The Takeaway: RockShox ups its game with a swath of refinements to its premier forks and shocks.
- RockShox Pike, Lyrik, and Zeb get many of the refinements first seen in the Flight Attendant products
- New Charger 3 damper promises reduced harshness
- Buttercups vibration-damping pucks claimed to cut high-frequency vibrations by 20-percent
- Pressure relief valves are standard on Ultimate and Select+ models. Select and Base models can be upgraded with valves later.
Fork Price (as tested): $1,054 (Pike Ultimate)
Fork Weight: 1860g (Pike Ultimate 29, 44mm offset, 130mm travel)
- The New RC2T damper for shocks claimed to be more adjustable
- Retuned air spring with adjustable positive and negative volumes
- Some coil shocks gain adjustable hydraulic bottom out
- New Deluxe Coil with inline design.
Shock Price (as tested): $599 (Super Deluxe Ultimate)
Shock Weight: 470g (Super Deluxe Ultimate trunnion, 165x45mm)
As we roll into the summer of 2022 so begins another product launch cycle. On today’s menu: The release of RockShox’s 2023 trail and enduro forks and shocks. There are all-new Pike and Lyrik forks, while the Zeb (which launched in mid-2020) gets a new damper and air spring. On the shock side, everything is new. The big theme of this launch is increased adjustability which should lead to a more dialed ride for the rider.
As for fork weights, I was only able to weigh my sample fork (Pike 29" Ultimate, 130mm travel, 44mm offset). Surprisingly, it came in 10 grams lighter than my 2020 Pike Ultimate model with the same specs. Based on claimed weights, however, the 2023 forks should weigh a handful of grams (20 to 60) more than their 2022 counterparts. Claimed weights for the 2023 shocks were not available but based on a 2022 Super Deluxe Ultimate in my collection of similar (but not identical) dimensions to my 2023 Super Deluxe Ultimate sample shock, the 2023 shocks are slightly heavier as well.
Prices for the 2023 products have increased compared to 2022 models with Ultimate models seeing about a $140 bump. Shock prices are also up, with the new Super Deluxe Ultimate priced $90 more than the 2022 version.
Below are my ride impressions of the new RockShox suspension units, followed by a deep dive into all the new features and technology.
2023 RockShox Ride Impressions
I received a 130mm Pike Ultimate fork and a Super Deluxe Ultimate (165mm by 45mm) trunnion shock to fit into my Evil Following. At first glance, the 2023 stuff doesn’t look markedly different than 2022 (or 2021, or 2020) RockShox products. But placed side by side, one can see that the new fork has a more muscular appearance, with more substantial lowers and crown, and bigger adjuster knobs. Meanwhile, the new low-speed clicker situated perpendicular to the piggyback is the biggest clue that you’re looking at a 2023 shock.
Of the two, the fork struck me as having changed the most from previous generations. If I had to summarize it in one word, that word would be “smoother.” I intentionally sought out my chatteriest and least buff trails, and the new Pike delivered impressively. It offers a healthy step forward in sensitivity and traction compared to the previous generation fork.
I will admit my hands still stung and I needed to shake them out, but the onset was noticeably later than when I last rode the trail on the previous generation Pike. I was also impressed with how well the fork behaved when braking on steep and traction challenged sections of trail. It controlled dive very well and stayed high in its travel, yet remained supple and provided good front tire bite.
It was also mightily impressed with its smoothness on nose-first touchdowns, which this fork sucked up with glee. I also felt like the claims of improved stiffness are real. The previous Pike felt just a bit stiffer than a Fox 34, while the new bike feels almost as stiff as a Fox 36. It’s a small distinction, but, overall, the new Pike feels like “more” fork than it was before.
