FOX Racing Shox factory tour

Yesterday I visited some friends at FOX Racing Shox in Watsonville, Calif., and they gave me the sweet factory tour.

It’s quite the operation. The things that struck me most:

– It’s all about process. The assembly floor is a study in manufacturing best practices. Every step — every inch, every fixture — has been thought out to maximize efficiency.

– It’s all about quality. FOX tests quality at every stage, from checking raw materials and outsourced parts to measuring components to fatigue-testing complete forks and shocks. They go to a LOT of trouble to make sure everything is dialed.


Everything that enters the factory — from raw billet to magnesium lowers — starts with a blue sticker.

Raw billet awaits its fate. Things are slowing down now; a few months ago, this area spilled over with raw materials.


Machines are arranged in cells. Each cell has all the equipment required to make a part, for example a Float shock body. The less a part has to move around the factory, the better.

Lower shock bodies come in rough (left) and gradually get milled into final shapes.

This robot cranks out shock shafts. The factory runs around the clock.

California is the toughest place to manufacture. By law, all shavings and fluids are recycled.


What are we building today? The yellow bins contain all the parts, and the schematic shows how they all go together.

Parts is parts. In this case, shock pistons.

Every fork gets mounted in this dyno, and its settings are checked. Squish, squish.

Forks “cure” for 24 hours then are checked for leaks. The oil contains a dye that glows under a special light. Fancy!


Parts are pulled and checked in the fabrication cells. Note the instructional sheet and the calipers.

The testing room is kept at a constant 68 degrees and contains lots of expensive tools, like this measuring doo-dad. Here’s a side view of a fork piston. With tolerances down to 1/1,000 of an inch, you know it’s all about precision.

This magnifier can spot tiny burs on metal, or it can zoom way in on a $5 bill. We zoomed in on the individual paper fibers — turns out they’re 1/1,000 inch thick.

I double-checked this cutout. Seems to work!

Special thanks to Mark Fitzsimmons and Elayna Caldwell.

2 replies
  1. Marz says:

    So, while you were there did you catch a glimpse of their R&D department, what’s on the horizon? And are they looking for product testers, I can test them under tropical rain forest conditions.

  2. leelikesbikes says:

    They didn’t let me in there. Very hush-hush, and some stuff they wouldn’t let me photograph.

    Sorry, but they probably won’t need you. They actually import dirt from all over the world and use it in their test lab. They seal the fork and a bunch of mud or whatever into a box and cycle the fork a zillion times. Where is the world’s worst dirt, from a fork wear standpoint? England.

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