Winning our last fork group test, the RockShox Lyrik is still the fork to beat. Yes, there are now stiffer and burlier options, but the Lyrik has always defined its own sweet spot. Is a new DebonAir upgrade enough to keep it on top?

RockShox Lyrik Ultimate 2021 | 2.06 kg | € 1,039 | Manufacturer’s website

The Lyrik RC2 was undoubtedly the fork that put RockShox back on the map in the enduro sector. The fork was an exceptional performer, very supple off the top while retaining a firm and supportive mid to end stroke. This year, RockShox announced a new 2021 DebonAir upgrade for their Lyrik platform, which, amazingly, is backwards compatible. That’s right, if you own a 2019 onwards RockShox Lyrik you can upgrade to the new air spring from just € 29. The new DebonAir upgrade moves the air spring assembly upwards by lengthening the nut of the air spring shaft. Raising the air spring changes the position of the positive and negative chamber equalisation dimple, normally at the sag point, to the point of full extension. This does reduce the size of the positive air spring, making it more progressive, but by using a hollow seal head, the often overlooked volume of the air in the lower leg is increased, making it less progressive and counterbalancing the ramp up of the positive air spring. On the damper side, the Charger 2.1 features a high-speed compression dial with 5 clicks of adjustment, and a 20 clicks of low speed compression adjustment. The latest model now runs on Maxima Plush oil, while the lowers now feature new SKF wiper seals. The fork is available in 140, 150, 160, 170 and 180 mm lengths and the 35 mm chassis is compatible with 220 mm rotors. The 35 mm stanchions and sleek chassis do look slender compared to some of the burlier competition but don’t be fooled, this fork is stiff. While it’s no match for the brutal ZEB or FOX 38, it feels stiffer than the FOX 36 and is very comfortable holding aggressive lines through white-knuckle compressions.

The air spring on the 2021 model has been totally revised for increased ride height and is backwards compatible.
The Charger 2.1 damper is tried and tested, easy to set up and a potent performer.
Don’t be fooled by the thinner 35 mm stanchions. The RockShox Lyrik feels a little stiffer than the FOX 36 on the trail when it comes to torsional stiffness, holding lines well.

Setup of the RockShox Lyrik Ultimate 2021

Even without RockShox’s excellent Trailhead suspension setup app, the Lyrik is effortless to set up. We found that the recommended settings were very close to what we would choose to run and the only tuning we really did was to remove one of the spacers and increase the spring pressure by a few psi. The high-speed compression adjustment control has an observable effect on the ride feel and doesn’t come with a million increments to confuse setup. We found the fork quite lightly damped, so at 80kg we added three clicks (from closed) of HSC for more bottom-out control. With the new DebonAir dimple position, there is no need to equalise the positive and negative chambers, just pump up the fork and go shred. The sweet spot of the fork is very wide and we found even settings on either side of our dialled-in setup felt good on the trail. The sag indicators on the fork stanchions simplify getting the right air pressure and the tortoise and hare rebound icons remove any confusion. Even the most ham-fisted rider can set up the RockShox Lyrik.

Brothers from the same mother. The ZEB is bigger and stiffer than the Lyrik but for many riders, not any better.

The RockShox Ultimate 2021 on the trail

Hitting the trail, any doubts that a relatively simple air spring upgrade could not improve the already great ride of the original RockShox Lyrik RC2 are quickly thrown out of the window. The new Lyrik straight up rips. Staying higher in its travel, the new 2021 DebonAir air spring brings observable performance benefits. That’s not to say that it is more sensitive than the 2020 model in the initial stroke and if anything, we feel it has lost a little of its small bump sensitivity. Unlike the FOX 36 which feels like you’re held up by a very sensitive, but linear spring, the RockShox Lyrik is sensitive off the top before developing massive support through the mid to end stroke, working exceptionally well in all situations. There are never any surprises with the Lyrik. Never did we blow through the travel unexpectedly in a turn or encounter a damping spike or binding on side-loaded off-camber terrain. Grip is huge, allowing you to make the most of flat corners and loose terrain, and open up new lines on the inside. What about the ZEB though? Being honest with ourselves, the Lyrik is already a stiff fork and although the ZEB is stiffer, unless you are frequently manhandling your fork into huge compressions, it will be overkill. For most riders, the Lyrik hits a beautiful sweet spot that is stiff enough while retaining a compliance that is easier on the hands.

For most riders the Lyrik represents the sweet spot, balancing comfort and stiffness to give a sublime, predictable and engaging ride.

Sag indicators on the fork legs allow for a quick and easy sag check.
No confusion here – the tortoise for slow and the hare for fast. Simple and effective!
The way the RockShox Lyrik Ultimate works feels very unique. Soft and sensitive off the top, but with huge support as soon as you get the lowers moving fast.

How does the RockShox Lyrik compare to the other forks in this group test?

The RockShox Lyrik is a sublime performer. While it is a little stiffer than the FOX 36, the difference is hard to notice on the trail. However, it’s the easier fork to set up and offers almost identical performance, while dramatically undercutting the FOX on price. It’s more composed than the DVO and more sensitive than the Manitou Mezzer PRO. Compared to the ZEB it doesn’t hold lines quite as uncompromisingly but it offers a more rounded ride that is easier on the hands during long days on the lifts. Unless you’re hammering an eMTB into the turns or can really push hard, we would choose the Lyrik over the ZEB any day.


The RockShox Lyrik RC2 took our Best in Test in 2018 and the latest Ultimate model is still the standard that all other forks are judged by. The FOX 38 and ZEB may be a better choice for heavy-duty bike park thrashers but faced with a gnarly natural alpine trail, the Lyrik Ultimate really is all you will need. With sweet spot performance, simple setup and an amazing price, the Lyrik is still our top recommendation, taking our Best Buy award.


  • best price/performance ratio
  • superb sensitivity and performance
  • effortless setup


  • less precise for hard-hitting riders

Other Lyrik models

The Lyrik is available in three models – Select, Select+ and Ultimate, with the biggest performance differences coming from the damper. The entry-level Lyrik Select (€ 819) utilises the basic Charger RC damper with adjustable low-speed compression. The OEM-only Lyrik Select+ comes in the same gloss finish as the Ultimate and uses the same high-end Charger 2.1 RC damper technology. Even though it does not offer the five clicks of external high-speed compression of the Ultimate, performance on the trail is on the same level. That makes the Lyrik Select+ an excellent fork on complete bikes for most riders.

For more information, check out the Manufacturer’s website. If you want to learn more about mountain bike forks and see how the RockShox Lyrik stacks up against the competition, check out our 2021 suspension fork group test!

All forks on test: DVO Onyx SC D1 | FOX 36 2021 Grip2 Factory | FOX 38 2021 Grip2 Factory | Manitou Mezzer PRO | Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Coil | MRP Ribbon Coil | Öhlins RXF36 M2 Air | RockShox Lyrik Ultimate 2021 | RockShox ZEB Ultimate

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Words: Photos: Finlay Anderson