Over the past four years, Rockshox has made great strides in reducing friction, improving spring rates, and making their mountain bike suspension forks plush and supportive. These changes came incrementally over several model years, first with the Charger 2.1, then the revised air spring design, followed by the DebonAir air spring in their forks.
Now, they revise the interior again, introduce new designs of dampers and air springs, change the chassis and organizational form of the model, all at once. Target? Even the better forks are of course, and a lot of new technology is carried over to the new rear shocks too!
2023 Rockshox Pike, Lyrik & ZEB
Changes are coming for the Pike, Lyrik and ZEB forks. So far, these models’ travel ranges have overlapped, with Pike being everything from a light lane to a full lane model, and Lyrik stepping in along the way to take things further before ZEB makes sense.
Now, the Pike is limited to 120-140mm travel, the Lyrik handles 140-160, and the ZEB handles 160-190mm. No more overlap, but with the option to go to a more sophisticated option at the higher end of the travel range.
This allows Rockshox to improve the chassis, damper and air spring for a very narrow range, rather than having to build up one or add scope for another. Fittingly, this all-new group picks up where it leaves out the SID (100mm) and SID (120mm) forks, giving Rockshox very specific models for each bike class.
Internally, the big changes are:
- Charger 3 retarder with independent high speed compression (HSC) and low speed compression (LSC) adjustments.
- Silent recoil damping
- Buttercups to dampen high frequency vibrations
- DebonAir+ air springs for a consistent feel across all three fork pads
- Pressure relief valves eliminate unwanted air pressure build-up in the fork under the stem
- Maxima Plush Dynamic Suspension Lube
New Rockshox Charger 3 Damper tech
There are two big changes to the supercharger damper – a high-speed and low-speed independent compression damping, and a coil-spring IFP.
We’ll start with the IFP (Internal Floating Piston), because it’s an essential part of the new damper’s job. More recently, Rockshox used a bladder-based damper (Charger 2.1 RC) in its higher-end forks. A bladder-based solution is great at preventing air and oil from mixing, but it doesn’t do much Pay Oil returns through the recoil circuit (which maintains proper back pressure to prevent cavitation) – it’s more Absorb Again, giving you that squishy sound. This design eliminates the spongy sound.
Related: Read more about bladder vs. IFP damping in our articles on suspension technology.
Using the IFP, they can build a dripping port into the IFP, so if the seals corrode and allow a small amount of lubricating fluid to the lower stem of the stem, any excess fluid can clear itself through that port. And it doesn’t really matter if they mix up a bit, Rockshox specifically tested this and the damping fluid and lubricant were the same weight, but…if you keep 200 hour service intervals that’s basically all not the issue.
The new 3 charger damper uses coil-supported IFP instead of a bladder (like an RC charger), which doesn’t require a tight fit (less friction) under the struts to prevent lubrication of the lower stem inside. Less tight seals means less friction, which means smoother performance.
All that said, the main reason for the IFP is to allow for expansion of the space containing the damping fluid, the 1:1 forces in the fork are very different from the (higher) leverage forces in the shock, and even the nitrogen assisted flight action pressure in the forks will not be as high as It is in shock. But you still need an IFP (or bladder) to keep the air and oil from mixing.
You’ll find 15 clicks for low speed compression damping, 5 clicks for high speed damping, and 18 clicks for rebound adjustment. And every click has a more distinct effect, Rockshox says, with a wider range, allowing you to really adjust the fork to your own driving style and terrain.
The new Charger 3 is found in the MY23 Ultimate and Select + forks. The Select and Base forks carry the current damper of the Charger RC. The bladder-based design is not used on these MY23 models.
The new dual-circuit design directs oil through the high-speed circuit first, then the low-speed. No matter how much high-speed damping is adjusted, there is always enough flow to reach the low-speed circuit for it to be effective.
So, what is “low” pressure versus “high” pressure?
In terms of damping, “low velocity” refers to the effects of the shaft speed from 0 to 15 in/sec, which are mainly obstructions like moving your body or grabbing some of the front brake.
“High velocity” impacts are more than 80 inch/sec at shaft speeds, and are the most “stone-hitting” or “running over roots” impacts. Shaft speeds are generally 80-300 inch/sec, but riders will probably average around 200-240 inch/sec.
Everything between low and high is “medium velocity,” which is where the two damping circuits are active and mods are blended, so you’ll be using both simultaneously. Therefore, these separate circuits allow you to create the desired response in your “happiness window” in the expected circumstances, while still performing well in between.
Taking a cue from motorcycles (and chainsaws), Rockshox added small rubber cups to the bottoms of the new DebonAir+ air spring and Charger 3 dampers. They absorb between 20% to 28% of high-frequency “track chatter” vibrations, helping to make the ride” Buttery smooth”, hence the name ButterCups.
By dampening these vibrations before they reach your hands and arms, Rockshox says you’ll feel fresher and ride longer without getting tired. Only the Ultimate model forks come with ButterCups installed, but you can add them to the lower-level MY23 forks (and earlier ZEB forks).
What’s new in the DebonAir+ air spring?
With positive and negative air volumes tuned specifically for each travel option, Rockshox was able to get the exact air spring curve they wanted for each individual ride.
Meaning, if you want to change the travel in the Pike from 130mm to 140mm, you’ll have to swap out the air springs. Each travel length has its own shaft, with its own positive and negative sizes and dimmer position designed specifically for that travel.
They also switched from a plastic piston to an aluminum one, which can be made thinner, allowing for a very small increase in overall air volume…which usually equates to an increased fork.
For the MY23, all forks levels (Ultimate, Select +, Select and Base) get the new DebonAir+, but only the Ultimate level forks come with ButterCups pre-installed.
For the Pike and Lyrik, the new travel ranges are shorter than before, and more tuned for trail riding and all-mountain riding, respectively. They not only have new air springs, but also get …
New discounts specially designed for this purpose
To further improve each fork for its intended use and further reduce friction, all three forks get completely redesigned lower forks. Inside, the new Final Level forks have 53% longer bushings. This increases bushing overlap with the struts, as well as all-new custom Maxima Plush Dynamic suspension lubrication, which helps the forks glide more freely throughout the entire travel range.
The new votives are lighter and stiffer, with a savings of up to 30g while gaining 13.5% (pike) to 20% (lyric) more torsional stiffness. And those savings even though ButterCups add up to 39 grams per fork!
The forks have Torque Cap adapters that are bolted in, allowing you to operate compatible or regular axles.
The Pike and Lyrik Ultimate cuts are different enough that the new air spring and damper are only compatible with these MY23 models.
However, the ZEB drops are similar enough to make the new DebonAir+ air spring compatible with the MY21 launch. Therefore, if you have an older ZEB, you can install the new air spring using ButterCups.
Pressure relief valves too
Changes in height can cause changes in fork position, so they added new pressure relief valves in order to quickly relieve pressure from depressions caused by big ups and downs or even just temperature swings. It will be offered in Ultimate and Select + models, and other MY23 models can be upgraded to add.
2023 Rockchox Bike
Aimed at the motorcycle class, the new 2023 Rockshox Pike delivers lightweight performance while on the road.
2023 Rockchox Lyric
The Rockshox Lyrik 2023 becomes their mountain crossroads for aggressive riders who step a bit beyond the norm.
2023 Rockshox ZEB
The Rockshox ZEB 2023 sees only internal changes with its new Charger 3 technology and DebonAir+, making it the most backward-compatible fork for the new interior. It is the choice of eMTB for domestic and long-haul flights.
There is some worldwide retail availability now, both online and in stores, but exactly what and when is the question that your favorite store will best answer.