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Will lighter riders benefit from an RS Zeb or Fox 38?

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12/15/2020 9:17 PM

This new decade brings with it what seems to be a new standard in the Fox 38 and RockShox Zeb. The market didn't catch on when the Totem arrived back in the day, but it seems larger stanchions are now here to stay.

Having tried the uber stiff Suntour Durolux 36 (try it, it definitely feels more robust than the Lyrik/Fox36), I hesitate jumping on the hypewagon for the practical reason that I don't think I need the extra stiffness and weight.

However, it seems the Lyrik and the 36 are slowly being eased out of many of the top-shelf enduro OEM builds from bike manufacturers.

Will lighter riders actually benefit from these stiffer forks?


12/16/2020 4:03 AM

I've got an extensive review of the 38 vs the 36 on my own channel coming out. Clifs notes are simple - its a very small step forward. In fact, I'm not sure I even care about the stiffness the chassis provides, and I'm 200lbs.

The 36 is a pretty damn stiff fork.I've also ridden the Durolux, and honestly didn't notice a big difference in stiffness.

The issue IMO is the plane in which these forks are offering an increase in stiffness isn't so great and adds to the deflection and harshness a rider might feel.

Still, the 38 is a great fork, as is the ZEB. I'd argue if you are going fast enough, and you liked the 36mm stuff, the 38mm stuff isn't THAT much different.


12/16/2020 5:53 AM

I think within a range, stiffness is a personal preference, and some riders prefer and benefit from it (or the lack) depending on the riding style they have.. if you go too flexy, it might bot be fast enough, comfy but momentum is absorbed somehow.. I dont like to pinball like on steroids.. my hands fail before anything else


12/16/2020 6:49 AM

I went from a lyric to a zeb and the main thing I noticed was the extra weight up front.


Do you like Huey Lewis and the News?

12/16/2020 7:35 AM

I was going to get a Zeb, but they are out of stock in the model I wanted, so just went with the same Lyrik I have on my second bike. Don't have hands on time unfortunately with the thicker forks, but a 160mm (29er) Lyrik is plenty stiff in my eyes.

I agree that rider weight is probably a factor, but travel is the other important one, I imagine a 180-190mm Zeb feels similar to the 150-160mm Lyrik?


12/16/2020 9:23 AM

The most compelling part of the stiffness claim was that it prevents the bushings binding when the fork isn't straight. But sounds like those of you who've ridden them haven't found that a dramatic effect?


12/16/2020 9:28 AM
Edited Date/Time: 12/16/2020 9:30 AM

My two cents is: No lighter riders definitely don’t benefit. I have heard people say the that Zeb and the 38 feel more supple of the top than a Lyrik and 36 respectively, but again I disagree. I experimented with a 38 on my Enduro after a year for riding it with a 36, and honestly if felt just as good, but not better. Frankly for my 180lb butt the 36 would be my preferred choice under 180mm of travel. Another example is that I can’t stand to ride a 34 even with the grip2 damper because I can feel the flex take my front wheel off line when I’m charging in chunk. I can not speak for a Lyrik vs a Zeb to be fair.
Bottom line: If I were building up and enduro race bike personally it would be a 36. If I were building up a bike primarily being ridden in the bike park sure give me the 38. Cheers


12/16/2020 9:31 AM

I suspect improving stiffness is relatively simple for manufacturers compared to improving the air spring and damper performance.


12/16/2020 9:43 AM

I'm 160# plus gear, and I'm starting to think that the 38 or Zeb would be overkill for me at 170mm travel. I can't discern any flex in the 36, but that likely has more to do with my weight/strength.


Hung over, off the back.

12/16/2020 9:46 AM

haen wrote:

I suspect improving stiffness is relatively simple for manufacturers compared to improving the air spring and damper ...more

bingo. put a coil in there.


12/16/2020 9:48 AM

I like the added stiffness if only for confidence.

Might actually add to arm pump but it feels like you can run into/over anything.

And the bigger forks look cool- which is a legit selling point like it or not smile


12/16/2020 10:03 AM
Edited Date/Time: 12/16/2020 11:31 AM

Switched from a 2020 Fox 36 Grip to a ZEB Ultimate on my 2020 Meta AM 29. There is definitely a difference in the feel, which I mainly attribute to a difference in feel from a Fox to a RS fork. I did have to add another token to the fork, so I am at 2 token on a 170mm fork. It is worth also noting the ZEB is 10mm longer Axle to Crown, so my bike is a little slacker, and you can tell in the climbing position that the seat tube is equally slacker. I prefer the better small bump of the Rockshox product and I feel the ZEB has been pretty easy to setup for the most part. I am 165lbs, and have noticed the different in fork stiffness, but only a handful of times in very steep corners where you put the most torsional stress on a fork, and the way I can tell is that the bike tends to hold a better line in those corners than Lyrik's and Fox 36's I have owned in the past. The weight is also noticeable, but on a 38lb Meta AM 29 with a coil shock, its not a deal breaker for me. I would say the difference in stiffness and performance is more noticeable from Lyrik/36 to ZEB than it was Pike to Lyrik. I will say overall the bike is less fatigueing over rough terrain. A local DH trail that I ride quite a bit is steep, Rocky, and normally blows my hands up 3/4 the way down, but the hand full of times I have ridden it on the ZEB, I felt I could pin it alllll the way down. Hope that helps some folks.


