The new RockShox ZEB is a suspension fork designed for all those riders who like pushing the limits. It slots in between the Lyrik and the BoXXer with its 38 mm stanchions. Read on to find out what else sets the enduro fork apart and how it performs.

The new RockShox ZEB is designed to meet the demands of hard enduro racing. It offers 160–190 mm travel (for 27.5″ and 29″ wheels), uses 38 mm stanchions, weighs 2,274 g and costs € 1,089 for the Ultimate model.

The most important details of the ZEB in one paragraph

Over the past few years, our bikes have evolved in leaps and bounds. Geometries have become more radical, wheels bigger, brakes more powerful. We’re riding a lot faster than we used to and the demands on the bikes have increased accordingly. With the brand new ZEB, RockShox have added a new fork to their lineup that’s supposed to meet the demands of the roughest EWS stages or full-throttle action in the bike park. It has 38 mm stanchions and new lowers. The bridge of the ZEB has been moved further outward to offer more clearance for the crown, oversized head tubes and for mudguards.

The new RockShox ZEB is said to be around 20% more torsionally stiff than the Lyrik
The striking design of the lowers immediately catches your eye
The ZEB features a new, machined crown. The diameter at the top is significantly bigger to better suit modern bikes. You’ll also be able to get a slimmer version for bikes with skinnier head tubes.
The RockShox ZEB comes with a 1.5” tapered steerer tube, but is also available as a 1.8” version for eMTBs
Cable routing and lowers resemble the BoXXer
The new RockShox ZEB uses a 15 mm Maxle thru-axle. As such, it’s compatible with most enduro wheels. There won’t be a version for 20 mm thru-axles.
If you want your forks as stiff as possible, the ZEB is compatible with torque caps
The ZEB has a mount for 200 mm rotors and is approved up to 220 mm. Nice!
RockShox offer an optional fender that gets bolted to the back of the bridge
RockShox have also made a Fender for the ZEB which gets bolted directly to the back of the bridge, but it wasn’t yet available at the time of testing

The forks internals rely on proven RockShox technologies. As such, you get the DebonAir air spring with a large negative chamber. The ratio of positive to negative air pressure has been specially adapted to suit the ZEB and is somewhere between the Lyrik and BoXXer. On the damping side, you’ll find the proven RockShox Charger 2.1 damper, as featured on the Lyrik. This too has been adapted for the bigger chassis and offers high and low-speed compression settings as well as adjustable rebound.

The ZEB comes equipped with the familiar DebonAir air spring assembly. However, the equalisation dimple in the lowers has been moved up and the bottom out bumper got revised.
The ZEB relies on the same Charger 2.1 damper cartridge as the Lyrik. This offers both high and low-speed compression settings.
As usual, the rebound speed can be adjusted at the bottom of the fork. The tortoise and the hare – everyone understands that.

The RockShox ZEB at a glance:

Wheel size: 27.5″ and 29″
Travel: 160, 170, 180 and 190 mm for both wheel sizes
Air spring: DebonAir and Dual-Position especially for eMTBs
Damper: Charger 2.1 (Ultimate/Select +); RC2 (Select)
Offset: 38 mm (27.5″), 44 mm (27.5″ and 29″)
Stanchion diameter: 38 mm
Steerer tube diameters: 1.5” and 1.8”
Weight: 2,274 g (29″/170 mm/Maxle Stealth/19 cm steerer tube)
Price: € 758 – € 1,089, depending on the model

What’s the inspiration for the name, ZEB? It’s related to the Pikes Peak mountain situated just behind RockShox’s development headquarters in Colorado.

RockShox ZEB – What was the inspiration for the name and what does it mean?

Right behind RockShox’s development headquarters in Colorado you’ll find the infamous Pikes Peak mountain. The eponymous summit of the RockShox Pike, now also serving as the inspiration for the ZEB. The four-thousand-meter peak was first summited by Zebulon Pike, eponymous hero of the mountain itself. Zebulon was shortened to ZEB and that’s how RockShox got their inspiration for the name.

Stiffer and more precise, but still comfortable

A major goal in the development of the ZEB was to increase the stiffness of the fork and thus its precision. Besides the thicker stanchions, this has been achieved primarily with the new lowers and the machined fork crown. While adding stiffness, RockShox didn’t want to completely sacrifice comfort. The 29″, 180 mm travel ZEB is about 20% more torsionally stiff than a comparable Lyrik model and about 7% stiffer laterally, but it is only about 2% stiffer fore and aft. Our first ride review goes into more detail of how that affects handling on the trail.

