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2023 RockShox Suspension

It would seem that RockShox is holding nothing back today. Today's product release isn't an incremental update to a singular model. This is a full-steam-ahead revamp of the trail/all-mountain/enduro suspension line that includes three forks and four rear shocks. Vital has noticed a deafening absence of RockShox products on our test bikes this past year, and we have to wonder if this revision was in any way related. Right or wrong, we will say that after spending a couple of weeks riding the new line, RockShox is about to make a whole lot of noise. Meet the all-new Pike, Lyrik, ZEB, Super Deluxe, and Deluxe family.

Fork Highlights

  • Three new forks - Pike, Lyrik, and ZEB
  • Pike and Lyrik receive new shape/design to the lowers
  • Forks feature pressure relief valves
  • New Charger 3 Damper
  • New Debonair+ Air Spring
  • ButterCups vibration damping system
  • All models/trims now use an IFP damper
  • Isolated Low-Speed and High-Speed oil flow systems
  • Ultimate models feature 53% longer bushings
  • Hub end cap adaptors for Torque Caps, or not

Rear Shock Highlights

  • New Super Deluxe Air and Coil, new Deluxe Air and Coil
  • Available hydraulic bottom out adjustment
  • Available progressive rebound tune
  • Low-speed and high-speed compression adjustment
  • Two new DebonAir+ air cans (progressive and linear)
  • Bottomless Tokens still available
  • Negative Tokens available
  • Castled bottom-out bumper in air shocks

 

When RockShox launched Fight Attendant last October it seemed to be a show of force, a display of what could be done with electronic integration to suspension. Robots aside, we did make note of several new technologies we could only assume would be making their way down the line. ButterCups, bleed ports, and a new arch design for the Lyrik and Pike were all readily apparent. The timeline and execution were not.

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Undoubtedly, the supply shortages and production lead times of the past two years have played a role in what is presumably a delayed launch. Regardless, there is a ton of information to get through. We'll start with the forks and highlight the new elements, then move along to the shocks, and finally land on our impressions once we got on the trail.

Vital took possession of the new Lyrik Ultimate and SuperDeluxe Ultimate to mount on our own Hightower test mule. Additionally, RockShox provided us with a new Megatower equipped with a ZEB Ultimate and SuperDeluxe Coil Ultimate as well as a Stumpjumper with a Pike Ultimate and SuperDeluxe Ultimate.

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Our two testers spent a bit of time on the trail, getting acquainted with the suspension and establishing some baseline settings. After we had some time fiddling about with our new devices, RockShox came for a visit to help us do some fine-tuning and discuss the new technologies we were experiencing.

Vital will be performing a long-term test of the ZEB, Lyrik, and SuperDeluxe shocks. During the coming months, we will be pulling more back-to-back laps to further evaluate the effects of high- and low-speed compression adjustments, specific setup features, and the overall durability of the new RockShox line. For now, we are offering our initial impressions after several weeks of riding and expert tuning advice. With that said, let's explore the new RockShox line.

RockShox 2023 Fork Lineup

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Charger 3 Damper

RockShox is bringing a new damper to the trail. The Charger 3 uses an internal floating piston (IFP) rather than the bladder system found in the prior design. No more bleeding your damper. The aluminum body has an overflow port for excess oil. RockShox is stating the new Charger design isolates high-speed and low-speed compression damping such that one does not affect the other. By running two isolated circuits, riders can make more predictable adjustments.

Low speed: Green High speed: Blue
Charger 3 - IFP
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High-speed compression comes set in a middle, 0, position. From there, riders can go move two clicks in either direction. This is what RockShox is calling the move from 0 to either +1, +2 or -1, -2. Low-speed compression has 15 clicks of adjustment. Again, the tuning principle is to start in the middle and move in either the plus or minus direction by seven clicks.

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RockShox states and Vital will confirm that the new Charger 3 is completely silent in going about its business. There are no squishing or sucking noises going on. We look forward to seeing if this stays true throughout the summer and while we are messing around with clickers.

