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Safe and warm: Special cycling caps fit under a helmet and protect against the cold

Photo: Nathan Bilow/Getty Images

If you want to cycle in winter, you need a hat. However, commercially available wool hats are usually too thick: the helmet no longer fits or you can easily sweat due to the tightly pressed cap. So-called under-helmet caps are made of a thin material, they fit under the helmet, protect against wind and, ideally, also wick away sweat. Special models for winter are lightly lined and water-repellent or even waterproof.

We have two basic designs in our test: the so-called beanie, whose design is reminiscent of a swimming cap, and models with an umbrella like a baseball cap. However, both cuts can be pulled over the ears, at least in the winter models, and also protect against the cold in the neck.

The advantage of the beanies is that they can be folded in a more space-saving way and thus easier to put into pockets. As a rule, they also sit more comfortably, as they only need one elastic band. The caps, on the other hand, have an umbrella that is supposed to protect the eyes from raindrops and the sun's rays. On some models, the areas around the ears can also be folded up if it gets too warm under the hat.

Endura Pro SL Winter Cap

The Pro SL Winter Cap is a beanie in baseball cap design with a small visor and extensions for the ears and neck. The material is water-repellent and rather smooth on the outside, but it is roughened and soft on the inside. A strong elastic band keeps the cap on the head. However, due to the tension, the umbrella can press a little on the forehead at the front. The extension for ears and neck is equipped with a slightly weaker elastic band in the lower area. Due to the narrow closure, the wind has no chance to catch the ears.

In the test, the cap sits securely under a helmet and does not slip. The windproof material is thin but warms well. It's so dense that it actually dampens noise – an effect we haven't seen with other hats. At temperatures around zero degrees, you can drive permanently, it didn't get colder during the test period. When it rains, the head stays dry, but the small umbrella hardly protects the eyes from the drops. Even when the sun is low in the sky, the protective effect of the small umbrella is manageable.

Endura has printed reflective stripes on the visor, giving it a raison d'être beyond aesthetics, as well as the stripes in the neck area. It is difficult to estimate whether the small stripes actually increase visibility in night-time traffic. Endura only offers the cap in black, but in two sizes.

What you like: The hat is made of thin and light material, but it still warms well. Wind and rain are well kept out.

The less: The strong elastic band can press a little in the forehead.

For whom the Endura Pro SL Winter Cap is suitable: Anyone who values a lightweight, windproof and waterproof under-helmet cap. However, you have to accept that the umbrella is just a pretty accessory with no function.

Vaude Bike Windproof Cap III

The Bike Windproof Cape III is an under-helmet cap in the shape of a beanie. Two different materials are used on the outside: The entire headboard is made of a wind- and water-repellent polyester yarn, which Vaude says it obtains from recycled PET bottles. The area around the ears and neck is made of a softer fabric. Inside, the hat is lined with fleece.

Overall, the fabric is relatively strong with its two layers, but still fits well under a helmet. The stretch fabric ensures a snug fit. The area around the ears is reinforced with an elastic band so that no cold can come in from below.

In practice, the hat warms and protects against wind. It can also be used at temperatures around freezing. On the ears, however, it is not quite as warm as the caps of POC or Endura, for example. Rain keeps them out well. Vaude offers them in three colors and four sizes.

What you like: It protects the head from cold, wind and rain. It sits very comfortably.

The less: It is not completely windproof on the ears.

For whom the Vaude Bike Windproof Cap III is suitable: Anyone who needs an inconspicuous, warming cap for sports or commuting.

POC Thermal Cap

The thermal cap follows the baseball cap design, supplemented with covers for the ears and neck. The visor is larger than that of the Endura cap and thus fulfills its task quite well to protect against solar radiation and raindrops. But it can also be folded up – at least with our test helmets, this fit well. POC states that the Thermal Cap is optimized for its own helmets – but there is nothing wrong with wearing it with helmets from other brands.

POC has finely crafted the beanie: the seams are soft, the central elastic is covered with a soft fabric that absorbs sweat well. The double fabric is very soft and roughened on the inside: this makes the underhelmet cap very warm. POC states that the cap is water and wind repellent. However, the fabric is only coated in the front of the head.

The consequence: Although the hat is warm everywhere, cold wind can be felt on the ears in the test at 3 degrees above zero, although they are actually very well covered.

The Thermal Cap is available in the zinc-orange and black versions we tested. POC offers them in two sizes.

