Experts Only: The Winter Cycling Cap

Not for the faint hearted: the Winter Cycling Cap.
Not for the faint hearted: the Winter Cycling Cap.

We just finished a thorough examination of the Cyclist’s marquee accoutrement, the Cycling Cap. Today’s lesson is about the Cycling Cap’s red-headed step brother, the Winter Cycling Cap.

This is a toque born of necessity; the thin cotton cap is nowhere near warm enough for the demands of the Flemish winter training season. Form should follow function, but when form is ignored altogether, we wind up with these sorts of creations, which is why I like to make sure form always gets a seat at the table during the design process. The cap’s main body is generally constructed of 6 or 8 wooly panels, the front section of which is often covered in a slightly windproof material. Added to this is the typical stubby visor found on a traditional Cycling Cap. Also covered in wool. Finally – and this is the real clincher, a third flap is added to the cap, which is intended to cover the ears but can also be flipped up if conditions do not warrant ear covering.

The Winter Cycling Cap is the most difficult article of cold-weather gear to pull off. The construction of the main cap presents the first challenge as the wool panels lack the finesse of its cotton sibling and tends to collect in a peak that resembles a reservoir tip. Which is very bad. The ear flaps present the second challenge in that their deployment is an automatic violation of the Three-Point System. Flipped up and stowed away for takeoff and landing, it is possible to adhere to the 3PS, but in that case the cap generally takes on the appearance of a derby crossed with a condom. I don’t have to tell you that’s also bad. The cap flies under the radar when worn under a helmet, although you’ll be thankful for a helmet locking system that makes it easy to adjust for a cap that adds two centimeters to your skull’s girth.

I found an orange one of these little monsters and it is a very welcome addition to my winter wardrobe, keeping all the heat that escapes out of my big brain from leaving the body. But it is far and away the most challenging bit of kit to pull off. You will have to spend some quality time in front of the mirror experimenting with what works for your goofy head if you want to have any chance of wearing it with dignity sans helmet. Skinny-faced people will have a better time of it than grapefruit-shaped head people like me. Popping your shades over the top helps to give it some shape, but be prepared to throw all the cap-wearing principles out the window in pursuit of finding a way to Look Fantastic wearing it.

I recommend you buy one and put it in your jersey pocket. Wear your cotton cap until the very last moment prior to hitting the road and only at that point deploy the little monster. If convenient, put it on in the dark where no one can see you. Under no circumstances attempt what Raul is managing here with expert help from Shelley Verses, unless you also have a Shelley Verses handy.

Related Posts

99 Replies to “Experts Only: The Winter Cycling Cap”

  1. I still have a beautiful red Denti winter cycling cap. It was obtained before helmets became ubiquitous. Frankly, it’s too big to go under a helmet and modern windproof materials are thinner and better for that purpose. The old school cap could/can be worn, like it’s cotton sibling, both forwards and backwards. I might wear it riding the gravel trail sans helmet, but not on the road.

    Should everyone have one? Yes, but as a pre- or post ride accoutrement that says “I’m a cyclist” and I ride in the cold.

  2. PS I’m going to add Raul Acala to my list of articles to write on over the winter. There’s a guy who should be remembered more widely and affectionately.

  3. @wiscot

    PS I’m going to add Raul Acala to my list of articles to write on over the winter. There’s a guy who should be remembered more widely and affectionately.

    Just today I was having a discussion with a West Point Cadet who is on the cycling team and from the El Paso area.  Even though he’s from El Paso he is a HELL of a climber and very small.  I asked him if he knew of Raul Alcala and he said that he met him one time.  Too cool.

    And what the fuck IS Shelley trying to do there?  Tuck the earpiece behind the ear?

  4. Jesus, on second look, Raul looks like he is trying to be an extra for Will Ferrell’s ELF movie.

  5. @frank. Clearly the reason for Raul’s expression is that he’s just caught his reflection in the team bus window. It’s tough for a pro to not look pro but Alc’s doing a fine job here. While I can defo see the logic in the winter cap, I know it’s a look I will never be able to carry off, a bit like the Rapha cap from a coulple of articles back. the best look I’ve seen is when they’re worn back to front under the helmet, but my balls just ain’t big enough to rock that!

