Editor’s note: Maurice Tierney was one of the first journalists to get his grubby mitts on the original RockShox suspension fork. Here is his product review from Dirt Rag Issue #13, published in November 1990. Photo by Maurice Tierney who had this to say: “I used to shoot the photos on black and white film and process it all in the Dirt Rag darkroom. My photo technique usually involved a long blurry exposure with flash to sharpen key elements.”
From the press release:
- All four pro classes at the NORBA nationals were won on RockShox.
- Six of 10 gold medals and 15 of 30 total medals at the World Championships were won on RockShox.
- All in all, more national and world titles have been won on RockShox than on all other rigid forks combined.
Now I know that sounds like a lot of phony PR, but hey, just look at the photos from the world and national events. If there’s one logo that’s prominent on the front of the pro’s bikes, it is RockShox.
But what does this mean? These facts put RockShox, (and suspension, in general) on the top of the list of buzzwords for 1991. Enough racers have gained enough of an advantage using RockShox that having them becomes necessary to compete on the same playing field. With a pair of these “Hot Jobbies” on my bike, I for one have reached a higher level of speed, especially on gnarly downhills, thus putting me ahead of my riding pals till the next uphill.
Let’s imagine a perfect world, where every mountain bike ride is strewn with large rocks, boulders, logs and general rough stuff. In this world, the rider with RockShox hammers through the rocks, not being too particular about which line is chosen. Faster they go, the front tire firmly planted on the ground. And when they want to stop, there will be plenty of front wheel traction to slow them down. This rider will do this all day and still ask for more. Their hands won’t be as sore or numb at the end of the ride. Friends will envy their new abilities, and search their pockets for the required cash. This is why suspension is the most desired toy for 1991.
How do they work? RockShox are oil-damped, air sprung shock absorbers, much like what you find on an off-road motorcycle. Compressed air (adjustable from 38-45 psi) acts as a spring. When you push on it, it compresses, then pushes back. To keep the RockShox from behaving like a pogo stick, the springs are damped with oil, which is pushed through small holes so that the rate of spring return is managed.
As one who already walks most of the uphills, and bombs the downhills, I wasn’t too concerned about the weight penalty. At about 3 pounds, 2 to 5 ounces, RockShox are about a pound heavier than the average fork.
RockShox have about 2 inches of travel. This raises the front of your bike up enough to cause a slight change in geometry. When uncompressed, your head and seat angles will be 1 or 2 degrees slacker, and your bottom bracket will be higher. This is not noticeable once you hit some rough terrain. Some frame builders (such as Keith Bontrager) are designing frames specifically around RockShox. The Bontrager design allows more rider weight on the front wheel, and also compensates for the height of the fork.
- RockShox give you great front wheel traction for steering and braking, so much so that one of our testers found a tendency for the front wheel to stick to mud puddles.
- Bunny hopping must be re-learned. You must start to hop a fraction of a second earlier. Personally, I can’t hop quite as high as I used to with rigid forks.
- Please excuse us if it seems we only cater to mondo race-types. You more mellow bikers will find an increase in comfort on any surface rougher than a paved road.
- RockShox are equipped with an Automatic Static Lockout System. The function of which is to eliminate movement of the fork except when needed. So there’s no loss of power on pavement. It works.
We’ve published a lot of stuff in 26 years of Dirt Rag. Find all our Blast From the Past stories here.