THROWBACK THURSDAY,1993: LONG BEFORE GRAVEL, ROCKSHOX WAS AT PARIS-ROUBAIX

By Zap

It was for the very first edition of Road Bike Action’s (initial run) back in the August 1993 issue that we featured a story I wrote about my time  accompanying the crew from RockShox for their third effort at Paris Roubaix. And in addition to the image of Toby Henderson sending it aboard a Team IME DeRosa, there were two pivotal cover lines, “New Technology Triumphs At Paris-Roubaix”  and  “Can Road Bikes Escape The Suspension Revolution?” that defined the era.

With news of SRAM’s newly released RockShox Rudy suspension fork breaking this week,  swapping  “road bike” for “gravel bike” is a sensible solution since the dual-purpose side of the cycling world is now much more embracing of the concept of suspension then it was back in 1993.

Unlike the fork that preceded it by 30 years, the new RockShox Rudy is disc brake and thru-axle specific with either 30 or 40 mm of travel at retail cost of $700.

AT PARIS ROUBAIX

With technology adapted from the popular Mag 21 SL mountain bike fork, 45 pairs of RockShox forks were stuffed into two suitcases and shipped to France just days before the race. The air damped forks weighed 2 lbs. 4 oz. and used titanium steerer tubes, polished magnesium lowers, Easton aluminum stanchion tubes, and hand machined crowns. There were six-clicks of compression adjustment.

 

RockShox founder Paul Turner was adamant that his suspension fork could play a role with improving the ride for road bikes just as it did with mountain bikes. The newly released Rock Shox Rudy is a long-away companion from the early race forks based on the Mag 21 SL mountain bike fork, and the mass produced Ruby fork that enjoyed a smattering of success (mostly with the hybrid market) before production was ended. Note the Bontrager frame that the fork in this photo is mounted to,. Keith Bontrager was a fellow NorCal moto friend  of Paul’s . (Not to digress but scroll down to see  another version of the Turner/Bontrager story).

 

In addition to the GAN team, Rock Shox also officially outfitted the ONCE, Castorama, Telekom, and Subaru-Montgomery squads. With a total of 45  forks on hand, Turner wanted some just-in-case forks for other riders who may have been tempted to try the newfangled American technology. Two riders who jumped on the RockShox bandwagon were a couple of “up and coming” riders by the name of Johan Museeuw and  Mario Cipollini. Ironically,  it was their GB-MG Bianchi teammate Franco Ballerini who would instead opt for a Alsop Softride stem and nearly derail the $30,000 Rock Shox effort with a nail-biting photo finish that had the Italian circling the velodrome arms high in victory until a photo gave the win to Duclos-Lassalle.

Paul Turner and Steve Simons chat with the Montgomery-Subaru team as they learn the ins-and-outs of the fork. Unlike the European riders, the American team riders that included Nate Reiss, Bart Bowen and Paul Willerton were both appreciative and excited to use the forks.

 

Meet Julienne. In addition to overseeing the mechanics on the GAN team, he was was also Greg LeMond’s personal mechanic.  He  was also one of the most old school and obstinate people any of the Rock Shox crew dealt with.  Julienne may have been good with a spanner, but the RockShox techs were appalled at his primitive skills when it came to swapping out the forks.

 

Greg LeMond first used the RockShox fork in 1991 and appreciated the benefit they provided over the brutal cobbles. Although Turner felt 42 psi was the optimum air pressure, Greg insisted on using more and raced with 50 psi. Greg ‘s namesake bike ran with a Campagnolo drivetrain  and was rolling on 28mm Vittoria Pave CG tires mounted on Mavic  Paris-Roubaix SSC rims.

 

For as old-world conservative as Bianchi was, racing remained a key element for the Italian brand and in the name of being competitive at Paris-Roubaix they jumped on a variety of suspension concepts including this version that borrowed from mountain bike designer Dan Hannebrink.

 

At the 1993 running of Paris-Roubaix Belgian star Johan Museeuw rode a standard Bianchi with a RockShox fork. In 1994 he showed-up with this radical full-suspension bike still with a RockShox fork.

THE GREAT GILBERT DUCLOS-LASSALLE

The winning effort in 1992.

 

The winning effort in 1993.

 

AWAY FROM THE COBBLES

Back in 1993 RBA got their first swing on a  production RockShox fork based on the  fork used  at Paris-Roubaix. On skinny 23mm tires that never went off-road, the fork’s added weight was definitely felt in the steering. As novel as they were, the suspension forks  never spent much time on our personal bikes.

 

Up close with the fabled cobbles of Paris Roubaix.

 

THE TURNER/BONTRAGER ADDENDUM

Years before he became known as a frame builder, and then the name for Trek’s house-brand of components, Keith Bontrager (L) was a factory mechanic for Team Moto-X Fox and Honda. Oh yeah, one of the riders he wrenched for was Jim Turner – brother of Paul Turner. Bontrager also contributed to the first RockShox prototype fork. All in the family! Photo: Jim Gianatsis.

 

CampagnoloParis RoubaixMavicGreg LeMondRock ShoxMario Cipollinithrowback thursdayPaul TurnerSteve SimonsBart BowenPaul WillertonGilbert Duclos LasalleKeith BontragerRockshox