  6. @Buck Rogers

    @wiscot

    PS I’m going to add Raul Acala to my list of articles to write on over the winter. There’s a guy who should be remembered more widely and affectionately.

    Just today I was having a discussion with a West Point Cadet who is on the cycling team and from the El Paso area. Even though he’s from El Paso he is a HELL of a climber and very small. I asked him if he knew of Raul Alcala and he said that he met him one time. Too cool.

    And what the fuck IS Shelley trying to do there? Tuck the earpiece behind the ear?

    I would have no objections to Shelley fiddling with me in any way, shape or form.

    Those red Oakleys sure look good with the clear lens and the 7-Eleven kit.

  7. Due to the fact that I am wearing a winter cap 5 months of the year up here I just went and bought a second helmet that fits a winter cap under it.  I can wear a skull cap or a cotton cap under my normal helmet but the winter hat needs the bigger helmet.  I will also add in a plug for the Rapha deep winter cap, it does a good job on the ears and head but wouldn’t wear it above about 20degF or you will be way to warm

  8. @Buck Rogers

    I think the rider behind The Badger is wearing the real deal. M. Hinault is sporting a balaclava over a cotton cap. Far be it from me to bring this fashion faux pas to his attention however as he is about to crush the opposition by almost 10 minutes in L-B-L 1980. Notice the almost imperceptible smile of this knowledge and the satisfaction of doing so.

  9. Very keen on the keepers tour, but having never riddden cobbles before I am concerned that I will be left behind. It’s not that I object to cycling on my own, it’s just that I do object to having less drinking time than others.

    Can you give me an idea of group size, age ranges, speed ranges etc?

    Or shall I just turn up and Rule #5 ?

  10. @Buck Rogers

    By the way, this thread needs some pictures.

    @GogglesPizano

    Due to the fact that I am wearing a winter cap 5 months of the year up here I just went and bought a second helmet that fits a winter cap under it. I can wear a skull cap or a cotton cap under my normal helmet but the winter hat needs the bigger helmet. I will also add in a plug for the Rapha deep winter cap, it does a good job on the ears and head but wouldn’t wear it above about 20degF or you will be way to warm

    The Rapha stuff is warm.  I have the country version (Norge) of their Winter Cycling cap, and it too has a fairly low upper limit — I sweat in in above 25F.  I can just image the deep winter cap!

  11. Assos makes some really great cycling gear. 

    Assos also makes this…

    The Robocap

    Robocap

  12. I bought the Castelli Risvolto at the back end of last winter and only ever wore it under a helmet even though the inside of the peak left a red scar like line across my forehead. Yesterday I wore it sans helmet for the first time. Guess what? A red scar like line which I had to cover with a beanie hat post ride so that I didn’t look like I had just had some head operation and scare children.

    On reflection, though I wanted to look cool in it and carry it off, I don’t and I can’t. Shame.

  13. @GogglesPizano

    Due to the fact that I am wearing a winter cap 5 months of the year up here I just went and bought a second helmet that fits a winter cap under it. I can wear a skull cap or a cotton cap under my normal helmet but the winter hat needs the bigger helmet. I will also add in a plug for the Rapha deep winter cap, it does a good job on the ears and head but wouldn’t wear it above about 20degF or you will be way to warm

    You are wise. A winter helmet with room for such a thing is a good idea.

    My ears have been what needs protection when it gets cold. To that end, usually a thin skull cap that includes the ears works. I’ve used the balaclava’s for winter commuting and there is no way not to look like a tool in one, unless you are Der Badger.

  14. @kixsand

    Assos makes some really great cycling gear.

    Assos also makes this…

     

    Good to see Assos promoting their water polo line, or is that for syncro swimming.

    @Buck Rogers

    It’s true, one does look psychotic in a balaclava (Vampire Weekend reference for the hip kids).

