RockShox ZEB - Long Term Review

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Don't let its beefy looks fool you. This Zeb is truly an amped up, ultra plush trail fork.

     
    If you would like to see our first impressions of the Zeb, and learn everything you need to know about the 38mm offering from RockShox, check out the video below.
Keep reading for our long term review.


About the RockShox ZEB

    When Fox released the 38 in early spring of 2020, we all realized there was a big hole in RockShox's line-up with the lack of a heavy hitting enduro fork to compete with Fox's new big travel brawler of a fork. Well it turns out RockShox had something big, grey, and stiff in the works long before the Fox's 2021 release. When RockShox finally unveiled the all-new ZEB in July, we were blown away. Find all the nitty-gritty details about the ZEB in our First Look Blog Post.

    With it's clean, industrial lines and iconic "Slab Grey" color, we saw a true legend in the making. Our owner, Mike, said "man this thing looks like a fork we'll look back at 10-years from now super fondly" in this video we made on our initial impressions, and that feeling definitely resinated throughout the shop. This thing seriously looks as burly as it's supposed to perform, yet weight significantly less than its' orange counterpart. So we know this looks the part, but how does this thing perform?

Features:

  • New 38mm chassis for increased stiffness and rider confidence
  • Highly-tunable DebonAir™ air spring offers a buttery smooth feel off the top and maintains a higher ride height for increased confidence in steep terrain
  • Our highest performing Charger technology. Charger 2.1 RC2 damper features independent high and low speed compression with rebound adjustment – designed to reduce hand fatigue and fight unwanted friction, the Charger 2.1 damper increases confidence and control over every trail
  • Ultra-low friction SKF wiper seals provide long-lasting fork performance and improve overall suspension feel
  • Maxima Plush damping fluid reduces friction and silences damper noise
  • Available in the Signature Colorway Slab Grey or Ultimate High Gloss Black with foil graphics
  • Short fender compatible (RockShox fender sold separately)
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We're reviewing the Ultimate version of this fork, which is at the top of the Zeb Lineup.

First Impressions

    Right out of the box, you can tell this fork is going to be a charger. It definitely weighs significantly more than the Lyrik (yet slightly less than the 38) and damn those stanchions are noticeably much more chunky looking than RockShox' previous 35mm offerings. Install was easy, like any other fork - absolutely no difference.

    For setup, I ran the recommended air-pressure for my weight, set my rebound to my normal preferred setting (about two clicks towards fast from center) and ran 0-clicks of both High and LSC to start. I also left the one installed volume token from the factory. After a few rides I settled with 6-clicks of LSC and 1-click of HSC, very similar to how I set up my Lyrik. The ZEB has a larger volume air-chamber which means you can run lower pressures which in turn means better small-bump sensitivity and more support. This combined with the increased chassis stiffness delivers a totally transformed ride on steep or chunky terrain.

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On Trail Review

    I decided to take this fork out for its maiden voyage on a pretty full throttle, fairly steep trail with an even mix of flow and chunk. On the way up, I noticed little to no difference when compared with my previous fork, it felt lively, supportive, and didn't bob or wander too much at all. It wasn't until I got the thing pointed in the downhill direction that I began to notice the increased stiffness and performance. It was immediately noticeable on repetitive hits and deep braking bumps on steeper terrain that the stiffer chassis decreased binding and gave it a more consistent and supple feel. I am by no means the most aggressive rider but man did this thing do a great job at dampening unwanted trail chatter.

    Ever since I installed this fork, I have found myself to be more confident while mountain biking and pushing my own limit a bit further on steep, rough trails. I think this is probably due to a variety of reasons but the fork definitely helps and limits the "what if" factor I had with my previous fork, allowing me to have total confidence in its ability to absorb the bigger hits and stay composed when things don't go exactly as planned.

     After nearly 6 months of trail time on everything to all-day backcountry sufferfests to weekend shuttle laps, I have nothing but praise for this fork. I've found myself progressing on steeper terrain, attempting scarier lines and bigger moves out on the trails, and second guessing myself less. This is in no small part due to the confidence that i have in the ZEB.

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RockShox' RC2 Damper sets the benchmark for easy to set up, highly adjustable dampers.

On the RC2 Damper

    The ZEB uses RockShox' new flagship RC2 Damper which is the most adjustable damper in their lineup featuring high and low speed compression adjustments and low speed rebound adjustments. I've had this damper on my Pike on my previous bike and now on the Zeb and have nothing but good things to say about it. Where it doesn't feature quite the same level of adjustment as Fox's Grip2 damper, it does have the advantage of the rider being able to feel a tangible difference in each and every click of adjustment. I've found this makes it easier to set up your fork and much easier to make minor on trail adjustments. The RC2 damper has a notably more poppy feel than any of Fox's offerings and has a more skimmy feel compared to the ground hugging feel of the Fox Grip2 damper. I'm definitely a fan of this, but every rider is bound to have their own preferences so opinions may vary there.

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Long-Term Durability

     Aside from normal wear and tear from usage, I've experienced no real excessive damage or anything out of the ordinary. The Matte Slate paint job has held up extremely well to shuttle laps without any sort of aftermarket protection and the stanchions have held up to ditching the bike and quite a few crashes with zero scratching or wear to speak of. The one thing that I did experience was an audible (not feel-able) click midway through the fork's travel. I actually didn't even notice this until two months into riding the fork when we got a call from our RockShox Rep telling us about the issue which was present in a few airshafts due to manufacturing tolerance issues. No-biggy, Sram was able to replace the old airshaft with a warranty part and I'm stoked to report the fork has been click-free ever since! In short, the long-term durability of this fork has been great and I've had zero issues other than the slight click that Sram readily took care of!

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Who's it for?

     When it comes to who this fork is for, I'd honestly say any mountain biker who's running 170mm or more travel on a longer travel enduro bike or just doesn't find their existing Lyrik to be quite stiff enough. For the steep terrain we have here in Bellingham, this fork is truly a match made in heaven. When I bought the fork for myself, I wasn't quite sure I'd need the added stiffness of the ZEB, but I soon found that while I might not need it, I definitely do appreciate it. This fork really does just do its job absolutely flawlessly. If your bike is 150 or 160mm, I still think the Lyrik is a viable option and might even be preferable because of its lighter weight. Long story short, the RockShox ZEB is the new fork of choice for anyone looking to upgrade their Long-Travel Enduro bike and I don't hesitate for a second to recommend it for that application. For those with a 160mm fork, the choice is all yours between ZEB and Lyrik and that's a great thing as it really allows you to build your bike very purposefully.

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Well that's my take on the new RockShox ZEB Ultimate!


Featured Products

RockShox Zeb Ultimate 27.5
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ABOUT THE RIDER/WRITER

NAME AGE HEIGHT LOCATED

Henry Hibbeln

23

5'10"

Bellingham, WA

Current Bikes: Transition Patrol, Surly Straggler

Bike Size: Large

Favorite Trails: Galbraith/Glorieta Trails in Santa Fe

About Me: Transplanted from New Mexico and Michigan before that, Henry is a fan of spicy food, chunky trails, and endless bike park laps! Henry bounces back and forth between creating media content, taking photos, and helping customers get gear that will get them out on the trails. Looking for shock recommendations or where to get the best green chili? Henry might just be your guy.