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Head to Head Review: 2023 RockShox Zeb vs Fox 38

Apr 13, 2023
by Seb Stott  


If you buy a phone, it's going to be Apple or Android. If you board a plane, it's probably built by Airbus or Boeing. If you're after suspension for your mountain bike, it'll most likely be from Fox or RockShox. The duopoly has been battling it out for MTB suspension supremacy for years, and while there are plenty of other brands out there, they corner most of the market because they make consistently good products.

For that reason, the Fox 38 and RockShox Zeb are natural rivals. Both have 38 mm upper tubes and are designed for enduro, ebike and (dare I say it) freeride use. Soon after they launched, Dan Roberts compared the two here on Pinkbike and concluded that performance-wise, there was no clear winner, but added that "bringing in the factors of weight, price and setup alongside performance makes the Zeb stick its nose ahead of the 38". On the other hand, I did my own testing at my previous employer and favoured the Fox 38.

But for the 2023 model year, RockShox thoroughly overhauled the Zeb with a new damper, air spring and vibration-reducing elastomers between the fork lowers and internals, called Buttercups. They also added bleed valves to match those found on the Fox 38, alongside subtler tweaks. So how do the two stack up now? I've been re-testing to find out. But first, here's how they compare on paper.



2023 Fox 38 Factory GRIP2 Details

• Travel options: 160, 170, 180 mm
• Chassis diameter: 38mm
• Damper: Grip 2 with Internal Floating Piston (IFP)
• Adjustments: High-speed compression, low-speed compression, low-speed rebound, high-speed rebound
• Kashima stanchion coating
• EVOL air spring with dual diameters
• Floating axle designed to cut friction
• Bypass channels
• Elliptical steerer
• Pressure Relief Valves
• Actual weight: 2,363 g
• MSRP: $1,249 USD / €1,659 / £1,349 / $1,689 CAD
• More info: ridefox.com
2023 RockShox Zeb Ultimate Details

• Travel options: 160, 170, 180, 190 mm
• Chassis diameter: 38mm
• Damper: Charger 3 with Internal Floating Piston (IFP)
• Adjustments: High-speed compression, low-speed compression, low-speed rebound
• ButterCups on air and damper shafts
• DebonAir+ air spring with increased negative volume than previous Zeb
• Ultimate Bushing Package maximizes the bushing overlap
• Pressure Relief Valves
• Actual weight: 2,337 g
• MSRP: $1,159 USD / €1,253 / £1,119 / $1170.35 CAD
• More info: www.rockshox.com



Weight, Cost and Options

Let's start with the easy stuff. The weight of the two forks is essentially identical. At 170 mm travel with uncut steerers, my sample 2023 Zeb weighs 2,337 g, while the 38 comes in at 2,363g. That's a small enough difference that it could potentially go either way depending on manufacturing variation, and it certainly shouldn't be a deciding factor.

The Fox 38 Factory is the more expensive fork in every currency. In the USA, the difference isn't huge, but in other regions, it's much larger. It's worth remembering that Fox also offers the Performance Elite 38, which has all the same features minus the Kashima stanchion coating, for a chunk less cash. It's hard to say for sure, but my feeling is that any differences are imperceptible on the trail. There's also the Performance model, which does without the bleed buttons and has a simpler GRIP damper, which I think is a superb choice, especially for lighter riders due to its lighter damping range.

Similarly, RockShox offers the entry-level Zeb Select, but that lacks the Charger 3 damper, pressure relief valves and extra bushing overlap of the Zeb Ultimate. There is the Zeb Select+, which is identical to the Zeb Ultimate except that it lacks the damper-side Buttercup and the extra Bushing overlap. Unfortunately, that's not for sale aftermarket.



photo

Technology and Features

These forks could trade blows all day long when it comes to feature count. And while the Fox 38 hasn't been significantly updated since it launched in 2020, the Zeb has seen a major overhaul to almost everything but the chassis.

photo
In my view, the most significant change to the Zeb is the Debonair+ air spring (top) which has a domed aluminum piston offering more negative volume for a smoother "touchdown feel".

RockShox Zeb features and updates

I wrote a whole article going into detail about the new technologies RockShox have brought out for their 2023 forks, which you can read here. These include Buttercups (rubber pucks at the bottom of the spring and damper designed to reduce high-frequency vibration); the Debonair+ air spring with more negative volume and a higher transfer port location designed to soften the touchdown feel, and the Charger 3 damper with more low-speed compression to compliment the softer initial travel of the Debonair+ spring, and less effect of the high-speed compression adjuster on low-speed damping behaviour.

For the Ultimate-level Zeb, RockShox has also increased the bushing overlap to reduce bushing friction when the fork is loaded up, and there are now bleed buttons to match Fox's, which allow excess pressure in the lowers to escape, thereby restoring off-the-top sensitivity after big changes of altitude or temperature.

RockShox retains their Torque Cap hub interface, which is claimed to provide a stiffer overall fork-and-wheel system when used with a Torque cap hup. It's interesting that these hubs haven't become popular aftermarket or among OEMs, as it seems to me to be a relatively lightweight and inexpensive way of adding stiffness. The main complaint with the fork interface is that installing a regular hub is more fiddly, but RockShox have addressed this with bolt-on inserts which mimic a regular 15 mm fork dropout.

Fox 38 vs RockShox Zeb
The 38's axle clamps the hub, not the fork. After the hub is clamped against the left leg, the pinch bolt secures the axle to the right leg, so the legs remain parallel independent of the hub width.

Fox 38 Features and Updates

The 38 may not have been revised recently but it's still big on tech.

One of the biggest tricks hidden up its sleeve is the air spring, which includes a smaller diameter tube inside the fork stanchion. This arguably reduces friction by reducing seal contact area; it also allows Fox to vary the inner diameter of the stanchion wall for structural optimisation. But the biggest advantage is probably that it allows them to have a smaller diameter tube where the piston slides, and a larger diameter above where the piston sits at bottom-out. This increases the volume of the air chamber relative to the diameter of the piston, reducing the compression ratio.

This in turn allows Fox to use more of the available volume for the negative chamber - thereby improving sensitivity at the start of the stroke and adding support in the middle of the travel - without making the fork too progressive. In contrast, when RoxckShox increased the negative volume for 2023, they reduced the positive volume, which makes the fork very progressive in long-travel versions.

Fox's VVC valving is also interesting. Rather than changing the high-speed damping by changing the preload on a spring-loaded high-speed valve, Fox's VVC valves change the stiffness of a valve spring. The idea is to avoid the on/off behaviour that preloaded valves can have and make the damping response more proportionate at the extreme ends of the adjustment range.

Fox also boasts a floating axle design, which allows the fork legs to perfectly self-align independently of the hub width tolerances. Fox claims this can cut friction significantly compared to a traditional axle which squeezes both fork legs together against the hub. The quick-release axle is particularly neat as you only have to use the pinch bolt once per wheelset, to set the fork to the exact width of your hub. After that, you just use it like a regular QR axle until you change the wheels.

Finally, there's the Kashima stanchion coating found on the Factory model. When I asked them about how much effect this really has, Fox claimed that it "cuts friction by 10-12% compared to black anodized coating … and it increases hardness, which in turn increases scratch resistance and overall stanchion durability." Take that with a pinch of salt, but it's interesting to hear Fox put a rough number on the friction reduction.



photo

Spring Dyno Testing

Thanks to Mojo Rising in Monmouth for letting me use their spring dyno (spring force tester) once again. This is essentially a bottle jack with a force plate, which can be rigged to compress a fork a few millimeters at a time and measure the force required to reach each increment of travel. It's intended for testing shock springs, so unfortunately, it can't be used for the entire travel range of the fork - only the first 120 mm or so.

The above graph shows how the force curve of the Fox 38 compares to the 2023 Zeb. Both were set to 170 mm travel, with the settings I've been running on the trail - 68 psi and no spacers in the Zeb; 100 psi with one spacer in the Fox 38. The Zeb was tested on the dyno after it had a lower leg service.

You can see that they're both producing the same force at about 25 mm travel, which translates to similar amounts of sag. But you can also see that the Zeb requires much more force to compress into the very first part of the travel, requiring more than 100 N of force (about 10 kg) to compress by 5 mm. But after the sag point, the Zeb is providing less resistance through the mid-stroke. It's a shame I couldn't measure all the way to bottom-out, but I suspect the lines would converge, because of how the Zeb's curve starts to ramp up after 100 mm, and because I've been using similar amounts of travel on the biggest compressions.