    Regarding winter hats, I wear three different hats, all Belgian style (I would show pictures BUT I CAN’T POST A EFFING PHOTO ANYMORE) when I am at my place in Michigan in winter. Very much like Alcala’s, even have a Castorama team issue one. I never wear a helmet with the winter hat, though. The way I rationalize it thus: the helmet just sits atop the hat and in the unlikely event of a crash it would offer little or no protection anyway. The odds are far greater that I would contract pneumonia from not wearing the hat in frigid conditions and die of infection in hospital. Therefore, it’s much safer to wear the Belgian hat than a helmet. Works for me.

  15. Rapha do a very nice very thin merino beanie, fits well under a helmet and is toasty. I’ve worn it with cap in freezing rain under the lid too.

  16. Although this one is my favourite shot of Hampsten, maybe my favourite cycling pic. Cool

    as fuck

  17. @GogglesPizano

    Due to the fact that I am wearing a winter cap 5 months of the year up here I just went and bought a second helmet that fits a winter cap under it. I can wear a skull cap or a cotton cap under my normal helmet but the winter hat needs the bigger helmet. I will also add in a plug for the Rapha deep winter cap, it does a good job on the ears and head but wouldn’t wear it above about 20degF or you will be way to warm

    The larger second helmet is a wise move, and is often the only way to avoid the dreaded mushroom-head.

  18. @fignons barber

    @kixsand

    Assos makes some really great cycling gear.

    Assos also makes this…

    Good to see Assos promoting their water polo line, or is that for syncro swimming.

     

    That’s good. Very. Friggen synchro swimming and Assos. Perfect. Cheers

  19. @gilly

    Although this one is my favourite shot of Hampsten, maybe my favourite cycling pic. Cool

    as fuck

    Love this photo as well. It is in one of the Fabulous World of Cycling volumes that I own and Graham Watson (tosser ass that he is–another story there) says that he loves that photo (I believe that he took it) but he also says that it is sooooo un-Hampsten because he looks cocky as fuck in the photo which, in truth, he is completely NOT cocky EVER.  But yes, such an awesome shot.

  20. @Buck Rogers

    @gilly

    Although this one is my favourite shot of Hampsten, maybe my favourite cycling pic. Cool

    as fuck

    Love this photo as well. It is in one of the Fabulous World of Cycling volumes that I own and Graham Watson (tosser ass that he is-another story there) says that he loves that photo (I believe that he took it) but he also says that it is sooooo un-Hampsten because he looks cocky as fuck in the photo which, in truth, he is completely NOT cocky EVER. But yes, such an awesome shot.

    yes, truly awesome photo. the guy in the red pants seems to agree as well.

  21. @frank

    @Buck Rogers

    And what the fuck IS Shelley trying to do there? Tuck the earpiece behind the ear?

    FFS. There were no radios in the bunch then.

    Ha!  Sunglasses earpiece you dork!

  22. I have a merino wool cap from Ibex for the few weeks it gets cold enough to need one. Small visor, ear flaps, thin enough to fit under a helmet. They call it the “Coppi” but fortunately it doesn’t look anything like Fausto’s own winter headwear:

  23. @frank And how can you post a pic of Leai without at least showing to the waist

    @zeitzmar

    @Buck Rogers

    @gilly

    Although this one is my favourite shot of Hampsten, maybe my favourite cycling pic. Cool

    as fuck

    Love this photo as well. It is in one of the Fabulous World of Cycling volumes that I own and Graham Watson (tosser ass that he is-another story there) says that he loves that photo (I believe that he took it) but he also says that it is sooooo un-Hampsten because he looks cocky as fuck in the photo which, in truth, he is completely NOT cocky EVER. But yes, such an awesome shot.

    yes, truly awesome photo. the guy in the red pants seems to agree as well.

    Ha!  Fuck!  That made me laugh out loud!

  24. Posted this in the gear the other day, my solution for the ~5 days a year I actually ride in temps that require anything more than a cap. Thin beanie under standard cap = toastie warm.