Already the quietest forks around, the 2023 RockShox stuff is even more hushed. While I appreciate a quiet bike, it is also a smart move for RockShox because audible cues influence rider impressions. Quieter sounds smoother, so we perceive it as smoother. I came back from my rides with the genuine impression that the 2023 Pike offers actually-superior performance, but I will also admit that a small bit of my overall impression might have been influenced by the fork’s nearly silent operation.
The shock, meanwhile, didn’t feel as distinctly different from its previous generation. But shocks are harder to feel out in general because—unlike the direct interaction you have with a fork—you experience a shock through the frame’s kinematics. And, ideally, brands custom-tune the shocks to harmonize with those kinematics.
This 2023 shock replaced a 2022 RockShox shock on my Following, and the character was very similar. Overall, I have a slight preference for RockShox over Fox shocks because I find the former smoother and more sensitive; mid-stroke support and mid/big hit control are similarly good between brands, but RockShox seems to offer better small bump compliance and traction, and a more “comfortable” ride.
I found those same qualities in the 2023 Super Deluxe. What stood out to me was that the additional and refined tuning and adjustment options gave me more tools to dial in my preferred feel. I can now muck about with high-speed compression and negative spring volume. Honestly, it will take me quite a while to test all the potential tune permutations available and I don’t even know if I’ll wind up settling on something different than the baseline I was sent. But the new shock allows tinkers the ability to fine-tune the shock in a way not possible with previous RockShox shocks.
If you’re not a tinkerer, I found the baseline setting of the shock to be very good, with a good balance of support, sensitivity, and control. Plus it was so, so, quiet; which I absolutely love.
The low-speed clicker seemed more effective, with more distinct differences from click to click than the 2022’s low-speed adjuster. After a handful of rides, I’ve backed off the low-speed setting by two clicks—it’s now in its lightest setting—but left the high-speed clicker in the middle position. Overall, the 2023 shock made the bike feel “plusher” without sacrificing control yet didn’t make it feel duller—it’s slightly more planted, without taking away any of the bike’s pop.
Based on the samples I rode, the updates to RockShox’s 2023 trail and enduro products further elevate the performance of already very good suspension components. On-trail performance is smoother, and they offer usable and effective adjustment tools without overcomplicating set up or overwhelming the user with options.
2023 RockShox Pike, Lyrik, and Zeb Updates
Charger 3 Damper
The major story of the new Charger 3 damper, RockShox claims, is a reduction in harshness. Less harshness should improve traction and reduce fatigue in the rider’s hands and arms on long and rough sections of trail, letting them ride harder and longer.
RockShox says the goal of reducing harshness led them to a new damper design that eliminates the expanding bladder that was the signature of the Charger since its debut in 2013. In place of the bladder is a coil-spring supported independent floating piston (IFP) which is more reactive and consistent than a bladder design, and also easier to service.
RockShox also claims they “decoupled” high and low-speed compression damping, which means adjusting high-speed compression does not influence low-speed compression (or the opposite). If this claim is true, it is noteworthy because damping circuits are usually marginally coupled so adjusting one circuit can make a small and potentially unwanted change to a different circuit.
RockShox also updated its baseline tune to make the forks easier for people to set up. “We did some difficult engineering work making the adjusters function as they do,” said Chris Mandell, RockShox’s North American PR person, “They have a middle position. We selected the amount of damping for that middle position based on rider feedback, and it being a good baseline for people to start from. From that position, people are able to increase or decrease their high-speed or low-speed damping based on their personal preference. The whole reason that fork adjusters require you to dial them all the way in and then count clicks out is that is the easiest way to design an adjuster. But that’s not user-friendly and it doesn’t help the consumer get to the window of happiness on their suspension setup. So we’ve done the hard engineering work of making that adjuster more intuitive and starting from a baseline where they’re able to add or subtract from that baseline.”
RockShox forks were already quiet, and for 2023 they’ve made further gains. Mandell says these improvements are due to updates on the rebound assembly.,“What you’re hearing are eddies and currents as the oil moves from a relatively high-pressure zone to a relatively low-pressure zone. What we’ve done with Charger 3.0 is created the right environment to slow down without creating eddies and currents.”
