Rock Shox, Inc. was founded by Paul Turner and Steve Simons in 1989 and incorporated in North Carolina. It was later reincorporated in California. Turner, who raced motorcycles in his teen years during the 1970s, went on to found an aftermarket engine parts company in 1977 at the age of 18. He then went to work for Honda Motor Company as their factory motocross team mechanic, an opportunity which provided Turner with experience working with the top racers in the field, as well as suspension designers and other motocross industry leaders.
Patent filed January 4, 1989. (left) and early May,1989 press review (right).
Turner quickly advanced to working as a consultant for Honda, moving to northern California and there developing race engines and chassis. He also began racing in triathlons on racing bicycles and mountain bicycles. As someone who spent years riding plush suspended motocross bikes, the switch to rigid mountain bikes was difficult and Turner felt they were archaic in comparison, so he did his own modifications on a simple, lightweight motorcycle fork design which became the first generation of Rock Shox products. Turner went on to become vice-president of advanced research and development for the company he started in 1989.
Entrepreneur and veteran motorcycle racer Steve Simons in 1974 designed a new shock absorber for Moto-X Fox which went on to become a bestselling product in the industry. Utilizing this success, Simons went on to found his own company, Simons Inc., which developed suspension modifications and complete front forks, and obtain two patents on suspension forks, one of which he licensed to the major motorcycle and shock companies. In 1988, his spinoff company called Simons Precision became so successful in the machining industry that the original company was sold so that Steve could focus on the machine shop. In 1989, Paul Turner approached him to lend his manufacturing expertise to a bicycle suspension idea that became the genesis of Rock Shox. Simons agreed, becoming president of the company that year.
Also that year, Turner brought Greg Herbold aboard as test rider and company spokesperson. Herbold, known affectionately as "HB," was the first downhill world champion on one of the first suspension forks ever made. That August, the company released its first 100 suspension forks, called the "RS-1," for shipment to the consumer marketplace.
Below are 2 images from the RS-1 catalog (click for larger image)
The 2 sheets below to the left are the original RS-1 sales sheets to answer common questions. The 2 sheets below to the right are the original set up sheet that came with the forks.
RS-1 Technical and Rebuild manual
Many companies offered contingencies to riders who could get pictures in the national magazines. Below is a sheet with the 1990 Rock Shox contingencies.
In September 1990, the company celebrated its first World Championship Cross Country when bicycler Ned Overend won with a suspension fork. That fiscal year, the company brought in total revenues of $1.6 million on the strength of the one product they were manufacturing, the RS1. Below are three scans form the July 1990 Mountain & City Biking magazine (note that the fork is mounted to a Mountain Goat Deluxe).
The original RS-1 fork continues on into 1991 while the new Mag series of forks are being readied for production. The sheets below are from July of 1991 and they introduce the upcoming 1992 Mag 20 and Mag 30 series of shocks.
Below is the sponsored rider list for 1991 with sizes and addresses.
Bicycle Guide magazine Paul Turner interview from February 1991:
Catalog to introduce the new Mag 20
Below are the parts diagrams for the Mag 20 and Mag 30 shocks with part numbers on the middle sheet.
In September 1992, the company introduced a new adjustable hydraulic suspension component for mountain bikes called the "Mag 21," which featured high-pressure seals that lasted five times longer than previous seals, with a fork twice as rigid, able to handle all types of terrain.
In the early to mid-1990s, most mountain bikes were sold with no suspension. Many bikers went back to dealers to pick up suspension forks when they became available, giving the company a huge surge in aftermarket business. But, in the later 1990s, suspension bicycles began to have better penetration in the market, decreasing the aftermarket share. In 1993, the company released the Quadra fork which retailed for $90 (not sure this is correct?). Total revenues for the year ending in March 1993 climbed to $30.5 million, with a net income of $2.7 million
The entry level Quadra fork is introduced for 1993 and uses a Kryptonics elastomer bumper system. The fork is externally adjustable by using a 4mm Allen wrench.