  25. @wiscot

    I still have a beautiful red Denti winter cycling cap. It was obtained before helmets became ubiquitous. Frankly, it’s too big to go under a helmet and modern windproof materials are thinner and better for that purpose. The old school cap could/can be worn, like it’s cotton sibling, both forwards and backwards. I might wear it riding the gravel trail sans helmet, but not on the road.

    Should everyone have one? Yes, but as a pre- or post ride accoutrement that says “I’m a cyclist” and I ride in the cold.

    With a noggin as big as mine, they fit under the helmet just fine, but it requires a helmet with a good locking system. The synthetic materials don’t compare when it gets wet; there is nothing like wool because it keeps its insulative properties.

    I had a winter cycling cap made of newer materials and I either cooked in it or I froze, depending on if it was wet or not. New materials just don’t regulate the heat like the old stuff did.

    Bretto’s wearing a nice Rapha one here that I loaned him, and I’m wearing the synthetic one. They’re fine deployed but there’s a reason we’re not photographed without helmets.

  26. @Mikael Liddy

    Posted this in the gear the other day, my solution for the ~5 days a year I actually ride in temps that require anything more than a cap. Thin beanie under standard cap = toastie warm.

    OH NO YOU DI-INT.

  27. @wiscot

    @Buck Rogers

    @wiscot

    PS I’m going to add Raul Acala to my list of articles to write on over the winter. There’s a guy who should be remembered more widely and affectionately.

    Just today I was having a discussion with a West Point Cadet who is on the cycling team and from the El Paso area. Even though he’s from El Paso he is a HELL of a climber and very small. I asked him if he knew of Raul Alcala and he said that he met him one time. Too cool.

    And what the fuck IS Shelley trying to do there? Tuck the earpiece behind the ear?

    I would have no objections to Shelley fiddling with me in any way, shape or form.

    Those red Oakleys sure look good with the clear lens and the 7-Eleven kit.

    I agree, he looks about as good as anyone can in a winter cap, apart from Andy in the photo @Buck posted, and his case is helped in no small measure by Shelley.

  28. @wiscot

    @Buck Rogers

    I think the rider behind The Badger is wearing the real deal. M. Hinault is sporting a balaclava over a cotton cap. Far be it from me to bring this fashion faux pas to his attention however as he is about to crush the opposition by almost 10 minutes in L-B-L 1980. Notice the almost imperceptible smile of this knowledge and the satisfaction of doing so.

    I have to say, as a Nordic skier by trade, the balaclava is a no-no, much like the tights. I deployed it in northern Minnesota Winter Extremes but never with a faint heart. The BC is as hard to pull off as the Winter Cycling cap, which means its almost impossible. The closest you can get is to wear swix ear muffs over your ears and a ski cap per the 3PS as usual and shades over the lot. You have no other choice.

    But its still better than not skiing or not riding.

    @teleguy57

    @Buck Rogers

    By the way, this thread needs some pictures.

    @GogglesPizano

    Due to the fact that I am wearing a winter cap 5 months of the year up here I just went and bought a second helmet that fits a winter cap under it. I can wear a skull cap or a cotton cap under my normal helmet but the winter hat needs the bigger helmet. I will also add in a plug for the Rapha deep winter cap, it does a good job on the ears and head but wouldn’t wear it above about 20degF or you will be way to warm

    The Rapha stuff is warm. I have the country version (Norge) of their Winter Cycling cap, and it too has a fairly low upper limit “” I sweat in in above 25F. I can just image the deep winter cap!

    LIkewise, I use mine on all long wet winter training rides, though, as I always wind up bonking on those and freezing my ass off. Eventually, I’m grateful I have the little beastie.

    @JohnB

    On reflection, though I wanted to look cool in it and carry it off, I don’t and I can’t. Shame.

    Today’s lesson isn’t that you can’t pull it off; its that you have to be willing to spend hours – HOURS – in front of the mirror if you want to be able to pull it off.

    Maybe we’re saying the same thing.

