Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Adrian Marcoux and Fred Robinson

Retallack, BC, is one of the most epic backcountry mountain biking destinations in Canada with over 6K of descent on seemingly endless trails accessed by both van and helicopter. We couldn't have asked for a better testing ground for the new RockShox Lyrik, which was launched just weeks ago. With a variety of terrain ranging from steep, technical and natural trails, to flowy machine-built park style trails littered with huge berms and fun jumps, topped off with some of the most beautiful landscapes and views we've ever seen, we jumped at the opportunity to make the journey to this mountain biking paradise called Retallack in order to find out what the new RockShox Lyrik is all about.

RockShox approached this media camp a bit different from the norm, having select journalists from our sport's leading publications ship their personal bikes in ahead of time in an effort to allow us to focus on the task at hand, riding the new Lyrik, as opposed to getting used to a completely new and foreign bike. Another interesting thing RockShox did was have us ride our own fork before bolting on the new Lyrik, so we could experience the same trail with the same bike and have the fork be the only differing factor from run to run in an effort to highlight the differences between our own setup, and the new fork. This approach to testing was not only useful for gaining a baseline experience to weigh-in on when figuring out exactly what the new fork accomplished over our personal setups, it also let us feel right at home on our own bikes so we could learn the track, before trying to learn the new fork.

SRAM athlete and ripper Kenny Smith. With more and more trail bikes becoming bike park capable, the Lyrik fills the void in RockShox's lineup left between the Pike and BoXXer, making it a good choice when specing out your single-crown bike park weapon.

Let’s look at what’s new and what’s been improved on the new fork from RockShox before we get into our initial ride impressions.

2016 RockShox Lyrik Lineup

Pricing

  • Lyrik RCT3 Solo Air, all, travels and configurations: 1,030.00 US$, 1075 €, 824 £
  • Lyrik RCT3 Dual Position Air, all AM wheel sizes, travels and configurations: 1,110 US $, 1158 €, 888 £
  • Lyrik RC: OEM only

2016 RockShox Lyrik Highlights And Technology

The Lyrik sees a number of improvements from RockShox in an effort to bring you a more capable, stiffer and more supple long travel fork single-crown fork. Picking up where the Pike leaves off, the 27.5-inch Lyrik will be available in 160, 170 and 180mm travel options with 150-160mm options for the 29-inch fork. When asked why no 26-inch Lyrik is offered, RockShox's answer was simple: "There's just no applicable 26-inch bikes currently being made." But RockShox didn't forget about the "26 for life" crowd and is making available a Charger Damper upgrade for the 26-inch // 20mm through-axle Lyrik. Let's break down some of the key points and improvements on the Lyrik.

Stiffness

To achieve that extra stiffness over the Pike, RockShox employed a number of new technologies including a beefed up chassis, thicker, tapered stanchion walls and SRAM's 15mm Torque Cap compatibility. The Torque Caps work by increasing the contact area between the hub and the fork, boosting the stiffness by about 9% when compared to a standard hub mounted on the Lyrik. Besides adding to the stiffness of a standard 15mm-axle when coupled with SRAM's Torque Cap system, maintaining the 15mm standard means that if and when you make the change from Pike to Lyrik, or pretty much any current long-travel single crown, no new wheel is needed. If you happen to already own SRAM Rise, Roam, Rail or X0 wheels or hubs, conversion to the Torque Caps is accomplished simply by replacing the hub's end-caps with the more robust Torque Caps. When we inquired if the Torque Cap technology will be available from other hub manufactures, RockShox's reply was open to interpretation. They basically said that the spec information is out there and not a secret, with no mention of patents pending. So how much stiffer is the new Lyrik over the Pike? Without revealing the exact numbers to us, RockShox did tell us that in terms of frontal impact stiffness, a 180mm 27.5” Lyrik is as stiff as a 160mm Pike of the same wheel size. So logically, as you go down in travel with the Lyrik, you will start to see actual gains in stiffness over a Pike of the same length.

