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).
the original Rock Shox ad from February 1990.
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
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. (Catalog
scans for the Quadra appear above)
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. (Catalog scans for the Mag series appear
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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