The main difference between ZEB and Lyrik is the added stiffness. In addition, the ZEB is available with up to 190 mm travel while the Lyrik “only” goes up to 180 mm.
The thicker stanchions are only one aspect of the fork’s added stiffness as the new lowers also play a major role.
Lyrik or ZEB? A lot of you will be asking yourselves this question. What we can say for sure is that an upgrade isn’t worthwhile for everyone.

Select, Select+, Ultimate – The ZEB models in detail

Like the Lyrik and Pike, the ZEB is part of the RockShox’s Signature series. It’s available in a variety of three models, Select, Select+ and Ultimate. There will also be an eMTB specific model. The ZEB models made for enduro differ primarily in the damper. The € 1,089 ZEB Ultimate comes equipped with the Charger 2.1 damper, giving you high and low-speed compression settings. On top of that, the Ultimate also features an anodized fork crown and the signature Slab Gray colour. The somewhat more affordable Select+ makes use of the same damper, but without an externally adjustable high-speed compression setting. It is available exclusively to bike manufacturers, so you’ll only be able to get it on a complete bike. At € 869, the ZEB Select costs € 220 less than the Ultimate model and comes with the lower-end Charger RC damper, which doesn’t allow you to set high-speed compression either. However, all models come with the DebonAir air spring, SKF seals and Maxima Plush damping oil.

The main difference between the various ZEB models comes down to the damper and its adjustability

The RockShox ZEB is optimised for eMTBs too

All ZEB models are suitable for use on eMTBs with the ZEB Ultimate also topping the range here. However, RockShox have developed another ZEB specifically for eMTBs. It’s a pared-down model without externally adjustable compression settings. This reduces its complexity and allows them to lower the price. This version will also be available with the Dual Position air spring, which allows the fork to be lowered for super steep and technical climbs. This not only improves the riding position but also puts more weight on the front wheel and thereby keeps it on the ground. RockShox have simply taken the existing Dual Position air spring from existing models and adapted it to fit the ZEB. Another exciting option for eMTBs is the version of the new ZEB with a 1.8″ tapered steerer tube, which will be available alongside the standard 1.5″ tapered steerer tube model. To help the fork match the look of your bike, it is also available with different crown diameters. However, according to RockShox, there is no difference regarding stiffness as it only serves to make the fork crown sit flush with the ever beefier head tubes of the latest eMTBs.

The new RockShox ZEB is perfect for eMTBs too. Designed specifically with eMTBs in mind, RockShox have developed a pared down version of the ZEB with fewer adjustment options and the Dual Position air spring.

First ride review of the new RockShox ZEB Ultimate

We had the opportunity to test the new RockShox ZEB extensively on a variety of trails over several weeks. Among other places, in the bike park in Oberammergau, where we were quickly able to find a good basic setup thanks to their lift. We also took the ZEB to the Reschenpass, Kronplatz, the Tweed Valley and Tuscany.

Finding the correct setup is essential when testing a new fork
Larger air chamber = less pressure. A difference of only a few psi makes a big difference here
The ZEB also allows you to easily adjust the progression using tokens
Good to go – time to check how the fork performs on the trail
We did the first tests of the new RockShox ZEB in the bike park Oberammergau
The various trails offered the perfect conditions to find a good basic setup, which is very quick and easy with the ZEB
Our favourite trail: the Fichten Schreck

Setting up the RockShox ZEB is very similar to the Lyrik or Pike. We immediately noticed that it requires less pressure due to the larger diameter and volume of the air spring. A table on the lowers helps you figure out your base setup. If you want to dig deeper into suspension setup, we recommend taking a closer look at our detailed mtb suspension setup guide. We rode the ZEB with only a few psi over the recommended setting, mostly left the high-speed compression completely open and only added a few clicks of low-speed compression damping. We rode with one token in the 170 mm, 29″ model. Depending on your riding style, the trail and your preference, your setup may vary significantly. When pumping up the fork, the positive and negative air chambers automatically balance each other out. Unlike previous models, equalisation doesn’t occur at around 20% sag, which means that we were able to dial in the pressure without having to compress the fork and bounce around on the bike.