Retuned Solo Air Spring

Asymmetrical lowers with an elongated Solo Air side (non-drive) in order to accommodate the larger negative air volume of the Lyrik. Aside from that, a higher and more rigid braking arch has also been cast on the new lowers in an effort to increase stiffness.

Another big area of focus for the Lyrik was the retuning of the Solo Air spring. Using the same philosophy as the RockShox DebonAir can, the increased negative volume of the Solo Air yields a more linear initial portion of the travel allowing for better tracking and impact absorption. The dimple placement, also referred to as the transfer port, has also been changed in order to eliminate as much preload force as possible which is said to minimize the amount of force needed to initiate travel when the fork is fully extended.

SKF Seals

The new Lyrik also introduces SKF seals to RockShox’s line. The new seals are not only employed in the fork’s lowers but also used on the Charger Damper itself. RockShox found that the previous seal they used on the cartridge could allow for some lube oil to mix with the damper fluid, and the new SKF seal solves that issue completely. RockShox also found that despite the SKF's better sealing abilities, the seal also creates less friction than the ones they replace and have significantly lower stick-slip, which is friction characteristic felt when the static friction (fork at rest) transitions to dynamic friction (fork in motion), AKA: stiction. The bigger the difference between static friction and dynamic friction, the more “stuttery“ or 'notchy' the fork will feel. When you reduce the standing friction of a seal, bringing it closer to the dynamic friction, that “notchy” feeling is reduced or completely eliminated and the fork can transition from static to dynamic with less force needed to initiate travel, making for a smoother running fork.

Adjustable Rebound Shim Stack

Some trickle down tech from the BoXXer is also seen on the Lyrik’s, in the form of a tunable rebound shim-stack via the Charger Damper. If you’d like to go from a medium to a firm rebound tune, you can remove the jam-nut from the piston, pull the first 3 shims, flip them and reinstall. Notice the shim furthest back on the stack (pictured above), it has a larger diameter than the other shims, but in the factory location it's far enough back that it doesn’t affect the rest of the stack. When you flip them, that larger shim now come into play once the smaller shims flex enough to make contact with it. For a lighter rebound tune, you can remove the shim stack completely and omit a small preload ring between two shims when reinstalling. This level of adjustability is especially useful for heavier or lighter than average riders, and in all three configurations, riders still get the benefits of RockShox Rapid Recovery shim configuration.

Solo Air And Dual Position Bottomless Tokens

One thing missing from previous RockShox Dual Position equipped forks was Bottomless Token tunability. While the install process is a bit more complicated than with the Solo Air Tokens, since the Dual Position tokens must be placed below the cartridge as opposed to on top (as you would with the Solo Air), it’s still a welcomed update. Dual Air riders rejoice, as this is a big deal in terms of dialing in your fork exactly how you want it. The red Bottomless Tokens of today will be phased out in favor the new gray Solo Air Tokens and brick-colored Dual Position Tokens.

Back To Back Testing And Initial Lyrik Setup

As we mentioned earlier, RockShox approached our initial introduction to the new fork a bit atypically when compared to a normal product launch, having us first ride the trails on our personal fork and bike before swapping out for the Lyrik. What did this achieve? It allowed us to ride the same trail, back to back with the only differing variable being the fork in order for us to really feel, in an obvious and almost quantifiable fashion, the differences between our personal equipment and the new Lyrik. Same trail, same bike, different fork.

We spent the first half the day on our own Pike riding the lower trails of Retallack. After lunch and a quick presentation we returned to our now Lyrik equipped bikes and got right into the initial setup process. As with any fork, the first thing we setup was sag, which was adjusted to just over 20% via the Solo Air Spring pressure. Rebound was set accordingly and the low speed compression was left completely open to start.

The “parking lot bounce test” revealed a fork that has practically zero stiction and was buttery smooth right out of the box. Gone are the days of a sticky new fork that required hours to break-in in order to get the full benefits of a smoothly functioning piece of suspension.

