What's in a name? Previously, when it came to the model names in RockShox's suspension line the answer was, 'A whole bunch of letters.' Those letters designated the features of each fork or shock; a Lyrik RCT3 for instance, or a SID RLC. That alphabet soup is going away for the model year 2020, at least for the components in RockShox's Signature Series, which includes the SID, Pike, Lyrik, and Boxxer forks, along with the Super Deluxe and Deluxe shocks.
Rather than a string of letters, there will now be three designations: Ultimate, Select+, or Select, in order to make it easier to see where a product sits in the RockShox suspension hierarchy. But there's more to the story than just a naming change and some new chassis colors – internal updates have been applied to the forks to reduce friction and improve performance, and there's a new Deluxe Ultimate shock in the lineup.
RockShox undertook a large data acquisition project last season in order to determine what changes could be made to improve their suspension products. Along with gathering feedback from a wide range of riders, time was spent trying out competitor's products in different forms – complete forks, someone else's damper into their own chassis, or a competitor's chassis with a RockShox damper. Based on the results of that project, RockShox took steps to reduce the friction in their forks, and to adjust the damper to prevent too much feedback from reaching a rider's hands. Fighting Friction
The less friction there is in a fork or shock, the better it can respond to impacts. It's a simple concept, but it's not always easy to drop the level of friction past a certain point. RockShox started by switching to Dynamic Seal Grease instead of SRAM Butter on the air spring side, and added a small amount of oil on top of that spring in order to make everything as slippery smooth as possible. On the damper side, Maxima Plush is now the stock oil, which is designed to reduce friction and make very little noise during compression and rebound.
There are also new SKF wiper seals, which are claimed to keep out the same amount of dirt as the previous seals without making as much contact with the stanchion tubes. Charger 2.1
The basic design of RockShox's Charger damper remains the same – it's still based on an expanding bladder layout, but several tweaks have been made in an effort to create a more comfortable ride. There's now a lighter high-speed compression tune, and the low-speed compression tune has also been adjusted to give riders the ability to use the entire range. Previously, setting up the fork with the maximum amount of low-speed compression created a nearly unusable setting, but that's no longer the case.
When working to determine what was creating the excess feedback that riders were experiencing, RockShox found that one of the culprits was the rebound piston's split glide ring. According to John Cancellier, RockShox product manager, “We found that under high-speed, aggressive events, oil could actually flow through the little split... To really be able to control those low speed rebound events we need to control every drop of oil that's flowing through the damper. If something is flowing through past the piston without being checked, that means your fork is not being controlled. Once we figured that out, we moved to a fitted wear band, a piece of plastic that's pushed on to the piston and fitted with a bullet tool. It's 100% sized to the damper. It basically means that oil cannot flow past it.”
Along with removing the split glide ring, changes were made to the rebound piston's flow path to create more digressive damping. That change should speed up the the rate that the fork returns its original state after an impact, allowing it to better handle repeated large hits.
The Charger 2.1 damper will be available in the Ultimate and Select+ versions of the Pike and Lyrik, and in the Boxxer Ultimate. It can also be installed in previous model year forks. Prices range from $250 - $375 for the cartridge depending on the fork and features.
The Pike Ultimate receives the Charger 2.1 damper, and adjustable high-speed compression.
The Deluxe Ultimate has a lever that provides three low-speed compression setting in the open position.New Deluxe Ultimate Shock
Given how hard riders are pushing shorter travel bikes it made sense to create a new inline shock that could handle those demands. The Deluxe Ultimate is the result, and while doesn't look all that different from the current Deluxe, it has internals that are similar to what are in a Super Deluxe. It has a checked damper, which is designed to prevent oil from flowing backward through the compression and rebound circuits. There are two main settings, open and firm, which are selected by moving the black lever. There are also three possible low-speed compression settings with the shock in the fully open position that are chosen by pushing and rotating the blue rectangular dial. 0 is the base setting, and then there is a + and – depending on the ride feel you're looking for.MegNeg Air Can
For riders looking to add even more tunability to their shock, there's a new air can available called the MegNeg. The can adds additional negative spring pressure, which can be adjusted by adding or subtracting bands.
That increased negative pressure should improve mid-stroke support and reduce the amount of force it takes for the shock to enter its travel, although it's best suited for bikes with more linear spring curves. On bikes with more progressive spring curves it's possible that installing a MegNeg will create too much mid-stroke support, potentially creating a harsher ride feel. Compatible with SuperDeluxe and Deluxe shocks, the MegNeg can is priced at $90 USD.
Pike Ultimate: $929 USD
Pike Select: $699
Lyrik Ultimate: $999 USD
Lyrik Select: $699
Boxxer Ultimate: $1699 USD
Boxxer Select: $1309
SID Ultimate Carbon: $999 - $1079
SID Ultimate: $799-$849
SID Select: $599 - $699
The 2019 Lyrik was no slouch, but given how many improvements RockShox rattled off, it made sense to do a little back-to-back testing with the new model to see if there was any noticeable difference.
Sintra, Portugal, was the location of the test track, which had plenty of rocks, jumps, and corners to subject the fork to a wide range of forces. After a few laps with the 2019 fork, the swap was made to the 2020 version. The initial part of the trail was relatively smooth, other than a few fun-sized jumps, and the difference between the to forks wasn't readily apparent. But once things got rockier, and the size of the impacts increased, the new model felt noticeably calmer. It wasn't drastic, but it felt like the fork had a lighter action, and was better able to handle those bigger hits without using up all of its travel.
I'll be subjecting the Lyrik to plenty of longer, steeper, and even rougher runs to really figure out how it stacks up, but so far my initial impressions are that the changes are for the better, building on the already high level of performance offered by the prior version. Deluxe Ultimate
The performance of a rear shock can be harder to evaluate than a fork due to the number of factors involved. Things like the kinematics of the frame, and the rebound and compression tune of the can have a big influence, and the way a shock feels on one frame can be completely different on another.
In this instance, I installed the new Deluxe Ultimate onto a Stumpjumper EVO 29 with 140mm of travel. The new three position compression lever is nice to have – I typically run it in the 0 (middle) position, but if I'm looking for a little extra grip it's easy to turn it to the -1 setting. The difference between the three settings is noticeable, but they're all very usable depending on what type of feel you're looking for.
I've been extremely impressed with the Deluxe Ultimate's performance so far. Granted, I haven't taken it on any massive, non-stop descents to see how well it can deal with heat, but other than that I've ridden it on just about every style of trail, from smooth and jumpy to raw and rugged. It delivers a very controlled and composed feel, with plenty of small bump sensitivity, and the ability to tune the amount of end-stroke ramp up with volume spacers for bigger hits. I'll be putting more miles on the shock in the coming months, but so far I haven't come across anything that I'd want to change - it's been handling every thing I've tossed its way without faltering in the slightest.
Photos: Roo Fowler & Dan Hearnrockshox.com