Spy Shots: New inverted RockShox RS-1 fork

29er Forks

RockShox’s new light trail fork spotted in the wild and we speculate wildly

NOTE: All of what you are about to read is speculative and—other than some fleeting visuals—is not based on any information provided by RockShox. So consider this our educated guess. And when you’re done reading, let us know what you think is up.

RockShox trickled out close-ups of their new fork (bottom 4 frames) last week until finally revealing a full shot-but little else.

Suspension maker RockShox teased the bike buying public—and those of us in the media—by trickling out a series of close-up photos of what appeared to be pieces of a new inverted, carbon fiber suspension fork on their Facebook page over the course of last week.

After much speculation and Photoshop hacking that pieced the parts together into a whole, the company confirmed suspicions by revealing a complete photograph of the new fork last Friday. The only accompanying info was the new fork’s moniker—RS-1, a revival of RockShox’s very first product name.

After pausing for a couple days to release details on the new SRAM Guide hydraulic brakes earlier this week, we got more breadcrumbs yesterday in the form of a sunny RS-1 vibe video. The edit shows the fork in action—albeit fairly tame action, shot mostly from afar—on trails near Palm Springs, Calif. And like the photos, it was just peek—no further details were released on the mysterious fork.

Video: SRAM’s build to the official announcement of the RS-1 includes this edit featuring up-and-coming XC racers Kate Courtney and Russell Finsterwald going for a chill ride on the new fork.

These captures from RockShox’s intro video are the only images of the RS-1 in the wild we could find.

Evidence points to 100-120mm range

From what Mtbr could piece together from the video, leaked photographs and discussions with bike manufacturers, the fork will likely sport 100-120mm of travel and likely be supplemental to RockShox’s current line.

The bikes used in the video are both 29ers–with Courtney on a Specialized Rumor, a women’s version of the Camber. The Camber is a 110mm rear travel bike, that’s sold with various FOX and RockShox forks in either 110mm or 120mm travel configurations. The two “Evo” versions of the bike are spec’d with 120mm-travel forks.

Photos of the RS-1-equipped Specialized Camber (left) showed up on the Facebook page Mountainbiker Paris, as did a surreptitious photo form the Taipei International Cycle Show (right).

Carbon crown and uppers, unique but not proprietary thru-axel likely

Photographs appear to show an integrated carbon fiber crown and uppers attached to a carbon (?) steerer tube—a configuration that would likely offer light weight, superior rigidity for steering inputs and add stiffness to the arch-less fork uppers.

In the fork dropouts, the photograph shows a hub we suspect uses a 15mm thru-axel and a new end cap with a substantially large contact-area. Increasing the size of this interface with the dropout should in theory help the fork resist twisting forces while bolstering lateral stiffness. Our guess is that it uses some version of a RockShox’s Maxle, and that most hub manufacturers will offer conversion end caps for existing wheels.

Though SRAM has an additional horse in the race in the form of its wheel business, we don’t think they’re going for an exclusivity play. By keeping the interface open source—as they did with their 11-speed XD Driver Body—they stand to gain far more customers than by hemming them in to a SRAM-only design.

One last detail to mention—the photo shows a post-style brake mount on the left fork dropout.

Would you like a Charger with that?

RockShox has been on a roll lately with their redux of the Pike trail/all-mountain fork, garnering “best-ever” praise (see us gush in our Enduro Compare-O here), due in no small part to the Charger Damper they launched on the fork. We’ve heard rumors they may replace the Mission Control damper on their Boxxer DH fork with Charger next year, why not here too?

RockShox’s Charger Damper is by most accounts the primary reason their already-released Pike fork works so well. No telling if it will be on the new RS-1.

29er yes, 27.5 most likely, 26-inch maybe but probably not

The Camber is a 29-inch wheel bike, so 29er compatibility is a given. A 27.5-inch version would seem inevitable, and perhaps have slightly longer travel—say in the 130-140mm range. We wonder if they could pull this off by using the same uppers and just changing the lower stanchions and some internals to adjust for wheel diameter.

RockShox may choose to make a 26-inch wheel version of the fork, but we’d say it’s unlikely. Though the “install base” of 26ers is enormous, larger wheel sizes dominate both the XC and trail bike categories in terms of new units. The market to update old bikes with what will likely be a very expensive fork is minimal—unless it could be done by manipulating a fork that already works for one of the other two wheel sizes.

Where would this fit in the line?

Travel-wise the new model overlaps the company’s SID XC race and Revelation light trail forks, which already tread on each other’s territory to some extent. And while conceptually this new fork could replace them both, we don’t see that happening for cost reasons, presuming the RS-1’s uppers are carbon—and pricey—as we suspect.

The Kawasaki KX 450F motocross bike, like almost every high-end motorcycle on the market, employs an inverted fork with stanchion protectors. Images courtesy of Kawasaki.

Inverted forks commonplace on motorcycles

Many of the comments to our initial Facebook post on the subject point to a certain amount of trepidation towards the inverted design because fork stanchions appear more vulnerable. From our point-of-view, the issues are more about lateral stability and preventing twist—which RockShox presumably has addressed with the dropout/end cap interface.

