It's only recently become cold enough to wear Sealskinz' Belgian Style Cycling Cap as it's just too toasty for temperatures above 10°C. It's already obvious that this is going to be a vital winter companion, though.
Like most SealSkinz items, the Belgian Cap has three layers. On the outside there's a knitted acrylic that looks a bit like old-school jersey fabric from the days between wool and modern wonder-weaves. On the inside, there's a thoroughly up to date polyester fleece. The filling in the sandwich is a waterproof, breathable membrane.
The end result is a hat that keeps your head warm—really, really warm—and dry.
There's also a peak to keep the rain out of your eyes or off your glasses and an extension at the sides and round the back for extra warmth and to protect your ears from the breeze.
In merely temperate conditions it's head-boilingly warm, but when the mercury heads south it comes into its own, fighting off both the chill and the wet with aplomb.
There are two sizes, S/M and L/XL. Our L/XL sample is pretty snug on my 58-ish head so those with heads much bigger may struggle. The Waterproof Beanie we tested a while back is also available in XXL; it'd be nice if this hat were too.
I found it was too thick to squeeze under most helmets. That doesn't bother me as I almost never wear one these days. (The failure of widespread helmet use to have any effect on the rate of cyclist deaths and serious injuries shows they actually do bugger all.) But if plastic hats are your thing, you're not going to be able to benefit from the cosiness on offer here. Tant pis.
It would be nice if the Belgian Cap had some reflective material built-in though. It's going to be used in crappy light and low visibility, so a bit of bouncing-back-headlights wouldn't go amiss.
Which brings us to the whole issue of looks. Sealskinz stuff works, but nobody would ever accuse it of being stylish. It doesn't normally matter - who really cares what socks and gloves look like if they keep you warm and dry? But headwear's different and the Belgian Cap is distinctly gimpy. It's better than the Waterproof Beanie, which Shaun Audane reckoned made him look like a radioactive smurf, but that's not saying much.
On the whole though, this is a cap to see you through to March, whatever the weather throws at you. Its combination of warmth and water-resistance is a boon, even if it wins no style contests.
Warm, cosy and waterproof hat that doesn't look like you have a plastic bag on your head
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Make and model: Sealskinz Belgian cap
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The ultimate cold, wet weather training hat for when you absolutely have to go out and get the miles in.
Totally waterproof, windproof and breathable
Fleece lined with additional ear band for extra warmth
Short, stiff peak keeps rain and sun out of riders' eyes
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Outer Shell: 100% Acrylic
Inner: 100% Polyester
Tidy; no loose threads.
Warm - very warm - and waterproof.
SealSKinz stuff typically lasts well.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well. It does what it says on the proverbial tin.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Having a warm dry head.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Looking a bit gimpy. I can deal, but SealSkinz really should rope in a style-conscious clothing designer to knock the industrial edges off their 'look'.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Age: 48 Height: 5ft 11in Weight: 85kg
I usually ride: Scapin Style My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb,
Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.