The "nose" of the Zeb's curve (the large amount of force at the start of the travel compared to a linear spring) was a surprise to me. To make sure it wasn't a measurement error, I tested the Zeb three times and got a similar curve each time. I also tested the 2023 RockShox Pike and Fox 34 (see the graph on the right) and the outcome is similar - the RockShox fork takes a significant amount of force to break into the first few millimeters of travel, but then the curve flattens out, while the Fox is much closer to linear.

It's worth remembering that these aren't the spring curves per se as I measured the force to compress the whole fork, not just the spring. I'm not claiming they're 100% accurate but they're an objective (if rough) measure of the force required to compress the fork against travel.
photo
Comparing the 2023 RockShox Pike to the Fox 34 tells a similar story - the Fox is more linear at the start of the travel.







Setup

My final settings for the Zeb were 68 psi, 0 volume spacers, and rebound fully open (18 clicks out). The RockShox setup app recommends 68 Psi, but only 10 clicks of rebound from closed. LSC and HSC anywhere between fully open and half-closed.

For the 38, I stuck with 100 psi, 1 volume spacer, low-speed rebound 14 clicks from closed, and high-speed rebound 6 clicks from closed. The spring pressure is in line with Fox's pressure chart but the rebound was much faster than recommended - though not quite fully open. In both cases, I was running one fewer volume spacer than the fork ships with at 170 mm.

I tested both forks back-to-back on two bikes: a Canyon Strive and a Hope HB916. I've also ridden the 2023 Zeb on a few other bikes, including the Merida One-Sixty and Pole Voima. I've ridden many examples of the Fox 38 on enduro and electric bikes.


photo
Seb Stott
Location: Tweed Valley, Scotland
Age: 30
Height: 6'3" / 191cm
Inseam: 37" / 93cm
Weight: 189 lbs / 86 kg, kitted

photo

On the Trail

My first impressions of the 2023 Zeb were not good. While previous RockShox forks have always felt springy and supple, the 2023 Zeb was slow on rebound even when set to fully open. The small-bump sensitivity was also poor, which resulted in me dropping the pressure below the recommended 68 psi all the way to 62 psi to try and improve traction and comfort. This resulted in the fork using too much travel on bigger impacts, lacking support and predictability.

After a handful of rides, I decided to take the fork apart and have a look inside. I didn't measure how much oil was inside because it went straight into the oil tray, but it didn't look like the specified 20 ml per leg. I cleaned the seals, re-lubed the foam rings and injected 20 ml of oil into each leg. The suppleness was dramatically improved. This allowed me to increase the pressure to 68 psi for more support, while still maintaining good sensitivity.

The Zeb is decidedly progressive. Even at 170 mm travel I was struggling to get anywhere close to full travel with the single volume spacer the fork ships with. Even with it removed, I'm rarely seeing more than 160 mm of travel. When riding the Zeb at 190 mm on a Pole Voima, I fitted a TruTune insert (which does the opposite of a volume spacer) to make it more linear and allow access to more of the travel.

Even after changing the oil, the rebound isn't that fast when fully open. With the previous Zeb, I was running about 10-12 (of 18 ) clicks from closed and you can definitely set it too fast, but every 2023 Zeb I've ridden I've ended up setting it fully open, and that is something I've heard echoed from some other testers.

With the Zeb dialled in, I jumped back on the Fox 38 for some back-to-back testing. The best way to summarise the difference in a word is that the Fox feels more "springy". There's noticeably more spring force holding you up in the middle third of the travel and the rebound (although not quite fully open) was faster. Combined, this made the 38 feel more eager and responsive, like a boxer who gets straight back in the fight even after taking a heavy hit. The Zeb feels lazier by comparison, taking slightly longer to recover.

photo

Also, when riding without braking over rough and fast sections (like the one shown above), the fork is regularly cycling in and out of the first part of the travel. Sometimes the wheel loses contact with the trail momentarily, before reconnecting again. This can happen surprisingly often on fast, rough tracks. In these situations, the 38 feels a little smoother when it reconnects with the ground. Ironically, RockShox came up with a brilliant name for this attribute - "touchdown feel" - but on the trail, it's the Fox that scores highest in this metric. This is backed up by the force curves shown above, which I produced after doing the bulk of on-trail testing.

But sensitivity is nothing without support. If set fully open, the Zeb sometimes lacks support and uses more of its travel than expected. Interestingly I found this to be more problematic on the Hope HB916 than the Canyon Strive, presumably because of the rearward axle path putting more weight on the front in big compressions. Fortunately, adding compression (especially if you set both LSC and HSC to halfway) increases support noticeably without making the fork too harsh. The compression adjusters have a more dramatic effect on the Zeb than the Fox, and I used them more often to add support for steeper tracks, then back them off when sensitivity was a priority. But with the Fox, the more linear spring curve allows it to balance sensitivity and support well for a broad range of terrain without having to touch the compression adjusters. So although the Fox has more dials, it's more of a set-and-forget option.

One criticism that's often levelled at the Fox 38 is that it sits too low in its travel. You can see from the above force curves that it gives away the first 10 mm of travel without much of a fight, and it sags readily into the travel. In my view, though, this is a good thing as it improves the off-the-top sensitivity, giving a "stuck to the ground" sensation while providing plenty of support deeper in the middle third of the travel. To those who find the 38 (or any fork) sits too low in the travel, I'd recommend trying a higher bar height, removing a volume spacer and increasing spring pressure relative to the setup chart, or even trying a 10 mm longer air shaft so you have the desired ride height at sag without having to compromise the spring curve at the start of the travel. Speeding up the rebound from the recommended setting will also help the fork ride higher in its travel on the trail (this is true of the Zeb and Fox 38 ).

In terms of long-run comfort, both are excellent and I can't pick a winner. A lot of reviewers have suggested that stiffer forks lead to more harshness, but I really don't think there's any comfort or traction compromise when compared to a smaller stanchion alternative. Both forks offer impressive sensitivity and comfort, and in my view, the burlier forks transmit less harshness and remain more composed in the chunkiest terrain.

photo

Durability

Aside from the issue I discussed with the initial stickiness that was fixed with a lower leg service, I also had the compression adjusters come loose and stop working on the Zeb. This was even simpler to fix, only requiring the dials to be reset and the securing bolt torqued up. Aside from that, I've put in a lot of time on this fork and a few other examples with no major issues, as you would expect.

With the Fox 38, I have even more experience, having ridden many examples, including one fork I've tested extensively since early 2020. No issues to report here, and in fact, I've been impressed with how slowly the performance degrades between services. You still notice when the oil and seals are refreshed after a few months of regular riding, but it's not the night and day difference you get with a fork that's desperate for a refresh.

Officially, RockShox recommends a lowers service every 50 hours and a full service every 200 hours of riding. Fox says 125 hours or yearly for a full service, or more regularly for extreme use or maximum performance. Honestly, though, these guidelines aren't really comparable. Both forks use at least 20 ml of oil in each leg (40 ml in the 38's damper side) which presumably extends the performance window compared to forks using lower oil volumes.



photo
Photo: Innes Graham

Verdict
bigquotesPerformance-wise, I think the Fox 38 is still king of the hill. Compared to the 2023 Zeb, it offers a little more off-the-top sensitivity, mid-travel support, and more room to manoeuvre for those who like fast rebound or a less progressive end-stroke (and I would include myself in that camp).

But leaving aside the out-of-the-box stickiness from my test sample, the 2023 Zeb is an improvement over the original and is therefore a very good fork. The compression adjustment is intuitive and effective, the long-run comfort is superb, and the balance of support vs sensitivity is good, just not quite as good as the Fox 38. I'd put the Zeb ahead of the Ohlins RXF38 M.2 but still slightly behind Fox.

Is it worth the extra money? I can't answer that for you, partly because the price difference changes so much by region, and partly because the on-trail performance differences are fairly subtle compared to the setup window each fork has. To tell them apart, I had to spend a long time dialling in the setup, and then test them back-to-back on the same track. Even then, there were only a few sections where I felt the 38 was performing better. But on the subject of value, what I would say is that it's mostly the air spring that makes the Fox 38 so good, so consider the Performance or Performance Elite versions, both of which are excellent.
Seb Stott




Author Info:
seb-stott avatar

Member since Dec 29, 2014
314 articles

406 Comments
  • 354 5
 I own a fox fork, therefore I will argue that it is better.
  • 194 5
 Nuh uh. I own a rockshox, therefore I argue that it's better!
  • 60 1
 Nope, you're both wrong. It's steel truss forks all the way baby
  • 197 1
 @lowkeyokeydokey: I own a 4 prong fork, and it picks up food way better than both of these.
  • 61 0
 @mrmikebikes: I've got Trailforks on my phone. Suspension is pretty bad, lines are all shakey.
  • 131 23
 These forks just trying to be Manitou..
Supple and supportive

Tokens are trash.
Dorado air spring with IRT = superior
Other manufacturers are catching on.

