Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My favorite things: Made in the USA

The last time I spoke on the subject of my favorite things, I showed you a couple of brands that you can get either factory direct, or from a dealer, but both were made in China. To me, there is no shame in purposefully buying things from China or Taiwan because let's face it: most of the stuff in this industry comes from there. I compared each product I was speaking of to that of an American manufacturer.
The only reason for the comparison was the fact that most American made cycling products are simply the benchmark by which all other quality products should be measured. The argument I made for the other products was simply based on value for the dollar. It is understandable that most American made products are more costly than their foreign counterparts. I thought it only fair to share with you, one of my favorite products that is both made in the USA, and affordable.

It is no secret that I am a big fan of BikeSnobNYC, aka "Wildcat Rock Machine." He is a hell of a lot funnier than I, and as a result, more widely read than myself. Not only is he a blogger, but a published author, father of seventeen (17), and has collaborated with Walz Caps, to bring us some bike snob themed cycling caps. When I saw them, I decided that I had to have them.
I paid little attention to who made them because I was more concerned about the subject matter. Little did I know that the quality of the products from the California based manufacturer would far surpass the quality of caps I already own. I mean, I never gave any thought to who makes the caps that I wear. "A cap is just a cap, right?" Wrong. I currently own about 12 caps, all of which represent brands that I own (or had owned), brands that I trust, caps from shops I have visited, and caps that were sitting there on the shelf on days that I needed a cap (right place, right time). If I had one complaint about cycling caps it was that they only helped me in the winter. Keeping heat in, and with an ear band, kept wind out. In the warmer months however, I needed a way to keep sweat off my face and rain off my glasses when the clouds would roll in. I would find myself overheating quickly if I were to wear a cap in the same way as in the winter. That said, I feel I just might have found the perfect all-weather cap.

I got three (3) Walz Caps, 
and they all have distinct qualities that set them apart from the rest.
The first of those was the cotton, black and white, 4 panel BSNYC cap.

A very well fitting, and light weight cap. You would think that a negligible weight difference would not matter much, but a heavier fabric just cannot allow for moisture exchange. If it can't breath then it just stores heat and moisture. I like the addition of what seems to be an actual sweat band inside the base of the cap.

Rather than soaking up the sweat and showing it, it seems to have the wicking properties of any good base layer. Wicking as defined by Wiki:

 "The purpose of the inner layer is to draw the sweat away from the skin to the next layers, which makes the wearer feel warmer and more comfortable. The transfer of moisture happens due to capillary action. This is sometimes called wicking, and thus the used materials are called wicking materials. When moisture has moved from the skin into (nonabsorbent) clothing, it has more surface area and will evaporate faster."

If this was not the intention of the materials that Walz used, then it was one damn fine, happy accident (though I have not confirmed this with them, I am sure they knew what they were doing). After some hill repeats this week, I was sweat free in the head band area and could not be happier. Finally, a cap that I don't want to rip from my head mid-ride. 

The next cap is their wool offering. Complete with a "murdered out" color scheme.

Also emblazoned with the BSNYC theme with a bill that fits much more like a ball cap than a cycling cap.
Unlike most other wool cycling garments I have experienced, 
the fabric is very thin to the touch. It is extremely form-fitting so 
It fits very nicely inside a helmet without feeling bulky 
and is still just a warm as any other wool product.
This is a really well done cap. 
The price point is about $10 more than the cotton cap but hey, 
wool is not cheap. 

The third cap is a bit more unique. Having nothing to do with Bike Snob, but everything to do with cycling.
In an effort to put caps back where they belong in their traditional place on the podium and cycling culture as a whole, this special-edition cap was inspired by Bill Strickland, designed by Superissimo, and produced by Walz. Upon receiving mine, I took the obligatory "selfie."

Beyond being another well-made cap, 
it's the message that is important with this one.
"Caps Not Hats"  Is not merely a Hash Tag or a catchy marketing slogan, instead, it is an attempt to preserve an important article from cycling's past. Replaced by a common ball cap, the cycling cap atop a champion's head showed his allegiance to his sponsors and team. See, back in the day, cyclists were not required to wear helmets and wore a chapeau which was not only functional as a sweat mop, but showed who they rode for and made them identifiable to the fans. Teams wore them as a sort of uniform. Now, with helmets required, caps seem to take a back seat because teams can paint their helmets with the team colors and name, making the job of the cycling cap, sort of obsolete. On the podium however, it is not the beloved cycling cap that they reach for, instead, the trendy trucker cap. 
Probably because some genius marketing strategist decided that 
"it's what the cool kids are wearing these days." 
Who gives a shit about the "cool" kids though? If it means selling out your traditions in order to reach out to a new demographic, then perhaps you are marketing to the wrong crowd. That's all I am saying. You don't have to be on the podium to wear a cap. No, you just have to know what it means to wear it. If you bike, it is your right. Even all the silly hipsters that use cycling caps to show which coffee they drink have continued the tradition of cycling in a cycling cap. Even if it was because it was pink and said "Campagnolo," it still honors, in its own way, cycling's past. What does that mean for the cycling cap's future? We will not know unless we put the cap back where it belongs. A cap for every head that has an ass on a bike. A bike for every ass and so on... 

So be sure to visit the great folks at www.walzcaps.com, where you can find all sorts of awesome caps including caps for a cause, which benefit many great organizations.

Be sure to pick up one or five from them, or your local bike shop.
Then, get on your damn bike.