Over the last couple of years, forks have changed a fair amount. Heat-treating started becoming more and more popular, drop out sizes became smaller in size while allowing plenty of peg clearance for improved grinding, steeper offsets have become increasingly popular thanks to nose manuals, hang fives and more front end tricks getting popular, legs have been tapered and butted, made wider to fit fat 20×2.35″ tires and plenty of other small changes to make them better.
One fork in particular has been standing out to me for a little over a year now, and that’s the Captive fork from The Shadow Conspiracy that not only features a lot of those things I listed above, but a one of a kind enclosed drop out with inserts allowing for multiple offsets being the biggest thing that makes this one stand out.
This design has really been on my check list for quite a while of things to find out about, so I decided it was time I get ahold of Ronnie Bonner to find out just what this fork is all about, what went into the design and how they got it done! Take a look at the full interview below!
Alright, so for this new Insight we’re talking about the Captive fork that has been out for a little while now. Let’s go back to the beginning and talk a little bit about the concept. What made you guys want to do a fork like this in the first place?
When Shadow started making forks, we realized that the offset or rake of the fork was super important to how the bikes handles. We by no means invented different offsets but we were the first brand in a decade that had really considered how we could use offset to make modern riding way more fun. At the time in street riding, the style of doing nose manuals and front end tricks was starting to become more popular, so it made sense to create a product that helped the rider achieve this. So we made two offsets , one shorter for street and one longer for a more stable option for trails / conventional style of riding.
Those were the Shadow Creeper 026 and 035 forks , different offsets for different styles But then this meant you had to choose which was correct for you at that time . We found that often riders did not know what option they needed. So they would buy the fork and then figure out that maybe it was not the best for what they wanted to do.
So with that in mind the Shadow Captive Fork concept was born – have a fork that could have duel offsets available . Not so you will change your offset each time you ride but just that the option is there, giving the rider the choice of experimenting some without having to change out forks. The Shadow Captive fork does just that.
The design of the fork is one that’s definitely unique and takes it a step beyond a few different forks that have been available with the drop outs that required female axles. Who all was behind the design process of the Captive fork?
The idea was hatched by Byron Anderson, Shadow’s parts designer and he explored many different options of enclosed and open traditional style forks. But for this specific innovation, we felt the enclosed concept made the most sense.
The main focus for the fork is the 7075 adaptors that can be flipped around to adjust the offset of the fork from 26mm to 32mm pretty quickly. I don’t think a lot of people really understand what a couple millimeters can really do for a bike. Care to explain what the difference between the two can really mean?
It is insane how much this tiny amount of change makes your bike perform in different ways. Shorter / tighter offset ( 26mm) is good for more of a tech rider , looking for fast and responsive steering. The longer / slower offset (32mm) is great for a more stable ride experience, good for trails and high speed stuff.
Did you guys play around with doing any other offsets or were you pretty set on those two options? Have you ever considered making other adaptors that would allow for different positions? 28mm or 30mm for example?
We did explore many offsets options, but you are limited in how many you can do if you want the fork to still look sexy, ha ha. So we experimented with a few different sizes and came to the conclusion that the forks will come with the 26-32 and if you wanted another style of offset you can purchase the 28-30 by hitting us up or picking it up on Dan’s Comp. We felt these were the best choices for riding styles and looks of the fork.
So once the idea was sorted out and the drawings were getting done. What’s next? How do you get a new idea like this from Florida over the your factory in Taiwan to produce a couple of these to try out?
Since starting our own office in Taiwan, we have massively reduced the issues that arise in a more traditional ‘trading company’ manner of doing business overseas. So we were able to create different prototypes rather quickly, working directly with the factory, refining the forks as we went. This also allows us a higher level of quality control, testing and all that helps move new items to market quickly.
I can imagine doing something new like this brought on a few headaches when trying to get the tooling and everything sorted. What kind of hoops did you have to jump through to make this happen?
Yeah, it is a bit difficult with a new invention like the Shadow Captive forks. One our biggest headaches was pricing as we had to work through a few ideas for production to ensure that we picked the best design route to give the quality we demanded at a price that was fair for the riders. It’s easy to design something in theory that is new and crazy, but it’s really hard to create something that is the highest quality / innovative in reality, that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, haha.
Did you try out a few different versions of the fork or were you guys pretty set on what you were trying to do before you got to the prototype stage?
Yes, we had a few different versions along the way…
Rarely do things like this come out perfect first go. What were some of the changes you guys made from the original concept to the final samples?
Basically in the way that the washers were aligned in the fork, thickness of dropouts and how the angles would change with different offsets.
Who on the team had input on these forks? I know you have a well-rounded team that I think could throw anything and everything at these for a test.
We have an amazing crew here at Shadow / Sparky’s and they truly live BMX! On this project the main design team for the Shadow Captive fork was Byron Anderson and Greg Lanthorne, with additional input from myself and Joey Juaristi.