Transfer port is trash.
Valve equalizing postive/negative chamber with shock pump = superior

“Touchdown Feel”? Just push the dorado air spring down 10mm when airing up. Now you have over pressurized the negative chamber.

But wait, its Manitou. Not Fox or Rockshox. So nobody believes! Do yourself a favor and hop off that hype train…
  • 144 1
 Pick a fork and be a dick about it.
  • 30 0
 I own a narrower stanchion diameter fork, therefore I will argue that is better!
  • 5 0
 @KoopaTroopa: He's not lying though
  • 45 0
 Shampoo is better! I go on first and clean the hair.
  • 64 0
 I own a Bos fork, therefore I will argue that none of you should buy one, ever. Save yourselves!
  • 2 0
 Tastes great!!
  • 11 1
 @scottyrides5: especially after burnishing the bushings on my mezzer , hands down best single crown fork I've had
  • 10 0
 I own both, so its an argument I can win and lose
  • 8 0
 @vinay: I'm at a fork in the road....can't pick which one to get?
  • 17 0
 @rickybobby18: Conditioner is better! I leave the hair silky and smooth!
  • 10 0
 @stuie321: Or, if you believe some in the comments here, an argument you could lose twice over to a Manitou/Ohlins/EXT owner haha.

When is someone going to finally compile a reasonable shootout of these new-gen Enduro forks? Four years ago I felt like there were some great reviews comparing all of the top-end 35/36mm stanchion forks.
  • 2 1
 @rickybobby18: Conditioner is better. I leave the hair silky and smooth.
  • 9 1
 @scottyrides5: Recently having conversations with someone saying this and how incredibly good the Mezzer is
  • 5 1
 Take it several steps further on the 38. I had the Avalanche cartridge installed w/ all of Craigs bells and whistles along with adding a Secus and fully tuned-- OMG!!! It is absolutely AMAZING!!!!! Hypersensitive & sticks to the ground WOW!!!!
  • 9 1
 @scottyrides5: My Mezzer when working right is the best feeling fork I have ever used........then like switch it will feel terrible. 5 rides into it... the negative air spring pressure purged out... leaving an overly stiff, overly extended fork that was topping out aggressively.... during a race. It has happened numerous time despite a rebuild.

I love the fork... when its working.... but it needs more attention. Fortunately, the service is waaaaaaaay easier than a Fox or RS.
  • 10 14
flag GTscoob (Apr 13, 2023 at 10:28) (Below Threshold)
 If you like the Manitou IRT but want a real fork with a modern damper, just install a Diaz Suspension Design Runt in your choice of Rockshox or Fox fork. It's the best of both worlds.
  • 6 0
 I have a wooden fork and its the ultimate in recycleble environmentally freindly forks
  • 16 0
 I own a spork...
  • 2 0
 @scottyrides5: dont let everyone in on the secret
  • 10 2
 @ericls: Lucky, all I've got is a single chopstick.

Cannondale Lefty joke ha
  • 1 0
 I can't remember what's on my bike! Works good enough I guess.
  • 1 0
 @barrysbikes: Like pinball, aim for the middle and see which direction you bounce.
  • 36 3
 @GTscoob: While I agree that the Runt is a great product and will improve any fork using volume spacers, the Manitou Mezzer is more advanced than either Fox or Rockshox. Twin tube design, bladder for zero friction but has a blow-off so it won't rupture, hydraulic bottom-out support so you don't have to compromise your spring tune, its really well made, easy to revalve if you want a different tune, service is similar to bleeding a Charger damper. The fact that the Mezzer comes with that damper, and the IRT (instead of having to pay another $200 for a Runt), and it weighs 300 grams less than Zeb/38 while only having 1mm smaller tubes, AND it costs less is seriously impressive. But I know, it looks funny and no one is winning races on them, so you probably shouldn't buy one.
  • 3 1
 @matyk: OH REALLY FOOL?
  • 8 3
 @hypermoto: I don't think anyone questions that Manitou is better than Fox and RockShox. I think they just compare these two in the article as they're the biggest OEM player even though I think the Hayes group is more than ready to take back a bigger share. People love the new Hayes brakes, people love the Manitou forks. Personally I think I'd prefer Formula over SRAM and Fox too (similar to Hayes, both for brakes and suspension) though I don't think they currently or soon offer a single crown fork as big as the ones in the article.
  • 3 0
 @scottyrides5: swapped my 36 for one. I believe.
  • 5 0
 @matyk: stop looking at me Swaaaaan!!!!
  • 2 1
 @SangamonTaylor: That's a fair indicator that you're riding RST or maybe Suntour.
  • 4 0
 @ridintrials: At least one person got it... We're not that old are we???
  • 7 11
flag funkzander (Apr 13, 2023 at 13:02) (Below Threshold)
 @scottyrides5: if they would get rid of that reverse arch design. back in the 90ies i was a big fan of the manitou 4 and efc and the mach forks that came after but manitou please get rid of that reverse arch.
  • 9 2
 I have both so it is a tie Honestly though, the Zeb is leagues better than the 38 as my experience is the exact opposite as Seb's. Fox cannot be made fast enough on the rebound side. Has been serviced 3 times by Fluid Focus and hasn't gotten any better. Zeb is significantly more supple while also being more supportive.
  • 2 13
flag Ignaciosc22 (Apr 13, 2023 at 14:47) (Below Threshold)
 @scottyrides5: this guy seems to know wtf he is saying but.... fox makes competitive suspesion for vehicles also... Suntour doesnt... how the f*ck can suntour have a superior system... doesnt make sense

what about oHlins? ... DVO? others...
  • 1 0
 @vinay: How do you think you would prefer something? Have you ridden any of them? im trying to decide wtf fork to buy as an upgrade... currently i have front and back RS select... 155 rear and 150 front.... both 2023.
  • 7 4
 @KoopaTroopa: pick a dick and be a fork about it
  • 1 0
 @diggerandrider: is that even the same fork at that point
  • 7 2
 So sick of just the Fox/RS comparison, although I get it considering they are probably 2 of PB's top sponsors..... The DVO Onyx I'm on now feels sooo much better than my last FOX 36. Ohlins and EXT are crushing it as well. I hope other suspension brands start to make it onto more bikes. The current OEM climate is so boring....
  • 2 0
 @rickybobby18: I got this shirt from FRANK!
  • 1 0
 @rickybobby18: stop looking at me swan
  • 2 0
 I’m a crazy outlier here because I run my zeb at 3-4 clicks from full closed @75psi. Full open sounds insane, like a trying to hold onto a jackhammer.
  • 9 2
 @Ignaciosc22: Simple answer: Manitou isn't Suntour. Or anything like Suntour. Manitou was founded in 1990 when a mountain biker by the name of Doug Bradbury built for himself the first suspension fork put on a mountain bike. They've been in the game for a while.
  • 4 0
 I put a vorsprung spring (Smashpot) in my 38 and really really like it.
  • 2 0
 @Fix-the-Spade: man the Deville was the best fork I had until I needed to service it.
  • 1 0
 @Ignaciosc22: ohlins auto suspension is insane. Had coilovers on a car that sees track time and guys with Porsche gt cars marveled at the handling of my car on street tires.
  • 5 0
 @scottyrides5: I need a Manitou in my life
  • 22 1
 @scottyrides5: I got tired reading all the Manitou comments in every RS and Fox review. Then I purchased a Mezzer Pro for $750 from a major Euro site. NO contest, made my properly setup (and cleaned/fresh oiled) Grip2 feel like one end was set up wrong. Either make it soft for chatter or stiff for big hits. The other end will suffer in feel and performance versus IRT.
Crap, now I'm one of those Manitou weirdos in the RS/Fox comment section.
  • 7 2
 @TahoeEbikes: You ride Ebikes and "need a Manortwo in your life." You have issues and need counseling.
  • 3 0
 @ryanandrewrogers: and it was in manitou springs colorado hence the name that's where I am now
  • 1 1
 @bikewriter: join the club happily while they can't find stuff on sale
  • 2 1
 @rickybobby18: conditioner is better! I leave the hair feeling silky and smoooooth
  • 1 5
flag thenotoriousmic (Apr 14, 2023 at 3:31) (Below Threshold)
 @Ignaciosc22: SR Suntour make Fox forks, DVO and Marz when Marz was still Marz and now they’re owned by fox I’m assuming they’re still made by Suntour. I think RST made rockshox.
  • 1 0
 @rickybobby18: OH REALLY!
  • 1 0
 @likeittacky: lonely fool
  • 1 0
 @therealnobody: Misery loves company
  • 2 0
 @salespunk: same here. Haven’t spent much time on fox 38 but the zeb immediately felt better. Everyone else I know that’s tried both come way with the same opinion, much prefer the zeb
  • 1 0
 @lifeofloon: and the steerer went and took 3 months to get repaired , like mine ?
  • 1 0
 @pigman65: one has actually held up well but the other has acquired the crown creak. I can get seals but no way to have them rebuilt without shipping them overseas which I won't do.
  • 1 0
 @lifeofloon: Yup, if anything in it ever breaks it's new fork time, but I'm resisting that as long as possible. A real shame when the performance of the fork is so good.
  • 3 0
 @thenotoriousmic: SR SunTour has never made Fox components. RST has nothing to do with RockShox.

