Sunday, September 19, 2021
HomeInterviewsRaymond Vanstraelen - Bioracer's Founder talks Bike Fit, Aero Kit, and the...

Raymond Vanstraelen – Bioracer’s Founder talks Bike Fit, Aero Kit, and the Ineos Deal

“As an innovator you are always against something. Because you are trying to change things.”


With the news that the mighty INEOS Grenadiers will ride Bioracer clothing from 2022 for at least three seasons we thought it was time to introduce you to the innovator who formed the company back in the 80’s, Mr. Raymond Vanstraelen – but his search for cycling perfection isn’t just about clothing…

Raymond Vanstraelen
Raymond Vanstraelen. Photo©supplied

You were a good amateur rider in the 60’s and 70’s Raymond, what do you rate as your best win and why did you never turn professional?

“I was almost 19 years-old when I started to ride cyclo sportives. It went very well and the following year I took out an official race licence with the Belgian Cycling federation. 

“My best wins were the 1968 championship of Limburg, 1970 Koln Schulz Koln, 1973 Vuelta Ampurdan. 

“Growing up in a working-class family of the post-war period, my parents discouraged me from turning professional and after my studies I took a ‘stable’ job with the State Owned RTT telecoms company. 

“I married at just 22 years-of-age, and soon had a young son. But the fire for racing my bike was still within me, and alongside a full-time job and a young family I competed throughout my twenties.”

The company’s roots go back to 1986, tell us about what happened that year?

“As an amateur cyclist and cycling coach and later as a soigneur, I was always looking for new technologies usually from other sports which I applied in cycling. 

“As an employee at the RTT (I was there for 22 years), I made use of opportunities to free up time for my passion. At the end of 1984 I was introduced to the ‘Sport Tester,’ later better known as ‘Polar,’ pulse monitor but it took 10 years for the hype and publicity to peak around the device. 

“I also had a private cycling school with the most famous names of that time including René Martens, Guy Nulens, Johan Capiot and Herman Frison; I bought 20 sport testers for my riders, I was more or less obliged to register for taxation and to start it as a ‘proper’ business. My vision with regard to the rider’s position on the bike resulted in a unique but universal computer measurement system; ‘Bio Racer Bike Fitting.’

“At the start it was just for the cyclist in my school. But the concept immediately proved it’s value when top cyclists after a victory said they owed their success to their new position on the bike. 

“The measuring system has become the norm in the professional peloton and for the experienced and competitive cyclist. With this knowledge, we developed a new cycling shoe, which was the basis for the present generation cycling shoes, we made custom bike frames because existing companies could not or would not, and we were among the first with aluminium frames with Ridley – that company is a spinoff from Bioracer.”

Raymond Vanstraelen
An early bike-fit chart by Bioracer. Photo©supplied

Tell us about the name, ‘Bioracer’?

“Bioracer’s name is derived from biomechanics and racer speaks for itself. 

“We digitised the famous drawing by Da Vinci “Man is the measure of all things” and this became our logo.”

Who was the first rider to win in Bioracer kit and what was the first major success achieved in the clothing?

“Paul Herygers 1994 World Champion Cyclo-cross.”

Raymond Vanstraelen
Hennie Kuiper wins Milan-SanRemo in 1985. Photo©Hennie Kuiper

I believe you coached Hennie Kuiper after you stopped racing?

“No, I didn’t coach Hennie but he was the first cyclist outside my cycling school who came for a bike fitting session – and a few week later he won Milan-Sanremo.

“This was the start for Bioracer Bikefitting.”

Raymond Vanstraelen
How it all started. Photo©supplied

You started with your wife making garments for your coaching clients?

“In 1986-87 I started to become more and more interested in apparel comfort and the effects of clothing upon performance. I studied what was happening in the world of downhill skiing visiting Switzerland to learn about a new wonder fabric called Lycra invented by the DuPont company. 

“This led to experiments with cycling apparel designs – which were made at home by my wife Anny Vanaken – which were lighter, more elastic, and breathable. 

“The clothing was hugely popular with the riders I was coaching, and demand soared. Throughout the first half of the 1980s I was running Bioracer alongside my full-time job at the RTT. But in 1988 at the age of 40, my wife Anny and I decided to take a leap of faith and focus on the company full-time. 

“We soon realised the potential for Bioracer cycling apparel. I was responsible for design, testing and sales, Anny took care of production on her two Singer sewing machines in a spare room at home. 

“Three of the Belgian riders coached by me were competing with the Peter Post’s famous Panasonic Isostar Pro Team, and they introduced Bioracer to team management who contracted us as their apparel supplier.”

Raymond Vanstraelen
The Panasonic team in Bioracer kit. Photo©supplied

Going back to bike-fit, what’s your philosophy on it?

“In the mid-1970s I worked together with a colleague at the RTT to develop the world’s first ever computer program for bike fitting. 

