First Ride | New 2023 RockShox Pike, Lyrik & Zeb Forks, AND Super Deluxe Air & Coil Shocks

The not-so-minor details


2023 RockShox Pike, Lyrik, Zeb, Super Deluxe & Super Deluxe Coil


$752 AUD (Super Deluxe Coil Ultimate DH) - $1,747 AUD (Zeb Ultimate)

Huge news out of RockShox today, with the release of three new forks and four new shocks. For 2023 there’s a brand new RockShox Pike, Lyrik and Zeb, along with redesigned Super Deluxe air and coil shocks, updates to the Deluxe shock and the introduction of a new Deluxe Coil shock. Wowsers!

As we predicted when RockShox Flight Attendant launched last year, the US suspension brand will be rolling out those same technologies through the rest of its suspension range, including the ButterCups and a new DebonAir+ spring. That’s only half the story though, as RockShox has also developed a brand new next-generation Charger 3 damper for its non-electronic forks. There’s also a brand new RC2 damper for the Super Deluxe shocks, and the introduction of a Hydraulic Bottom Out system.

To get to grips with all the new tech, we’ve been testing a variety of forks and shocks over the past couple of weeks. Here we’ll be going through all of the details behind the new 2023 RockShox lineup, followed by our first impressions of riding the new suspension on our local trails.

With the Pike and Lyrik covering a tighter range of travel, the engineers have refined each chassis to reduce weight and increase torsional rigidity.

2023 rockshox pike lyrik ultimate
The RockShox Pike and Lyrik have been totally redesigned for 2023, featuring new internals, a new chassis, and a narrower travel range than before.

What’s changed with the new RockShox Pike, Lyrik & Zeb?

Starting up front, there’s a totally new RockShox Pike and Lyrik for 2023. Both forks receive an updated chassis with a new crown, upper tubes and lower legs. You’ll also spot pressure relief valves on the back of the lowers, and the dropouts will now take bolt-in adapters to make installation easier with a non-Torque Cap hub. There’s also a really neat machined alloy bolt on guide for the brake hose.

The Zeb chassis sees a less dramatic update, though it too receives the new dropouts and pressure relief valves.

Also of note is that these forks have had a slight reshuffle, with their travel range having been narrowed. Here’s where each fork sits for 2023;

With the Pike and Lyrik covering a tighter range of travel, the engineers have refined each chassis to reduce weight and increase torsional rigidity. Furthermore, on the Ultimate level forks, new longer bushings provide more overlap for the upper tubes and are claimed to decrease friction. That’s complemented by a lighter lubrication oil that’s been developed in partnership with Maxima, which will be found inside the lowers of the new generation forks.

According to RockShox, the coil-backed IFP is more responsive than a bladder, and it’s more consistent regardless of where you are in the travel.

2023 rockshox pike lyrik ultimate
The old Charger 2.1 damper on the left, with the new Charger 3 damper on the right.

RockShox unveils new Charger 3 damper

The really big news from the release of the 2023 RockShox Pike, Lyrik and Zeb is the arrival of an all-new Charger 3 damper. It still features high and low-speed compression adjusters at the top, as well as a single rebound dial at the bottom of the fork, but that’s about where the similarities end. Charger 3 is entirely new, and shares no components with the previous 2.1 damper.

The main structural difference is the move to a coil-backed Internal Floating Piston (IFP) design. You’ll no longer find an expandable bladder, which RockShox has been employing in its high-end Charger dampers ever since the Pike was relaunched back in 2013. Instead, the IFP at the top of the Charger 3 damper accounts for fluid displacement as the fork compresses. According to RockShox, the coil-backed IFP is more responsive than a bladder, and it’s more consistent regardless of where you are in the travel. It’s perhaps for similar reasons that Fox moved away from bladder-based dampers in its long travel forks a number of years ago, with the GRIP and GRIP2 dampers also using a coil-backed IFP design.

This makes the damper basically silent, with no squishy noises to be heard while riding.

2023 rockshox zeb ultimate
The Charger 3 damper still offers independently adjustable high and low-speed compression damping, but the way you set them up is a little different.

Diving deeper into the Charger 3 damper, RockShox has developed a new rebound piston with a tapered oil path that is claimed to reduce fluid turbidity. This makes the damper basically silent, with no squishy noises to be heard while riding.

Extensive work has also gone into the high and low-speed compression circuits, which RockShox claims are truly independent of each other. In theory, this means you can adjust across the whole range of the low-speed adjuster without affecting high-speed compression damping, and vice versa.

