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RockShox ZEB Ultimate Fork

Vital Rating: (Spectacular)
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RockShox ZEB Fork TECH TALK & Ride Report

One of the biggest, burliest single-crown forks in years has arrived! Get your questions answered and learn how it rides.

Rating: Vital Review
RockShox ZEB Fork TECH TALK & Ride Report

Featuring 38mm stanchions and travel lengths up to 190mm, it's clear the all-new RockShox ZEB is ready for business. As enduro race bikes gain additional travel and courses get rowdier, demands on forks increase. The same is true in the rapidly evolving eMTB space. The ZEB looks to meet those needs head-on with a robust, chiseled-looking package and impressive performance traits.

In this Tech Talk Q&A podcast, Vital MTB's Brandon Turman calls up RockShox Product Manager, Jon Cancellier, to discuss the ins and outs of the ZEB fork. The two cover everything from stiffness considerations to how it compares to a Lyrik, Pro rider feedback, and where it shines on the trail:


"The next evolution of single crown awesome is here." - RockShox

Jon Cancellier, RockShox Product Manager

ZEB Highlights

  • Usage: Best suited to long-travel Enduro bikes (170-190mm) and eMTBs
  • Wheel Size: 27.5", 29"
  • Travel Options: 160mm, 170mm, 180mm, 190mm, or 150/180mm Dual Position Air
  • Steerer Options: 1.5" and 1.8" tapered
  • Chassis: 38mm
  • Offset: 38mm (27.5") or 44mm (27.5" and 29")
  • Damper Options: Charger 2.1 RC2, 2.1 RC, RC, R
  • RC2 Adjustments: Independent high and low-speed compression, low-speed rebound
  • Damping Fluid: Maxima Plush
  • Air Spring: DebonAir with Bottomless Token tuning
  • Wiper Seals: SKF
  • Disc Brake: 200mm direct mount
  • Axle: 15mm Boost Maxle Stealth, Torque Cap compatible
  • Fender: 3-bolt mount on back of arch (sold separately)
  • Max Tire Size: 2.8"
  • Colors: Signature Slab Grey or Black
  • Weight: 2,280g (5.0-pounds, 29” 170mm fork, uncut steerer, verified)

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Compared to the same size Lyrik fork, RockShox test lab data shows a 29" 180mm-travel ZEB as being an impressive 21.5% stiffer torsionally, 7% stiffer in side bending, and 2% stiffer when it comes to fore/aft bending. The ZEB also sees a notable increase in bushing overlap inside the fork to help reduce friction and keep things gliding smoothly.

"It was never about building the stiffest fork we could," RockShox says. "Based on rider feedback, we focused on increasing torsional stiffness. Why? As testing revealed, increasing the torsional stiffness made a noticeable difference in the performance and how the fork would hold a line with better control. A noticeable and direct rider benefit for those looking to go faster with more precision in rough terrain."

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On the damper side, the Ultimate and OEM-only Select+ ZEB models utilize Charger 2.1, the most recent RockShox damper update designed to reduce hand fatigue and fight unwanted friction.

With its larger 38mm stanchion diameter, the ZEB's DebonAir air spring features additional negative volume compared to the updated Pike and Lyrik "for an even more DH-like ride" while maintaining higher ride height. The same grey Bottomless Tokens you are accustomed to seeing are also used in the ZEB.

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Initial Impressions

The ZEB's sheer girth is plainly noticeable as you set aside your puny Lyrik, struggle to get a single zip tie to fit around the lowers to secure a MarshGuard-style fender, and dwarf your 2.5-inch tire with more mud clearance than it has ever seen. That clearance improves even further with RockShox's newly designed fender that mounts to the back of the arch.

Tested in a 170mm-travel 27.5" version, the immediate impression is one that is very stout with a remarkably direct feel at the bars. Front end precision is on the same level as a dual-crown fork in a single-crown package.