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RockShox is offering the Charger 3 damper on the Pike, Lyrik, and ZEB forks in the Ultimate and Select+ levels. The Select and Base forks will use the Charger RC and Rush RC dampers, respectively. The Charger RC is still an IFP damper as is the Rush. None of the new line uses a bladder damper like the Charger 2.1.

Any model year 2023 Pike/Lyrik/ZEB can be upgraded to a Charger 3 damper. Model year '21 ZEB or newer can also accept the Charger 3 damper. Model year 2022 and older Pike and Lyrik cannot accept the Charger 3 damper.

Pike
Lyrik
ZEB

Debonair+ Air Spring and Pressure Relief Valves

For 2023, RockShox made some adjustments with the positive and negative air chambers as well as moving the dimple. The technology of the DebonAir+ isn't explicit but the claim is what every rider wants to hear - more supple off the top with improved mid-stroke support. Sound familiar? We'll save ride impressions for later but will state that RockShox's claims are not bogus, even without tokens.

The Debonair+ air spring is standard on all 2023 Pike, Lyrik, and ZEB models. It is only backward compatible with '21 and newer ZEB forks.

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We saw them on Flight Attendant and they've been on competing brands for some time - RockShox now has pressure relief valves on the lowers of the Pike, Lyrik, and ZEB. Throughout many rides that saw 3,000 to 4,000 feet in elevation change, our test forks had plenty of burping to perform.

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ButterCups

We took note of these little golden tokens during the launch of Flight Attendant but with so much going on in that system already, it can be hard to discern what is what. Additionally, with so little of the market realistically going the electronic route with suspension, we wanted to see what technology wound up on the new line. We're happy that these little fellas made it to the new line.

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ButterCups are interesting in that the theory or execution is not revolutionary. Rather, it exists in products all around us. RockShox even points to chainsaw handles having a similar tech. What is new is their application to mountain bike suspension. ButterCups are rubber pucks housed in a gold-colored body that is used at the mounting interface between the lowers and air/damping rods. Their purpose is to absorb high-frequency trail chatter that all too often saps rider's energy and causes hand fatigue.

RockShox points to piles of data acquisition and analysis, citing a 20% reduction in transmitted trail chatter. When mounted in the fork, the design moves only in a vertical motion (not orbital or fore-aft) and in theory, makes some sense. In all, they do create a nominal weight penalty of 39 grams total.

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Buttercups come standard on all Pike, Lyrik, and ZEB Ultimate models. They can be purchased as an aftermarket upgrade as part of the Debonair+ air spring kit and Charger 3 upgrade kits. They will fit in any of the new 2023 RockShox forks and prior ZEB models.

Ultimate Bushings and New Chassis

Pike, Lyrik, and ZEB Ultimate models all feature longer bushings, 53% longer than prior models. RockShox is calling this the Ultimate Bushing Package. While the Select+ and Select forks do have increased bushing overlap, RockShox does not give up the particulars. Riders can purchase new, Ultimate lowers if they want the Ultimate Bushing Package on their Select, Select+, or Base forks.

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Both the Pike and Lyrik get updated lowers, emulating the overall look of the ZEB. RockShox states there is a 20% increase in torsional stiffness over the previous Lyrik and 13.5% for the Pike. Overall, each fork in the line did manage to shed a few grams, even with the addition of the ButterCups.

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RockShox has updated the available travel offerings in each of the three forks, with overlap at each stage to accommodate some rider preferences. The Pike comes in 120mm, 130mm, and 140mm travel options. The Lyrik picks up at the 140mm travel mark and ticks up to 150mm and 160mm of travel. Lastly, the ZEB is offered in 160mm, 170mm, 180mm, and a monstrous 190mm of travel.

