An interesting post from my archives of interesting posts:
A visit to Andre Dugast, Master of Tubulars Author:?
50kms south of Paris on the edge of the quiet town of Bouray-Sur-Juine is to be found the master of the tubular, Andre Dugast. The world is changing around him in his own lifetime, but he appears resigned in his sixty-second year. Since starting with Dourdoigne in 1952 and branching out on his own in 1974, just three years before Dourdoigne closed their doors forever, the victim of bankruptcy cycling has grown and changed beyond all recognition. The two manufacturers of those times now both gone, Clement existing with only the name a tenuous link to the past and Dourdoigne only living in the memories of a shrinking number of cyclists. He has seen the rise and fall of all the modern champions, and made tubulars for most of them as well. Today's manufacturers find the path to his door, having him make tubulars with his own hands for their sponsored teams, many to be disguised as clinchers, or be converted by the words of marketing departments into the use of something else that is produced halfway around the world from France and sold to the public all over the world. It's work though, and with a craftsman's pride and satisfaction apparent it appears to be no problem. He knows what he does and it seems enough.
At the height of production in 1980 Dugast employed six people. Buying tread bands from the vast ranges of Wolber and Clement which were then fixed to his own casings in silk or cotton even this is under threat. Foxonall (nee Clement) has closed, the only ray of light that someone appears to have bought the moulds for the tread bands and wants to start their own production so this supply necessary for his Cyclo Cross tubulars may restart. Wolber closed, so his track and road tubulars with their tread bands are going to be extinct when his stocks run out leaving him with only Vittoria and Huchinson to cajole into making products that they don't even want to sell under their own names. As a result the past year may have been the last year of the Dugast Cyclo Cross tubular.
Nowadays he is receiving old tubulars from riders like Daniel Pontoni and carefully removing the tread bands and attaching them to new casings. Such is the faith riders still place in his skills and hands. With Veloflex only wanting to produce the simpler and easier clincher tyres he may be the last person making tubulars in Western Europe for as long as he is willing to continue and can obtain supplies. It's not easy for a single person, making one hundred tubulars a week to have today's big companies sell him anything. Even the ultralight latex tubes he uses may not be produced for much longer, he may be willing to continue, but may be driven into retirement by forces he cannot control.
His workshop, 10m x 10m square, is a museum of how things used to be in the old days of tyre production. The only somewhat distant mirror now being Veloflex in Italy who employ five persons. The fax and radio are the only really modern intrusions. Even the wheels used while the glues set are old Mavic CX-18 and Wolber rims attached to old Simplex and Mavic hubs. Custom produced cloth arrives for the casings, chafing strips and base tapes, to be skilfully combined from start to finish by Andre Dugasts hands. Endless bands of cloth are cut to the correct width, have their edges turned over and finely sewn on an old machine and then the tube is placed inside and the chafing strip sewn in place. Later the base tape is glued on, and then the tread band is glued in place to then hang on the wheel from the ceiling to cure. Some tubulars hanging currently are made specifically for Paris-Roubaix, and will afterwards be consigned to training or other lesser purposes by the team who they are being made for. He is just finishing off the French track teams tubulars for the Olympic Games, more normal production for sale under his own name will then occupy him for the summer. If he is forced into stopping for lack of supply or retires then the last painter of a dying art will vanish, living on only in the memories of those fortunate enough to have experienced the joy of riding a tubular made by Andre Dugast. I asked a couple of questions concerning tubulars:
1. What is your opinion of curing a tubular?
With modern materials tubulars only need to be cured for six months, the best method being stored in a dark dry place (he suggests a cellar) stretched on a rim and partly inflated.
2. Gluing method?
Using a new rim and tubular you spread a layer on the clean rim. This is then left to dry after which another layer is applied and thin spots on the base tape. The tubular is then mounted and checked for straightness while inflated. The pressure will allow the spots on the base tape to spread out properly. This is then left to dry at least overnight.
3. What do you think of the fashion for coloured tread bands?
They are only useful for photographs for the marketing department. The black tread is stronger and resists punctures better. Note: He later said when asked about the life of a tread band by Gerard that he had found an old stock of tread bands and that the casing and gluing was a problem for safety, there was no problem to use them as a component in a new tubular.
With thanks to Andre Dugast for taking the time to speak with me and Gerard Moneyron who acted as translator and took me to meet the master of the tubular.