“I recognised that many riders were having knee problems, something that my research from hands-on coaching linked to a combination of overly steep frame angles, too low saddle heights and poor fitting cycling shoes. So I took an integrated approach – developing individualised and integrated ‘systems’ for the riders that I was coaching. 

“This involved working with frame builders to create truly made-to-measure bicycles, raising average saddle heights by two to three cm. and creating bespoke insoles that were a radical departure from the flat-soled cycling footwear of the time.

“This complete vision regarding the positioning on the bike evolved into a unique but universal measuring system – using newly emerging computer technology.”

Raymond Vanstraelen and Bioracer have supplied the Belgian Federation for many years. Photo©Eric Feferberg/Agence-France

The clothing contract with the Belgian Federation; 27 years and still with you – that’s impressive.

“With the national team you cover everything, ladies, men all aspects of bike racing competition. 

“But most important are the Olympic Games, where only the name of the clothing supplier may appear on the clothing. 

“At the Olympiad in London there were 12 medals for us and in Rio de Janeiro also 12 medals including four gold for riders with Bioracer clothing. 

“With Bioracer clothing we have accrued almost 1000 World Championship and Olympic victories, including names such as Tom Boonen, Philip Gilbert, Greg Van Avermaet, Wout Van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mathieu Van Der Poel, Tony Martin, Marianne Vos, Annimiek Van Vleuten, Anna Van Der Breggen, Jolien D’hoore, and many more.”

Bioracer are ready to scale up to be a global kit supplier. Photo©supplied

Which professional teams do you supply currently?

“The national teams of Belgium, Netherlands, Germany… 

“Belgium for 27 years, Netherlands for 26 year and Germany for 15 years.

“On the World Tour we support Team DSM and at ProTeam level, Uno-X Pro Cycling Team.”

Tell us about the Ineos deal.

“Sir David Brailsford is a real gentleman who has a very strong performance team behind him. 

“In the past with Sky we have made the time trial speedsuits for them, to the great satisfaction of the cyclists who wore them; notably with Vasil Kiryienka as World Time Trial Champion. 

“Their team statement will say: ‘From 2022 the team will race in Bioracer kit as part of a new exciting Performance Apparel partnership. We’re extremely excited to about Bioracer’s expertise in both speedwear and custom fit and are looking forward to welcoming the Bioracer family into the team. More details will follow later in the year.’ 

“The duration of our arrangement is three years, with an option for renewal.”

Raymond Vanstraelen
Annemiek van Vleuten getting fitted with Bioracer Speedmaster TT suit. Photo©supplied

The ‘aero’ aspect is so important now, how do you keep abreast of developments – and how do you keep up with the ever-changing UCi regulations for clothing?

“I increasingly came to understand that speed and performance of a cyclist depended on various factors including biodynamics and aerodynamics – which can’t be considered in isolation. 

“As a partner of three national teams with world’s best riders, we are constantly challenged to develop products that give a competitive edge. 

“It’s in our DNA to innovate with passion and make athletes faster. We do this by creating new fabrics, materials, accessories, production methods, systems, patterns and lots of testing. 

“The athletes are always central in our philosophy, we maximise their potential. A fast speed suit can give a benefit of one sec/km compared to a standard suit. 

“All the Bioracer time trial athletes are racing a tailor made suit for their specific speed zone and body shape positions. 

“We continually push the edge of innovation and technology. Whether riding for fun or competing at the highest level, our constant research and analysis ensures that whatever your speed is, it is enhanced by performance textiles, optimised fit and detailed finish to make your ride comfortable and efficient.”

Raymond Vanstraelen (center) with Peter Croonen and Danny Segers from Bioracer. Photo©supplied

The Bioracer Speed Center conducts rider ergonomic and aerodynamic research and analysis to develop rider fit, textile performance and garment construction breakthroughs that enhance rider efficiency.

The Bioracer Textile Studio enhances rider performance through innovative fabric technologies that enhance rider aerodynamic efficiency, ergonomic function, performance comfort, heat regulation, muscular support and weather protection.

The Protolab – in collaboration with the Speed Center and Textile Studio – delivers constant innovation through research and development of patterning, fit, and construction to construct future-forward concepts and cycling speed wear that Bioracer manufacture in their own facilities.

Raymond Vanstraelen

You work with some big names in the sport.

“We work for a lot of the best professional cyclist in the world, for bike fitting, aerodynamics, the innersoles for their shoes and other aspects. 

“The problem is that Bioracer is a competitor of the brands their team might be sponsored by. 

“My philosophy is that I never approach a cyclist; they come to me for a service, the inner circle of pros know it and it makes me proud – maybe it’s not the best way for the company’s recognition but it means we score highly on credibility and confidence.”

Raymond Vanstraelen
Lots of top level riders use Bioracer kit, even if it doesn’t carry their logo. Photo©supplied

The Future?

