Shock pioneer named to AMA Hall of Fame

Vaillancourt developed multi-stage damping system

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, May. 22, 2009
Modern motorcycle suspension pioneer Gilles Vaillancourt has been selected for the AMA Hall of Fame’s 2009 class.

Vaillancourt began developing off-road motorcycle shocks in the early ’70s, creating a revolutionary multi-stage damping system. Vailancourt’s technology was adopted by motocross and desert racers with great results, and other motorcycle disciplines soon began using his work. Viallancourt’s company, Works Performance, now makes custom suspension for dirt bikes, ATVs, and street bikes.

“There are key periods in the history of motorcycling where major leaps forward helped bring us to where we are today, and in the off-road world the suspension revolution of the 1970s certainly qualifies as one of those eras,” says Rob Dingman, AMA president and chief executive officer. “Gilles Vaillancourt and his company, Works Performance, were not just along for the ride during that period. They were among the few in the rider’s seat, pushing the technology and the sport of motorcycling forward.”

Vaillancourt first began working with motorcycles at a shop in his native Quebec, Canada.

“In the winter, the shop effectively was shut down, so we spent a lot of time rebuilding the trade-ins, and that’s how I got involved in working on motorcycles,” says Vaillancourt. “After immigrating to the U.S. in 1960, I worked as a motorcycle mechanic and as a foreman on a printing press. Then, in the early 1970s, I got involved in modifying existing shock absorbers. That’s how it all started … It’s been a long ride. I’ve been very fortunate to have some good experiences in the sport and meet some very terrific guys who I count as friends these days. I’m really honored that somebody would recognize what I’ve done in this industry.”

Vaillancourt will be inducted at the 2009 Induction ceremony Dec. 5 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

“Like so many of our Hall of Fame Inductees, Gil has been involved with some aspect of motorcycling most of his life,” says induction committee chair Don Rosene. “He might have started his suspension company in the 1970s, but his ideas for a better-handling motorcycle started a long time before that. To this day, if you have a question about suspension you can call Gil at work – he’s there every day. And he’s a pretty good rider as well.”

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