Our Trek Slash 9.8 equipped with the RockShox Lyrik.

The damper’s 3 position “pedal” adjustment offered distinct changes in each setting, from a fully open supple feel to a firm, but not locked-out fork, which still has just a little bit of give in the firmest setting. The 13 click sweep of the low speed compression makes available a wide range of adjustment, with noticeable yet small enough steps between each click which make dialing in your exact LSC preference easy and precise.

RockShox Lyrik RTC3 Solo Air Ride Impressions

With well over 10K feet of descending already under our belts in just two days aboard the new Lyrik, beyond a durability test, we’re confident that the opinions we’ve formed on the new fork will continue to ring true when it comes time to complete our long-term test.

Going back to that zero stiction feeling we mentioned above, that initial force needed in order to get the fork active is very low, and you can immediately feel that on the trail. Small bump sensitivity is excellent and the fork reacts instantly to even the smallest of trail inconsistencies, keeping the front wheel firmly planted and tracking the ground. Even with only two Bottomless Tokens (factory configuration for the 160mm travel offering), the beginning stroke was supple and active yet the fork resisted bottoming out excessively while still making use of all the available travel. After the first run, we started upping the low speed compression and finally settled with 8-clicks from fully closed (5 from full open, where we started). This amount of LSC helped the bike stay centered in corners and higher up in its travel leaving room for unexpected big hits or fast, harsh g-outs.

Beyond the Lyrik's well performing damping, the added chassis stiffness over our 160mm Pike was vast and a very apparent improvement. The Lyrik resisted twisting on off-camber sections and in rough, rocky bits of trail allowing the bike to follow the intended line as opposed to deflecting and forcing unwanted directional changes. Exactly how much stiffer the 160mm Lyrik is over the 160mm Pike, RockShox didn’t say, but we can tell you it’s substantial and impacts the ride quite a bit, something that was made very obvious when swapping forks back to back on the same trail.

For the majority of the riding in Retallack, we left the fork in the Open setting giving the Lyrik an active, almost mini-DH fork feel. We did experiment with the Middle setting on the more flowy, machine built // bike park type trails that lacked any really rough, root or rock sections. On the more technical sections, this setting was a bit too harsh for our taste but when it came to the high speed, big bermed sections of the flow trails, the Middle compression setting allowed us push hard into the corners and lips keeping the bike high up in its travel with zero wallowing and plenty of support. In Climb mode, the Lyrik was firm and resisted bob, but the fork still traced the ground nicely and took the edge off abrupt square hits.

What’s The Bottom Line?

RockShox has made several big improvements to their long-travel fork line with the introduction of the new Lyrik. Chassis stiffness, a retuned Solo Air spring and smoother, yet better sealing SKF seals among other refinements all make for an extremely capable, supple and confidence inspiring fork. On paper, the differences between the Lyrik and the Pike may be subtle, but riders who like to ride technical, aggressive terrain will appreciate the differences between the two platforms. As we mentioned above, the Lyrik rides a lot more like a small Downhill fork than it does like a big travel Trail fork, making it a welcomed addition to RockShox's line. With the Pike also being a standout fork from RockShox, which will likely see many of the Lyrik's technologies and refinements trickle down, who's the new Lyrik for? We'd say it's for aggressive riders who already enjoy the Pike, but want a bit extra when it comes to overall capability, travel, and stiffness. Sign us up.

For more information, visit sram.com/rockshox


About The Reviewer

Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf-Doge," has been on two wheels since he was two years old. He picked up a mountain bike in 2004 and started racing downhill in 2006. He has seen moderate success racing but focuses his efforts on building, maintaining and riding his local trails. He's deceptively quick for a bigger guy and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. As a SoCal native he mostly rides trails covered with loose, traction-less turns and sharp, immovable rocks. Besides downhill, he rides trail bikes, road, and also enjoys the occasional dirt jump session.
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