2020 Commencal Meta AM 29
2019 Knolly Fugitive LT
2016 Specialized Fuse
2020 Rocky Mountain Solo

12/16/2020 10:17 AM

I've been wondering about this, if the 38/Zeb is a better fork, or just a bigger fork. I'm 170, and can't say if I've needed stiffer or not. If it's a better fork then I wouldn't be opposed, but if it's just bigger then I'm sure I'd be content as is.


12/16/2020 10:18 AM

I was pretty blown away by how much more responsive my 38 is compared to the 2020 36 it replaced (both are Factory series). I’m 175 lbs so fork stiffness has never really been an issue for me. Can’t say how much the chassis plays into the equation but I find the 38 to be a way smoother ride but this could be more damper and air spring related more so than the chassis. Regardless, the 38 and the new DHX2 on my bike have turned it into even more of a bump eating machine but I imagine the new the 36 would offer up the same ride quality minus the weight penalty.


12/16/2020 10:27 AM

You see these small women racers like Isabeau Courdurier who is like 105 pounds rocking a zeb and l would think that a Lyrik would be lighter, more forgiving and an overall better choice for someone like her. I could be wrong and obviously shes a better rider than l am. I also know that sponsored racers have to use what they are told to.


12/16/2020 10:34 AM
Edited Date/Time: 12/16/2020 10:35 AM

I had an '18 36 Fit4 w/Luftkappe before my 38... The 38 is superior in every way. I notice the stiffness and better tracking, but the spring and damper are also better and there is less friction. I find the 38 less fatiguing to ride as a result. A major difference is the lack of spike on big hits with the 38 vs previous 36s, but I'd guess new 36s are similar in that regard.

I'm ~200 lbs + gear.


12/16/2020 10:49 AM

Never ridden a 38 or Zeb but I'd only go to one if one of the following was true about me and my bike: I weighed over 210#s geared up, I rode an e-bike, I was running 170+ travel.


12/16/2020 11:00 AM

I feel that under 160lbs, you likely wouldn't benefit enough to make the expense of upgrading worth it. In my experience, at 180lbs geared and ready to ride, the 34 is too much flex for me to ride one on anything but a hard tail or a purpose built xc marathon race bike. The 36 has flex that I can feel when I make mistakes, chose the wrong line or I'm riding over my pay grade. It is not detrimental to the ride but I can notice it in rare circumstances. The zeb ultimate that I have now doesn't have any flex that I can perceive.

Anecdotal experience. I upgraded my megatower from a fox 36 performance elite to a zeb ultimate. The biggest thing I notice with regards to chassis is just consistency. They are both great forks but the stiffer chassis of the zeb manifests itself in that the action of the fork is consistent through the entire travel range. The bushing bind is in-perceivable, the stiffness at the top of the stroke feels the same as the bottom of the stroke.

On the flip side, the 34 for me at my weight and riding capabilities, has flex that is detrimental to how I ride and how the bike feels. Other then that, I don't really have any issues with the performance of the fork.

For me ay my weight, it goes like this:
130-150 = Fox 36 or RS Pike
160 = Fox 36, RS Lyric
170 - 180 = Zeb, Fox 38

I think if you were 150-160lbs you could take the 36 and lyric up to 170... but I wouldn't... I'd still just go to a bigger chassis fork.


12/16/2020 11:15 AM

To initial conversation: Totem had basic 'motion control' damper and 40 legs - which led to subpar performance and overkill weight;
Modern forks have far superior dampers and air springs, and stiffer platform is needed to allow damper to perform better;
I bet ZEB/39/Mezzer will perform better then lyric
Also in case someone have ridden dh bikes: DC forks have far superior performance then SC



12/16/2020 11:31 AM

My thought originally was that the 38 & the ZEB were really made for the eBike community & the marketing managers are just pushing for some extra sales to us pedal powered bikers, I’m sure there benefits for some of us(not me)you fearless souls that’ll throw yourselves down insane lines on a single crown forked bike.

Forks like this do more for us in terms of the 1 bike for it all theory bringing a good All Mountain Bike closer to the capabilities of a DH bike so yeah it’ll work better for you.


12/16/2020 12:05 PM

If you’re under 200 lbs, have cash burning a hole in your pocket, and don’t mind slapping a pound of weight on to your bike, you’re much better off doing a coil conversion than buying a zeb or 38


12/16/2020 12:13 PM

I’m 175#’s and moved from a 160 lyrik ultimate to a 170 fox 38 and there’s 100% a difference in stiffness. The spots I noticed it the most were in chunky high speed corners (think lots of braking bumps or roots). I think the fork definitely feels stiffer side to side and under twisting force which (for me at least) hugely improved confidence in those kind of scenarios. It does come at the cost of making the front end heavier, which honestly isn’t a bad thing if you know how to ride with proper technique and not just death grip and yank the bars to move the bike. All around I think there’s definitely an advantage to them as long as you weigh over ~140lbs and ride fairly hard. I definitely notice when I ride my lyrik (now on my other bike) that it doesn’t track as well at speed and that the front wheel gets deflected a good bit more. Anyways that’s just my 2¢ from experience but I think these new bigger forks are definitely a good bit closer to their dual crown counterparts than the 35 or 36mm stanchion versions.