Externally, the new Charger 3 announces itself with larger and easier to turn knurled aluminum knobs.
ButterCups are like the rubber isolators found in power equipment and between the engine and body of a vehicle. Inside an anodized gold aluminum cylinder, at the bottoms of the spring and damper rods, is a rubber puck with about four millimeters of displacement. Placing these bumpers between the rods and the fork’s lowers results in a 20 percent, or better, vibration reduction. RockShox claims they’ve verified these results with sensor data.
ButterCups add about 40 grams of weight to the fork, and RockShox recommends replacing the bumpers during a fork’s 200-hour service. As they take up space in the lowers, they cannot be added to any fork not designed to accommodate them, however, riders can add them to lower-end versions of the 2023 Pike, Lyrik, and Zeb that do not come with the cups. Riders can also remove one, or both, to increase feedback or save weight.
New Air Springs
The 2023 Pike, Lyrik, and Zeb get the all-new air spring that first debuted in the Flight Attendant forks. RockShox reps were reticent to offer much in the way of detailed information about how the new spring compares to the old—such comparisons are of little use because of all the other changes to the forks, they said—only saying that everything is different and, of course, better. “By focusing on refining the shape of the spring curve, we created an air spring that’s plusher off-the-top, with a supremely supportive mid-stroke and improved end-stroke ramp up,” says the press pack. There is a new positive spring volume, negative spring volume, a new position for the bypass dimple that equalizes the positive and negative springs, and a new top-out bumper. There’s even a new air-valve cap. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the air volume tuning tokens.
• Pressure Relief Valves
Much like the valves found on Fox’s 36 and 38, and MRP’s Ribbon, RockShox added buttons to the back of the lowers that let the rider equalize the pressure in the lowers with ambient pressure. This gives the fork a more consistent feel if you change elevation, or if weather moves in.
• Hub End Cap Adapters
RockShox continues to make its dropouts compatible with Torque Caps—which increases the surface area between the hub and fork for improved steering precision—but now (and finally) offers bolt-on half-moon adapters for wheels with standard hub caps. With the adapters in place, standard hub caps automatically align with the dropout openings making the thru-axle easier to install.
• Ultimate Bushings
While all 2023 forks get increased bushing overlap, the top-of-the-line Ultimate-level forks get 53-percent longer lower bushings claimed to reduce friction, especially when the fork is under load.
• New Lower Design for Pike and Lyrik
The updated lower design improves stiffness, claims RockShox. The new lowers give the Pike a 13.5 percent bump in torsional stiffness, while the Lyrik’s is up 20 percent.
• Lower Leg Lubrication
Co-developed with Maxima (who also makes RockShox’s damper oil), the new Plush Dynamic Suspension Lube “Light” replaces the 0W30 lubricating bath RockShox previously recommended in its lowers. Mandell stated that RockShox found in testing that some lower-leg lubes produce “quite a bit” of damping. This isn’t ideal, because they want the Charger 3 they spent a great deal of time and money on to dial in doing all the damping. So, a new lower leg lube was mixed up specifically to offer excellent friction reduction and long-lasting lubrication (RockShox recommends refreshing the lower leg oil every 50 hours) with the least amount of added damping. There’s also a “heavy” version to lubricate the air spring seal head and main piston.
• No More Sag Gradients
RockShox no longer engraves sag markings on the fork’s upper tubes. “We saw huge drop in the perceived value of sag gradients on the fork once we came out with our Trailhead web app,” said Mandell. With Trailhead—accessible as a webpage or smartphone app—the rider can enter in their fork and body weight and the app spits out an exact pressure and damper tune recommendation.
