Put yourself in the “way back machine”. Way back to 1997. You are 14 years old and on summer break. You ride to the bike shop every day to drool at the new Rock Shox Judy SL suspension forks. It was as if they were handed down from the mountain bike gods and will forever the coolest suspension fork ever made! But your 14 and by the time you save up enough money. The fabled Judy SL was replaced by the SID.
Fast forward to Fall of 2020. We are all stuck home riding solo. As it got colder, I decided to get my first fat bike, a 2020 Salsa Beargrease. I put the big squishy bike away and rode the wheels off it all fall and through the winter with a big smile on my face.
I was alone in the snow-covered woods testing out my new studded tires and taking a picture for my Strava post, of course. The yellow Salsa Logo caught my eye and I said man I miss the old Rock Shox colors. So, I decided on the way down that I was going to make my own Judy SL! I made a quick PC paint mockup and sent it to my long-time friend. He loved the idea!
But I needed to pick a fork! I had seen a few posts on the Beargrease Facebook group about the 2016 Fox 34 Plus fork. It looked perfect for a 3-season fork and would fit a 4” tire.
The Rock Shox Bluto was out for tire clearance issues and the Manitiou Mastodon was just gigantic. I found a 2016 Fox 34+ in need of some TLC and jumped on it!
I’m a stay-at-home Dad currently, but I have spent too many years of my life doing 3d Cad. So I started working on how to blend a Fox 34 into a Judy SL. I tried a lot of things but ultimately I decided on making it a subtle head turner… just so the keen eyed mountain bike dork would stop and really have to think, “did I just see a Judy SL…. on a fat bike?!”
I later switched to Affinity designer and had some awesome vintage bike guy from Brazil help me with some scans of the original sticker. It did not look right with just FOX on top. So I added the 34 in place of the 4th character.
Then came the lower Judy Sticker. But I’m an engineer: creative yes, but no artist. I tried a bunch of goofy things like changing the name to “Jane”, “Judy 2+”, Fox logos etc. It just did not look right….
Again, I went the subtle route. I added the Foxtail onto the letter Y and gave the U some big treads and low tire pressure. The last thing was swapping “Cartridge System and SL” for “Factory Fit-Four and 27.5+”
The last item was getting the yellow correct. I found a real Judy SL and threw a low ball offer out. The guy took it! The next thing I knew it was coming from Austria! Late night ebay shopping is never a good thing…
But that yellow! If captain Ahab rode bikes it would have been a yellow whale he chased!
I found a few retro bike forums and there had been many references to both Pantone and RAL colors. I found some paint companies that would match to those standards: they were close, but all had their quirks. As I found out, yellow is a very translucent color and who knows what pigments they used 26 years ago.
But the plot thickens Watson! The original bolt on arch 96 models were painted and soon after in 97 were powder coated. Hence why as the years went on the Judy yellow seemed to mellow.
I wanted to recapture that feeling. I think I remember the bolt on arch color the most but thought the black sticker and no fork boots was just out of this world! I got close doing tests on an old Rock Shox Duke (right) the real SL (Left).
But the Pantone 109c paint would look wildly different depending on the lighting. It would go from lemon yellow to almost orange. I gave up on guessing and messing with local paint suppliers and sent all my samples to a Myperfect Color in NJ. We chose to match it to the 1996 sample leg. They absolutely nailed the paint!
They had 7 different yellow pigments to use and tested it against a whole range of lighting. They really know their stuff when it comes to paint. I will spare you the saga of applying the paint. But it was a learning experience for sure!
The last piece of the puzzle for summer fun was to build up a wheelset. I had read about 50mm wide rims and already had a few rock strikes on my 80mm rims. So I had a blast building up the wheelset with Hope Pro4/Fastno hubs, DT comp Spokes, Brass nipples, and Sun-Ringle Duroc 50 rims.
The whole project turned out awesome! It looks like Rock Shox made a new Judy SL! The 50mm rims make the bike handle amazing and it rolls super-fast. Between the Fork and how fast this bike can go, it has left a few people on shop rides scratching their heads. I am fully sold on fat bikes. It is also the kid hauling mule and adventure bike that can put down a pretty good pace on the twisty single track here in NH! Maybe someone at Rock Shox will see this and bring back the Judy! But until then I’ll keep it alive.
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