12/16/2020 12:14 PM

thanks for this thread. Am currently thinking about getting a 38 for my 2019 Meta, currently have a 36 Performance with the grip2 damper dropped in.The bike is already pretty heavy so I'm not worried about the additional weight. I use it a lot for bikepark smashing, and at close to 190lbs I'm not the lightest rider either.Plus the orange fork would look great with the DHX2 (yes, this does play a role).

Don't care about pop or playfulness or any of these buzzwords, I just wanna smash through shit with as much grip as possible. The Fox 38 would probably work better for this than my 36, but will it work 1300€ better?


12/16/2020 12:18 PM

How you ride matters more than weight.

If you double your weight you double impact energy. If you double your speed you'll have 4x the impact energy.


12/16/2020 12:29 PM

I've had a 38 since their release. My 2 cents.

Summary: Unless you are 100kg (225lb) or on an ebike stay with what you have and mod the fork.

I put my 38 on my ebike originally, this is where is makes the most sense. You actually notice the stiffness difference here and the added unsprung mass of the bike makes the fork work better than on a "non assisted" lighter machine.

I swapped the 38 onto my Commencal Meta AM29, usually I run a 36 with Vorsprung Coil conversion and a tuned damper. The stiffness wasn't as noticeable and the coil fork surpassed it in performance.

Also factor in the 38 is 25mm or so longer in A2C than your equivalent travel Fox 36. On my Ebike, which was teetering on too small already, the added stack (even with no spacers and a flat headset dust cap) means the reach is too short now. I definitely noticed this.

The 38 air spring is definately better, I'll give them that. The Damper is same as normal Grip2 just the HSC isn't as firm and is a tad easier to tune.

Don't rush out to get one, it's good but put that money towards some mods for your 36/Lyrik.


12/16/2020 12:39 PM

Not to get off to a tangent here, but since it's being floated out there a bunch in the most recent posts. I want to just say that I have had coil converted forks using push and vorsprung. I have also gone down the road of custom dampers in my previous forks. Those coil converted and custom damper forks were no better or worse then my zeb or 36 provided I am keeping up on lower leg services and am certain about bushing burnishing. I just want to throw some water onto the fire that the money would be best diverted to modding your existing fork.

I personally disagree with that and would say that you're better off with an alternate path. Frequent lower leg services (for me that means every 2-3 months) and sticking with what you have. Or upgrading to something else... and still doing frequent lower services.

In my experience, I no longer see the value in dumping 400 - 800 in spring and damper mods into a fork. For my riding, (socal, advanced, 180lbs) Those items make marginal differences at best considering the cost of entry. If you want to do anything, have your bushings burnished and be meticulous about your service to keep seal/bushing drag as low as it can be. As long as those are completed I cannot ever see returning to a coil sprung fork... Damper mods... meh, still not a huge benefit in my eyes but you can make more of an argument there.


12/16/2020 1:27 PM

ebruner wrote:

Not to get off to a tangent here, but since it's being floated out there a bunch in the most recent posts. I want to just say ...more

The benefit for coil to me is the "can have your cake and eat it too" mentality (besides weight)

With an air spring (I'm talking typical single chamber, not runt or IRT) you can have lovely small bump but the midstroke support is just not there. Where I ride it's Steep and Ledgy, that mid stroke dive can be very un-nerving.

Conversely, you can shoot for mid stroke support but small bump will suffer. When you get to my weight, I need 120psi in a 38 to acheive a level of support I'm after from the spring. The 38 when burnished and freshly serviced is quite good when it comes to small bump, but the coil still smokes it.

Going coil is like trying heroin, you might get hooked chasing that dragon forever.

Wow that was a shit analogy!


12/16/2020 1:30 PM

I can usually tell when I have a flat tire. Usually.
OK, I'm not that clueless. But I do seriously doubt I'll be able to tell the difference in the flex characteristics of my fork. I won't be replacing my Lyrik with a Zeb.
If I buy a new bike and it comes with a Zeb or a 38, however, I'll definitely welcome that component. Because, you know, it looks cool. laughing


12/16/2020 2:30 PM

Adrain and Nico both won EWS races this year on the Lyrik. Which is a bit of a surprise considering their relationship with Rock Shox. But maybe it is less fatiguing for them or more compliant. I did see Adrians bike built up with a zeb when he did that one French cup and won. Photo


12/16/2020 2:34 PM

IMO the Lyrik should not be used as a 180mm travel fork & @ 180mm & beyond it’ll be a ZEB or a BOXXER or 1 of the Intend forks that’d be interesting