXFo

  31. V-shirt, V-pint, V-kit. Only missing one thing.

  32. Helmets and caps do not go together in my personal Rules.

    The person I most think of wearing this combination is Cadel Evans. Nothing against the guy but he’s hardly an icon.

    It’s even in the Bible. “Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel.” Could it be any clearer ?

  33. I’m about to get myself another cap… I’m wondering what the consensus would be as to which I should get… (I currently have a Mapei one that’s falling apart)… I’m thinking Molteni or Cinzano atm.
    Can be found here

  34. @Nathan Edwards
    I think either would do but the Molteni would do best. Can’t beat the tradition and heritage there AND it’ll look super pimp with your V-kit. If you don’t have a V-Kit yet, it’s time my brother.

  35. @Marko
    Ok Molteni it is… sadly the V-kit is out of my price range… gonna have to buy the revision of my Uni Team Kit soon, it’s a bit cheaper than the V-kit but will still hurt my pocket

  36. @Nathan
    Keep hittin those books bro, it’ll pay off and one day you’ll own this place, let alone a V-kit

  37. @Marko
    Rather be hitting the cols

  38. @LastBoyScout
    Well done. Some loosening of the rule is surely in order, so that the cap’s important message reaches a wide audience rather than languishing unseen under the helmet.

  39. I’m not gonna cite Matthias Brandle on his Three-Point system violation, instead I’m giving him a big push of the shifter and say, “Thanks mate, for wearing a good old fashioned fucking cycling cap with its fucking brim flipped up old school style on the podium.”

    Respect.

  40. Undeniably believe that which you stated. Your favourite justification appeared to be on the net the simplest factor to keep in mind of. I say to you, I certainly get irked while other folks consider concerns that they just don’t realize about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as outlined out the whole thing without having side effect , people could take a signal. Will likely be again to get more. Thanks

  41. @Lucien Kolinsky
    !

  42. This is when the magic was lost for me:


  43. @Calmante
    I’ve got that exact Colnago cap – I look exactly like Wesley when I wear it too…

  44. @Oli

    Can you jump?

  45. Walz brand cap from Heck of the North. Recommended.

  46. @G’rilla

    Walz brand cap from Heck of the North. Recommended.

    here we go again. I can see Im gonna half to make it up and try to order one.

  47. @RedRanger

    @G’rilla

    Walz brand cap from Heck of the North. Recommended.

    here we go again. I can see Im gonna half have to make it up and try to order one.

    that disconnect between my brain and fingers

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