Who We Are: The History of VAN RYSEL

Who We Are: The History of VAN RYSEL

For 2 years, Decathlon has undergone a profound transformation in terms of organization and management. Tighter-knit, more local teams that specialize in the satisfaction of users, clients, and collaborators. In the spirit of our passion brands, our signature sports brands emerged.

For cycling, this resulted in the (re)appearance of signature brands such as ROCKRIDER for mountain biking, and necessitated the emergence of a brand for road cycling--a sport in its own right. Within Decathlon, two complementary signature sports brands were developed: TRIBAN for recreational road cycling, and VAN RYSEL for sport cycling.

So what's the story behind the name VAN RYSEL?

For those who ride regularly on the road, there's no doubt that you've had the following conversation with other cyclists: "What's with sports bikes being branded B'TWIN? B'TWIN is the brand of everyday cycling and of family outings. Definitely not a racing brand".

These small debates have existed for a while and, in 2011, we had the opportunity to participate in one with my colleagues at the time, brand leader Olivier Robinet and design leader Emmanuel Rodriguez. Both were involved in the a deep collaboration to ensure B'TWIN was the chief cycling brand in all of Decathlon. This was during the era of passion brands and Oxylane.

Why a signature brand?

Athletes love sharing their common values but also love to claim their differences in identity. A signature brand is a guarantee and a full commitment of passionate athletes to providing the right selection of products for the their sport, always at the best value for the price. We wanted the name to have a meaning for both us and the whole world. Much like a family, we were brothers and sisters, all with different personalities, goals, and trajectories. While sibling squabbles are natural, they always end up coming together, cultivating a common history, unity, and future. In everything that it expresses, TRIBAN is exemplary. For cycling sports, we wanted a name that we could appreciate, that had significance, and that illustrated our intention in all of the pertinence and authenticity that characterize it.

Act 1: The Quest

Any couple having gone through the initiation ritual of choosing the name of their child knows just how long and even tense the decision can be. Now imagine the same decision made between a group of competitors, used to comparing their competitive feats!

The first step consists of establishing the specificities of our ambitions: road performance bikes, racetracks, speed, commitment, resistance, resilience, endurance, performance, and the spirit of competition.

Beyond our values, our signature represents us, says who we are, and brings out the best in us while also shaping us. Our signature is a landmark, a rallying point, and mark of our history. And our history is one of developing, assembling, and testing our products in the heart of Flanders so we can practice our sport on our turf and around the world.

We wanted our name to have meaning for us, of course, but we also want it to have meaning worldwide. We wanted our name to be easy to pronounce in Spain, China, Ghana, and Chili. And the name must be unique (for legal reasons) and must not contradict the values of Decathlon and its products. And we wanted our name to be not too long (hard to put on a product) and not too short (easily visible). Easy right?

Act 2: The Evidence

After an initial meeting with a select committee composed of 8 product leaders and designers, it became evident that the name had to express Flanders. Flanders, the cradle of big day-long classics known around the world, and 2 of the big 5 historical races in cycling: the Tour des Flandres and Paris Roubaix. Lille, the capital of the Flemish--both Belgian and French at the same time--hosts the seat of Decathlon and the B'TWIN Village across over 180000 square meters where all of our VAN RYSEL bikes are assembled.

Flanders, a perfect and historical picture frame for the practice of cycling, whose trails reach 150 meters and whose butt-lifting grades 20% are not few and far between, the wind, the rain, and the cold are demanding upon the body and your gear. The narrow routes, sometimes slippery, and the legendary (or accursed) cobblestone roads necessitate steering and, after 120 kilometers, one is often surprised to see more than 1000 m of D+ on your odometer.

Flanders where, all year long, commuting cyclists ride alongside pros training for their next ride, or where, on a four hour bike ride, one can cross the Belgian (or French) border dozens of times.

This was further evidence that we needed help in creating this signature brand.

Act 3: The Selection

We enlisted a specialized agency to accompany our brand development for 6 months. They helped us create and formalize a list of themes we wanted our name to evoke and we ultimately arrived at a list of 150 possible names.

All of these names were checked legally against other already-existing bike brands (we counted 336) or names that were similar enough to pose a problem.

After a second series of collective meetings, we selected from our longlist a shortlist. These selections underwent deeper legal scrutiny before again being debated among a smaller intimate group.

Act 4: The Confirmation

Once we figured out our name, we evaluated the legal use of the name worldwide with our legal team. Finally, before finally putting our bikes, helmets, shoes, and garments on the market, we tested the name both in France and internationally with focus groups of people of diverse profiles.


Van (de, of, from)
Rysel, Ryssel, Rijsel (Lille)


Officially launched on January 18th, 2019, at the Vélofollies de Courtrai expo (25 miles from Lille, a bike's ride away from the Tour des Flandres) VAN RYSEL was henceforth our name, expressing who we are and our ambitions. You can catch us riding our bikes regularly, every week, all year long and, if your heart so wills it, come ride with us. But be careful--you just might enjoy yourself!

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