How to wear… Caps

Ex-pro Yanto Barker ex­plains why caps should re­ceive a right­ful re­nais­sance as part of your out­fit

Cyclist - - Caps -

Awise man once said, ‘Trends come and go, but caps are for­ever.’ That wise man was me, and I said it just then, but the point is valid. Cas­quettes have been around al­most as long as the bi­cy­cle. They are in­te­gral to our cul­ture so they shouldn’t be con­sid­ered in any way a fash­ion fad – think of their pop­u­lar­ity more as you would the moon’s phases. The cap waxes and wanes but will al­ways be there.

In re­cent times the cur­rency of the cap has waned, largely be­cause hel­mets are now ac­tu­ally cool to wear. Even though wear­ing a hel­met is not a le­gal re­quire­ment un­less you are rac­ing, it’s the pre­ferred head­wear for all rides nowa­days, and rightly so. Style, as im­por­tant as it is, should never come at the ex­pense of safety. Yet go back 15 years and it was very dif­fer­ent. Back then a cy­cling cap was what you wore and it was some­thing that was worn in a very par­tic­u­lar way.

As has al­ways been cor­rect, the pros made the rules and the am­a­teurs ob­served them. If you were a se­nior rider, your cap was worn tra­di­tion­ally – the peak fac­ing for­wards and down. Note Miguel In­durain in any of his Tour wins, or Bjarne Riis in the 1996 Tour. Those guys epit­o­mised this law. How­ever younger rid­ers, as they were cool and hip and fash­ion-for­ward, wore their caps back­wards with the peak up – see Jan Ull­rich just a year later in 1997.

As the years passed, these first in­for­mal nuggets of cap eti­quette (capi­quette?) crys­tallised into rules: peaks for­ward and down be­low 30kmh, back­ward and up above 30kmh. Only in train­ing, though. Pros might be totems of style but they wouldn’t drop a tell like that if they were plan­ning to ac­cel­er­ate away from their ri­vals in an ac­tual race.

Cap it off

With caps now rare in the pelo­ton, there’s more scope for the am­a­teur to carve out their own rules. There’s no rea­son why, with care­ful colour and style se­lec­tion, a cap and hel­met can­not only co­ex­ist but ac­tu­ally en­rich the rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. A lightweight cap in sum­mer can keep sweat from your eyes, while an in­su­lated one in win­ter can keep your head warm.

A clean white cap is the best choice. I used to get very up­set if one of my team­mates picked mine up – there was never a lim­it­less sup­ply and clean ones af­ter the Clas­sics were few and far be­tween. I have a soft spot for a cap that matches your socks, though – lit­tle touches like that will earn a nod from even the most dis­cern­ing cy­cling fash­ion­ista.

When rid­ing with a cap in your pocket it should be folded with the peak in­side the body of the cap, and placed ver­ti­cally in your pocket with­out be­ing bent, oth­er­wise you might as well throw it away. A cap with a bent peak is like a bird with a bent beak: not worth a squawk.

Colin Lewis, a racer from the days of Tom Simpson, has told me some sto­ries about caps. In the bad old days a cap could be taken right off a team­mate’s head by se­nior rid­ers if they had up­set stom­achs. With­out get­ting too graphic, ap­par­ently they could be put down the shorts to catch all the con­tents of the un­planned op­er­a­tion, leav­ing the area rel­a­tively clean given the cir­cum­stances. Thank­fully in my time I never wit­nessed this. If you have, you’re rid­ing with the wrong type of peo­ple. Next month – shud­der – Yanto looks ahead to win­ter.

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