I’m not exactly a fashionable dude. My idea of dressing up involves a fresh pair of black Dickies and some “dress clogs.” (Yes, dress clogs. In my world there is such a thing.) So when I received a couple Rapha items in the mail last week, I was a little freaked out. A Rapha clothing item looks about as appropriate on me as one of those UFC Affliction shirts would look on Queen Elizabeth. But I thought “Hey, what the hell, I will rock this thing and see what happens.” And I did. And I was impressed.
Being the owner of several merino wool hats, (they give the things out at MTB endurance events like they’re key chains) I have a lot to compare the Rapha hat to. How does it compare…
The Rapha Winter Hat, or cycling beanie, is comprised of 95% luxury merino wool and 5% nylon. The nylon provides more durability and elasticity, also ensuring a more snug fit. It is my impression that the high merino wool content provides for a less itchy-headed-experience than that of other merino wool hats. While my other merino wool hats are far less itchy than standard wool hats, or even alpaca wool hats (I’m serious, I own one), this hat rates about a 10 on the itchy-head scale, 10 being “none-itchy.”
If you have no merino wool experience, let me tell you this: merino wool is the cat’s pajamas. And let me also tell you this: if the cat’s pajamas are made from anything but merino wool – they are total crap. Merino wool is, as I have mentioned, not very itchy (or in this case, not itchy at all). It wicks sweat away from your body better than just about any synthetic. And while it dries quickly, it has no problem keeping you warm, even when wet. It is, by all accounts, pretty awesome stuff. Oh, and I almost forgot: it never smells bad. A lot of synthetics act as body-odor amplifiers, holding onto vast amounts of funk; merino wool gets about as funky as Vampire Weekend.
The hat is reversible too. Flipping it inside out is a great way to show off the uber-burly stitching. And as the Rapha guys say: “The two-inch earband can be folded up to help regulate body temperature as well as to provide some stylish versatility.”
The Rapha merino hat is obviously stylish enough to be worn without a helmet (“Rapha-style”), but fits nicely under a helmet as well.
Ah yes, so stylish without my helmet on.
I know the “pro” thing to do is to wear a helmet when you race and ride all summer, only to spend the winter protecting your brains with nothing but a beanie, but unfortunately I live in the Boston-ish area (it’s unfortunate for so many reasons), which isn’t a safe place to ride any time of year, and it only gets worse in the winter — shoulders are narrowed by ever-expanding snowbanks; pot holes appear out of nowhere, hiding in huge puddles of murky water; sand and black ice make laying it down almost an inevitable possibility, and the drivers behave the way they do during any other season: like belligerent maniacs, bent on vehicular homicide. So ya, I wear a helmet. And a pink one at that.
Oops, got a bit side-tracked there…
The Rapha Winter Hat is $50.00 MSRP and it is available through Rapha’s site.