  29. @Gianni

    @GogglesPizano

    Due to the fact that I am wearing a winter cap 5 months of the year up here I just went and bought a second helmet that fits a winter cap under it. I can wear a skull cap or a cotton cap under my normal helmet but the winter hat needs the bigger helmet. I will also add in a plug for the Rapha deep winter cap, it does a good job on the ears and head but wouldn’t wear it above about 20degF or you will be way to warm

    You are wise. A winter helmet with room for such a thing is a good idea.

    My ears have been what needs protection when it gets cold. To that end, usually a thin skull cap that includes the ears works. I’ve used the balaclava’s for winter commuting and there is no way not to look like a tool in one, unless you are Der Badger.

    That skull cap talk just got you two demerits, my man. As a Keeper you have a V demerit credit, but I’m assuming (as my dad taught me) that I missed at least 1 if not 2 along the way, which means you’re on your last demerit.

    Settle down and meditate on the masturbation principle.

    Skull cap! BAH!

    @gilly

    Although this one is my favourite shot of Hampsten, maybe my favourite cycling pic. Cool

    as fuck

    What’s so cool about this picture is how anti-Hampsten it is. He looks so arrogant and confident. Like he fucking owned that race. And its the farthest from what a kind, modest person he is.

    Photography at it’s best. Thats, like, Pedale quality.

  30. @frank

    @Buck Rogers

    That’s a classic right there. I love that he’s still all, “Fuck tights, we’re not savages.”

    The copious amounts of amphetamines running through his system probably didn’t hurt in keeping him warm…

  31. @wilburrox

    @fignons barber

    @kixsand

    Assos makes some really great cycling gear.

    Assos also makes this…

    Good to see Assos promoting their water polo line, or is that for syncro swimming.

    That’s good. Very. Friggen synchro swimming and Assos. Perfect. Cheers

    Yeah, Fignons barber, you get the +1 badge for that. Excellent work.

    @Buck Rogers Me too. Strong work on both. Hard to pick a winner but Figgles Coiffeur was first.

    @pistard

    I have a merino wool cap from Ibex for the few weeks it gets cold enough to need one. Small visor, ear flaps, thin enough to fit under a helmet. They call it the “Coppi” but fortunately it doesn’t look anything like Fausto’s own winter headwear:

    Ibex is pretty cool that way. Love that company. Favorite winter wool gloves by far.

  32. @frank

    @wiscot

    @Buck Rogers

    @wiscot

    PS I’m going to add Raul Acala to my list of articles to write on over the winter. There’s a guy who should be remembered more widely and affectionately.

    Just today I was having a discussion with a West Point Cadet who is on the cycling team and from the El Paso area. Even though he’s from El Paso he is a HELL of a climber and very small. I asked him if he knew of Raul Alcala and he said that he met him one time. Too cool.

    And what the fuck IS Shelley trying to do there? Tuck the earpiece behind the ear?

    I would have no objections to Shelley fiddling with me in any way, shape or form.

    Those red Oakleys sure look good with the clear lens and the 7-Eleven kit.

    I agree, he looks about as good as anyone can in a winter cap, apart from Andy in the photo @Buck posted, and his case is helped in no small measure by Shelley.

    I think in other photos of Andy on the Gavia you’ll see that he’s wearing a ski hat, not a winter cycling cap….  Och and crew bought up all sorts of skiwear for the 7-Eleven boys so they were the best prepared/equipped for the weather.

  33. @teleguy57

    @frank

    @wiscot

    @Buck Rogers

    @wiscot

    PS I’m going to add Raul Acala to my list of articles to write on over the winter. There’s a guy who should be remembered more widely and affectionately.

    Just today I was having a discussion with a West Point Cadet who is on the cycling team and from the El Paso area. Even though he’s from El Paso he is a HELL of a climber and very small. I asked him if he knew of Raul Alcala and he said that he met him one time. Too cool.

    And what the fuck IS Shelley trying to do there? Tuck the earpiece behind the ear?

    I would have no objections to Shelley fiddling with me in any way, shape or form.

    Those red Oakleys sure look good with the clear lens and the 7-Eleven kit.

    I agree, he looks about as good as anyone can in a winter cap, apart from Andy in the photo @Buck posted, and his case is helped in no small measure by Shelley.

