WHAT HE DOES
Designs and tests sports electronics devices.
where he does It
Rides bikes, swims laps, and runs through the hills in pursuit of better sports equipment.
Antoine Ravisé opens a secret door wedged between fire gear and bike tires at the back of a sports store in Villeneuve d'Ascq, a university town in the northern corner of France. A white industrial door shuts behind him as he waves an entry card to unlock the revolving glass door that separates him from a busy laboratory. Ravisé speed walks through the high-ceilinged workspace, hailing colleagues along the way. He arrives at a walled-off room, laces up a pair of running shoes, steps onto a stack of wood, and puts on a blindfold. "It's a surprise for my body," he calls out, just before stepping off the stack and landing on a pressure sensor embedded in the floor. He clearly delights in the work, running over to a computer after each step to save the data.
Ravisé is an R&D engineer for Oxylane, the product-development branch of the international sports chain Decathlon. Over the past four years, he has spent long hours performing tests—often on himself—in the name of better sports gear. This latest experiment is devised to show how he might determine whether shoes cushion a runner's footfalls better than bare feet. He's also shivered for 5 straight hours in a climate chamber to evaluate thermal apparel. He's taken to the Alps and the Pyrenees to check out GPS devices and tent lights. Closer to home, a 600-meter-long stretch of cement outside his office is a favorite place to assess running and cycling gear.
Bright-eyed and spiky-haired, Ravisé has come to Villeneuve d'Ascq to take advantage of the lab's pressure sensor. But he spends most of his time in an office in nearby Lille, where he develops and tests sports electronics for Oxylane's newest brand, Geonaute.
Ravisé's first love was sports. When he was 6 years old, he decided he wanted to be a professional athlete and spent the next six years training in gymnastics before discovering fencing in high school. But he also liked to tinker. When his grandfather gave him a small gasoline-powered Solex motor at age 14, Ravisé looked up directions on the Internet, disassembled the motor, reassembled it, and then attached it to his bicycle. Some modifications later, he had a moped that ran at up to 60 kilometers per hour.
For a long time, though, Ravisé's technical interests took a backseat to sports. After high school, he enrolled in an engineering school near Nice. But he found that he couldn't carve out enough time for fencing in the demanding academic schedule, so after a year he switched to physics at the University of Bordeaux. By a special arrangement with the university, he was allowed to reduce his class hours to keep up with his fencing. He trained hard: He swam laps in the morning, spent his lunch hours lifting weights or doing yoga, and squeezed in hours of fencing at the end of the day. He even found unpaid work as a sparring partner for the French women's Olympic team. But in 2007, just before his last year at university, he tore a ligament in his knee during a competition. The setback, combined with the growing realization that professional fencing offered limited career prospects, led Ravisé to rethink his aspirations.