“Rubber can be used for everything.” The brand behind a long history of great champions took us on-board their rubber processing factory at Langlée, near Montargis. It was visit that got us standing slack-jawed on the sides, staring at their precision manufacturing technologies.
IT’S ALL ABOUT RUBBER
Hutchinson’s expertise spans multiple fields of technology. Besides being France’s last remaining bicycle tire manufacturer, sponsoring MTB champs and Tour de France teams, they also participate in many other public transport projects in railroad, defense and energy industries, among several other markets such as aerospace, automotive and heavy trucks–all demanding high levels of performance and a comprehensive range of solutions for both security and comfort. Ask them about technical credibility? Seeing is believing might just satisfy your curiosity more than you could ask for.
The factory of this world leader in elastomer processing is a whole world of its own. Several buildings intimidate with their size and conical roofs in the factory compound. Standing tall on the side is an old red brick furnace tower that gives you a rough idea of how historic the site is.
How many years have gone by since they began manufacturing bike tires? It was 1890. Enduring one innovation after another, and several notable firsts in tubeless technology, Hutchinson has gone resoutely global, raising their profile, covering their core business lines in sealing systems, vibration, acoustic and thermal insulation, fluid transfer systems and transmission and mobility.
Before we made entry into their entire rubber universe, we tried to stay focused on our main agenda: bicycle tires.
#MADE IN FRANCE FROM A TO Z
Hutchinson has always captured the imagination of cyclists with their tire innovations, writing history in world’s prestigious races. With all stages of product development and manufacturing, from design to construction, taking place on the same site, adopting to the demands of the consumers and implementing comprehensive solutions to meet their needs come with greater speed.
How are these groundbreaking tires put together? From the preparation of the raw materials to the vulcanization process, we toured around the huge factory to see and touch firsthand on what goes where, taking us through step by step of the procedure.
Seeing all the heavy machineries and precision instruments in full operation, the tire manufacturing process seems complicated, but the output of each stage gives you the whole picture, part by part, of what sort of material and science come together to create your modern spin.
Gone were the days of tires made of wood, then metal, the air-filled bike tires of today go through major updates, especially those of Hutchinson’s.
And if you think it’s just a black donut of rubber, well, other components go into your tire parts. There are fiber, textile and steel cord, among several others.
The initial steps involve these different components to be put inside a huge hot mixer, where they get melted into a rubbery dough. Dumped out of the mixer, the batch goes through a series of equipment and gets squeezed into thick rubber sheets. Carbon black is used as a filler to make it more elastic.