There is no denying that it weighs more than a Lyrik, and the added heft is noticeable in a few ways. It requires you to yank harder or better time the initiation of manual maneuvers and front-end lifts, and you get the feeling that the fork is leading you down the trail and through turns – point, shoot, and it gobbles up whatever lays in your path with a monster-truck attitude that says, "We're going straight through this? Cool."

It's notably smooth in truly taxing scenarios, and the wheel keeps tracking the ground well even when you're smashing through rocks or hard on the brakes in some rutted-out steeps. There is also less stiction when you land a jump or drop with your front end high and let the front end slap down.

If the terrain demands a full-face helmet, the RockShox ZEB is likely right up your alley.
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On the air spring front we've noted great support with minimal need for added compression damping, and, combined with its 5mm longer axle-to-crown length versus a Lyrik, this thing is clearly geared toward the steeps. The pressure recommendations and stock volume spacer configuration feel bang on with sufficient bottom-out ramp for the vast majority of big hits. Should you reach bottom though, there is a noticeable "clang" sound that caught us by surprise.

The fork rides in its first half of the travel most often, recovering from bumps and fluttering along really well while keeping things sting-free at the bars. The robustness of the fork will, at times, transmit trail features in a more abrupt, direct-but-not-harsh manner that lets you know exactly where the front end is.

Altogether, the ZEB encourages you to get over the front end and push into it, hard, reaping the benefits of everything it offers. At times it feels like you can do no wrong, especially when dirt conditions are prime.

In Action

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Models & Pricing

ZEB Ultimate - $999 USD (Tested)

ZEB Select - $799
ZEB - $699
ZEB Short Fender - $20

What's The Bottom Line?

If the terrain demands a full-face helmet, the RockShox ZEB is likely right up your alley. It offers a notable performance improvement thanks in large part to a stouter chassis and increased bushing overlap, creating a very direct-feeling fork that is always working smoothly underneath you and tracking a straight line. Our first impressions have been incredibly positive with dozens of instances that impress us on every ride.

Head over to www.rockshox.com for more details.

Vital MTB First Ride Rating: 5 Stars - Spectacular


About The Tester

Brandon Turman - Age: 34 // Years Riding: 19 // Height: 5'10" (1.78m) // Weight: 170-pounds (77.1kg)

"I like to have fun, pop off the bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when I feel in tune with a bike, and really mash on the pedals and open it up when pointed downhill." Formerly a mechanical engineer and Pro downhill racer, Brandon brings a unique perspective to the testing game as Vital MTB's resident product guy. He has on-trail familiarity with nearly every innovation in our sport from the past several years and a really good feel for what’s what.

Photos by RockShox and Brandon Turman

Specifications

Product RockShox ZEB Ultimate Fork
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain, Freeride / Bike Park
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b), 29"
Travel
  • 160mm
  • 170mm
  • 180mm
  • 190mm
Spring Type DebonAir air
Damping Charger 2.1 RC2
External Adjustments Independent high- and low-speed compression, rebound
Crown Anodized aluminum
Front Axle 15mm x 110mm (Boost)
Brake Mounts 200mm direct mount
Steer Tube Diameter 1.5" and 1.8" tapered options
Steer Tube Construction
Stanchion Diameter 38mm
Colors Signature Slab Grey or Ultimate High Gloss Black with Silver, Rainbow, or Copper foil graphics
Weight 5 lb 0.5 oz (2,281 g)
Miscellaneous 2021 model year
New 38mm chassis for increased stiffness
New 3-bolt fender mounts (fender sold separately)
Updated DebonAir air spring with additional negative volume
Maxima Plush suspension fluid
SKF wiper seals
Accommodate tires up to 2.8" on both 27.5" and 29" platforms
Offset: 38mm (27.5"), 44mm (27.5", 29")
Weight listed is for a 170mm 29" with Maxle Stealth and uncut steerer
RockShox model ID: FS-ZEB-ULT-A1
Price $999
More Info

RockShox website

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