While similar in shape and appearance to the previous version, the new Skullcap is a much tidier job, which promises better fit and comfort. Some rather lumpy seams have been done away with, replaced with tidily double-stitched joins that are totally invisible against the scalp, even under the pressure of a helmet.
When I put it on, my wife pointed and said 'ha, ha!' – which is her reaction to most of my cycling gear, so don't pay any attention. If it looks funny, that's just the function-over-form showing through. Once under a helmet it looks fine and, being in black, fairly low-key. It covers the most vulnerable areas – forehead, ears, back of the head – well, the thin material and close fit making it easy to get your helmet fit just right.
It was lovely and warm, even into a cold north wind. Effectively, it shuts down all the vents in your helmet so if you are the sort of rider who overheats, you may find it a bit much on non-windy days. Otherwise, once on, I paid it no attention – which is how a good product should work.
Altura's Polyester 'Shield' and 'Thermo' technology ('windproof' and 'warm' to us layfolk) replaces the previous Polyamide fabric. It is warm and windproof, too. It's also meant to be breathable, though that is less evident when the majority of it is covered by a polystyrene helmet. Similarly, the value of the reflective patches is limited under a helmet, though they do no harm, and if you intend to wear it without one will be a benefit.
As I have come to expect from Altura, it's a well-thought-out and well-made product that does its job without any fuss. On milder days – or even on cold ones if the sun put in an appearance – I had to take it off; but when that icy winter wind was whipping across the open road I was very glad of it.
Make and model: Altura Windproof Skullcap II
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
According to Altura, "Altura's Windproof Skullcap II uses a multi panelled construction in a lightweight thermal and windproof fabric to fit under your helmet helping add extra warmth when riding in cold weather."
I couldn't have put it better myself. Add in that it's also supposed to be breathable, though that's not always obvious under a helmet.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
From the website:
Top Features of the Altura Windproof Skullcap II
Altura Shield™ technology is engineered to provide protection from wind and water, whilst still offering high levels of breathability
Altura Thermo™ technology using thermosuede fabrics delivers body warming insulation and warmth, to maintain core thermoregulation, keeping you warm, dry and comfortable.
Strategically located retroreflective trims for increased visibiltiy
Rate the product for quality of construction:
Neatly made from several panels all double-stitched.
Rate the product for performance:
Very warm – perhaps a bit too warm for all but the coldest weather. Breathability is not really enhanced by wearing a helmet over the top, but I didn't find it unpleasantly sweaty. It fits well.
Rate the product for durability:
There's little to go wrong here. Wash it according to the care instructions and it should last years.
Rate the product for fit:
It comes in one size. My very average 58cm head found this neither too large nor too small, and it has plenty of stretch so should fit a good range of folk. It covers the ears well.
Rate the product for sizing:
Rate the product for weight:
Not as light as a snood-type hat, but it fits better and it's still only an ounce.
Rate the product for comfort:
Fit and forget; unless the sun comes out, when I soon started to overheat – but that's okay, you can take it off! The fitted panels mean it sits close to the scalp – much better than a snood, and the helmet sits well over the top of that.
Rate the product for value:
Hardly a massive outlay for a well-made and very useful piece of kit.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Just throw it in on the sports wash. It dries quickly.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The close fit means your helmet will sit normally over the top, without too much readjustment. It covers the forehead, back of the head and ears well. It seemed impervious to wind and very warm. Great winter wear.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Good fit, well made, warm.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not much; on milder days you may find it too much warmth.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
This fits like a second scalp, so your helmet sits properly on your head without major readjustments. It is windproof and very warm. There's little to complain about here.
Age: 51 Height: 6'2 Weight: 73kg and rising
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking
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