RockShox 2023 Rear Shock Lineup

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Just as much of the new fork line takes on some visual updates, so does the rear shock lineup. A new lockout lever and robust compression adjuster, along with a new air can give the cues that something new is going on. The rebound adjustments stay as they were with prior models. Both the Super Deluxe and Deluxe line of shocks have a number of internal updates as well. New air cans, more adjustments, and a lot of options make for a dizzying array of shocks.

Chris Mandell explains the Super Deluxe features.

RC2T Damper

As we saw with the Charger 3, the new RC2T damper on the rear shock makes use of independent high- and low-speed compression circuits. Again, these systems are tuned via a middle, "from zero," setting. From that middle setting, riders will have two clicks in either direction to adjust both the high- and low-speed compression. Low-speed compression is adjusted via a large, blue dial on the side of the reservoir while high-speed compression is nested on the top and accessed with an Allen wrench. Riders can head to RockShox for tuning tips and setup, to get started.

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The RC2T is found only on the Ultimate models. Riders will be able to upgrade their 2023 Super Deluxe Select+ (RC damper) or Select (R damper) rear shocks to an RC2T unit. It is a matter of swapping the reservoirs. Though probably not a home job, it's cool to see that riders that buy bikes with the lower-spec units can upgrade without having to go all-in with a new shock.

DebonAir+ Air Cans

Rockshox is offering two different air cans - a linear and a progressive design. The function is in line with current offerings in that the linear can is akin to what has traditionally been offered and the progressive design replaces the MegNeg can. As such, the progressive design offers a larger negative air spring. The new cans and token systems exist for both the Super Deluxe and Deluxe line of rear shocks. 2023 DebonAir+ cans are not backward compatible.

DebonAir+ Linear air can

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Hydraulic Bottom Out

In a move to provide more tuning options, RockShox has incorporated a Hydraulic Bottom Out (HBO) into selected Super Deluxe shocks. Bike brands will determine which of their designs will benefit from this feature, so not every 2023 bike with RockShox will sport HBO. RockShox states that its HBO impacts the last 20% of travel to provide increased compression damping and reduce harsh bottom-outs. The intent is to allow riders to use fewer bottomless tokens in the rear shock to provide a more supple ride, while still offering greater bottom-out resistance. Super Deluxe Coil shocks have a small, purple dial that allows riders to adjust the HBO. Super Deluxe Air shocks do not have an adjustable HBO, it is set at the factory.

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Coil Shocks

Just like the Super Deluxe Air, the Super Deluxe Coil uses the new RC2T damping system with an available Hydraulic Bottom Out. The difference is that riders can adjust the HBO on the coil unit. The Super Deluxe Coil retains the sag markings on the shock shaft to help with the initial setup. Speaking of, the shock shaft and lower shock mount are now one piece. There is also a new lock ring to make proper spring preload easier. In all, the Super Deluxe Coil brings every element of tuning and control as the air unit, just in a coil package.

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Deluxe Coil - OEM only

Coil shocks seem to be a bit more common these days, particularly with the trail bike crowd. Though there is a weight penalty, mountain bikers are enjoying the performance of coil boingers on trail bikes. RockShox is releasing a Deluxe Coil option with its 2023 line. It will only be available on complete bikes. The intent is more toward getting a coil shock into tighter frames where a Super Deluxe Coil would not fit. The Deluxe does lack the HBO and a number of adjustments. Regardless, the people are asking and it seems RockShox is starting to deliver on this front.

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Rebound Tune

We will dig in later with ride impressions but the Super Deluxe Air and Coil are available with a linear or progressive rebound tune. It is up to the frame designer what comes stock but it does merit noting this feature. In essence, the progressive rebound reacts to shaft speed. The faster the speed, the more rebound damping is generated toward the end of the return stroke. This progressive tune reduces the potential for top-out and for a rider getting huck-a-bucked off lips or large compressions.