What you like: The hat is very well made and fits so perfectly that you almost forget about it. It's warm too.

The less: The lack of coating over the ears does not make them completely windproof.

For whom the POC Thermal Cap is suitable: It is suitable for athletes as well as everyday cyclists - but is very eye-catching with its umbrella.

Gore Windstopper Thermo Beanie

»Windstopper« is the name of the material developed by Gore, which is supposed to be breathable and windproof at the same time. Gore uses it in the entire front and upper area of the beanie cap, right down to the neck. Inside, there is a soft, fleece-like fabric that provides thermal insulation. Above the ears, the two layers of fabric (here without »Windstopper«) have offset slits. These allow the temples of glasses to be pushed onto the ears.

This actually works – depending on the glasses. The straight temples of cycling glasses are easy to slide in. However, the temples of a classic visual aid are usually curved behind the ear. In the test, we only managed to get everyday glasses through the slits under the cap with a mirror and plucking with both hands.

The fear that the air would also come through the slits is not confirmed in the test. On the contrary: Since the cap is not lifted from the skin by the glasses as with other models, it tends to pull less on the ears. Caution: With the cap you tear the glasses off your head. So first take off your glasses, then your gore cap.

There is an elastic band at the bottom that ensures a snug fit. The tension may become noticeable as pressure after some time. Especially under the ears and in the neck. On a ride with temperatures around freezing, however, it becomes apparent that Gore's concept works overall: The hat warms very well and also protects against cold winds. They are available in black and in two sizes.

What you like: It is warm, windproof and offers something extra for (sports) spectacle wearers.

The less: The elastic band can pinch.

For whom the Gore Windstopper thermal beanie is suitable: Actually, for all those who need a well-warming underhelmet cap - whether with or without glasses.

GripGrab Winter Cycling Cap

The Winter Cycling Cap is made of two materials: The cap part (including the visor) is made of smooth and windproof polyester, the lower part over the ears and neck is made of fleece. When it's warm, the entire fleece part can be folded up. The small visor is equipped with reflective elements at the front and can also be folded up. The actual cap has a circumferential, internally padded elastic band. A second elastic band ensures that the fleece fits snugly below the ears.

The concept of GripGrab largely works: The canopy warms well and is sufficiently warm even in the airstream. This also applies to the fleece ear area. The elastic band ensures that no wind can penetrate. The material itself is not as dense at the ears as, say, Gore's "Windstopper" material or Endura's cap. But in our test, the ears stayed warm, at least during city rides. And the fleece is comfortable to the touch.

GripGrabs Winter Cap is only available in black and in three sizes.

What you like: The cap is flexible and sits comfortably under the helmet. It warms well.

The less: For real protection from the weather, the umbrella is too small.

For whom the Winter Cycling Cap by GripGrab is suitable: For city cyclists as well as for cyclists who appreciate the flexibility of the underhelmet cap.

POC Avip Road Beanie

The Avip Road Beanie by POC is made of a thin stretch material that is brushed on the inside. POC does not use rubber linings – the elastic fabric ensures a secure fit. The model also fits snugly over the ears. Unusual: The logo of POC's beanies, which consists of reflective elements, sits on the back. Whether it's visible (and can actually reflect headlights) depends on the helmet in question. In testing, the cap wrinkled at the nape of the neck, so we would classify the visibility as rather modest.

Other bicycle accessories in the test

  • Cycling gloves tested: How to keep your hands warm in winterBy Markus Linden

  • Overshoes in the test:How to keep your feet dry while cyclingBy Markus Linden

  • Streamlined water protection:Rain jackets for bicycles in the testBy Markus Linden

However, the very thin fabric fits very well under any helmet and does not interfere at all. The price for the good fit is less strong insulation: at temperatures around freezing, it becomes cool on the head after a while. Roughly estimated, the Avip Road Beanie is suitable for temperatures between 5 and 15 degrees, below freezing point we would rather recommend one of the competing products. However, the polyester-polyamide-elastane blend is windproof.

The Avip Road Beanie is available in a universal size in black and zinc.

What you like: The underhelmet cap is thin, very light and does not interfere.

The less: At least for the tester, there is a bit too much fabric in the neck, which wrinkles. Less keeps you warm than other models.

For whom the POC Avip Road Beanie is suitable: Especially for cyclists who appreciate the low weight and for whom windproofness is more important than strong insulation.

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