I know the fifth anniversary gift is wood, but...
September 17, 2009 7:54 AM   Subscribe

Is there a known Best Winter Hat for Cyclists?

For our fifth anniversary, I want to buy my husband an awesome hat to wear while he commutes to work on his bike. We live in the snowiest neighborhood in Cleveland, so it needs to have the following characteristics:

-Somewhat waterproof
-Super warm (he's pretty much bald)
-Extraordinarily attractive
-Not too flashy (he's a pretty conservative dresser.)
- it would be for under-helmet use

Let's assume money is no object, even though it is.
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm going to assume you're kidding on the attractive. He does not need a hat, he needs a balaclava. Hands-down the best piece of winter cycling gear I own. Useful in more situations than the insulated ankle-height shoes (which are second on the list).
posted by notsnot at 8:04 AM on September 17, 2009

The biggest issue you face with cycling hats is heat build-up, even in extreme cold. Ideally, they want to prevent wind chill to your ears and the top of the head. I've got an Altura beanie which is perfect for this. It's a soft synthetic fabric with a built in sweatband, which keeps my head just warm enough.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:11 AM on September 17, 2009

Seconding balaclava.

I wear a smartwool one, with another wool beanie on top if it's cold, and if it's REALLY cold, I layer 'em with a silk one. They're all super thin, great when wet and very versatile. I HIGHLY recommend wool for winter use. You can't beat it for durability, stink resistance and wet performance.

No such thing as attractive + warm on a bike. You gotta cover everything but your eyeballs (and even your eyeballs once its down in the single digits.
posted by paanta at 8:20 AM on September 17, 2009

Winter riding usually means starting out frigidly cold, then, after you start exerting yourself, winding up too warm. You need something that you can easily adjust/remove while staying on the bike.

For me, that means multiple pieces. Usually, some combination of an earflap hat (I like Gore's Windstopper material) plus neckwarmer and/or facemask if it's really cold.
posted by box at 8:24 AM on September 17, 2009

My big cycling hat issue is the requirement that it doesn't restrict my peripheral vision.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:24 AM on September 17, 2009

Walz caps has a wool model with ear flaps that can be folded up and stowed away. Here.
posted by fixedgear at 8:37 AM on September 17, 2009

nthing Balaclava. All last year I used an Outdoor Research one that was very thin and stretchy but fit under my helmet and kept me warm down to the mid teens (had to add some face covering at that point). I think it isthis one.
posted by ghharr at 8:51 AM on September 17, 2009

He needs options:

A nice thick balaclava for very cold conditions,
a lighter weight toque that covers the ears for less cold conditions,
and, if protection from pouring slush and rain is an issue, a waterproof helmet cover.

You don't want to wear a waterproof hat under a helmet. Not only will his head get sweaty because the hat will prevent or slow the escape of perspiration, but he will also find it annoying to have water running down his head underneath his helmet.

If he doesn't have them already, a pair of big glasses (like sunglasses, but with clear or yellow lenses) will help prevent excessive cold wind in the eyes, which can make it difficult to see at high speeds.
posted by ssg at 9:17 AM on September 17, 2009

On the glasses front, as SSG says, he needs some glasses, and winter commuting means clear lenses. Instead of glasses with interchangeable lenses (which I do have, and like, and use for rides that start out daylight but end after dark), I'd recommend machine-shop or chemistry-lab safety glasses. My wife got me a couple pairs from the soap factory (no brand name on them, sorry) that I've actually received compliments on the stylishness of from the bike shop guys.
posted by notsnot at 9:27 AM on September 17, 2009

The Rapha Winter Hat is boss. Very stylish and super functional. It'll keep his head and ears warm (but wick sweat like crazy) and has a brim to stop any precipitation from hitting his eyes. It's a little pricey, but well worth it (I got mine on special but would easily by a new one at full price if I ever need to).

But yeah, he needs a balaclava too, for those really cold days. I like Craft: without windstopper, with windstopper.
posted by The Michael The at 9:36 AM on September 17, 2009

My winter biking gear was roughly:
Seirus Ultra Clava
1 helmet
Polarized Ski Goggles (don't remember what brand)
SKS Xtra-Dry Rear Seatpost Fender
2 rear - Cateye lights
1 front Cateye light
35-L REI internal framepack they no longer make
some MR Gaiters (principally used for mountaineering - bikers usually use some different booties but didn't hey - I already had this)
Goretex Pants
Lightweight Goretex Jacket
Cycling Shirt
old leather shoes (no toeclips) which I waterproofed the snot out of.
I had a comfortable winter commute for 3 winters in Boston.
I always found it hard to take off the balacava in the spring.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:56 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

While hat shopping you might consider, if he doesn't have them already, lobster mitts.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:58 AM on September 17, 2009

Paula Deer makes really nice winter cycling hats for under helmets (although they aren't waterproof, they are wool so retain warmth). Her store doesn't have much right now, but you can look at sold items like this.
posted by cushie at 10:46 AM on September 17, 2009

Holy moly. Balaclava? Can you even fit that under a helmet? Am I that spoiled by Colorado cycling weather that I just don't get it? I just wore a synthetic cap from Helly-Hansen, which ends up being super hot by the end of a ride. I'm going to second wool, though. My synthetic hat starts to smell funky after a few rides.

On those SUPER cold days, I had a very thin fleece hat that I could put over the top, but even that was a lot of bulk under the helmet. I think layers will work here just as well as anywhere else on the body.
posted by jstef at 11:00 AM on September 17, 2009

A balacava in the Boston served a few purposes:
#1. City drivers spray lots of road salt and slush in your face in the winter. You want it covered. Snow was better than rain or sleet - by far, but still messy. If you are in a city or will be commuting on roads where there is significant traffic, clavas are nice...
#2. New England winters are bitingly cold and wet - it isn't a dry snow when it is snow, or if it is it is a COLD dry snow with huge winds. The nasty sublimation/slush/ice freeze combination of the east coast is one of the many reasons why (ignoring the run lengths) people from out west find it disappointing to ski our hills in the east.
#3. An additional advantage of the Seirus Ultra Clava was that I could easily pull the neoprene off my face completely when I neeeded to (occasionally it did get to be too much).

jstef: My balaclava fit pretty easily under my helmet -its basically a skull cap that covers my head. To fit a balacava under a helmet it required expanding the helmet and chin strap less than a quarter of an inch. Layers, btw - were when I through a synth ski cap OVER the balaclava... and the smell from inside the balaclava wasn't bad (neoprene is pretty good about not taking the smell)? Still - it got washed weekly...

Last - stay out of the way of snowplows... be ready to vault tall snowbanks.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:34 AM on September 18, 2009

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