A cycling cape is a garment worn while riding a bicycle during inclement weather. The cycling cape wraps around the upper body like any other cape, though it often features a hood that covers the head as well. The cape secures at the front of the garment below the neck to prevent it from blowing off as the cyclist moves forward against the wind. These garments are somewhat antiquated, though they are still used by commuters and cyclists who are not in competition. They are very often used as a fashion garment rather than a performance one, though in the past they were a performance garment.
The materials used to make a cycling cape can vary significantly according to the cape's ultimate purpose. Capes designed for fashion can be made from natural or synthetic fibers, and the patterns and colors may vary. These types of capes do not necessarily need to be waterproof, as their primary function is fashion over water resistance. Many capes used for fashion can also be water resistant or waterproof for use while riding a bicycle in inclement weather. Wearing a cycling cape is considered a "retro" look, as it is a fashion that was once quite popular and has made a resurgence in the fashion world.
Racers used to use the cycling cape regularly during races in which the weather was likely to change quickly. Capes were useful because they were lightweight and water-resistant or waterproof, and they could also be stowed easily in a jersey pocket when not in use. Since they were fairly loose fitting, they allowed air to flow through, cooling the body under the warm garment. This open design, however, would flap in the breeze, slowing the riders down and potentially causing a distraction.
Today, racers are more likely to use rain jackets and vests over a cycling cape. Jackets are tighter fitting, which means less flapping and less likelihood that rain water will still reach the body. These jackets are usually waterproof and breathable, unlike capes which were water resistant or waterproof, but rarely breathable. A garment that is breathable allows moisture like sweat to escape through the material, keeping the body dry and comfortable. Capes and jackets made from plastic or vinyl are not breathable, which means in warmer conditions, the sweat a cyclist generates cannot escape the garment. This can lead to discomfort and possibly even difficulty regulating body temperature.