SunTour did in fact make Marz pre-2011, and when former Marz employees left to create DVO, they continued that partnership. All of them are manufactured in the same city now, Taichung, Taiwan.

Fox operates a facility there producing only Fox and Marz, SR SunTour operates a separate facility producing SunTour and DVO, and Rockshox has one of its own too. RST operates a lot of facilities in Taiwan they primarily produce cheap moped forks.
  • 2 1
 @likeittacky: OH man burned me so good. Tssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss'
  • 2 4
 @scottyrides5:
Or you get 2 mattocs, both of them with bushing play, get them replaced with one eith bushing play and one with 0.2 mm undersized shaft diameter so no stem will clamp thight. As always, good ones and bad ones…
  • 1 0
 @scottyrides5: color me intrigued
  • 2 0
 i own a marzochi z1 fork its fox, just half the price, therefore its better
  • 2 1
 @ryanandrewrogers: that’s not true. When Fox started making forks they made shocks for a long time before coming out with forks they were made by SR Suntour and some of the internals were made by Fox and at the time rockshox were made by RST. It’s almost impossible to find this information online as neither fox or RS acknowledge it publicly at all but at once point SR Suntour was producing Fox forks.
  • 1 0
 @thenotoriousmic: Well, you're darn right about not being able to find out online lol I guess it makes sense, especially considering when RS and Fox did open their own facilities they just so happened to be in the same city as SunTour and RST.
SunTour really produced the golden era of Marz forks, and for that I'm grateful.
  • 2 0
 @hypermoto: A bud kept trying to get me to try his Mezzer. When I finally did, I ordered one the next day and sold my Factory 38.
I did the bushing burnishing and retuned the damper for my riding.
Hands down, the best fork I've ever used.

Even better was how it works for my 110lb wife. I've always used the Push AC3 coil adapter on her forks.
Now, with a super light tune, I'm able to run her Mezzer air springs at 22PSI/35PSI and it actually works.
  • 1 0
 @Ignaciosc22:
Wrong way regarding the fork.

Lyrik Select:

Buy avalanche damping cartridge incl hydraulic bottom Out and an AWK For the Air chamber, let someone callibrates the bushings.
Best fork you COULD ever have.

Shock: get a cheap Coil used shock Like the Bomber CR or Van RC and let IT BE tuned by avalanche as Well. Like high end shock
  • 1 0
 @bansaiman: ive been thinking about getting my van avy tuned once it needs a service
  • 239 7
 Here's the head to head battle between the X2 and the Super Deluxe.

Round 1. Fox X2 comes cavitated out of the box and is sent back for replacement. New shock cavitates in 4 rides.

Round 2: Fox refuses to warranty new shock.

Rock Shox wins.
  • 15 0
 Perfect
  • 34 6
 No joke, just had my new bike built up yesterday with a fresh new X2 on it. Sit on it for the first time.. "squelch, squelch, squelch" and no rebound. Knew there was a reason for hedging my bets and buying a RS Super Deluxe Ultimate as a "back up shock".

Seriously though, how is Fox still allowed to be selling and specing this thing??!! Should there not be some kind of forced recall? Did some googling and it seems they recalled the same shock back in 2016... this thing is definitely beyond a recall at this point. If anyone wants to start a class action, I'll sign up!
  • 32 4
 such a great shock when it works.....

And sorry for being that guy, the shock comes emulsified, meaning air in the damper chamber. Cavitated is the oil ripped apart into a gas, which will often self rectify under pressure and a nitrogen charge. While emulsified via gas/air intrusion, well it aint gonna fix itself.
  • 17 1
 This literally just happened to my friend this week. Float X PE on his new bike in the fall, got a handful of rides before it cavitated. Took it to the LBS, they sent it to Fox. Got it back, was cavitated out of the box. Repeated twice more. $800 in service, and now Fox is saying the shock can’t be serviced and will sell him a crash replacement for $250. Not feeling a lot of love for Fox at the moment.
  • 10 0
 I've read that Fox has been addressing X2's that are sent in for warranty work by upgrading them with 2024 parts.
  • 13 0
 @jeremy3220: About time, it seems like they've been selling a straight-up faulty shock for a few years.
  • 13 0
 @ryanandrewrogers: they also claimed to have fixed it with the 2023 parts so I'm a bit skeptical
  • 4 2
 @islandforlife: It’s crazy that Fox keeps selling the X2 and even crazier that companies keep specing so many OEM, none of which work.

It’s a shame because it’s an awesome shock when it works, and the ~2019 models were very reliable. The drop off is bizarre, and it’s frustrating Fox can’t fix it / offer a solution.
  • 17 0
 @mtmc99: Same lol I'm convinced Fox just builds really homesick suspension, everything they make finds a way back to them.
  • 7 0
 It's a sad day when Rockshox wins a comparison for least amount of issues out of the box or for their warranty support, let alone both.
  • 3 3
 @way2manyhobbies2keep: Cavitation is formation of pockets of vapour in a liquid that suddenly collapse. Emulsification is when you have two immiscible liquids, which is what happens when you have something like oil and water.

So, no it's not emulsified.
  • 2 0
 @ryanandrewrogers: And by a few years, we mean quite literally since launch. We're closer to a decade than we are a few years that this point.
  • 4 1
 @nickfranko: While this is true, I was under the impression that pre-2019 Fox had a bit better quality control on them so they weren't shipping as many bad eggs.

I am also under the impression that between 2020-22 Fox managed to pretty much ship 95% bad eggs, which has been the real nail in the coffin for the X2.
  • 2 0
 @mtmc99: they claimed to have fixed it in 2020 stating that it was an issue with the seals. Haven’t gone back to riding it since. Not surprised to see that 4 years later the shock is still prone to aeration under very little use. No different than before.
  • 5 0
 Basically my experience with the X2, although Fox did warranty it both times. Switched to a Float X and it's been incredibly reliable after a year of lots of riding and minimal service.
  • 2 0
 @islandforlife: That's pretty terrible. I almost ordered an X2 for my new Fugitive, but went with the SD instead. I am very glad I did.
  • 1 0
 I can confirm this is how it plays out now
  • 3 0
 Last two X2 I've owned sh!t the bed in less than a month. I moved to coil on one bike, RS on the other. Crazy they're still selling those things, I don't know anyone who HASN'T had one go bad after a few months. Shame............shame............shame
  • 3 0
 @nickfranko: shoot ive been wrong for so long,

But is also isnt cavitation: In engineering, cavitation refers to the formation of vapor-filled cavities or bubbles in a liquid due to changes in pressure.

The air isnt due to low pressure, its a high pressure intrusion of air getting past the oil seal
  • 1 0
 legend
  • 2 0
 @scotteh: "Thats because its GOOOLD! a victim of an unfortunate schmelting accident" -Johann van der Smut
  • 4 0
 @way2manyhobbies2keep: the mechanic at a high end local suspension shop (he's a Swiss engineer who has wrenched on the world cup) told me the same thing when i brought my bike in for service. said the X2's are fubar'd right from the factory with foamy oil. showed me a video of the rootbeer flowing out of the damper when he opened it up. totally nuts. after service it feels amazing, like a coil shock.
  • 4 0
 @nickfranko: is it permissible to say immiscible? not trying to be an imbecile.
  • 2 0
 @jeremy3220: About 2 weeks ago sent an X2 in for leaking oil and they sent back a new 2024
  • 1 0
 @misterlight: Now you do. Mine's great.
  • 87 8
 We'll take the new SR Suntour Durolux 38 and a few hundred bucks.....
  • 5 0
 real winner
  • 7 7
 eh...show me the damper design and some dyno curves. No friggin way I'm ever spending money on another product just on claims or hype. Been burned too many times, just like future buyers of a 38 or Zeb.
  • 7 1
 Damn willing to pay more than a 2022 zeb for awful damping. Great
  • 3 24
flag nickfranko (Apr 13, 2023 at 10:42) (Below Threshold)
 I would it if it were free. Otherwise, hard pass. And it would have all the stickers peeled so I wouldn't have to explain why I'm running a Suntour on an enduro bike. Do a better job of advertising your high-end components so it's not associated with Walmart bikes. Thanks!
  • 3 0
 Can I use the savings on a bluetooth speaker to drown out the damper? Love my Aion btw.
  • 14 4
 @JohanG: It depends on what you are looking for.

