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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road.cc test report
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.
About the tester
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,
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.