In the classic parking lot test, the new ZEB feels surprisingly firm – but that changes as soon as you hit the trail

If you do the classic parking lot test with the new RockShox ZEB and push on the handlebar without standing on the bike, you’ll be surprised. The fork feels firm and doesn’t immediately give way. This is due to the changed characteristics of the DebonAir air spring, which also features on the new 2021 Lyrik. The update is reverse compatible, so you can upgrade your existing fork if you have the older model. With the new air spring, the fork stays higher in its travel and doesn’t automatically sag a few millimetres, due to the new position of the equalisation port at the full extension of the fork. When you get on the bike, that overly firm feeling initially disappears.

The difference is hardly noticeable on flowing trails. You only notice the added stiffness with high G-forces in hard turns.

On the trail, the ZEB responds sensitively and generally stays nice and high in its travel. As such, your bike’s geometry isn’t compromised even on steep descents and the fork doesn’t wallow. The fork also performs well in fast berms and hard landings, only using as much travel as required, offering good traction and plenty of reserves. The differences in the clicks of the damping settings are clearly noticeable on the trail. Especially with the high-speed compression, the ZEB can quickly be adapted to suit different trails. Fast bike park tracks with big jumps? Turn the HSC up by 1 or 2 clicks. Natural trail with massive roots? Then leave the HSC open. The rebound also offers a big range of adjustment for all riders of different weights and was able to generate lots of traction during our tests.

If you hit roots full throttle while grabbing the brakes and turning, you can clearly feel the added stiffness.

This where the ZEB shines! When braking over roots, cornering and with hard, fast hits, you’ll notice the added control

Compared to a 4 to 5 year old fork, the new ZEB will blow you away, but so will the Lyrik!

Every year, forks get better. Every time we think they can’t get any better, we see the release of a new model. The current Lyrik is an excellent fork. Since it hardly differs from the ZEB in terms of damping, it’s no wonder that you’ll notice little difference in most situations on the trail. The basic feeling of the air spring and damping is very similar to that of the Lyrik, making it a very good fork in general.

RockShox Lyrik or ZEB – What are the differences?

Lyrik or ZEB? If you’ve been asking yourself this question, we’ve got a clear recommendation.

During the course of our tests, both light and heavy riders could feel the differences between the Lyrik and the new ZEB. The added stiffness isn’t omnipresent and even with back-to-back test runs, you can’t feel it everywhere on the trail. But there are moments when you can clearly feel the increased precision and control that the ZEB delivers. For example, when you hit roots at full speed, brake and then turn hard into a berm. When it comes to aiming for and staying on the fastest, roughest and most direct lines, the ZEB has the upper hand over the Lyrik.

Stiffer isn’t always better – not every rider benefits from the added stiffness of the new RockShox ZEB!

The added stiffness doesn’t just have advantages. The ZEB occasionally required more input from the rider to stay on track, especially when it was wet and slippery. If you’re not careful, you’ll get blown off line more easily. Fatigue is something that is very difficult to test. However, we had the impression that especially on very long days of riding with more than 6,000 meters of descending, the added stiffness also led us to tire out sooner and we had slightly more painful hands. In scenarios where we would have easily been able to complete long runs with the Lyrik, the ZEB demanded more strength.

For racers, the ZEB definitely is the faster fork. It offers more precision and control, but you need more strength on a long day.

Our conclusion on the new RockShox ZEB – Who is this fork made for?

The new RockShox ZEB is a good option for riders who want to go as fast and hard as possible and who have previously thought that they could do with a stiffer fork. On long-travel 29ers, the added stiffness makes sense. Light riders and those who value comfort are better advised to stick with the lighter Lyrik.

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The ultimate question – RockShox ZEB vs FOX 38

RockShox ZEB or FOX 38? The question of questions, which we’ll answer in detail in our suspension fork group test in the coming weeks!

Answering this question would go beyond the scope of this article, so we’ve dedicated a separate article to it which we’ll publish in the near future. Nevertheless, we would like to give you a first impression of how the brand new ZEB compares with the recently launched FOX 38 FACTORY GRIP2 (click for review). Both forks offer super direct handling and very precise steering. Their performance right up there with the best of them, giving you plenty of control and comfort. In a direct comparison, the FOX 38 is a little more sensitive and manages to generate grip and maintain traction even better. It sticks to the ground more effectively and does a better job of managing its travel in different situations and in the event of hard impacts. However, these are only nuances. On the other hand, the ZEB is a lot simpler to set up. We are currently testing both forks as well as many other exciting models as part of our big enduro fork group test – be excited.

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