With suspension, all that is needed to be able to ride stuff at a fairly high level is a air fork and shock with simple needle rebound damping, and the standard compression valving that is permanently set into the "open" mode. Just with the three avenues of tuning between psi/volume reduction/rebound, as well as secondary stuff like tire choice/pressure/inserts, you can set the bike up for any terrain - however that means that if you change up the terrain/riding style, your setup may not be the best.

As you start to add features, you are essentially adding "niceness" to your suspension in being able to quickly tune it for different terrains simply through settings changes without touching the air spring. For example, adding LSC has the same effect as having a stiffer/more progressive spring for bike handling, so you get more support, however on bigger hits the damper blows off to the high speed circuit so you get the full compliance of suspension.

Whether or not you need that is fully up to you. There are quite a few ex BMX riders that grew up riding fully rigid bikes and have all the "suspension" in their arms and legs tuned quite well, so when they get on mountainbikes, even the stiffest setups feel super comfortable to them. They often ride with a lot of pressure in suspension and never really touch compression or rebound if the bike has it. On the flip side, ex Moto guys who are used to the bike doing a lot of work are way more sensitive to suspension will rely on the bike to do a lot more work.
  • 2 0
 Few hundred bucks so you can buy oil and put some in the lowers to not have shitty performance after 4/5h of ride. Other than that the Durolux is a decent option if you don't mind an extra 400gr at the front of your bike.
  • 1 0
 Time to hire some stateside OE sales and Tuner guys, and to make a good rear shock. I know some people if you need a referral.
  • 1 0
 @JohanG: give 1 example... sir...
  • 1 0
 @Ignaciosc22: I wish I could.
  • 2 0
 @way2manyhobbies2keep: the Tri-air is virtually identical to the DVO Topaz, main/only difference is the IFP/Bladder which you could probably retrofit. And the coil shock they just released is a Jade so if you need HsC you probably can also retrofit the compression assembly from the Jade and call it a day.
  • 1 0
 @Balgaroth: Forget it. I was stupid (and optimistic) enough these last 5 years with the Auron RC2 I ride, trying to improve it hopelessly, even if it's not a "bad fork". These are probably the only forks that actually DON'T require oil in the lowers, believe it or not :-)
It just "works" if bushings are regularly greased with a pencil and some Sram Butter for example, in addition with some (Fox 34) foam rings regularly soaked with some (good) oil.
Beside this, their new PCS cartridge is kind of a joke. I changed mine this summer (cos it's cheap and costs the price of a single service, the previous one leaked and passed away...) and....settings are... almost unexistant, and I guess the oil inside is not appropriated. Suntour forks are like french Mobylettes: they are cheap and handy but you spend more time repairing/servicing/trying to improve them than riding them Smile *
*(which is not true 'cos Mobylettes are super solid and reliable!)
  • 3 0
 Why don't you make a coil version?

There's plenty of riders who'd be interested in something like the old Marz RC3 ti forks (which I believe Suntour manufactured?)
  • 51 1
 Excellent article, providing both subjective and objective measures for assessment. Great job as usual Seb.

Did you measure the spring dyno testing on the Zeb before or after the lower leg service?

Did you do a lower leg service on the 38 as well?

In my experience, all forks benefit greatly from a meticulous lower leg service right out of the box. Sadly forks (and likely shocks) don't seem to be assembled with great attention to detail and they really suffer from it.
  • 12 1
 Thanks for the feedback. The dyno curve for the Zeb was generated soon after the lower leg service. The Fox wasn't serviced before putting it on the dyno.
  • 13 0
 Having been to Taiwan and into bike suspension factories I can confirm they are assembled very quickly. If you know what you're doing a lower leg service even right out the box is very likely a good idea.
  • 26 21
 Let’s not kid ourselves about “objective” suspension tests. And this is no dig at Seb, as every review reads similarly. A bottlejack with a force plate lacks external validity (possibly internal validity as well), complete lack of controls like back to back testing on different bikes, unblinded, one test subject, with an n of what — 8 maybe?

Objective tests would need to be blinded, randomized, controlled, internally valid, and with a sample size higher than a 4 year old can count. Again, not a dig at Seb. I just dislike the pretense of “science and objectivity” when there is no actual rigor applied.

Let’s just call it what it is. These are opinions on forks. I like Manitou, other people like Fox, RS, Ohlins, etc. Let’s leave the science to the scientists and go ride our bikes with whatever fork we have.
  • 6 0
 @seb-stott: really like how you connected on trail feel directly to a lab measurement. Excellent mix of qualitative and quantitative data.
  • 17 0
 @Hayek: I think Seb did a fair job in the article of pointing out that the dyno testing wasn't particularly rigorous and shouldn't be taken as gospel. The testing info is more information than no information though and helps to make sense of what he was feeling on the trail with these two particular forks

I enjoyed the read
  • 3 1
 @seb-stott: did you take the dampers out?
  • 8 11
 @tom666: sure, he was transparent about that. I think I disliked his mocking tone in his other article this morning where he referred to the “science” in the bike industry and then went on to commit the exact same sin. And you’re right, some information is better than no information, so I have no right to complain. I just don’t like the guise of testing, science, and all the rest when what we have here is one person’s anecdotal experience riding two different forks on two bikes. Maybe I’m just sour after being beat up so many times during peer review for journal publications.
  • 4 0
 Great review, I enjoyed the read.
It's always entertaining to see how Rockshox can't seem to be able to improve their air springs without downgrading performance in a way or another... Luckilybwe have aftermarket solutions ;⁠-⁠)
  • 1 10
flag DizzyNinja (Apr 13, 2023 at 11:13) (Below Threshold)
 @seb-stott: Where did you find a Zeb Ultimate in Canada for $1170??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
  • 3 0
 @tom666: we pay very high prices for these and they lack the qc, it should've been a joke but is real
  • 5 1
 @Hayek: If one was to write a paper on the subject, one would have to be far more rigorous.
But bike forks are toys for a recreational hobby. I doubt anyone is interested in doing publishable science on this topic.
What Seb is doing is already far more structured and knowledge seeking than almost all other bike media or forum content.
  • 1 0
 @Hayek: suspiciously reasonable view from a Manitou fan Wink
  • 2 0
 Sometimes I think the test verdict might be true for the tester, but maybe less for me. Or at least I hope so ;-)
But riding a ZEB myself, I need to admit the test verdict is true for me as well. I run LSC full open to overcome the touchdown harshness and I also run LSR fully open.
But at the same time I run HSC almost closed. Weird
Let's wait what RS will tell us at the next damper upgrade!
  • 48 1
 Posted this in the Rockshox tech article as well:
Great detailed content. Really think that Pinkbike should write their articles and then send a summary of the negative claims (for instance, the sticky beginning of travel on the Zeb) to the product's engineering team for comment or rebuttal. And then include their rebuttal (but not modify the original article/review the editor wrote). This would provide a lot more information to the reader at it would allow the engineering team to maybe explain why the Pinkbike Editor is seeing something and how that applies in their testing/real world.
  • 11 0
 I’d be all over this type of content
  • 1 0
 This would actually be very insightful.
  • 10 0
 Problem is, most product manage and design teams don't give a shit about journalist and lower tier ambassador feedbacks and mostly you will get politician style answer just avoiding the question or saying it was bad luck and they never saw that before. Doing otherwise would be interesting to us but it would also be a public declaration saying that their brand new product is garbage and that they are aware of it and sell it to us at premium price nonetheless which would just make even more damage to their sales and reputation. But at least PB are not affraid to speak of the problems they face with a product, despite it being a product from one of their biggest advertisers.
  • 1 1
 "Our cheap-ass managers are having too little oil put in the new forks so that people have to send the new forks for a service, making the company more money [from spare parts]. That's why it felt so rubbish out of the box."
  • 32 1
 Can you imagine the outrage if a new car comparison stated that both performed equally well, but only after you put engine oil in the one that didn’t have it from the factory?!!
  • 26 2
 2021 Pinkbike calls it a Draw when comparing V1 Zeb and V1 38
m.pinkbike.com/news/fox-38-vs-rockshox-zeb-2021-review.html
2023 RS comes out with new damper, new air spring and butter cups, Fox does nothing. Pinkbike calls the 38 for the win. Apparently new Zeb went backwards in performance?

