Cycling caps have always held a certain fascination to me. Close-fitting and cut to fit well under a helmet their small brims provide just enough shade when riding to mean the difference between visibility and blinding glare. For our recent Chilcotin’s trip we were lucky enough to be provided with a couple of winter caps by Red Dots Cycling. I’d been intrigued by the idea getting ahold of some winter caps for a few reasons:
1) This is the time of the year when my head (and ears) get cold,
2) In the winter the light tends to get lower, and in Vancouver our monsoon season begins – two sterling arguments for the usefulness of a small brim
3) I spend much of my winter (and frankly much of the year) wearing a helmet, so hats that fit under my bike helmet and skiing/climbing helmet get proportionately more use.
Having now worn my ‘L’Enfer du Nord’ (the ‘hell of the north’ for you non-frenchies), winter cap regularly – both for three straight days in the Chilcotins and nearly daily for commuting and mountain-biking here in Vancouver, I am convinced. This cap works, and it works well. They are certainly expensive (MSRP is between CAD$50-60), and I don’t think I could justify spending that much on a hat unless it came with magical powers, but there are a few points which I think render them useful, well-made and, dare I say it, attractive:
1) Materials – The wool is very nice, recycled locally, breathes well, and like all good wool seems to not get stinky despite how hard I try and sweat in it.
2) Construction – The stitching is quite frankly a thing of beauty. Erica is gradually teaching me to notice these things, and these caps are very neatly done with good taping inside on the key seams. Skyler’s forehead was initially a little irritated by a seam, but this seems to have been smoothed out, cementing our opinion that these are caps that you wear in but won’t wear out.
3) Overall Bulk – The wool is very light but still plenty warm which means I can fit it easily under my bike helmet and under the helmet I use for climbing and ski-mountaineering (an Edelrid Shield).
4) The Earflap – Nice and soft, it doesn’t get too soggy when it’s raining, covers my ears well, and best of all is cut so that it can be folded up inside the body of the cap on warm days – very nearly rendering this a 4-season chapeau in my mind! (Note – I have since looked at a number of other winter caps, and have yet to find one that does this nearly as neatly.)
So what are my conclusions? While full retail is pricey, I see this as an imminently sensible hat that covers the full gamut of my cycling needs from frosty dawn starts to midday heat and evening chill. I did not bring another hat or sunglasses on our Chilcotin trip and I didn’t regret it. They are well made and I expect to wear it a great deal this winter from the bike-path during the week to the skin-track on weekends.
A brief final note on appearance; both Skyler and I had a chuckle about cycling caps and hipsters, but the conservative appearance of these caps (especially in the ‘L’Enfer du Nord’ and ‘Black Sheep’ colourways which we are wearing) actually doesn’t make me feel too self-conscious, and the functionality of the hat overcomes any of my qualms about whether or not I should be astride a fixie when I wear it.