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…
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.”
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.”
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.”
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 managemen