An illustrated run-through the gloriously dirty history of one of MTB’s cornerstone brands.
RockShox are the leading manufacturer of pushbike suspension. With 25 years of experience in the industry, they’re more experienced than most in what makes a decent mountain bike boing unit.
RockShox led in the early development of mountain bike suspension and in recent times have seen something of a return to the pioneering spirit at the forefront of suspension technology.
The origins of RockShox is the story of one man – Paul Turner. It took more than just him to make the brand but without him none of it would have happened.
Paul Turner was born in 1959. He raced motorbikes as a teenager. He was extremely into anything on two wheels. At the age of 18 he started a company selling motorbike bits and bobs.
After he got a bit bored with doing that he landed a job as a factory mechanic for the Honda professional motocross team.
During all this time Turner built up loads of contacts and plentiful knowhow in the area of suspension systems.
Bike boom time
During the mid- to late-1980s Turner got interested in the new boom of mountain biking. In 1987 he teamed up with Keith Bontrager and made a prototype mock-up of a full-suspension mountain bike that they showed at the Long Beach bike trade show. Despite the bike’s rather muted and mocked reception, the ball was rolling.
In 1989 Turner bought some things from one of his motorbike industry contacts called Steve Simons and set to work assembling some bike forks in his garage.
Simons saw the opportunity and potential of the business and officially joined Turner in forming RockShox. They hired Thomas Dooley to design the now iconic logo and to do a bit of the marketing side of things. Turner sponsored Greg Herbold as a test rider and company spokesperson.
Herbold won the 1st Downhill World Champs in 1990 on a set of RockShox forks. In August that year 100 RockShox RS-1 forks were made.
By 1997 RockShox were selling a million forks and had revenues of $100 million. Their market share was around 60%. It was boom time for mountain biking and RockShox.
At the turn of the millenium things were different. Competition was much fiercer. Companies like Marzocchi, Manitou and Fox were making in roads on RockShox’s dominance.
In 2001 RockShox reported a $10 million loss. Oof.
In 2002 RockShox were taken over by SRAM. SRAM formed in Chicago in 1987 and built a business model of acquisition and R&D. Gripshift was their main product at the time of taking over RockShox (SRAM had acquired gearing company Sach Bicycle Components in 1997).
RockShox production moved from Colorado to Taiwan.
The SRAM era of RockShox may not have had much in the way of personal drama or romantic tales to tell. But they’ve certainly made loads more decent forks since then.
RockShox forks through the ages
Which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments section below.
1990 – RockShox RS-1 – 49mm travel
1992 – RockShox Mag 20 – 48mm travel
1992 – RockShox Mag 30 – 48mm travel
1993 – RockShox Mag 21 – 48mm travel (or 60mm for the Long Travel version)
1993 – RockShox Quadra – 48mm travel
1994 – RockShox Mag 21 SL – 48mm travel (or 60mm for the Long Travel version)
1994 – RockShox Quadra 5 – 48mm travel
1994 – RockShox Quadra 21R – 60mm travel
1995 – RockShox Judy – 50mm travel
1995 – RockShox Judy SL – 50mm travel
1995 – RockShox Judy DH – 80mm travel
1995 – RockShox Indy – 50mm travel (we think!)
1997 – RockShox Judy DHO (left) – 100mm travel
1998 – RockShox SID – 50mm travel
1998 – RockShox Judy XL – 100mm travel
1999 – RockShox Jett – 63mm travel (we think!)
2000 – RockShox Ruby road bike fork – 30mm travel
2001 – RockShox Psylo – 100mm travel (we think!)
2001 – RockShox Duke – 63mm travel (we think!)
2003 – RockShox Pilot – 80mm travel (we think!)
2004 – RockShox Pike – 140mm travel
2005 – RockShox Reba – 80mm travel
2006 – RockShox Recon – 80mm travel
2006 – RockShox Revelation – 120mm travel
2006 – RockShox Dart – 80mm travel
2007 – RockShox Tora – 80mm, 100mm, 120mm or 85-130mm travel
2007 – RockShox Argyle – 80mm or 100mm travel
2007 – RockShox Domain – 160mm or 180mm travel
2007 – RockShox Lyrik – 160mm or 170mm travel
2007 – RockShox Totem – 180mm travel
2011 – RockShox Sektor – 150mm travel
2014 – RockShox Bluto – 100mm or 120mm travel
2014 – RockShox RS-1 – 80mm, 100mm or 120mm of travel