Come the cold, come the real cold, a helmet just isn't enough to keep those icy winter winds at bay. A decent skull cap or hat, that fits snugly under your helmet and keeps your head and ears warm, but allows your scalp to breathe, is a winter essential for the road cyclist. Get the insulation right with your extremities - your hands, feet and head - and you have a solid foundation on which to take on even the most piercing chill.
Winter thermal hats will suffice, but it is always worth investing in one that is cycling specific for a number of reasons. The are several styles and designs available, but a well designed cycling specific hat should tick all the necessary boxes - providing insulation, protection and breathability, yet still ensure that the fit underneath the helmet is comfortable - too much fabric can bunch up or put pressure on your cranium.
Your ears are all important - they too must be kept warm, but without hearing being impaired. Fortunately the advancements in textiles in more recent years have resulted in hats that are thin enough not to muffle your hearing, yet deliver the warmth and breathability we require, even when riding at a high tempo.
Of course, it's not all about performance - you've got to look good too! So here are Five of the Best, chosen to suit all tastes and wallets. Grab yourself one of these and you'll be looking forward to those mornings when you step outside, exhale, and see your breath in the air!
If you have any recommendations of your own, then let your fellow members know!
FOR THOSE WITH AND EYE FOR SCANDINAVIAN DESIGN
Swedish company Craft have a good reputation for competitively priced and well made cycling gear and their Winter Bike Cap is no exception. Scandinavians know a thing or two about dealing with plummeting mercury and the soft fleece lining and ear flaps will protect you from all but the most fearsome northerlies. The sturdy peak will also help keep out some of that blinding, low winter sunlight and the nape of your neck will get some protection from the chill winds too. Craft's exclusive Flex fleece fabric will ensure a good fit and a comfortable one too. Simple, stylish, but with a windproof front panel - this is a hat that will keep you warm on your ride and generate a bit of sartorial envy amongst your cycling friends too!
Available online or visit craftsportwear.co.uk.Price: £20. (S/M and L/XL)
FOR THE CLASSICS RIDER WHO HANKERS FOR CLASSIC STYLE
Rapha continually draws on the past for design inspiration and even their Country Winter hat is a nod to cycling's historical past - the era of Merckx and Maertens, of northern Classics ridden by hard men who rode the cobbles, mud and rain with a haunted and gritted determination. Based on the classic Belgian cycling hat, the Country Winter hat complements Rapha's newly arrived long sleeve Country Jerseys, which explains why it comes in three versions representing the colours of Norway, Holland and the USA. The sportwool knit will keep you warm, but being rich in merino, will allow your head to breathe and the mesh lining will also help to wick away perspiration. It doesn't matter if you wear this back to front, or with ear guards up or down, this is a versatile hat that is always going to look classy and is colourful and stylish enough to be worn on and off the bike.
For more product information and to buy online visit rapha.cc. Price: £35.00 ('one size fits all' - Rapha).
FOR THE WINTER CYBORG WHO DEMANDS ONLY THE VERY BEST
OK, so its design may recall Russian cosmonauts during the space race, but there is far more to the wonderfully named Assos Robocap than is immediately apparent. Coming in three sizes, it is designed to be tight fitting, but the eight panel construction make it comfortable and snug, especially on the ear and front panels. The innovative RXQ fabric is soft, lightweight and breathable and will keep you warm in temperatures between 0° to 8°. The quality construction and clever fabric combinations, synonymous with the Swiss manufacturer, are further enhanced by the slick design, which includes reflective strips on both the front and back of the hat. There are also a couple of toggles to pop your eyewear through - bereft of ears on which to perch your winter shades, the elastic toggles offer a very clever, simple and innovative solution. Expensive, but top drawer.
FOR THOSE LOOKING FOR A QUALITY BARGAIN
Kitting oneself out for winter can be a huge expense and if you want to save a few pennies on your winter headgear, but do not want to compromise on quality and performance, then the Winter Helmet hat/Skull Cap from BBB is the one for you. BBB is a Dutch brand that delivers dependable products at a very affordable price. These may not have the construction quality and higher spec fabrics of some of the more expensive winter hats on the market, but the 89% polyester thermo material, combined with a stretch fit that covers your ears, will provide good protection.
FOR THE FOLLICALLY CHALLENGED
If you need just that little bit of extra protection from the cold, then the Castelli Viva Thermo Skully (as modelled by David Millar below) is a stylish, lightweight option, that comes in the Italian manufacturers signature colours - red, black and white. Designed to keep you comfortable in milder temperatures between 7 °C and 12 °C, the thermoflex fleece fabric is soft, lightweight and excellent at wicking away moisture. Similar in design to Castelli's natty little Summer Skullcap, the Viva is essentially a headband with a lid. This is definitely the headgear of choice for milder winter days, and cooler autumn and spring rides. It is non-bulky and easily stowed away and, dare we suggest it, ideal for those cyclists who have parted company with their natural thermal layer.
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