In the world of Enduro, the two big gorillas are the FOX 36 and RockShox Lyrik. Both of these forks have dominated at the highest level, but which one do we prefer, and why? We'll be putting these two head to head over the coming weeks to find out.
The FOX 36 changed the game forever, bringing performance and stiffness that rivalled many downhill forks to a single-crown package. With its then jaw-dropping 36mm stanchions it was unlike anything else on the market. Over a decade later, the 36mm legs remain – it really was leagues ahead of its time. We reviewed the 2015 version of this fork too – have a look here. We’ve got the top-shelf Factory version here, all glossy and lustrous with its Kashima coat legs.
The RockShox Lyrik is a relative new comer. It’s a direct evolution of RockShox Pike, which itself has proven the second most influential single-fork in this market segment, after the FOX 36. It shares the same 35mm stanchions and damper as the Pike, it has a more robust chassis to give it the kind of stiffness demanded by the Enduro market now. We reviewed the 2016 version recently and we were blown away by the way it chewed up terrain like a full-on downhill fork. Our test fork is the premium RCT3 model.
We’ve going to be running these forks on our Commencal Meta AM 4.2 long-term test bike – we’ve got them both in a 170mm travel version, with Boost hub spacing. On paper there’s very little between these forks. Let’s take a look at them now.
FOX 36 vs RockShox Lyrik:
Chassis and appearance:
With its 36mm legs and characteristically girthy lowers that have always been an attribute of the 36, the FOX definitely looks like the beefier fork, ready for a pounding. The Lyrik is a little more svelte. Black is a slimming colour of course, and the Maxle Stealth axle and lower profile rebound adjuster give it a cleaner looks than the FOX.
Our Lyrik has the Maxle Stealth axle setup. It requires a 6mm Allen key, but looks super slick and won’t snag up on rocks. You’ll notice the large axle recesses on the Lyrik – these are for Torque Cap hubs, made by SRAM, which have a larger interface between the fork and hub. The FOX runs their QR15 axle setup, for neat tool-free wheel removal.
There’s sweet FA difference here. With the steerers both cut to 185mm and with a star nut installed, the Lyrik weighs in at 1998g, while the 36 is 2027g.
Both forks’ dampers offer essentially the same adjustments. The FIT4 damper found in the FOX has a three position compression dial (open, medium or firm) along with low-speed compression adjustment that only effects the fork when it’s in the Open compression setting. The Lyrik’s RTC3 damper mirrors the FOX – you’ve got three compressions modes, again with low-speed compression adjustment.
FOX has just introduced the EVOL air spring concept (previously found in their rear shocks) into their forks for 2018. There’s a larger negative air spring than previous generations, which makes for more sensitivity and less breakaway friction. The DebonAir air spring in the Lyrik purports to do the same thing – smooth off the top, more ramp at the end stroke.
To assist setup, both forks have a recommended pressure guide on the lowers, to give you a ball park air pressure to work with. The sag gradients marked on the Lyrik’s leg are super useful in this regard too.
In addition, both forks offer you spring curve adjustment via a token system – adding or removing spacers physically changes the air volume. We’ll begin testing both forks with two spacers/tokens in each as a starting point.
Axle to crown:
While both of these forks have 170mm travel, the FOX has a slightly longer axle-to-crown measurement of 570mm vs 560mm on the RockShox. Something to keep in mind if you’re particular about stack height. Ok, enough waffle. Let’s get these onto the bike!