When asked “what’s hot in sport?” never for one moment did I imagine the answer to be “bobble hats”. Makes sense really.

A small diversion away from cycling on my travels, and a tribute to my Nan’s knitwear output.

I have written numerous times about my visits to bike shows around the world, but this week I have taken a detour to one of to one of the world’s most important sporting goods shows, ISPO Sport in Munich.

I am actually here to attend meetings and events on the side of the show that have been extremely useful for learning about trends in health and physical activity and the business climate in which the global bike industry is working.

But of course I went for a walk around the show. It was enormous, bigger than all the bike shows except maybe Eurobike. There were no specific bike exhibits but lots of familiar outdoor brands and many of the companies that make outdoor and sports gear also cross over into cycling.

Photo by Kevin Mayne Photo by Kevin Mayne

But inevitably my eye is drawn to the unexpected. This is especially true of trade fairs where the major purpose of the show is to convince manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers to take a particular range, not really to reach the individual consumers.

Photo by Kevin MayneWhen I first went to Taipei Cycle Show I was drawn to the booths that just exhibited a single item like bells, or a huge display of carefully colour coded bolts, there so that assemblers could order just the right part to match their bicycle designs. No reason why they should not be there, but the care and attention to detail put in to displaying the humble washer just caught my imagination.

So what was it at ISPO?

Bobble hats.

Photo by Kevin Mayne

Walls of bobble hats.

Photo by Kevin Mayne

Fields of bobble hats.

Photo by Kevin Mayne


Colour coordinated bobble hats.Photo by Kevin Mayne

The biggest bobble hat I have ever seen.Photo by Kevin Mayne

Who knew? If you want to convince the winter sports buying community that your product is the height of technical achievement you top off your display….with a bobble hat, lovingly designed and created by people who have invested a great deal of craft in their product.

Maybe it’s because I don’t come from a winter sports country, but somehow I was highly amused by the status given to the sort of clothing that represented the height of uncool in England because it was knitted by your grandmother in strange shapes and colours. The only exception was your football supporter’s hat that you wore on a Saturday.

Good luck to them all, if colour coded bolts matter to someone then why not bobble hats? My Nan would have seen it as a challenge to turn out another batch from her extraordinary selection of leftover wool.

Belgian cycle touring –summed up in a cycling shirt

Cyclottignies new cycling shirt

I got my new club cycling kit this week. There is of course a really nice feeling that comes with opening that bag full of shiny new kit, no scuffs or wear marks to tarnish the glow. And now I will be a proper member of the gang rather than the odd English guy in different gear.

But the acquisition of that bag brings more explanations about how Belgian cycling club life works.

I have always been taken by the fact that the club groups I see out on a Sunday are so perfectly dressed, huge pelotons all immaculately turned out. Now I discovered that my kit for Club Cyclotouriste d’Ottignies Louvain-la-Neuve is almost free! Nearly €200 of kit as a handout. Wow, of course I’ll wear it!

I think it works because we have a whole bunch of local sponsors who effectively subsidise the clothing. The catch is that the clothing is only free if you stay a club member for four years because a few freeloaders have over the years joined a number of clubs, grabbed the kit and promptly left the following year. So we pay a deposit which we get back at the end of the four years if we stay. And of course if we ride around in the kit a lot to show off the sponsors.

But hang on a minute – sponsors? For a cycle touring club? Coming from Britain the cycle tourists are considered the less sexy group of riders because the racing clubs and the wannabies are the ones who ride about in colourful lycra. But in Belgium the racing clubs are as much teams as clubs and when the riders stop racing they often stop riding with their clubs. But there is a huge second tier of local sporting cycling clubs in Belgium (and for that matter France) who treat cycling as a club activity and a team sport with a busy national calendar of events and our local club scene.

So it is entirely expected that the cycle touring clubs will look and behave like racing clubs back in the UK, whether it is the expensive bikes, the speed of the fast group or the look we carry off, sponsors and all. If I turned up on my Dawes Galaxy with saddlebag and panniers here I would be considered decidedly odd.

Patisserie sponsorLastly I was delighted when I unveiled the new cycling shirts to discover the identity of the sponsors themselves. What could be more European than to have a cycling club sponsored by a patisserie and the café where the club enjoys its after-ride beer.

But joy unconfined when I turned the shirt over and discovered the emblem that we will be following for the next four years. A friterie. The chip shop. The national symbol. It doesn’t get any more Belgian than that.

Cyclottignies cycling shirt