Ever since I read an interview with Jimmy Rae by Ed Hood on Veloveritas I have wondered what the phrase ‘oppy cap’ meant. I took this to mean a cycling cap, buy why ‘oppy’?
As Jimmy explained to Ed, in 1953 a new type of cycling was on the rise. The Scottish Cyclists Union was formed and the struggle between the BCU (who banned road racing and wanted to focus on time trialling) and the BLRC (who wanted to emulate the continental style of road racing) was over.
‘It was variable gears and oppy caps for us – we wanted to be like the continental roadmen of the day’.
During my research into Scottish clubs in the 50s, I asked former Belleisle RC and VC Stella rider Joe Linden about the Oppy Cap.
Hubert ‘Oppy’ Opperman was the first Australian pro to move to Europe in the 1920s and had a stellar career.
He rode the Tour de France in 1928 and 1931, finishing 18th and 12th. He won the 1928 Bol d’Or, a 24 hour track race, the 1931 Paris-Brest-Paris, and broke numerous place-to-place records.
His white cap was distinctive, as was his out-of-the saddle climbing style, Joe told me. ‘Oppying up the hill’ was a term that pervaded into the 50s, as was the slang for white ‘Oppy’ caps.