My experience going from V1 to V2 Zeb is a definite improvement. Two friends who went from Factory 38’s to Zeb = improvement. However no bottle jack spring testing was done in our assessments so……..
  • 14 0
 its also a different reviewer. There's always going to be a subjective component to this. All that being said, Seb liked the 38 more then the V1 Zeb as well
  • 2 0
 You true that. Should be called
  • 1 0
 Or just have to create more stories to push more content to get those $ clicks
  • 22 1
 I’ve owned 38’s in RS, Fox and ohlins. Ohlins is so far ahead
  • 5 1
 Agreed! I’ve ridden/owned all 3 and the Ohlins is in a league of its own!
  • 2 0
 If you like a supportive suspension there's no beating a secondary positive air spring. Ohlins, EXT, Manitou have it from the factory but you can add a DSD Runt to a Fox or RS if you already have one.
  • 6 0
 @Monkeyass , I pick up an Ohlins 36 last year from a buddy (after riding Fox, DVO, RS, etc), I don't see myself going back anytime soon. Once dialed, the Ohlins is so good.... high quality as well.
  • 11 0
 Out of the box, the Zeb and the 38 don't even seem to outperform a Manitou Mezzer. I would love to see a shootout of all the new-gen (ie. big stanchion) enduro forks, that doesn't shun the offerings of smaller brands.

@jdejace the third-party upgrades are the biggest sell on RS fork in my opinion. If you can find a 2019-era Lyrik suddenly you have available to you Vorsprung's Luftkappe & Secus & Smashpot, Push Industries' Hyper Charger Damper & Coil, MRP's Ramp Control, DSD's "The Runt", and countless damper/ travel conversions available from RS. It might be the most customizable fork ever.
  • 2 0
 @bman33: yeah, i’m the same. Only downside is customer service side…but that might be just a local thing here
  • 3 0
 Been riding the same bike with the same Ohlins 36 coil for going on years now. I see no reason to make a change.
  • 2 0
 @JSTootell: I just starting riding one this season and have been extremely impressed.
  • 4 0
 Ohlins does a neat trick where higher HSC settings route oil to the inside of the shim stack. The benefit of doing this is that you can make this setting firm, however as the pressure rises, the shim stack will deflect more and more, which will give you the blowoff. Because of this, you can ride any ohlins fork or shock on full compression settings and it will not only be safe, but feel good once you start taking big hits as well. In Rockshox, the Charger 3 HSC is basically a orfice port, which you can't make super firm because then you don't get the blowoff. The Fox has the VVC leaf spring that simply can't have the full range of adjustments in the limited space. So both of these have compression profiles that are way lower than Ohlins.
  • 4 0
 Totally agree. After 2 years riding the 38 and having problems it eating all the travel even in the smallest bumps replaced it for the Ohlins RXF and my god what a fork. Two different tunners worked in my 38 and you can choose between having 0 midstroke support and sensitivity or midstroke support and the harshest fork. Good article but cannot agree on the conclusions
  • 1 0
 @8a71b4: wow! I thought that sounds like bullshit... who in their right mind would do an orifice style highspeed damping, right?!
But you are right; I just had a look at the charger3 damper and you can really choke up the whole system if you wind in the highspeed all the way. from how i understood it all flow going through the traditional lowspeed needle orifice has to first go through the highspeed orifice. in highspeed events surpluss flow that manages to pass through the HSorifice but does not make it through the LSorifice flows through ports sealed by a single shim.
According to their force-velocity graphs it works, tho haha
  • 17 1
 Have you checked whether the bushings in the Zeb might be too tight or not co-linear?
There are quiet a few cases I know with different brands where the lack of suppleness was caused by tight bushings.
You can check that by removing the Air spring, damper and see if the forks slide freely into the bushing. If it doesn't, the bushings need to be burnished
  • 72 0
 If the 'Ultimate' version of a fork requires taking it apart and fixing a manufacturing error make it work properly, it's not worth my $1k.

(Not that I'm paying that much for a fork anyway, but still!)
  • 1 0
 There was another article released today with at technical deep dive and input from Rockshox that explains why the new damper and system creates the force curve shown here.
  • 5 3
 Yes, any stickiness seems to have been fixed by just changing the oil. I have heard people saying they have a "bedding-in" period after which the suppleness improves on its own, but I'm not convinced about that.
  • 3 0
 @exastronaut: there is a specific term for that, it's called "bike industry" ;-)
  • 8 0
 @exastronaut: same on my $1k Fox fork FWIW. It's not uncommon.

m.pinkbike.com/news/race-prepping-a-fox-40.html

"With the stanchion carefully set aside, Kolja does one of the things that he says makes the biggest difference to the feel of the fork—he works the bushings. With mass manufacturing the tolerances for the bushings is tight, opening the bushings does have an effect on the life of the fork, which would mean the fork would need servicing much sooner. By opening the bushing the fork moves more freely in its travel."

Best thing anyone can do for their suspension performance is send it to a professional for a good once over instead of just periodically buying new shit with +2mm stanchions, buttercups or whatever other bullshit.
  • 8 0
 @exastronaut: I remember that Manitou review a couple of years ago that the fork had a ton of stiction due manufacturing error. I suggested this was unacceptable for a premium product and got downvoted into oblivion. No way this sort of thing should slip past quality control.
  • 3 0
 loose like sleeve of wizard
  • 1 1
 @seb-stott: do you think the difference is the Kashima coating?
  • 8 0
 @exastronaut: A small word of advice: Whenever you get a new fork from Rockshox OR Fox, drop the lowers before you even ride it once. Rockshox is known for shipping forks with little to no grease/oil, and Fox likes to give you an extra volume spacer worth of slick honey in the air spring. Quality control isn't exactly a strong suit of either company.
  • 2 0
 @jdejace: If this is considered the norm, I don't want to buy from that manufacturer. I should be able to buy one, two, or a dozen of the same fork with the same settings and have the same performance. The end.
So, the best thing anyone can do for their suspension performance is buy from a manufacturer that has actual QC checks.
  • 8 0
 @exastronaut: Yeah for sure. It's ridicuous that quality control in mountainbiking is mostly non existent.
That's why e.g. Paul Aston's work is necessary so the manufacturers are held accountable for their products.
  • 3 0
 same with fox, had to burnish tons of forks out of the box. However, at least you get replacement bushings from fox. The ZEB ist basically a throw away item with extended use and worn bushings.
  • 3 0
 @jdejace: dude, sending my fork for professional service cost the same as getting a new fork every 3-4 years, I am ok with doing my own lowers service and replacing seals, but I am not paying 400 bucks every season for full makeover Big Grin
  • 3 0
 @valrock: I mean yes that's the dilemma you're forced to confront. Do you want to get your boring old fork working well or get a sexy new fork with bigger stanchions, damper®V4, margarine cups and more clickers you'll never use and just hope it was put together correctly at the factory.
  • 2 0
 @exastronaut: every fox fork ive owned has required removing the big clump of grease from the air shaft to get that suppleness from it.
  • 3 0
 YUP! adding lower leg service parts onto a brand new 1400 dollar fork is bullsh@t Sram and Fox both. I have had two 38's that shipped with all grease and no bath oil in the air spring side, along with almost bone-dry ZEB, Lyrik and super deluxe ultimate, don't even get me started on the float X2. Currently researching for a new suspension company. It would also be great to get dampers that are fully custom tunable at the premium price they charge, Sram finally seems to have changed that for 2023, but buttercups can kiss it.
  • 1 0
 @Helmchentuned: wait! you cant replace bushings on a zeb?!
  • 16 0
 So the conclusion is simple, less marketing bullshit, more quality control.
  • 3 0
 Sure but reading about Fox and quality control is like a joke since 2020
  • 12 0
 Honestly I am looking for a big fork for my Altitude and it will come down to whichever one I can find more on sale. I bet a hack like me will be just fine with either one! I do think the ZEB is prettier though.
  • 24 4
 Manitou Mezzer
  • 4 1
 @Swangarten: Didn't know about this, it looks pretty good.
  • 8 1
 @Swangarten: yup. have tried lyrik, '22 zeb, '22 zeb with buttercup airspring and burnished bushings, and mezzer pro. Mezzer pro feels better than all of them, it's definitely a winner
  • 5 0
 @Swangarten: Way lighter than these two beasts, easily serciceable and you can pick your travel 160-180mm.
  • 4 0
 Mezzers sometimes aren't trouble free but it's a far superior design compared to the donkeys in this article. However if you're under 150lbs don't bother with it, too much stock damping.
  • 3 1
 @blamacken: you can go anywhere from 140-180mm!
  • 4 1
 @powderhoundbrr: he's only right if you set the mezzer up correctly. I've got a mezzer pro and I adore it, but I have zero doubts that a zeb is easier to set up to the point of it being better than a mezzer if you don't take the time to learn the mezzer and find the Google sheets document of the owners setup recommendations because the manufacturer setup recommendations are for rampage
  • 1 1
 There's a few top end fox 38s kicking round on uk retails stores at 50% off...so 500 gbp. That's a steal. Imagine there would be some going round your way too
  • 5 1
 @Swangarten: I put a Mezzer on my Megatrail and blasting through boulder fields is sublime. Never a hard bottom out with the HBO.
  • 2 0
 @whiteranger3: can go to 130mm if you like... i have...
  • 6 1
 @blamacken: And it uses 21 mL of oil in each leg and is lighter than anything else on the market and stiffer and cheaper etc need I say more!
  • 2 0
 @GumptionZA: Setting up the Mezzer doesn't seem complicated, just a few clicks on the low speed and high speed compression, but can you direct me to that document?
  • 3 0
 @DavidGuerra: It's not complicated to set up a Mezzer. I can't see how people find opening up the fork and f'ing about with tokens to be less of a hassle.
  • 3 0
 @riderseventy7: Hum, yes, apparently those who say that are referring to the double air chamber thing? There's nothing to it, just follow the indications on the fork legs, or add more air on the secondary chamber for more progressivity or less air for the opposite. I have always followed the stock indications and I'm happy with it, it's true that I never bottomed out with 170mm travel but it doesn't feel too progressive. During my brief time in 160mm I did bottom out.
  • 3 0
 @DavidGuerra: Go to https://www.mtbr.com/threads/manitou-mezzer-owners-thread-setup-tech.1177011/ and look for 'User Setups and Pressure Calculator' on the first post.

