Singletrack Magazine Issue 119: Rubber Rendezvous

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Singletrack’s self-confessed rubber sniffer takes a tour of the Hutchinson tyre factory in France to see what puts the knobs into our knobblies. 

Words & Photography james vincent

I’m floating in the centre of the fuselage of a large passenger jet having the time of my life. Except that I’m not really floating – I’m standing on solid ground about 100km from the nearest airport, on the outskirts of the quiet French town of Montargis. And the aircraft I’m in has no seats, no pilot and no crew, while the only passengers are myself, a fellow journalist, an Australian importer, and a technician from French tyre manufacturer Hutchinson (our guide Alex has chosen to sit this one out). Oh, and the aircraft doesn’t actually exist outside of the three walls I’m standing in, as it’s an incredibly accurate 3D projection, powered by a fridge-sized supercomputer tucked away in the corner of the room along with some of the largest video projectors I’ve ever seen. 

In spite of this rather confusing set-up we’re all grinning like idiots, waving a fancy joystick around to control the model, taking it in turns to explore the inside of the aforementioned aircraft, while video cameras around the room track nodes on the glasses I’m wearing to position me within this virtual reality and make sure I’m seeing an accurate rendition of the aircraft. 

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