Prices- Ultimate- $1,054, €1,139, £ 1,017, Select*- $790, €855, £763
Travels- 120, 130, 140mm
Wheelsizes- 27.5, 29
Offsets- 37mm (27.5), 44mm (27.5, 29)
Claimed weight- 1,887g (140mm travel, 44mm offset)
Prices- Ultimate- $1,107 (€1,196, £1,069), Select*- $843 (€912, £813)
Travels- 140, 150, 160mm
Wheelsizes- 27.5", 29"
Offsets- 37mm (27.5), 44mm (27.5, 29)
Claimed weight- 2,028g (160mm travel, 44mm offset)
Prices- Ultimate- $1,159 (€1,253, £1,119), Select*- $896 (€968, £864)
Travels- 160, 170, 180, 190mm
Wheelsizes- 27.5", 29"
Offsets- 38mm (27.5), 44mm (27.5, 29)
Claimed weight- 2,341g (180mm travel, 44mm offset)
*Select models do not have ButterCups, pressure relief valves, Ultimate bushings, and use the Charger RC damper.
**Only aftermarket fork options are listed. RockShox offers numerous custom configurations of their forks to aftermarket customers.
2023 RockShox Shock Updates
For 2023, RockShox’s high-end shocks gain an additional external adjustment: high-speed compression. This gives its air and coil shocks externally adjustable high and low-speed compression adjustment, though they continue to stick with a single rebound adjustment (Fox, Cane Creek, and other shock brands offer adjustable high and low-speed rebound in addition to high and low-speed compression adjustment).
Like the new Charger 3 in the forks, RockShox claims they decoupled high-speed compression and low-speed compression cross-talk in the new RC2T shock damper. Also like the Charger 3, the middle position of high and low-speed compression clickers are the baselines. Both adjusters feature five clicks, allowing the rider two clicks more (or two clicks) less damping based on their preferences.
Hydraulic Bottom Out
RockShox coil and air shocks with piggyback reservoirs can be equipped with a hydraulic bottom-out circuit that cushions the last 20 percent of the shock’s travel. Described as “a needle that blocks the flow of oil as the piston moves through the stroke” this is an additional level of bottom-out control that supplements suspension kinematics, bottom-out bumpers, and (in the case of air springs) air volume. This is an optional feature—fixed in air shocks, adjustable in coil shocks—intended to help some bikes and some riders who can’t otherwise achieve enough bottoming resistance. It is possible to add the feature to 2023 Super Deluxe shocks without hydraulic bottom out.
New DebonAir+ Spring
Air shocks feature a revised air spring system with two air can options: Progressive and Linear. With either can, the rider may use tokens to adjust and tune the shock’s positive and negative air spring volumes (tunable negative volume was previously only available in the RockShox MegNeg air can).
(Note: the new tokens are not compatible with previous generation shocks and vice versa.)
Additionally, RockShox increased bushing overlap in the Deluxe shock (no piggyback) to improve sensitivity.
New Deluxe Coil Select Shock
This little inline coil spring shock isn’t offered aftermarket (it is an OE-only option), but it’s still pretty cool and you’re likely to see it on a variety of value-priced gravity- and electric- bikes.
RockShox’s inline (no piggyback) air shock. It gets the new Debonair+ air spring but continues with the less adjustable RCT damper.
Price: $399 (€431, £385)
Super Deluxe Ultimate
Piggyback air shock with RC2T damper and Debonair+. Hydraulic bottom out is optional
Price: $599 (€648, £578)
Super Deluxe Coil Ultimate and Coil Ultimate DH
Piggyback coil-over shocks with the new RC2 damper featuring adjustable low- and high-speed compression. The Coil Ultimate has two position threshold (AKA lockout) lever, while the Coil Ultimate DH does not. Hydraulic bottom out is optional.
Price: Super Deluxe Coil Ultimate- $549 (€594, £530), Super Deluxe Coil Ultimate DH- $499 (€539, £482)
**Only aftermarket shock options are listed. RockShox offers numerous custom configurations of their forks to aftermarket customers.