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Front Shock Absorbers

Suspension, which has been fitted to velocipedes since at least 1891, needs shock absorbers to dampen the recoil or it risks turning the bicycle into a pogo stick. Mountain bikes initially borrowed suspension inspiration and hardware from motorcycles. The trick was to make something light weight which could handle going down Repack, or more pertinently for 1988, the Mammoth Mountain Kamikaze Downhill.

The first mountain bike suspension fork was made by RockShox, designed by Keith Bontrager and Paul Turner. A non-working concept fork was mated to a fully carbon, rear suspended Kestrel Nitro and shown at the January 1988 Long Beach bike show. Unfortunately, the Nitro was just a prototype and Kestrel wouldn't release a fully suspended mountain bike until 1995. 1) RockShox would go on to great success, selling $100M annually by 1996. 2)3)

After the debut of RockShox all makers of motorcycle shocks saw the light and immediately jumped into the market.

1990 Manitou Fork 1990 Marzocchi 1990 Mountain Cycle Suspenders

  1. 1990 Manitou Fork |retrobike
  2. 1990 Marzocchi Star pinkbike
  3. 1990 Mountain Cycle Suspenders pinkbike

1991 saw the introduction of mono-shocks.

1992 Canondale HeadShok 1991 Action-Tec 1991 Lawwill Leader

  1. 1992 Canondale HeadShok theoproscloset
  2. 1991 Action-Tec Pro Shock Aaction-Tec
  3. 1991 Lawwill Leader vintagesteelrider

Canondale's HeadShok used a single air/oil damper with needle bearings to eliminate twisting. Twisting (and oil leakage) plagued early RockShox RS-1 and Mag-20's, requiring heavy brake braces for stability. The Lawwill Leader linkage design weighed about 3.5 pounds.

And, somehow just before mechanically complicated shocks hit the market, a number of very simple flex stems became available.

1988 Offroad Flex Stem 1989 Softride Suspension System 1994 Softride Ahead Stem

  1. 1988 Offroad Flex Stem worthpoint
  2. 1989 Softride Suspension System sscycleworks
  3. 1994 Softride Ahead Stem mombat
Year Make/Model Type Travel
1988 Offroad Flex Stem stem 10mm
1989 Softride Suspension System stem 63mm
1989 Rock Shox RS-1 fork 48mm
1990 Manitou fork 38mm
1990 Mountain Cycle Suspenders fork 63mm
1991 Action-Tec Pro Shock mono-shock 44mm
1991 Lawwill Leader mono-shock 63mm
1992 Canondale Headshok mono-shock 50mm
1994 Softride Ahead Stem stem 76mm

1988 Kestrel Nitro
1988 Kestrel Nitro sfomuseum
The 1988 Kestrel Nitro was ground breaking. The first all-carbon, fully suspended mountain bike frame. Equipped with a prototype RockShox.

1989 Greg Herbold
1989 Greg Herbold issuu
In 1989, Greg won at Mammoth using a prototype RockShox RS-1. RockShox went into production in August 1989.

1990 RS-1
1990 RS-1 ad, when they first became widely available. vitalmtb

Kestrel did sell a fully carbon, rigid mountain bike in 1988: the MX-Z. The first all-carbon mountain bike.
Competition became fierce in the late 90's and RockShox sold itself to SRAM in 2002 for only $5.6M. It continues today.
More RockShox history can be found at: oldschoolracing.
tech/front.txt · Last modified: 2022/07/10 12:43 by trip