The Google doc has lots of information that is handy to get a Mezzer dialed in.

Direct link for the Google Doc is https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1KPnh-oYncla19GutzWF5NkgZRzZCsmjhLGlpCLnO0eU/edit?usp=sharing
  • 2 0
 @riderseventy7: I set mine up pretty quickly and easily and I'm a moron.
  • 13 3
 I think there is a bit of handwaving here on the Zeb rebound issue. The fact that full open was still slow, and then you say its a great fork? personally, this would be a deal breaker for me, and I suspect a lot of other people.

Great job picking apart the differences and ride characteristics, but I think the summary should have been: "The fox is the superior fork, and RS needs to make a running change to the ZEB IMMEDIATELY to get it to perform properly"

But I think we can all deduce why they wouldn't be this honest about a bad SRAM product....
  • 3 0
 Indeed! Even more so considering the weight of the rider (189 lbs / 86 kg)
  • 6 0
 It seems like he had a crap fork, from needing to rebuild it and not being able to run anything close to the recommended settings, something was wrong.

I am not running the rebound anywhere near full open and I weigh 165lbs, the Rockshox calculator got me right in the ball park and then I ran the LSC at +1 and neutral HSC. He was running LSC from fully open which is nuts to me, a fully open Charger 3 is like having no damper at all.

His experience with the Zeb are not mine but I think it's fair to review both forks as they came out of the box. QC matters, these pricey forks should have been fully tested before leaving the factory.
  • 3 0
 It would be helpful if @seb-stott could clarify whether the rebound issue was common across all the '23 Zebs he's ridden, or particular to the test fork.
My Zeb seems to track very well on roots and rocks so far, but maybe I need to go faster to notice this as an issue.
  • 10 0
 2023 Zeb runs 15cc splash on the air side and 30cc on damper side (not the 20cc per mentioned in the review)
You need to have the bushings sized, this helps greatly, they are very long and if too tight they scrap oil away and reduce suppleness.
Also have the damper cartridge rebuilt using ohlin's 2.5 damper fluid (or Motorex 2.5) This solves the rebound issue as well as making it far more compliant. Then go test it against a Fox! Yes, you should not have to do this, but you do!
The Zeb uses Maxima 7wt in the damper, which has about a 25cSt value, that needs to be around 11-18cSt depending on rider size. The stock fluid is incredibly thick stuff and below 50 degrees it feels like cement in the damper! Odd choice for oil weight! FYI Fox Teflon is about 15cSt
Enjoy-
  • 1 0
 Good input. Would the Fox teflon be okay in damper? Asking as I have some.

I agree that you shouldn't have to do this stuff but I've accepted and it's just the way it is. Moto guys have been disassembling new bikes for decades to grease and torque bolts properly. Similar thing here.
  • 1 0
 @TwoNABIKE: I was just going to suggest a lighter damper oil to solve the rebound setting issues. You beat me to it, and with real life experience too!
  • 3 0
 "You need to have the bushings sized..."

Shouldn't this be done at the factory?
  • 1 1
 Our local suspension guy recommended checking the bushings and lighter weight oil. Completely changed my perspective on the fork! I now run it with HSC in the middle and LSC almost fully open but it feels amazing. Very similar to my Fox 38 but silent and slightly stiffer. Still need more testing but super impressed so far. It's a bummer that it doesn't come like this out of the box but if you can have a local tuner do their magic it really does become best in class.
  • 14 1
 Manitou Mezzer Pro , way better by far…… stiffer , lighter , more adjustable and way cheaper
  • 4 0
 I have no arguments to this. I'd just add that the HBO is very, very nice to have.
  • 13 1
 Meh, bigger isn't always better. I'll stick with my 36.
  • 2 0
 yari 170mm has let me down yet. the 5mm of travel you never get back is annoying on the old air spring, but not enough that i am buying a new one yet.
  • 2 3
 and you believed her when she told you that????? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
  • 9 2
 I'm a Fox guy, but as a suspension need I was so eager to try out the new RS forks, new damper, buttercups and all. I was ready to have my mind blown. Got the new Lyrik to replace my 36. Installed and set up base settings. Then for the next two weeks it was a constant frustration trying to figure out why I couldn't get the fork to feel good after trying so much between the air spring and damper. After 10 hours of riding it was so harsh I decided to rebuild it. Oil volumes looked ok but there was a sticky, almost adhesive mess of what they might have considered 'lubricant' in the dust wipers. Pulled the air spring and damper and inspected both, damper seemed fine but the air spring had little to no grease or lubrication. Cleaned up the air spring and applied a small amount of slickoleum and added some 20wt gold to the air spring. Cleaned out the wipers and also gave them a little slickoleum and Maxima Dynamic lubricant on the foam rings. Boy it felt so much nicer but now I'm having issues finding support. I really wanted to fork to change the game but it just didn't. The combination of small bump sensitivity, support, and adjustment from my Fox fork could not be matched. Plus the Fox XL fender actually does a great job in the slop and I really missed having that. So, in short, they can talk all they want about buttercups, but at the end of the day, they are just for decoration.
  • 7 0
 Buttercups are snake oil (IMO)

If you haven't sold it yet, you might want to try Push Industries' Hyper Charger Damper, DSD's Runt, or a Vorsprung Luftkappe/Secus which are all known to deliver better midstroke support. The upside to Lyrik ownership is the third-party upgrades.

The secret behind RockShox forks is to buy the cheapest version with the shitty damper, then use the money you saved on upgrades that will have it outperforming some of the best forks on market. Call it the sleeper fork.
  • 5 0
 The key to the previous model Lyriks was to pull all the tokens, open compression completely, open rebound almost completely and then put like 20psi more than recommended. I don't know if that will work on the 23s but it's worth a shot. Tokens are usually the reason you have no midstroke so definitely get rid of those and up your air pressure.
  • 3 0
 @ryanandrewrogers: Yeah, just get a Yari and send it to Avalanche.
  • 3 0
 @ryanandrewrogers: I put the Push HC97 damper in my wife's lyrik. so. so. SO much better.
  • 1 0
 @WestwardHo: my 23 Lyrik is +10% air pressure with 2 tokens. It’s still not that good on that rough repetitive stuff and barely enough bottom out support on what I feel like isn’t big hit stuff.
  • 1 0
 @WestwardHo: Ha, that's what made my old Yari feel acceptable in the end. The MoCo damper was still sh*t, but with no tokens and enough air pressure to keep it riding high in the travel it was finally able to move freely enough to track the ground on repetitive hits.
  • 11 3
 How is it literally everyone raves about the new zeb except this guy..I have it .had a 36 and a38 prior Zebs way easier to set up first of all and it feels pretty much the opposite of everything this reviewer spouts
  • 2 6
flag JohanG (Apr 13, 2023 at 12:21) (Below Threshold)
 Because if the oem brands are all you've ever ridden, you don't know what good suspension feels like. I certainly didn't. I'm speaking from experience and $1000s of dollars spent.
  • 7 1
 Totally agreed!! My experience, and that of many other experienced riders is he exact opposite. This really is a bizarre review!

