A cycling cap, or “casquette” as it’s called in French, is an instantly recognisable marker of Tribe Cyclist. But more than just a fashion thing, cycling caps are multifunctional pieces of kit that protect you from sun, sweat, cold, and stop your hair getting snarled up in the protective system inside your helmet.
Unlike a baseball cap, a cycling cap is smaller and softer in structure, so it can be folded up and tucked away in your jersey pocket. But the key difference is safety, as a casquette is designed to fit under a helmet. The brim, or peak, of a cycling cap is shorter than a baseball cap meaning you can flip it up, instantly evoking the retro jauntiness of past cycling eras.
It’s hard to imagine today, but cycling caps used to be all that cyclists wore on their heads, as helmets weren’t starting to be compulsory in road racing until the 1990s. As a result of changes in UCI safety regulations and habits, cycling caps have become less common, and you’ll mostly see them worn on the winners' podium. But, this is also where their retro appeal comes from as they date back to the 1800s when they were an improvement on a tweed flat cap, long before becoming the mark of the professional cyclist in the 1950s.
Just like in the 1950s, lots of brands put their logo on the underside of the brim. And many manufacturers design cycling caps as homages to legendary cyclists, teams, and races like the iconic Italian Mapei team, or the classic UK Milk Race in the 1980s with its “gotta lotta bottle” slogan.
In general, look for a snug fit under your helmet and features like an inner sweatband with antibacterial properties, and a soft grip. For all weather conditions, you’ll want breathable material so you don’t cancel out all the tech that went into your helmet’s ventilation system.
For hot days, legend has it that cyclists used to put a cabbage leaf under their cap to keep cool. Thankfully, modern fabrics mean a smelly vegetable is no longer needed. Today’s casquettes are very lightweight so your head doesn’t overheat, offer sun protection and, importantly, wick sweat away. The cap’s peak blocks the sun that might otherwise sneak in around the edges of yur sunglasses or you can turn the cap backwards and use the peak as a barrier to sunburn on your neck.
In rainy weather, a lightweight waterproof cycling cap not only keeps your head warm and dry but the peak stops rain from dripping into your eyes. In winter, you can add a thicker hat to your winter cycling wardrobe to provide insulation from the cold.