“We’re well known in Europe and now we’re set to go to North and South America and Asia to make Bioracer a brand they love there too.”

With thanks to Raymond for his time with this interview.

Check out more on the Bioracer site.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Jennifer George – Scottish Ladies’ Road Champion 2019

Whilst we reported the men’s race, VeloVeritas didn’t make it up to Alyth in time for the Scottish Ladies Road race Championship on Saturday – ‘real life’ stuff got in the way. Sorry ladies. But we did catch up with winner for the second year, Jennifer George (Torelli-Assure-Madison) a day or two after the race; here’s what she had to say to us.

Le Tour de France 2013 – Stage 8: Castres > Ax3 Domaines, 194km. Froome Decimates the Race

Yesterday we alluded to the fact that a ‘break might stick’ and ‘Froome in yellow?’ We got the first one wrong but even we didn’t realise how spectacularly right we’d be on the second one finishing into Ax3 Domaines.

The VV View: It’s Not About the Drugs – Lance Armstrong on Oprah

I didn't stay up, I must confess; but I was trawling YouTube as the clips were still being posted. The man, Lance Armstrong on Oprah, he "fessed up" - my jaw dropped, I never thought I'd see the day.

Chris Hoy – the Next Olympic Keirin Champion?

You're the Olympic kilometre champion, but the 'powers that be' decide to remove the event from the programme at the next Olympics-what do you do? If you're Chris Hoy, you go out and transform yourself into the best keirin rider in the world!

Jack Simes – American Track and Six Day Legend

Daniel Holloway and Colby Pearce are regulars on the Six Day scene, and this season we've been helping to look after two other young American riders at the races; Jackie Simes and Brad Huff. US riders win classics and Grand Tours and there are US Pro Tour teams. It was different in 1970 though, with not one single US rider holding a professional licence — enter Jackie's dad, Mr. Jack Simes.

My pal Yordan Andreev is a National Champ! And other stories – James McKay Blog

My flatmate and team pocket-rocket Yordan Andreev returned from Bulgaria in July with some extremely defined tan-lines and a national title! He had won the national road race and podiumed in a 2.2 stage race in Macedonia. Clearly on good form and high spirits, I was hoping some of that might rub off on me; my morale was the lowest it’d been this year and performances weren’t anything to shout about...

At Random

Giro d’Italia 2015 – Stage 21, Turin – Milan; Eeeel-yoh!

Well, as our amigo Dave is won't to say at this stage; "our creds are no good to us now." Just a curiosity on the windscreen; the Giro is won and lost, Contador confirmed as one of the all time great stage racers - he's won all three Grand Tours - one of only six men in history to do so, along with Nibali, Gimondi, Anquetil, Hinault and Merckx, and now stands fourth in the all time Grand Tour winners list. The route from Torino to Milano today was as bland as you could get but Radio Nostalgia was cool and our coffee stop was a cracker. The Milano circuit was similarly bland and it's one aspect where the Giro doesn't quite get it right but Iljo Keisse and Luke Durbridge delivered an exciting finale as you get.

The VeloVeritas Years – 2016: Steven Kruijswijk Wipes Out in the Giro

You're in the form of your life, you've breasted the biggest climb of the race with the 'Bigs' and there's just one mountain stage to go before you become that rarest of birds, A Grand Tour Winner. But you lose concentration for a moment on the descent, smack a snow bank and come down hard...

Volta a Portugal 2012 – Stage One: Termas de Monfortinho – Oliveira do Hospital

The day started with a long transfer from our hotel in the magnificent town of Covilhã, Termas de Monfortinho, situated at the foot of Serra da Estrella. We’ve been run of our feet with with reconaisance, various signings on and parading around the palce...

Giro d’Italia 2008 – Day 1: Stage 13, Modena – Cittadella

Ciao ! Ciao ! It's 9.30 pm here in Verona, city of opera, Romeo and Juliet and Stage 14 of the 2008 Giro., from Modena. We're sitting outside our hotel with our "welcome drink" - not a bad beer, as it happens. It's been a long one - up at 03.30 am; car to Turnhouse; Easyjet to Stanstead; Ryanair to Brescia with two screeching Essex girls in the seats in front of us, then hire car to Verona.

Llewellyn Kinch – Two Wins from 13 Starts in Belgian Kermises

Our man with his finger on the Flanders pulse, Vik, first tipped us off about this gentleman at the end of the 2011 season. Llewellyn Kinch was getting up there on the Belgian results websites and onto Vik’s radar. Here are the background questions we asked, from the end of the 2011 season.

Bardiani-CSF (The #GreenTeam) is ready for the Tour of Poland 2016

Bardiani-CSF is going to face a new important event of its season, the Tour of Poland 2016. The short stage race, from July 12 to 18, will be the sixth World Tour race for the #GreenTeam.