The adjusters are also new and adopt a fresh approach when it comes to setup. Both compression dials feature a neutral setting in the middle, and it’s recommended to start in this position before clicking the adjusters either way. The high-speed dial gives you two clicks on either side of neutral (five in total), while the low-speed dial has seven clicks either side (15 in total). You get 20 clicks of rebound damping via the big dial at the base of the fork.

2023 rockshox pike lyrik ultimate
Keeping things simple, there’s a solitary rebound dial at the base of the fork.

There’s a new DebonAir+ air spring & ButterCups

Inside the other leg of the 2023 RockShox Pike, Lyrik and Zeb is the new DebonAir+ spring. First debuted on the Flight Attendant forks, the DebonAir+ spring features a new top-out bumper, changes to the transfer port position, and tweaked positive and negative volumes.

RockShox states that the air spring curve has been refined thanks to the narrower travel ranges of the new forks, with the DebonAir+ spring coming with the usual claims of improved off-the-top sensitivity and more mid-stroke support.

rockshox debonair+ spring
The new DebonAir+ spring has also been redesigned. On the Ultimate level forks, you’ll find a Buttercup inside a gold alloy housing at the base of the main shaft.

Because of its new architecture, the DebonAir+ spring is not backwards compatible with older Pikes and Lyriks. And as we found out when we went to fit a shorter air shaft to reduce the travel on one of our test forks, removing and installing the air spring is a way more involved process than before.

Part of this is due to the ButterCups, which have been brought over from the Flight Attendant forks. These are small rubber pucks that sit at the bottom of both the air spring and damper shafts where they bolt onto the lowers. According to RockShox, the ButterCups provide 4mm of vertical compliance that’s designed to soak up the low amplitude, high frequency vibrations that might not otherwise be absorbed by the air spring and damper. It’s claimed that the Buttercups reduce ‘trail chatter’ by 20%, with the aim of reducing feedback at the rider’s contact points. You’ll only find ButterCups on the Ultimate level forks, though they are available as an upgrade for lower tier models.

2023 RockShox Pike specs & price

Adopting all of those new technologies, the 2023 RockShox Pike is a high-performance trail fork that’s offered with 120-140mm of travel.

Featuring 35mm diameter upper tubes, the new chassis bears a close resemblance to the big Zeb, with a beautifully machined crown and sculpted lowers. According to RockShox, the new lower leg offers 13.5% more torsional stiffness over the old Pike.

All Pike models will be equipped with the DebonAir+ spring, though only the Ultimate and Select+ forks will feature the new Charger 3 damper. Speaking of options, the Charger RCT3 damper has disappeared, which means you’ll no longer find a high-end Pike with a lockout. Cheaper models will carry over the existing Charger RC and Rush dampers though.

While the Pike’s chassis has gotten lighter, the overall fork weight is unchanged since the Charger 3 damper is heavier. Confirmed weight for our 140mm Pike Ultimate is 1.88kg (including the Maxle and with a cut steerer), which is about the same as the previous version.

2023 rockshox pike ultimate
2023 RockShox Pike Ultimate

2023 RockShox Lyrik specs & price

Having previously been offered with up to 180mm of travel, the 2023 RockShox Lyrik shrinks its travel range to 140-160mm to become a more purpose-built all mountain fork.

The upper tubes still use a 35mm diameter, but the chassis itself is all-new and unique to the Lyrik. Indeed a close look at it side-by-side with the new Pike reveals subtle muscular differences. According to RockShox, the new lower legs have increased torsional rigidity by 20%. The fork is slightly lighter than its predecessor, coming in at 2.02kg vs 2.08kg on our workshop scales.

As with the Pike and Zeb, the Lyrik will be available in four models. All Lyriks feature the same chassis with the DebonAir+ spring, with the top two models getting the Charger 3 damper. Cheaper forks carry over the existing Charger RC and Rush dampers. There are further differences to be found, with the Ultimate model equipped with ButterCups, pressure-release valves and the high-end bushing package. Cheaper models can be upgraded with some of those bells and whistles however.

2023 rockshox lyrik ultimate
2023 RockShox Lyrik Ultimate

2023 RockShox Zeb specs & price

With the current Zeb having only been introduced in 2020, there are fewer updates compared to the Pike and Lyrik. It still features 38mm upper tubes and it’s available with 160-190mm of travel. That makes it the big-hitting enduro fork of the range, and the pick of the bunch for chunky e-MTBs.

Having adopted the DebonAir+ spring and Charger 3 damper, it is pretty much a whole new fork for 2023. The chassis is updated with pressure relief valves and bolt-in adapters for non-Torque Cap hubs, while the top-end Ultimate model gets the new ButterCups too.