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On The Trail

Our test bikes were ridden in the Sierras around Reno, NV, and Truckee, CA as well as in the Lost Sierra around Quincy, CA. Temps ranged from the mid 80's to the mid 50's (Fahrenheit). Soil conditions were anything from dreamy to fully blown. We did a lot of climbing and a lot of varied descending on all types of trails. Flow trails, high-speed runs, brake scorchers, and rock punting all played a role in how we evaluated the different suspension units. Elevation changes were evident with rides starting in the 4,800-5,000 foot range and topping out around 8,000 feet.

Because we already had the Super Deluxe Air going on the Hightower, we pulled the air unit from our Megatower and put on the Super Deluxe Coil. All three shocks (Hightower, Megatower, Stumpjumper) were set to 30% sag with compression clicks in the middle.

In setting up our Pike, Lyrik, and ZEB, we used the air chart on the fork lowers to set up pressures for our body weight. The compression setup for all three forks was set to the neutral, 0, position for both high- and low-speed.

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First Ride Impressions

Despite being three different suspension forks, aimed at three different degrees of trail riding, the Pike, Lyrik, and ZEB all share the same technologies. To that end, much of our riding feedback echos (is redundant?) across each model. In each instance, and using the same test loop for those first rides, the small bump absorption was outstanding. As we felt with the Flight Attendant fork, we took in a marked improvement in ride quality via the ButterCups.

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Of the things we took immediate note of, one element stood out most: landing. We would later learn this is what RockShox would call touch-down feel. Evidently, it is something they worked very hard on to improve. We could best describe it as landing without the feeling of landing. After small punts or trail features, when returning to the ground, our fork would land with the softest sensation we would deem reasonable. Right away, we knew RockShox had something really cool going on.

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Regardless of the incredible trail feel, we felt the ZEB and Lyrik were a tad too planted. In keeping with tradition, we simply reached for another token for each fork. The ZEB 170mm ships with one token installed, so we added a second. We were shocked to see ZERO in our Lyrik. Assuming that was a mistake, we tossed one in there. Traditionally, we run two to three in both those forks, so by our estimate we were being conservative. We did achieve more pop from our forks though, so all was correct in our minds. RockShox would clear this up for us and show the error of our ways a few days later.

The performance of our rear shocks (both air and coil) was fantastic right out of the gate. With correct sag and neutral compression settings, our bikes had that sweet spot of stability without being overly glued. In playing with the rebound, we were able to create a very planted feel that did not get packed up in chattery or mid-sized rocks.

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Our Hightower used the Super Deluxe Ultimate with the Hydraulic Bottom Out. We will confirm that despite having the fun ring augured to the bottom of the shock, we never felt it hit bottom. Our rear shock also utilized a progressive rebound tune to help settle down the return stroke after large compressions. Coming directly from the prior Super Deluxe Ultimate which is stock on our Hightower, the incorporation of the HBO and progressive rebound (and castled internal bottom-out bumper) created immediate, noticeable improvements in overall ride quality.

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Testing with RockShox

After a bit of time with our new forks and shocks, and just before launch, Chris Mandell of RockShox came out to meet up with us and go through the new line. Additionally, we set up some shuttle laps so we could do back-to-back testing and tuning. Time and logistics meant we would focus primarily on the Megatower with its ZEB and Super Deluxe Ultimate Coil. The lessons learned are applicable to the entire line.

Chris Mandell quickly adjusted to the Sierra Surf

After a couple of laps, we noted that the touchdown feel with our ZEB was not as prominent as with the Lyrik. Evaluating the terrain we were riding and how we were riding, Chris cited we should be bottoming out the ZEB but were not. Informing him of our two tokens, the first order of business was to ditch one.

RockShox's new DebonAir+ air spring actually delivers on its grand promise of improved mid-stroke support. Coupled with the new damper and everything else new means this is not the ZEB, Lyrik, or Pike of yore. We were, in real-time, learning that 2023 is not a facelift. It is a new product.

