In answer to the FOX 38, RockShox have launched the 38 mm stanchion ZEB fork. Stiffer and with more travel than the venerable Lyrik, it’s ready to go toe-to-toe with the big hit fork brigade.

RockShox ZEB Ultimate 2021 | 2.32 kg | € 1,089 | Manufacturer’s website

FOX only had a month or so to enjoy their exclusive membership of the “38 mm club” before RockShox delivered a firm uppercut with the more affordable but equally as burly 38 mm stanchion ZEB. Positioned between the RockShox Lyrik and Boxxer, the ZEB is targeted firmly at the bike park hucker or EWS racer, with travel up to 190 mm. Priced from € 869 to € 1,089, the ZEB will be available in four models – Select, Select+ and Ultimate, as well as an eMTB specific version. Internally the RockShox ZEB uses similar technology to that found in the current Lyrik, with a new revised DebonAir spring with a larger negative chamber. The negative/positive volume ratio sits in between the Lyrik and the Boxxer. The Ultimate model tested here uses the excellent Charger 2.1 damper with adjustable low- and high-speed compression and low-speed rebound. The beefier 38 mm stanchions, chassis and machined crown result in a claimed 20% increase in stiffness torsionally, 7% laterally and 2% fore and aft compared to the already burly Lyrik. We love that the ZEB has a 200 mm direct mount, so no ugly adapter is needed for 200 mm rotors. If you want maximum braking power, you size up to a 220 mm rotor.

The new 38 mm ZEB is big and burly. Noticeably chunkier than the 35 mm Lyrik, it’s a fork for those who push super hard.
Sag indicators on the stanchion let you quickly dial in the correct sag.
RockShox do everything they can to make setup easy.

Setup of the RockShox ZEB Ultimate

As with all RockShox forks, the ZEB is effortless to set up. From the tortoise/hare rebound speed graphics to the sag indicator on the stanchions, everything is there to make it easy for the rider. Using the pressure guide on the fork leg, the suggested 62 psi for a 81 kg rider gave us around 18% sag. We found the recommended pressure settings put us in a good ballpark. However, the lower pressures needed in the ZEB mean small changes have a greater effect, increasing or decreasing the spring rate noticeably, so care is needed on setup. To tune the spring rate, the ZEB uses the same Bottomless tokens as the Lyrik and changing them is a very simple affair. We ran the fork with no tokens, all the way up to 3 tokens and the effect on the spring progression is very noticeable with each addition. Like the new Lyrik,the new DebonAir dimple position means there is no need to equalise the positive and negative chambers. With a very supportive spring, we found that we all favoured a relatively open high-speed compression setup with one or no tokens. Very light riders may find it tricky to get a responsive setup but our 80–95kg testers had no issue at all.

The RockShox ZEB Ultimate on the trail

Hitting the trail, Lyrik owners will find the performance of the ZEB very familiar. Staying high in its travel, the fork skips smoothly and efficiency over small bumps, making light work of roots and chatter. Pushing harder into berms, the ZEB has a very supportive mid-stroke, feeling burly and confident. Direct lines become the best lines and we soon found ourselves using roots and rock gardens for landings, knowing that the fork would sort everything out. The high-speed compression control has a big impact on fork feel and we found we could quickly change the personality of the fork, dialling in more or less end stroke support quickly using just this control. So, is it stiffer than the Lyrik? Yes, but you can only feel it in certain situations. Ignoring the psychological reassurance of looking down at the huge stanchions, in a straight line there is little to separate the Lyrik and ZEB but as soon as you start hitting hard g-out turns, the ZEB is the more confident performer. In very high-load situations, such as braking over roots or hanging off the fork to turn hard, instead of twisting and wanting to understeer out of the turn, the big ZEB just holds its line. Once you have it dialled in, the ZEB is a full-bore cornering animal. However, this also means that if the fork is deflected by a rock or root mid-turn, more force is transferred, demanding more strength of the rider. Running the ZEB compared to the Lyrik feels a bit like switching from compliant alloy wheels to burly carbon models/ Everything feels more direct and accurate but also requires more strength to drive hard and we noticed more arm fatigue after long shuttle runs.

Running the ZEB instead of a Lyrik feels a bit like if you switch from compliant alloy wheels to burly carbon models. Everything feels more direct and accurate, but also requires more strength to ride hard.

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

Is the RockShox ZEB too stiff?

The elephant in the room – can a fork be too stiff? The ZEB is a great fork and one that racers and bike park huckers will love. But if you’re a lover of fast, high-speed natural trails, the increased stiffness of the ZEB can be just as much a hindrance as a benefit. Yes, you can hold really tight lines if you muscle the fork through, but we found we tired a little quicker compared to riding the more compliant Lyrik. If you are strong and ride hard, the ZEB performs with eagerness and directness. However, if you’re not a charger or are looking for a smooth, relaxed ride, the more complaint (while still stiff) Lyrik is our recommendation.

We found the high-speed compression adjuster useful for dialling in more bottom-out control.
The ZEB mirrors the performance of the excellent Lyrik – soft off the top with huge support in reserve.

How does the RockShox ZEB Ultimate compare to other models?

The RockShox ZEB stands with the FOX 38 and Manitou Mezzer PRO as a separate category in this group, all complete with powerful, accurate chassis. The ZEB is easier to set up than the FOX 38 and complex Manitou Mezzer, and also undercuts the FOX 38 heavily on price. However, once dialled in, the FOX 38 has the performance edge. While the ZEB feels like a beefed-up Lyrik, the FOX 38 feels like a slimmed down 40 complete with more sensitive damping over small and mid-sized bumps.


If a RockShox Lyrik is not burly enough for you, you will love the RockShox ZEB. The ZEB is super accurate, relatively easy to set up (if you have an accurate shock pump) and delivers an aggressive price point. It’s a fork for those who measure air time in seconds or who can push the o-ring to the top through corners. However, with minimal compliance, you need to ride hard to get the best from it. For most, the Lyrik will be the more rounded choice.


  • stiffest fork on test for maximum precision
  • quick/effective track adaption via HSC


  • stiffest fork on test results in a lot of fatigue/arm pump
  • overkill for lighter riders

Other ZEB models

The ZEB is available in three models – Select, Select+ and Ultimate. There will also be an eMTB specific model, with an adjustable travel Dual Position Air spring. 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 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 (except the eMTB version) come with the DebonAir spring, SKF seals and Maxima Plush damping oil.

For more information, check out the Manufacturer’s website. If you want to learn more about mountain bike forks and see how the RockShox ZEB 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

Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of ENDURO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality mountain bike journalism. Click here to learn more.

Words: Photos: Finlay Anderson