2023 rockshox zeb ultimate
2023 RockShox Zeb Ultimate

2023 RockShox Super Deluxe Air & Coil

To go with the new forks, RockShox is introducing brand new Super Deluxe air and coil shocks. These draw on technology from the Flight Attendant shock, though there are also some similarities to the custom shock that RockShox codeveloped with Trek for the latest Slash.

The new shocks feature a completely redesigned damper called RC2 that, for the first time ever, introduces externally adjustable high-speed compression damping to the Super Deluxe. You get five clicks of high-speed compression adjustment via a 3mm hex key, and a tool-free dial provides you with five clicks of low-speed compression adjustment. The circuits are claimed to be totally independent of one another, and are built to match the performance of the Charger 3 damper up front.

2023 rockshox super deluxe ultimate shock
The Super Deluxe is also all-new for 2023, and features a new air can design along with the introduction of a high-end RC2 damper.

It’s a similar tuning approach too. Assuming the base tune for the shock is correct for your bike, the idea is to start with those compression adjusters in the neutral position in the middle, and you’ve then got two clicks on either side to soften or firm up the damping to your liking. The big rebound ring remains, offering 15 clicks of adjustment.

There’s also a brand new air can design for the Super Deluxe shock, which is offered in two different styles; linear or progressive. The idea being that if your bike has a progressive leverage ratio, you can choose the linear air can, and vice versa. On top of that, it’s possible to tune both the positive and negative air chambers with plastic clip-in volume spacers.

Also new is the Hydraulic Bottom Out feature, which is an option for both the Super Deluxe air and coil shocks. This position-sensitive damping kicks in during the last 20% of the stroke, restricting oil flow to provide a stronger ramp-up and reduce the chance of bottoming out. On the Super Deluxe Coil shock, the HBO feature is adjustable with a 3mm hex key, allowing you to fine-tune the end-stroke progression of your bike. HBO is also available on the Super Deluxe air shock, though it’s preset and isn’t externally adjustable.

Needless to say, with the addition of the HBO feature, two new air can options, the ability to tune both positive and negative volume, and the arrival of external high-speed compression damping, the new Super Deluxe shocks offer a far greater range of adjustability than ever before.

2023 rockshox super deluxe ultimate shock
The Super Deluxe Coil shock is also offered with the new RC2 damper and with an optional Hydraulic Bottom Out.

Deluxe air & coil shocks

As if that wasn’t enough, RockShox is also introducing an updated Deluxe air shock. There are admittedly less changes here, with the damper designs and adjusters carrying over from the existing Deluxe air shock. However, it does benefit from the new air can used on the Super Deluxe shock. That means you’ve now got progressive and linear air can options, along with the ability to tune both positive and negative volume.

There’s also a brand new Deluxe Coil shock that uses an in-line design without a piggyback. This will allow it to fit more frames that are tight on clearance, though with just a single rebound adjuster, it is pitched as a cheaper no-frills coil shock.

2023 rockshox deluxe ultimate shock
The Deluxe shock will also benefit from the new air can design, which is offered in both progressive and linear options.

Testing the 2023 RockShox suspension range

To test out the new 2023 RockShox suspension range, we’ve had a variety of forks and shocks fitted across four different bikes.

Mick’s Specialized Levo has been fitted with a 160mm travel Zeb Ultimate and a Super Deluxe Coil shock. He’s also got a 130mm travel Pike on the front of his Santa Cruz Tallboy.

We’ve then got a 160mm travel Lyrik Ultimate on the front of Trev’s Norco Sight, and Wil has a 140mm Pike and a Super Deluxe air shock on his Specialized Stumpjumper.

2023 rockshox zeb ultimate
Mick solving rock garden puzzles aboard the new Zeb Ultimate.

Setting up

One downside with setting up the new forks is that, for some strange reason, there are no longer any sag guides on the upper tubes. We miss the ability to eyeball sag with those anodised gradients, and instead the ruler has had to come out to help us get the forks setup properly. Also, compared to the DebonAir C1 spring used on the previous Pike and Lyrik, the transfer port sits just below the seal head. That means you’ll need to compress the fork a few times to equalise pressures between the positive and negative chambers. It’s no big deal, but something to remember if you’re coming from one of last year’s self-equalising forks.

Speaking of the air spring, the overall level of support and progression has changed considerably. Both Pike forks and the Lyrik came from the factory without any Bottomless Tokens installed, and we found no need to add any. We all experienced sufficient end-stroke ramp-up, with no awkward bottom outs to speak of, despite rider weights ranging from 68kg to 86kg. Of course you can still add Bottomless Tokens as you like, but it’s clear that the new DebonAir+ spring offers notably improved support in its stock configuration.

2023 rockshox lyrik ultimate
The new DebonAir+ spring offers excellent support, despite there being no Bottomless Tokens in our Pike or Lyrik test forks.