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Via some air pressure, compression, and rebound tweaking we arrived at a fork that tracked better, more effectively used its travel, and yet easily moved down the trail. We never experienced any diving or felt the fork was riding too low in its travel. Not everyone will have a professional from RockShox to correct the error of their ways. Take it from us, don't just reach for the tokens.

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With the fork sorted, we set to the business of the rear shock. The Super Deluxe Ultimate Coil on our Megatower utilized the linear rebound tune. To us, the shock felt quite solid. We enjoyed the way in which it laid waste to rocks. It felt good overall but it was not the overwhelmingly different experience that we had undergone with the fork. Then we installed a progressive rebound coil shock and we heard the angels sing.

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After installing the progressive rebound tuned Super Deluxe coil, RockShox set us up with a rebound setting that was about 1-2 clicks faster than we would've run. We trusted them anyway and dropped in. Buzzing down the trail left us wondering how we'd have the awkward conversation with RockShox, "Sorry man, this feels the same." Then came the smaller rhythm set. Then came the G-out before the step-up. It was in these moments that it all came together. In small to mid-sized trail features, the linear and progressive rebound tunes feel the same. As advertised, the larger compressions, deeper in the travel activate the modified shim stack to create a more composed rebound. Where we used to feel a slight buck or loss of composure, we now only felt a leveled loft.

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A progressive rebound tune may not make sense for every bike or every rider. For us, with this setup, we felt as if the shock had activated an auto-pilot mode. The degree of stability and comfort was unmatched. These are the moments where components really do enhance the ride and leave you feeling more confident and in control.

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Things That Could Be Improved

We are only scraping the surface with the new line. Certainly, there will be things to call out as time passes and the miles stack up for our test units. For now, we can only call out those items that stand out to us, in our particular circumstances.

Accessibility to controls falls mostly on frame designers but suspension brands do try to mitigate where they can. That said, the air cap of the Super Deluxe on our Stumpjumper was particularly hard to access. Typically, this bike would have a Deluxe anyway but it merits note.

The high-speed compression dial is nestled in the shock and designs like Santa Cruz don't help access very much. The same rings true for the rebound on our coil units. RockShox does have deep knurling and holes to fit a 3mm Allen but with 14 clicks, riders may grumble a tad when fine-tuning.

Quibbles aside, we cannot call out anything on the new line. Over the course of the summer and fall, we'll see if having fewer clicks for compression adjustments are actually better. We'll also be looking to see how the durability of seals holds up along with ease of ownership.

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What's The Bottom Line?

Was the new RockShox line worth the wait? From where we sit, the answer is a resounding yes. The updates and impacts of the new suspension can be felt immediately on the trail. RockShox has delivered in spades and given riders an all-new line of suspension that delivers remarkable control and performance right out of the box.

Visit www.rockshox.com for more details.


View key specs, compare products, and rate the latest forks and shocks from RockShox in the Vital MTB Product Guide.


About The Testers

Brad Howell- Age: 42 // Years Riding: 27 // Height: 5'9" (1.75m) // Weight: 165-pounds (74.8kg)

Brad started mountain biking when a 2.25-inch tire was large, and despite having threads, bottom brackets sucked. Riding in the woods with friends eventually lead way to racing, trying to send it at the local gravel pits, and working in bike shops as a wrench to fix those bikes. Brad has been fortunate enough to have dug at six Rampages, attend some World Cups, work in the industry for a few years, and become friends with some of the sport's biggest talents. These days, he just likes riding his bike in the woods with friends.

John Armbruster - Age: 43 // Years Riding MTB: 20 // Height: 5'10" (1.78m) // Weight: 157-pounds (71.2kg)

John has spent enough time mountain biking to witness the technical evolution of our sport and its bikes. Fads have come and gone but the fun never dies. He won't say no to a new trail or another lap, and when the bikes are clapped, John has the mechanical experience to revive his rigs from the ground up. Once resuscitated, he's back on the trail, clocking the miles, vert, and shenanigans.

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