Recently, FOX was kind enough to open their doors for us and give us an exclusive look at not only their home office – where they display years of racing history in Scotts Valley, CA but also let us spend a day inside their factory in Watsonville, where they assemble their suspension offerings here stateside. Follow along as we get an insider’s perspective on their process.
Even the handles on the doors were properly adorned – welcome to Fox!
The office showcases a wraparound wall with a timeline giving a rundown on Fox’s history starting in 1955 when Bob Fox first started dabbling with suspension.
The original Air Shox. A truly unique innovation.
Externally adjustable damping – another big breakthrough.
The original Fox Air Shox going through their evolution. A pair are seen here bolted up to a swingarm and ready for action.
Some mountain bike suspension evolution and cutaways starting with the original fox alps and the very first fox 40 prototypes. On the 40 – if you look close you’ll notice the mid stroke compression adjuster! BRING THAT BACK FOX!!!! (editor’s note : mid stroke compression is incredibly important, no one that we know of in the MTB industry offers an external adjustment for it)
And a couple of ideas that never came to fruition. A once piece titanium crown steerer combo. Apparently it rode quite nicely, but wasn’t cost effective. Also, the upside down DH fork. The main reason that the Inverted DH fork didn’t make it to production was the stiffness to weight ratio- it was never quite stiff enough for Fox’s pro racers and was much heavier than a refined traditional design.
More history, odds and ends, tuning charts and a shock quadruple bypass shock for off raod that’s bigger than most grown men’s thighs.
Fox has worked on some pretty cool projects over the years – here is a pic of Mike Schultz’s custom made prosthetic unit so he can keep shredding his moto way harder than you do.
Here is the bike that Aaron Gwin won his first World Cup Overall on. Surely Fox is proud of this one. It’s one of the last things you see as you head out.
While some testing and R&D is done at the office – we weren’t allowed to see what was going on in that area, it was off limits.
About half an hour south of the Fox Corporate office is their factory. This is where most of the assembly and quality control happens.
The first thing you see when you leave the lobby and head into the manufacturing area are vending machines. Surprisingly, instead of being stocked with soda, candy, and potato chips – they are full of allen keys, loctite, gloves, tape, towels and zip ties. Pretty cool concept, as workers run out of supplies they punch in a code and swoop up new tools for the job. As they do so the costs come out of their respective departments. This helps discourage wasteful behavior and keeps everything running lean while managing inventory better…That means better suspension at a lower cost to the end consumer.
Our next stop in the factory was at a machine that measures tolerance. It is built by Zeiss, best know for their incredibly precise optics
In simple terms, this machine takes super accurate measurements of various parts such as lower leg assemblies, crown/steerer/stanchion assemblies, etc. and ensures they are being built to spec…A very critical element of ensuring proper suspension performance is flawless tolerances. If the lowers, bushings, seals, stanchions or anything else are slightly off, the parts just won’t quite operate in unison perfectly. To glean some insight into it’s accuracy – it’s built on a piece of 5,000 lb marble.
Forks are built on one assembly line, and shocks are put together on another. Here is an overview of the fork line in action.
Fit Cartridges being hand built and tested.
Air spring sub units and a schematic as a guideline/reference point off to the left.
Fox has one of each fork set aside that has the highest degree of accuracy that they’ve seen in testing right off of the line. That is the “Gold Standard” they set to achieve with each fork and shock, and the measurement by which the other parts are judged.
Various bushing installation tools for various lower castings.
Some nice new slippery Kashima coated stanchions, ready to be pressed into their respective crowns. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of this process as Fox has something new up their sleeve in terms of how that takes place.
Air Springs about to get bolted into a fork.
Fit Cartridge sub units waiting to be oil filled.
Fox 36 Hi/Lo Compression adjusters being put together – those little springs and ball bearings make sure you have discernible detents between clicks.
A fork heading down the line.
The forks at FOX are checked by hand and on a dyno as well. This ensures proper testing of friction, compression and rebound forces.
A batch of forks head down the line to get cleaned up, stickered and boxed.
What do we have here?
Fox also manufactures their suspension for the Ford Raptor trucks in Watsonville. This gives you some scale as to what 12″ of suspension looks like.
This computer monitors efficiency and gives workers a gauge on their output results. When demand is high the fork line is capable of building up to 1400 forks a day per 8 hour shift. There are two shifts – that’s close to 3,000 units a day. Up to 8,000 units a day with rear shocks. This also takes powersports and offroad into account. Things aren’t always running that fast – only when it’s really time to crank product out. To give an idea – that’s a fork every thirty seconds coming off the line.
This is the rear shock assembly area. Smaller parts and tighter quarters.
Pistons, shims and glide rings!
Cranking out the rear shocks
The efficiency at Fox was quite impressive. They can re organize their line to cater to building different product on short order – here a shock for OEM on a Specialized is built.
Nope – no sad kids here – Emergency Manual Override …safety precautions at Fox were super impressive all over.
Pulled back – Talas Cartridge oil fill station.
A heap of completed forks up on the rack and ready to get boxed and shipped off to happy customers – or maybe to become an OEM part on your next bike
Lunch Break – looks like a ghost town without any people around. Thanks for checking this feature out. Visit www.ridefox.com for more info on the good people at Fox Racing Shox. We hope you enjoyed the tour – we did.