The Mag series is revised to now include the Mag 10 and Mag21. The forks feature a new gull wing crown plus a new interlocking fork brace for more rigidity.
Jacquie Phelan appeared in this famous ad for Rock Shox.
1993 also marks the racing debut of the Paris Roubaix road fork.
In the fiscal year ending March 1994, the company's total revenue reached $37.9 million, with a net income of $4.7 million.
In September 1994, the company released the Judy XC and Judy SL forks, with their revolutionary oil cartridge suspension technology. In the fiscal year ending in March 1995, the company's total revenues dropped to $14.3 million, and a net loss of $2.3 million was posted.
1994 saw the expansion of both the Mag and Quadra series. The Mag 21 SL offer 46 mm of travel (60 w/ long travel kit) at 2.4 lb. The SL uses 1)machined cold forged crown 2) hand polished magnesium lowers and brace 3) titanium bolts and fasteners 4) externally tapered alloy steerer tubes (thread less only) and 5) Easton EA 70 taper wall upper tubes. The Mag 21 continues on with 46 mm )60 w/ long travel kit) at 2.8 lb. The Mag 21 is externally adjustable with billet aluminum adjuster dials and Easton EA 70 aluminum stanchion tubes. The Mag 10 has the same travel at 3.1 lb and is adjustable by using an Allen wrench.
The Quadra 10 carries on with a new cold forged crown and gives 43mm of travel at 3.1 lb. The new Quadra 21 uses a high strength alloy clamp-type crown with Mag 21 style external adjusting knobs. The travel is up to 46mm and weight is down to 3.0 lb.
In March 1995, the company received an influx of capital investment from MCIT PLC and The Jordan Company. June of that year saw the company introduce its new "Deluxe" product line of rear suspensions, featuring a coil over a hydraulic damper. The following month, the Super Deluxe product was released, featuring a coil over a hydraulic damper with an oil reservoir. By the end of that year, the mountain bike fad had subsided somewhat, and the segment dropped for the first time in a decade, down from $1.6 million to $1.5 million that year, but it still continued to grow. That year, a total of 8.2 million mountain bicycles were sold worldwide through independent bicycle dealers. Of that total, the company estimated it held a 35 percent market share. Of the 2.2 million sold in the United States, Rock Shox Inc. held 50 percent of the market. By the end of the fiscal year ending March 1996, the company's total revenue bounced back from the previous year's dismal showing, reaching $83.5 million, and the company posted a net income of $5.7 million.
1995 sees the introduction of the Judy series of shocks. All Judy shocks feature larger 28mm uppers, biaxial wrap around brace and a new forged aluminum crown. All Judy shocks use an MCU spring with a hydraulic damping cartridge. The entry level Judy XC weighs 2.9 lb and gives 50mm of travel. The SL model uses some titanium hardware and aluminum steerer tube to drop the weight to 2.7 lb while increasing travel to 63mm. The DH model is aimed at the downhill market and can be configured for 63 or 75mm of travel while weighing in at 3.1 lb. (all weights are projected weights).
The Quadra series consists of the Quadra 5 and Quadra 21 R. The 5 uses Allen wrench preload adjustments to control 48 mm of travel with a weight of 3.2 lb. The 21 R uses the Mag fork brace, MCU spring, SL crown to give 60mm of travel while weighing in at 3.0 lb.
The Mag 21 soldiers on with 48 mm of travel at 3.0 lb. The new Paris Roubaix is similar to a Mag 21 but sized for 700c road tires. The fork was first used on the famous cobblestones of the Paris Roubaix race.
Late in the year, Rock Shox acknowledges the problem of blown Judy cartridges.