In the motorcycle world, all high-end off-road forks are inverted. Motocross forks come with stanchion protectors to fend off kicked-up rocks and debris from roost, which is theoretically less likely in a non-motorized scenario.

That said, some forks currently on the market—X-Fusion’s Revel and the DVO Emerald as well as Cannondale’s single-legged Lefty—are inverted and ship with plastic stanchion protectors. Perhaps an aftermarket supplier—think Lizard Skins—will come up with similar versions for the RS-1, or even RockShox themselves if necessary.

Why, RockShox why?

Presumably with any new product introduction, the company’s goal is to make things better. With a fork that means better weight, performance and lateral rigidity. Though it’s hard to imagine a fork in this class being lighter than a SID, buttery like a Pike and as laterally stiff as a Lyric, even getting close to that trifecta could mean a big step forward.

Like we said at the beginning, all this is what we don’t know—but we will. We just got the invite to the press launch today—Friday, Aprill 11th at Sea Otter—so stay tuned.

About the author: Don Palermini

Chicago-born Don Palermini became a cycling-based life-form in the sixth grade after completing a family road bike tour of his home state. Three years later he bought his first mountain bike to help mitigate the city's pothole-strewn streets, and began exploring the region's unpaved roads and trails. Those rides sparked a much larger journey which includes all manner of bike racing, commuting, on- and off-road bike advocacy, and a 20-plus-year marketing career in the cycling industry that landed him at his current gig with Santa Cruz bicycles. Now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, his four favorite words in the English language are "breakfast served all day," together in that order.

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  • Tom says:

    Judging by the number of knocks and scratches on my fork’s lower legs this inverted design doesn’t appeal to me.

    • Christopher Slade says:

      Not a concern. As the forks are shown, yes it is a problem, as I have a lovely 3″ gash in the paint on my TALAS forks from a flip in a rock garden.
      However, a set of wrap around fork guards like my KTM has, and that is no longer a problem.

      With the advent of the 15mm and 20mm through axles, I can see these being very, very effective. Inverted forks are far superior in the MX world for strength, stiffness, and tuneability.

  • cody waite says:

    I love (hate) how everyone is such a hater on new ideas, like they know everything. Why is everyone so quick to ridicule innovation? I think this is a great looking fork and idea. I’ll be interested to see how it comes along in development.

    • Brad says:

      I hear you Cody, some comments above are so dumb, I can’t believe people actually ride. They see a few photos and read a brief write up and suddenly they become engineers, product developers, and pro riders. I can tell you that if photo/product speculation was a profession, some of these people would certainly be at the top of their game. Awesome!

  • JRT says:

    Where are the stantions, the dust/mud boots, the integral mounts for growler cages ???

    Send the RockShox design staff back to their virtual drawing boards to finish the design development on this half-baked conceptual mockup.


    • JRT says:

      Adjustments, fill valve, etc. at the bottom?

      Are there provisions for remote lockout, remote adjustment? I’m not seeing any associated cable in the pics.

      I’d be curious to see how well this compares to a Cannondale SuperMax carbon Lefty.

      Regardless any of that, it does have nice aesthetics, and nice aesthetics will help to attract sales.

  • Utah Rider says:

    I have the same opinion as Tom. For us lowly peasants that don’t get free gear, I can’t imagine getting one of these and having the lower get nicked then it leaks oil all over the trail, within the first month of my paying for it.

  • Jimmy P says:

    I wonder if stiction was considered which is inherent in the design because of the flex in the upper part of the fork. This would be most noticable with small little chatter bumps.
    Would love to give it a test whirl!

  • Eric says:

    Fatbike potential…

  • Joe says:

    I would ride the unicycle. I had the inverted maverick on my trek 69er and it was great. I would give a rockshox version the old college try.

  • Rusty Shakleford says:

    I’d be willing to give this a try and swap out my old lefty! Unfortunately I beleive it will be out of my financial reach. I know inverted susp has had trouble in the past, but maybe tech has caught up to make a XC, single crown invert fork a viable option.

    If the upper is hollow, perhaps a lockout/adjustment control hose can be routed through the steerer tube?

  • Milner says:

    This is great new! Finally other folks will be able to enjoy what Cannondale Lefty owners have know about for two decades! Too bad its Rockshox and not different manufacturer. I’ll wait for version 2.0.

    Most of the concerns posted here are the same that are said about Cannondale’s Lefty and they work fantastically! Oh and they have adjustments on the top of the fork, so Rockshox should be able to do it too. Great job Rockshox! Bu please don’t release a beta version on the public.

  • Rusty Shakleford says:

    @Milner “Too bad its Rockshox and not different manufacturer.”
    Aren’t some of the Lefty’s insides made by Rockshox (e.g. Solo air)?

    • Milner says:

      Yes, true. Not sure about the latest incarnation of the Lefty though. But once again I applaud Rockshox for this product!!! An inverted fork is truly long overdue in the bicycle arena. We’ve been using them on dirt bikes since the 1980’s. Rock damage is just not an issue any longer with the advent of wraparound plastic protectors. (similar to the CDale Lefty too)

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