18 July, 2019

Rustines Factory Visit

by Igor

Rustines is a company with very deep roots. They started in the early 1900s by offering patches, boots, glues, and other tire and tube repair products for bicycles and early automobiles. Louis (great, great grandson of the the original Louis Rustine) told me that in the heyday of their factory's patch and kit production (now they undertake many more and diversified rubber projects), they were cranking out over 36 million of patches alone PER MONTH. That's on top of their Rubber Grip production for upright and drop handlebars. During our recent trip to France, a visit to the Rustines factory was high at the top of our list.

In the 1930s the factory moved from Paris to a small village outside Le Mans, right on the Loire river. It's a picturesque view and location. Being right on the river, they even have a hydro-electric generator which mainly supplies power to some of the local farmers and villagers.

While Rustine's main product today is rubber and silicone seals and sealing solutions for trains, refrigeration, and air conditioning, Louis still offers the bicycle line as a labor of love and an homage to the company's heritage. He cycles everyday, wears the Rustine's jersey (even while riding his carbon fiber road bike), and is a headline sponsor of Anjou Velo Vintage. Cycling is an integral part of his bloodline, so he's proud to continue the tradition.

Louis even gave me a peek into the unofficial Rustines museumcomplete with original photos, tins, products, and competitor patch kits from the era. Forgive the first few photos, I knocked the ISO button on the camera and shot them at 204k! It actually lends itself well to the vintage style.

This particular, simple, stamped box was supplied to mechanics and vehicle drivers during WWII. It was packed with everything soldiers would need for roadside repairs to continue missions.

We were lucky enough to be there while the production of our current (recently re-stocked, by the way!) order was being made. Specifically, we watched a worker making the Constructeur Grips, a design that hasn't changed much since the '50s.

The process starts with the natural rubber from various rubber tree sources. Rustines ensures that their sources offer high quality and sustainable product. Some folks have asked about the difference in colors between our gum offerings. It's a natural product, so shades can vary slightly due to a variety of factors including climate, humidity, and season.

Once color pigments are added, and the rubber is prepped, a worker lays one layer, the tool, and another layer of rubber. The roll at one end is for the knobby edge of the grip that requires more material.

The machine closes, presses, and cures the rubber into the near final form.

The worker removes the grip from the tool with an air hose and finishes the product by removing excess material.

Louis also had a Lejeune-made road bike with a whole bunch of fancy components and 531 steel in his office.

Rustines is a fascinating place. Any other company would have ceased production of these parts long ago, but Rustines has capitalized on their knowledge and manufacturing acumen and has evolved, without losing sight of what made the "Rustines" marque. And we're proud to be their #1 worldwide distributor.


John Byfield said...

Great story! Thanks for sharing!

Coline said...

So few manufacturers would ever put up long lasting signs now. I have always loved the painted advertising signs which remain for decades, long after the products have gone...

Rod A Bruckdorfer said...

Thank you for the informative article about Rustines. I enjoy reading you blog. Rod

Unknown said...

Just put a set of Rustines Mafac hoods on a 1979 Peugeot Super competition for my daughter's college friend. It makes all the difference, nothing worse than riding cracked or missing hoods. Just wonderful that they still make this stuff, and that you import it.

Thank you.