When it comes to gear you might bring on a casual bike ride, the cycling cap is pretty far from what would be considered essential. It won’t protect your head in the event of a fall, and it doesn’t really make your ride easier or faster. That’s not to say it doesn’t serve a purpose. A cycling hat can help keep the sun and sweat out of your eyes, while adding a little insulation during a cold-weather ride. The reason cycling caps largely fell out of favor is that in 2003, the UCI, the governing body for the sport of cycling, made helmet-wearing compulsory. And while you can wear a cap under a helmet, fewer riders were inclined to do so. But the fact that the cycling cap is less common on the professional level only adds to its charm. A cycling cap can also be a surprisingly stylish — if slightly offbeat — item to wear off the bike.
Despite their inherent spandexy ridiculousness, cycling clothes have been enjoying an unexpected style renaissance. Bike shorts (sans butt pads) have been a trend for women for a few years, and even cycling sunglasses have been cited as a trend. When it comes to the cycling cap, it’s undoubtedly Spike Lee and his upturned “Brooklyn” cap that made this bit of headwear an iconic item off the saddle. Of course, not everyone agrees that the cycling cap can be worn on its own. Velominati, the self-professed “keepers of the cog” say “cycling caps can be worn under helmets, but never when not riding, no matter how hip you think you look.” Counterpoint: do whatever the hell you want.
But what sets a cycling cap apart from your average baseball cap? They share some similarities, but they’re constructed quite differently. The brim of the cycling cap is its most distinctive feature. It’s shorter and more flexible, allowing you to turn it up or face it down. The cycling cap also has an elasticated back for a more snug fit on your head. These features keep the cap in place, compared with a baseball cap, which can more easily get swept off your head while riding. Cycling caps are also intentionally more flimsy and lightweight for greater comfort and packability.
If you’re looking to add some retro charm to your road cycling kit, or you want to keep your hair contained on a morning commute, consider one of these cycling caps.
1. POC Unisex Essential Cap Cap
Founded in 2004, POC has become one of the top brands for cycling and outdoor gear. This cap is available in a few different colors, and it has a simple stripe pattern across the top and the POC logo under the brim. Colors include green, blue, red and orange.
2. Rapha Cap II Cycling Cap
BEST COTTON CAP
Rapha has done for cycling what Cam’ron did for hip hop: make pink the coolest color to be seen in. This cap is a simple solid black color with a pink stripe down the front. A tonal black Rapha logo is on the side of the cap. Unlike most synthetic caps, this option is made from cotton with a little spandex. That means it’s comfortable and easy to care for, but may not be the one to choose for high-performance scenarios.
3. CAFE DU CYCLISTE Mesh Cycling Cap
If you want a cycling cap that doesn’t look too much like a cycling cap, consider this option from Cafe Du Cycliste. It takes its design cues from a five-panel fishing hat, and it even features a fishing design on the front. The back and sides of the cap more closely resemble a traditional cap, but the small brim on the front makes it well suited to bike riding. The mesh material of the polyester cap makes it more breathable.
4. Bianchi Milano Neon Cycling Cap
BEST RETRO CAP
If you want to go for a retro Italian vibe with your cycling kit, this cap features branding from Italian brand Bianchi, the world’s oldest bicycle manufacturer. It features Bianchi’s distinctive turquoise color and the stripes of the Italian flag on the front. The cap is made from a blend of cotton and polyester.
5. CAFE DU CYCLISTE Cycling Cap
The surest sign cycling has gone fashion? Cycling gear is now sold by luxury menswear retailer Mr. Porter. This cap from Cafe Du Cycliste comes in bright orange, burgundy or black, and it has a contrasting red white and blue stripe pattern under the brim of the cap. That’s not to say this stylish cap isn’t made with performance in mind: it’s a breathable blend of cotton and polyester sewn in a wind-resistant twill pattern.
6. GORE WEAR Men’s Bike Cap
BEST FOR NIGHT RIDES
Gore Wear is the cycling and running-focused label of the GORE-TEX brand, so you know you’re getting something that’s breathable that can also stand up to the elements. This is a great option if you like to keep it minimalist with your riding kit. It’s all black with contrasting reflective panels.
7. Castelli Cycling Cap
BEST SUMMER CAP
Castelli is one of the classic cycling cap brands, and the A/C cap is a great option for riding in warm weather. The top of the cap is made from a breathable mesh material that will keep you comfortable on a long ride, and the Castelli scorpion logo is on the top of the brim. It comes in white, black and bright red.
8. Headdy Brooklyn Cycling Cap
Want to embody that classic Spike Lee look and pay homage to Brooklyn? This is the cap to do it in. It’s made by Headdy, the original brand that manufactured the cap Lee wore. It comes in black, blue, red, white and even denim, and it features “Brooklyn” on the top of the bill, under the bill and on the sides. It’s made from a blend of cotton and polyester.