Friday, July 4, 2008

Walz Wool Cycling Caps

Way back in August of last year I mentioned I had ordered a pair of Walz Caps. I had also promised a review when they arrived. Well they arrived… months ago… I’d like to tell you that this review is long overdue because I wanted to do a long-term “product test”… In reality it’s more because I’m lazy – but because of that laziness you do in fact benefit from the experience of a longer-term trial period.

I like wearing cycling caps. I generally have little hair and so caps, I think, help absorb sweat and keep it from rolling into my eyes and also should a bug fly into my helmet there that little bit of fabric to separate us – especially if it’s a stinging-type insect! I will not wear ball caps – I think they look stupid under helmets and that whole stiff-brim-getting-pushed-into-your-forehead thing if you land on your face… well kind of negates the whole purpose of wearing the helmet, huh? I have worn beanies and bandanas, but I do like having a neater looking cap with a brim when I get off the bike and take my helmet off.

I first heard about Walz Caps in a Dirt Rag review of the new Surly Caps. I had originally intended to try and track one of these down – I’m not sure if it mentioned Walz in the review - somewhere on the surly website I discovered they were made by Walz. The Surly caps turned out to be a bit tougher to get a hold of whereas I could order direct from Walz and have a choice of many colours (the Surly one was black).

I ordered two caps, both wool.

A Tan one (which is still available)

…and a herringbone pattern one which doesn’t seem to be available.

Cool thing about them – you can have them personalized! (I have enough stuff that says “Surly” on it – why pay for one more things to advertise for them when I can advertise for ME!?)

I have to say I LOVE these caps! I have pretty much LIVED in them since they arrived – except for a a month or so where I simply had to wear a toque or have my ears fall off!

How have they held up?

All of these pictures were taken a week or so ago after a good solid six months or so of use and abuse – look pretty much the same as when I got them – can’t say the same for any of the cotton caps I’ve owned in the past. By now they’d be showind definite signs of wear and by the end of the summer be holed and coming apart – no sign of such wear on Walz Wool caps!

There is a certain simple elegance to them that makes even a dork like me look suave and debonair. I’m just not that interested in paying money to be a walking advertisement for some euro racing team of multi-million dollar parts company (there was a pink campagnolo cycling cap at the Bike Doctor a while back – but it was twenty five freaking dollars for a cotton, screen printed cap – for twenty-five bucks I get the honour of advetising for them… No thanks - attention makers and distributors of Campagnolo – or any other cool bicycle products for that matter – if you want to sent me a cap of yours to wear I will gladly wear it and advertise for you… when my Walz caps are in the wash…).

Downside #1 These, like pretty much every cycling cap I’ve ever worn, have brims at pretty steep angles. I find that when wearing these under a helmet it obscures just a bit too much of my vision for me to be comfortable. Keep in mind I generally ride road bikes and like to be on the drops – maybe on a mountain bike this wouldn’t be as much of an issue. Not that it’s really an issue anyway. I do ride like this from time to time anyway. come to think of it I don't think I'd ever want them changed really - just thought I'd mention it in case anyone out there is annoyed by this standard sort of cycling cap geometry. I'm only very mildly... I don't know... irritated? ...from time to time...?

Generally I wear the hat with the brim facing back. Here’s one of the things that rocks this cap – most other cycling caps have some sort of card or plastic stiffener in the brim these do not. Other caps I’ve had when worn in this position have interfered with the straps of the helmet or dug into the back of the neck… This also makes it easier to stuff in a pocket – should you ever decide to take it off your head.

Downside #2- another minor (very minor) issue I have with them is that one size doesn’t really “fit all”. In fact one size doesn’t necessarily even fit the same!? The two hats fit slightly differently – if you take a really close look at the first two pictures (click on them for that bigger up-closey look). Look at where they sit in relation to my ear – the herringbone hat sits a little higher on my head and feels just a little bit more like a beanie than the tan one which fits a bit lower and snugger. Both fit well enough that I wear them both – but I tend to wear the tan one a LOT more, just because I like the fit just a bit better.

I should point out that I have a pretty damn big head – other hats that I wear are generally 59-60cm or 7 ½ - 7 ¾ depending on the maker and style. So if you have a big damn head you’re probably okay (unless you have a truly ENORMOUS head worthy of a bison). 

Amanda is the opposite, however. She has a wee little head and has often worn children’s hats. The Walz caps do not fit her. Maybe if she tied a knot in them somewhere…? But really how many people have heads as freakishly small as hers…

There was a wee bit of shrinkage when I’ve washed them but after a wear or two they’ve more or less stretched back into place.

Another advantage of the wool caps I’ve noticed over the cotton caps is this: cotton caps seem to get stained with sweat. You sweat in them, gunk and dust sticks to the moistened cotton and is maybe absorbed right into it? I’ve found that with cotton caps I’ve had in the past I have to launder them very regularly (at least once a week or even every couple of days) if you don’t want them to be permanently stained. Maybe this is just because I am a big hairy sweaty beast. I am loath to admit how little I’ve actually washed my Walz caps – but so far no sign of staining from sweat!

Overall and excellent product for a very reasonable price – considering it’s hand made (and exceptionally WELL made...) in the U.S.A. of long-wearing, quality materials.


JohnnyBZG said...

The tan cap appears to be a bit more on the roomy side...from ear line to apex of head (I don't know the 'technical' term). I too have a tiny wee head (hey I'm a Scotsman so I can actually use the term 'wee' I generally wear a small cap. I have some Brooklyn repro caps that apparently don't have any consistent sizing... a nice Rapha cap I have is the perfect size- it's a 'small' small. I was thinking on getting some Walz caps, but now I'm not so sure as you comment on them being more on the roomy size...but hey they seem to suit good luck with them.. JayKay

tim said...

After a few more washes they aren't fitting so good... but I pretty much lived in them for a year. I've started making my own. They fit much better...

Joel said...

Do you mean that they have now shrunk or that they grew too big now?

tim said...

after about a year and a few more washings they had shrank. They still fit on my head and stuff - but more like a beanie or a skull cap on the top of my head rather than a comfortable cap that came down almost to my ears..