In April 1996, the company introduced the Indy C product, featuring a Type 2 Spring system, targeted at the mid-priced mountain bike market. May saw the Indy XC product, and June featured the Indy SL. (These forks are for the 1997 model year)
In July of that year, bicyclist Paola Pezzo won an Olympic Games gold medal in the first-ever Olympic mountain bike event while using the company's Judy products on her bike. That month, the company also released the Coupe Deluxe product, featuring a coil over a hydraulic damper, similar to the Deluxe product.
In October the company completed its initial public offering, selling 4.8 million shares of common stock and netting approximately $64.5 million. The company began trading under the symbol RSHX on the NASDAQ stock exchange. By the following month, analysts estimated the company held 45 percent of the mountain bicycle suspension market, outselling its nearest competitor by 50 percent, and 460 of the 660 mountain bikes models available with front suspension utilized Rock Shox. Sales listed as $83.509 million with a profit of $6.897 million for year ended March 31, 2006.
The 1996 catalog lists the same forks as offered in 1995: Judy XC, SL and DH, Quadra 5 and 21 R, Mag 21 and Paris Roubaix.
The Rock Shox Deluxe series of rear shock are introduced. Models include the coil over Deluxe shock plus the rebound adjustable Super Deluxe.
Although high-end mountain bikes continued to be the fastest-growing sector of the bicycle market, the company began branching out with a myriad of new product innovations which expanded the company's reach to include mid-priced mountain bikes, road bikes, and full-suspension bikes. In April 1997, the company released the Judy S product, featuring the Elastomer Spring system of suspension. The following month, the Judy T2 was released. Also in May, the company joined five others, including telecommunications equipment manufacturer Yurie Systems Inc., as Business Week's Hot Growth Companies of the year. In September of that year, Olympic gold medalist Paola Pezzo won her first World Championship using the company's SID cartridge/air spring suspension on his bike.
In November, the company named George Napier, former president and CEO of Meridian Sports Inc., COO of Wilson Sporting Goods Co., and a Rock Shox board member since January 1997, to the position of president and CEO. Napier succeeded cofounder Steve Simons, who remained as chairman and chief technical officer.
Roy Turner (no relation to Paul) joined Rock Shox in February 1997 as the Race Program Manager, working to use his broad experience in suspension technology and race team support to help the company provide teams and athletes with the best possible technical service. He started his career in professional Supercross racing as a lead technician for Team Honda in 1973, going on to become regarded as the top technician in the areas of chassis, suspension, and engine tuning. Team Kawasaki recruited him away and he quickly went from lead technician to team manager, a position he held for 12 years, where he was responsible for the development and overall success of the multimillion-dollar Kawasaki professional supercross racing program. In the fiscal year that ended in March 1997, the company had shipped over one million suspension forks, posted net sales of $106.2 million, a 27 percent increase from 1996, with a net income of $6.9 million.
Improvements for 1997 include a true monocoque lower leg casting for the Judy S/XC/DH, Indy SL/XC/X and Ruby forks. The Judy cartridge changes to aluminum construction for improved durability. The Judy, Indy and Ruby forks all feature the new Type II Spring system which consists of a combination of coil springs and MCUs. The springs are available in 4 different spring rates for different weight riders as well as an upgrade kit for older Judy forks. The scans below give the details for the 1997 product line.
The Boxxer down hill fork is made available to professional riders.
In the fiscal year that ended in March 1998, the company had again shipped over one million suspension forks, posted net sales of $102.2 million, a four percent decline from 1997, and net income posted at $5.1 million. The mountain bike segment of the market continued to be sluggish as late as mid-1998.
Sales drop to $86.863 million with a profit of $15.863 million.
But, by the year 2000, analysts estimated that some 9.5 million mountain bikes would be sold throughout the world, with Rock Shox capturing 40 percent of the worldwide market. Nearly 2.5 million of those would be in the United States, and the company hoped to hold 55 percent of the market at that time.
On February 19, 2002 Rock Shox is purchased by SRAM. The marketing and sales are moved to Chicago but the R&D stays in Colorado Springs. A new Taiwan factory is brought on line and the first production forks hit the streets in December.