Ode to a Cycling Cap

November 30th, 2012

By Thomas Miller

Jacques Anquetil

Keeping up with the latest and greatest in cycling technology is practically a full time job.  Even for those of us who are exposed to the information every day, the endless innovations and voracious demand for faster, lighter, stronger, products  is pretty overwhelming. Carbon wheels, electronic shifting, new bottom bracket standards every week and even disc brakes on road bikes.  There are no more steel bikes or down tube shifters in competition and it turns out that you can make everything aero.

I sometimes feel blinded, mesmerized, or tricked with all of it.  For me, riding has always been more internal. More about self discovery.  Seeing the world from a different perspective and reveling in the strange mix of solitude and suffering that cycling provides.  The deepest conversations and purest moments of my life have occurred on a bike.  It’s where I truly experience the world.  It’s where I question my motives and sort through my problems.

Roger DeVlaeminck over the hairne

I’m not entirely sure where cycling caps fit into this, or remind me of the reason I ride.  They just do.

Watching black and white video on the internet of Anquetil and Merckx, wondering how they were so fast on such machines.  Everything has changed since then.  Everything but the ubiquitous cycling cap, or casquette if you have a flare for French life. Untouched by time, this little cotton lid is my connection with yesterday. It’s one thing I have in common with Anquetil and Merckx. A point of reference, I suppose.  I just can’t imagine riding in the fall or winter without one.

When you look back on pictures of Hinault in 1980, winning Liege Bastogne Liege in a snowstorm and permanently losing feeling in his fingers, it’s there.  When you search for images of Coppi, on his way to victory in the 1953 Giro d’Italia, it’s there as well. The modest cotton cap.

Possibly one of the best pieces of kit available, cycling caps are guaranteed to never go out of style.  The little overachievers are equal parts form and function. They keep the rain off, the sun out, and the style in.  Also, they’re 1/225 the price of those 303’s you’ve been wanting.  If you haven’t already, give one a try.  Find some old country road and go ride.

Others have written extensively about the the Casquette, to an obsessive degree. Look here or here or maybe even here and waste some time.