Alright, designs are done, samples are made, testing is going great. When do you decide it’s time to put these into production?
Any product we make does not go into production till it’s been tested by machines in our factories and then, only after machine testing does it go for the true real world testing by our Pro and Am team riders. We not only do we have our pro team test all of different products but we also have a test team of riders that are extremely brutal on parts, since sometimes the pro guys are just so good and smooth that they don’t break products. So we also want a 3rd layer of testing by our disaster test team – believe me those dudes kill it so you don’t!
How long does something like this take to have made production wise? I think a lot of people out there kind of think you ship over an order and a week later you have 1000 forks ready to ship worldwide.
Once you have fully tested and worked out any issues and you are ready for production it is on average about 120 days for a product to hit the streets. But testing could range from 6 months to a year or more.
What colors does the fork come in? Will you guys be doing any other limited run options in the future?
Shadow has always been really into having color palates for our entire collection. So if you want to have matching parts, Shadow will ensure your ride will look amazing by having all our parts match, which includes our forks. Keep an eye out for limited color runs for sure.
What’s the price on these guys?
$150 bucks, pretty amazing price with this type of options in a fork!
So now that the fork has been out for a while, are there any plans of doing an updated version or are these still holding up just as planned?
There is a brand new update version of the Shadow Captive fork in the process of sampling now but won’t be out till early next year due to testing time periods. Pretty excited about the new version as it has the same amazing function but super strong and refined options, looks dope!
Start to finish, how long did it take for you guys to get these from idea to production? I feel like it was a long time coming?
I believe it was about 2 years, there was allot to dial in with design and creating a production plan for a product that had never been done before.
If there’s one thing I’ve come to learn about you, it’s that you are ALWAYS working on something new and exciting. Care to drop a few hints for what’s to come for Shadow in the near future?
This is true, we all here at Shadow / Sparky’s love to create and work on new projects, ha ha. We have a few projects and hard goods that I can speak of now:
-The New Shadow Corvus rim is super strong and light weight as it is so important to keep strength, but the also the wheels are the most important place on your bike that you need to reduce weight. The Shadow Corvus rims are in the final testing phase now and will be out by end of 2013.
-Also as many of you have already seen our new innovation the Supreme chain is getting closer and is so amazing, As you know the Shadow Interlock changed the chain game and now Shadow is about to take chains to a whole new chapter. We don’t believe in just taking KMC chains and adding half link to them and or just going to a factory and taking their word / trust them that the their “fake half link chain” is strong, we go out and actual create and test new Chain concepts and bring them to BMX!
-Also we have new tire that is so fast and smooth it’s called the “Valor” tire and it is testing now. The new design is smooth no knurling and comes in a smooth nice 2.4 size along with a weight saving 2.2 size tires. Check the Shadow Instagram for sneak peak of the new Shadow “Valor” tire.
-The New Shadow Killer cranks, “Trey Jones” signature model. This has been in the works for a few years and we couldn’t be more stoked. This is our 2nd chromoly crank and some of the ideas that have been developed to make these cranks really strong are super exciting. Trey isn’t afraid to send it down a big set, so you know the Shadow “Killer” cranks are going to be strong!
-There is a super cool collaboration project with my long time buddies at The Hundreds, which is a California based and inspired clothing brand. We have wanted to work together for many years and finally have come together to celebrate their 10 year anniversary by creating this project together.This will be dropping around September so be on the lookout for more details in August.
This is just a few of the new project and or products we have dropping this year but be o the look out as we have some pretty dope stuff that we will unveil at Interbike 2013!
Let’s say a shop or distributor wants to get these in their stores and warehouses, how would they go about that?
In the USA the dealer has two options they can contact QBP at QBPBMX.com or they can contact our home base which is Sparky’s Distribution. SparkysDistribution.com
Sparkys is really excited about the launch of our new road rep program that will help us keep in touch with the various bike shops and scenes. The first areas we have focused on are the Northeast, Florida and West Coast / California. We couldn’t be more stoked on our crew on the front lines and I am sure you will be seeing them all very soon at your shop and local spots.
If a rider has an issue with their fork, who should they get in contact to get the issue resolved? Do the Captive forks have a warranty at all?
Yes we have an amazing warranty department, run by riders that truly care about BMX. All you have to do is contact us via this link and we will get back to you within 24 hours or less.
Click here for warranty information
How can people keep up with The Shadow Conspiracy? You guys are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all that, right?
Twitter – @ShadowBMX
Vimeo – Vimeo.com/shadowconspiracy
Youtube – Youtube.com/CrowGoraFilms
So this wraps up another Insight! I’d like to say thank you to Ronnie Bonner for taking the time to answer all these questions for us. I’d also like to say thanks to everyone who checked this out! You can pick the Captive fork up on Dan’s Comp currently for $119.99 – $159.99 or you can have your local shop get ahold of Originals or hit up the Daily Section for all the latest videos, products, news and more!