Thanks for that message Jim.
I am not sure if many are aware of it, but Hutchinson is the last & only producer of bicycle tires in France (and for how long?). Wolber is long gone, and I am told all the Michelin bicycle tires are coming from Asia now too.
Dale Brown Greensboro, North Carolina USA
-----Original Message----- From: Jim Merz <email@example.com> To: Chuck Johnston Jr. <firstname.lastname@example.org> Cc: Classicrendezvous <email@example.com> Sent: Tue, Jan 25, 2011 11:18 am Subject: Re: [CR] Wolber/Super Champion rims history?
During my time at Specialized Bicycle I had the chance to work with Wolber in Soissons, France. Soissons is a small town in NE France near Reims where a lot of 1st WW took place. At the time I started visiting Wolber Michelin owned the company. They made most of the inner tubes for Michelin bicycle tires, very nice light tubes. This may have been the main product at the plant, at least a large part of production. A large number of workers made the Wolber tubular tires, mostly women. The other main product was Super Champion rims. I know we used Wolber to make ultra light tubes, and I am pretty sure they made rims for us. I cannot remember which Specialized rims though. In any case I got to see the rim development from start to finish. They had an engineering department who drew up the rim profile. It was sent to the aluminum extruder Pechiney. The alloy used was specially tailored for rims. Extrusions were inspected before production. At the time I was there Wolber was developing welded seam rims, clearly better than pins. Extrusions were rolled into 3 or 4 rims at a time, then cut to the correct length, The holes were drilled on a machine made in house that drilled 36 holes at once. They used PCD (diamond) end mills for the holes. The finishing was mostly automated. They were not as far ahead on the super hard anodize finish, Mavic was the leader in this.
Michelin used this small (500 worker) stand alone factory as a training ground for young executives just out of MBA programs. There was quite a lot of turnover at the top while I was dealing with them. I cannot remember any of the names for these guys. But they were uniformly sharp interesting and a joy to work with. The town is in kind of a backwater, tourists would have little reason to go there. But it is France, and the food, cheese, wine is very good. I have frond memories of Wolber.
I found this link that mentions the outcome of Wolber.
Big Sur CA