    I think in other photos of Andy on the Gavia you’ll see that he’s wearing a ski hat, not a winter cycling cap…. Och and crew bought up all sorts of skiwear for the 7-Eleven boys so they were the best prepared/equipped for the weather.

    In fact, for most of it he’s not wearing anything; but in that one photo he’s definitely got a winter cap on.

  34. This is a favourite photo of my Rapha winter cap, which introduced me to the concept.

    Not modelled by me, but my daughter Lillian. She must have been about 5 years old.

    I think it was a Christmas present not long after I started working in Abu Dhabi. Fair to say I didn’t expect to still be here working full time seven years later. But I am even more grateful for it on the few occasions I get to wear it.

  35. @frank

    Bretto’s wearing a nice Rapha one here that I loaned him, and I’m wearing the synthetic one. They’re fine deployed but there’s a reason we’re not photographed without helmets.

    You loaned it to me? I still have it! That saved my ass (well, my head) on KT13 after my luggage never turned up. I’m forever indebted to you. (Although you’re not getting it back!)

    Also in that photo, loaner glasses (Frank), loaner helmet and jacket (William). Holy shit that was a cold week, which only added to the awesomeness.

  36. I’m genuinely stunned that no one has busted out this pic yet given the other Assos monstrosity that’s being passed around-

  37. @littledove

    Very keen on the Keepers Tour, but having never riddden cobbles before I am concerned that I will be left behind. It’s not that I object to cycling on my own, it’s just that I do object to having less drinking time than others.

    Can you give me an idea of group size, age ranges, speed ranges etc?

    Or shall I just turn up and Rule #5 ?

    I think you nailed it with the last sentence mate!

    We leave no-one behind, the groups previously have contained riders of all levels and abilities, and everyone was just awesome… the cobbles are hard as fuck, no doubt, but something about them brings out the best in you.

    Age range has typically been 30-55ish (I’m 50, Gianni 55?), but we had two mid-20s hammers from Aussie last time and they managed not to smash us too much. You’ll find on some secteurs you’re untouchable, and others where you struggle a lot. There is a sag wagon if you really need it, but no-one has so far (except The Cub of Flanders, Johan’s 16yo son after the Carrefour last time.)

    Group size I think will be capped around 15-16 this time, and if it’s obvious there is a gulf between speeds, we can split the groups and Gianni will guide the not-as-quick riders.

    If you turn up with a good endurance base you’ll be sweet. It’s gonna hurt, but you won’t really feel it after a few Maltenis and a sacred shower in the Velodrome… you’ll be in heaven.

  38. @Gianni

    @GogglesPizano

    Due to the fact that I am wearing a winter cap 5 months of the year up here I just went and bought a second helmet that fits a winter cap under it. I can wear a skull cap or a cotton cap under my normal helmet but the winter hat needs the bigger helmet. I will also add in a plug for the Rapha deep winter cap, it does a good job on the ears and head but wouldn’t wear it above about 20degF or you will be way to warm

    You are wise. A winter helmet with room for such a thing is a good idea.

    My ears have been what needs protection when it gets cold. To that end, usually a thin skull cap that includes the ears works. I’ve used the balaclava’s for winter commuting and there is no way not to look like a tool in one, unless you are Der Badger.

    Wits that you say about cold weather kit, haole.

  39. @frank

    In fact, for most of it he’s not wearing anything;

    That’s definitely Rule #9. And if he’s hard as well, then double chapeau.

    On the skull caps, Gianni has it right. On the same principle that caps under helmets are wrong, winter caps under helmets are even wronger. A skull cap at least does the same job without interfering.

  40. @kixsand I have a Robocap, for the coldest of days. It’s does the job very well and with less bulk than most winter gear, and features the usual Assos overthinking – see the two loops? They’ve for your glasses after the cap went all Vincent Van Gogh on your ears. However, if I’m wearing it, I take care to get dressed in the dark and leave the house with the helmet already on. The “Sperm Cap”, as it’s known, earns the wearer plenty of ridicule.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.