As I was posting the story about the new FOX SHOX Museum the other day, I looked at several pix of the iconic, 1990s-era FOX shocks, which brought me down Memory Lane.
To my eyes, what was so visually iconic about the first several generations of FOX SHOX was their distinctive gold anodizing. When a sled was equipped with these shocks (particularly on the front suspension) it was immediately identifiable as a cool performance sled.
There was a bit of the chicken-or-egg dynamic going on here, as of course it was the cool sleds that came equipped with the FOX SHOX, including the 1990 Arctic Cat EXT Special, the subsequent Specials (Prowler and EXT), followed by the ZR models. I’d even rank the Polaris Indy XC and XCR sleds as cool, in part because of the FOX shocks and other race-oriented dedication.
Of course, these sleds weren’t just adorned with shock coolness simply because of the gold-anodizing… the FOX units definitely worked better (and were calibrated better for performance riding) than the cheap tube shocks that were OE spec at the time.
But for sure the gold FOX bodies were an immediate visual that told anyone within sight what kind of sled this was, and perhaps what kind of rider it was who owned it.
I can think of a few other components that in the late 1980s and early 1990s held some sort of visual status, at least to my eyes: handlebar hooks; a curved brake lever (that matched the handlebar hook); welded strength/support plates on the skis; padded ski loops; seat side pads.
Come to think of it, I believe that the short windshield was somewhat rare back in those years and, thus, also exuded another sort of visual status.
Of course not all of these status items were shared by all sledders. I’m sure there were people who thought gold shocks, hooked handlebars and low windshields were as obnoxious as loud pipes were for other sledders.
Clearly for me, the components that oozed coolness or status were those that were derived from racing. It’s funny: once many of those items became standard spec on production sleds (such as hooked bars, padded seats, low windshields), they no longer held the same sort of swagger.
Some evolved, however, and have continued to hold status. When FOX SHOX went to the clicker-style remote reservoirs, those too became new level of cool, just as the FLOAT and EVOL X shocks (with Kashima coating) are the latest in visual eye candy.
I have two questions for you. 1. What status/cool features stood out in your mind over the years? 2. Are there current components (OE or aftermarket) that exude the new cool?
As the first production sled equipped with FOX SHOX, the 1990 Arctic Cat EXT Special broke new ground when it came to coolness (and race success). When Kirk Hibbert (two above) won the 1990 Jeep 500 with it, while Brian Sturgeon (above) won Eagle River and dozens of other races, it brought immediate attention, and especially to its gold-annodized shocks.
For the longest time, curved handlebar hooks were the domain of racers and a select few of trail riders who fabricated their own. When companies like KLYMAX helped bring the bolt-on hook to the masses, another status symbol was born.
Curved brake levers were another component that I thought was cool. For the longest time, having such an item meant that you had access to some form of fabrication, because they hadn’t yet reached the aftermarket’s radar. The above lever is one that I cut/welded for the Arctic Cat ZR440 I raced during the 1994 cross-country season.
The 1997 Arctic Cat ZR580 EFI was one of the first sleds to come stock with SO many of the “status” components that I thought were cool, including: FOX SHOX, padded seat and lower windshield. The Dial-Adjust front arm adjuster on the handlebars was perhaps one of the more rare and coolest of all status symbols, eliciting all kinds of conversation among people who wanted to know what, exactly, it did (it allowed you to shorten/lengthen the amount of front-arm travel on the rear suspension, effectively adding/reducing ski pressure).
FOX Clicker-style remote reservoir shocks were an evolution of the brand’s status symbols.
Cool/status symbols have evolved over the years, however, in my eyes FOX SHOX have continued to remain one of the most favored. Today, it’s the FLOAT X EVOL with Kashima coating that sets the new standard for eye candy (and performance), which is one reason why they’re equipped on the 2013 Arctic Cat Tucker Hibbert-edition F800 RR