Compression adjustments

As mentioned above, the tuning ethos is a little different with the new Charger 3 damper. On some forks, we’ll often wind the compression damping out to the lightest setting to achieve the plushest possible setup, or at least to begin with anyway. With the Charger 3 damper however, RockShox recommends starting out with both the low-speed and high-speed dials in the middle neutral position. From here you can adjust the dial to lighten or firm up the compression damping as needed.

This has been an interesting process, as both adjusters provide a noticeable change in suspension behaviour between each click, allowing us to search out a balance between comfort and big-hit control. Along with the clear markings on each dial, it makes tuning a less obnoxious process.

It also has to be said that the new machined alloy dials are an absolute pleasure to use. There’s a really nice feel to the clickers, with positive indents and quality machined detailing that makes them easy to adjust with or without gloves. We also love that the dials are furnished with easy-to-read markings. It reduces the guesswork and the need to count clicks, with most of the dials being easy to eyeball and adjust even while riding.

2023 rockshox pike lyrik ultimate
The Charger 3 damper encourages a new approach to tuning the compression settings. Try the middle neutral position first, before dialling in more or less damping.

On the trail

The first thing you notice on the trail with the new forks is the fact that they are very quiet. Like, borderline silent. There’s no more slurping noise when the fork is rebounding, which is a surprisingly welcome feature given that modern bikes have become so much quieter overall.

The other aspect we’ve noticed is how much stronger the support is from the Charger 3 damper. Previous forks have placed more emphasis on the air spring to keep you high in the travel, with the damper tune being lighter overall. That relationship flips with the 2023 RockShox forks, with the damper playing a much more prominent role in maintaining the overall ride height.

It meant that with the compression dials set in that neutral setting, initially the forks felt stickier than we were expecting, and somewhat over-damped. That was especially the case with the shorter travel Pike, which in some situations was feeling a touch harsh.

In speaking with RockShox, it’s been recommended to try reducing the air pressure to bring about a more supple feel at the top of the travel. Given how strong the damping is and the fact that we’ve not been bottoming out heavily, we’ll be experimenting with air pressures to see if we can achieve the performance we’re after.

2023 rockshox pike ultimate
There’s a tonne of support on offer to keep the fork riding high in its travel when pushing into banked turns at speed.

While small-bump sensitivity at cruising pace is yet to blow us away, the strong support from the Charger 3 damper does mean the new forks offer excellent high-speed control. When you’re pushing hard into berms and jack-hammering through rock gardens, the new damper is quiet, calm and composed. It plays well with the air spring’s mid-stroke stability, ensuring the fork remains in the active sweet spot without ploughing through the travel.

First impressions have been positive with the Super Deluxe air and coil shocks, which offer a similar level of usability when it comes to those external damping adjustments. We’re especially impressed by the adjustable HBO on the coil shock, which effectively eliminates one of the downsides of running a coil over an air shock.

We’ll continue to put more time onto both the forks and shocks over the coming months, which will include some back-to-back testing with current offerings from Fox, to see how the new RockShox suspension compares directly.

We’ll also be diving into some detailed discussions about dialling in those compression settings for everyday trail riding. There’s a lot to wrap your head around with the new fork and shock dampers, so we’ll be chatting with some experts to cut through the noise and explain how best to get your suspension setup. Stay tuned!

2023 rockshox pike ultimate super deluxe specialized stumpjumper
There’s an insane amount of adjustability on offer with the new Super Deluxe shock, and we’re looking forward to dialling it in over the next few weeks of riding.

Flow’s early verdict

RockShox has come out swinging for 2023 with an enormous range of new product that encompasses some of the technology we expected to see trickle down from Flight Attendant, but also some brand new tech that we didn’t.

The move from a bladder-based damper to the new IFP-backed Charger 3 is an intriguing one, and there are clear advantages to the design along with improved usability from the high and low-speed adjusters. Along with the new DebonAir+ spring, there’s been a hefty boost in support that’ll likely be welcomed by hard-charging trail, enduro and e-MTB riders.

There’s an incredible amount of new tech going on with the rear shocks too, and we’re looking forward to diving into more of the tuning options on offer to see just how much performance we can squeeze out of them.

As to how the new RockShox Pike, Lyrik and Zeb stack up against the Fox 34, 36 and 38? It’s too early for us to provide a definitive conclusion, though we’ll be embarking on some back-to-back testing to find out, so stay tuned for our comparative reviews.

2023 rockshox pike lyrik ultimate
We’re looking forward to spending some more time tuning the new RockShox forks and shocks, and comparing them with their Fox counterparts. Stay tuned for some upcoming head-to-head reviews and detailed discussions about setting up the new dampers.

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