I moved to a Zeb because of the horrible feel of the 38 being stuck in he mid stroke and having no small bump compliance, and have had a great experience switching over. The Zeb rides in the sensitive part of the stroke. This is primarily due to how effective the rebound just puts back to ride height, fast without any bounce. On a 38 I ended up running LSC almost fully closed just to keep the fork in the sensitive part of the travel - and speeding up rebound, but fast rebound on a 38 = instability.

Also with the Zeb the compression adjustments do exactly what they intended to do. More compression = more support. On a 38 you end up needed to max out compression to solve its ride height issues, and more compression on a fox does give you more support, but at a cost of compliance.

Have always liked Seb's reviews in the past and his level of technical detail, but in this case he is just way off the target - and it makes you question his expertise/opinion, and you are left wondering did he just set these forks up really badly for this test?
  • 2 0
 @ponyboy24: Fox's quality control is not great. The VVC damper has very close clearances that yield different feels for each unit. Sometimes damper controls do nothing. There is no "Fox 38". There's a wide range of differently performing units with the same name.
  • 10 3
 The F38 has a better air-spring than the Zeb, but the Zeb has the better chassis.
Both dampers have issues. GRIP2 is harsh and lacks support, also rebound affects compression a lot. Charger 2.1 was harsh and lacked support. Charger 3 has preloaded base-valves which give support but don't feel good and has a checked rebound which has less range and very little tuneability.

Best Zeb is the previous version with Charger 2.1 and use a Vorsprung Secus to fix the air-spring progression (adds extra volume to the lower leg to fix the ramp-up).

Fox F38 everyone just over-springs them to get by because the air-spring is very soft off the top and the damper has very little support. Tuning the dampers to behave properly requires surgery and as far as I know I'm the only one doing that. Stock they have 4mm shims and you can stack 4x as many inside and still not make much difference.
  • 3 0
 Installed Secus on 2023 Zeb straight out of the box (and installed 2022 air spring). All around excellent combo. This is the way.
  • 1 0
 @Linc: why would you go back to an air spring that has the equalization port at the end of the travel? Isn't this what everyone complained about in the 2022 model because it isn't as sensitive off the top?
  • 1 0
 @dresendsit: nah. personal preference, but I don’t like the feel of big negative chambers. Old air spring plus, secus and no volume tokens gives the best curve shape for me.
  • 9 0
 I've always found brand new Rockshoxs forks need a lower leg service to work properly. There's rarely enough oil in there.
  • 2 0
 Same here. My experience has taught me that every rockshox should be serviced before being ridden because the factory oil and seals tend to be sticky and dry.
  • 2 0
 Same with Fox (and pretty much any brand of suspension fork, for that matter). Half the time there's so much extra grease in the Fox fork's negative chamber that they're super harsh off the top.
  • 12 2
 Ohlins

Z1 coil

Z1 coil w/Avy cart

All better
  • 10 2
 Throw in a Mezzer for good measure? Smile
  • 6 0
 @seb-stott

Great stuff Seb, i always like nerding out on your content.

However I can't help wondering if you'll ever come back and review the ohlins RXF38 with the negative volume spacer removed and a proper tune? I hate to link but for my money this reviewer nails its, the ohlins is so far ahead of the rest with that spacer taken out.....I won't be going back to RS or Fox anytime soon.

www.bikeradar.com/reviews/components/forks/suspension-forks/ohlins-rxf38-m-2-suspension-fork-review
  • 1 0
 Seems odd that Ohlins went from leaving the spacer in the box and allowing the customer to insert if needed to installing it from factory. There isn't much info out there about this and there are likely more than a few people that might prefer the larger negative volume and not know they can change it.
  • 6 0
 I have both and my experience with the new Zeb has been much different. The small bump sensitivity on the Zeb is insanely good, it's the biggest difference between the 2, rolling over dried out lumpy dirt and small rocks reminded me of a coil.

I feel that the Zeb also uses the travel in a smoother way that gives the impression that is has more travel than the Fox. I clap out the 38 on drops a lot more than the Zeb and I'm running a firmer spring rate in the 38.

I think support is a wash between the 2. I run the LSC at +1 or sometimes +2 and feels just as supportive as my 38, when I lower it the fork definitely blows through the travel more. The Zeb's dial has a neutral position for a reason, going negative is more for slow cruising as it gets rid of all the support. Adding a couple clicks from neutral does not give it a firm overdamped feeling like other dampers, it just adds support.

I think both are great forks that have great support all throughout the travel. But I prefer the new Zeb as it just feels smoother, the progression is really nice and nothing like adding another spacer where all the ramp up is at the end.
  • 3 0
 Mine was good, but not exactly at the coil level. Dropped a Smashpot in it and now it’s sublime
  • 7 0
 As someone who has spent quite a bit of time on the 38, the old zeb and the new zeb, I really did no expect these results in this head to head.
  • 8 0
 Same. And the wide open rebound setting is baffling to me.
  • 5 0
 Funny enough, I went from a 38 to a Zeb and felt the exact opposite of what is written here. I was struggling to get the 38 to where I wanted it, and when I did, it would feel completely different the next ride. It either had terrible small bump, no support, or I felt like the damper was literally doing nothing at all no matter which way I cranked the knobs. The Zeb on the other hand has distinct changes per setting and has been consistent since fall of last year (I ride year round).
  • 5 0
 @seb-stott thanks for the review. Considering the comments from very experienced tuners like @Dougal-SC would it be possible to do a fork test wherein...

1. Pinkbike (for example) buys forks at random from various online retailers so no supply from manufacturers
2. Tester (eg. you) tries to make the fork the best they can only by adjusting settings - don't open the fork up. Comment and compare
3. Send the forks to a reputable service centre/ tuner (eg. Dougal) they weave their magic and send back. Maybe restrict their services to no new dampers or anything too radical, but shims /adjustments/machining of existing OEM parts is OK. Tuner to document what 'problems' they found and what they did, and what would be the cost of their services.
4. Repeat step 2 with the 'tuned' fork

I like how you review a lot, but given the comments from many others, I think that it might be dumb luck that you received a 'good' F38 and a 'not so good' Zeb in this case, and I don't know how you came across either fork. I would also like to see this extended to other brands - might be that the lack of QC an not technology is what holds all forks back. In which case, if you are to buy a new fork, best to budget a rebuild! Might then make people wonder if just getting their forks rebuilt properly by professionals s money better spent than that shiny new toy.
  • 5 0
 Both these companies absolutely pack the airspring full of so much grease that the performance off the shelf is sh*t. It's whack that it takes a lower service and re-grease on brand new forks to have them not feel terrible.
  • 4 0
 Interesting that you mention a freshly serviced fox isn’t as night and day as it used to be. That’s something I noticed as well, having run my 38 for 3 seasons now, I thought I was crazy. On previous generations of fox fresh seals and oil made the fork feel brand new again, while a serviced 38 obviously feels better than not, it seems that the performance degradation of old seals and oil isn’t as drastic as it used to be.
  • 1 0
 The new stuff fox (gold oil and better wipers/seals) is using is way better as far as compared to years past.
Still helps to open a new fox fork and take a little bit of the grease out of the air side though.
  • 5 0
 Z1 Coil!

Stiffer than 36, plushness unmatched by an air fork, similar weight to 38/Zeb. (my 29" Z1 coil 170mm was 2442g uncut. Bought a one-up axle which saved 60g).

Less service to boot...
  • 1 0
 Theres a thread on mtbr that claims it is very progressive and hard to use full travel. Is that your experience and how much do you weigh?
  • 7 2
 I posted the full stroke air-curves for the Zeb and F38 on MTBR last year. 40-120psi range for both. Seems weird to use two random pressures graphed to partial stroke when there's already more info in public view.
  • 1 0
 Do you have a URL to these tests? Would love to see.
  • 1 0
 @Dougal-SC: thanks!
  • 4 0
 Great review! But too bad it doesn't feature any other forks. I feel the internet gets flooded with reviews of each and every minor upgrade and every single version of every single Fox or Rockshox fork, especially the Zeb, Lyrik, 34, 36 and 38. Other brands like Öhlins, DVO, Suntour or Manitou make just as interesting (and often more interesting) forks, but don't get all that coverage. A single review once every couple of years and that's it. The majority of direct comparisons seem to be Rockshox and Fox only. That's logical, because these are the most popular brands. But they are also the most popular brands because they get the most coverage.
Don't get me wrong: this is a great and informative review that I value highly. It's just that I really would like to see more direct comparisons with other brands.
  • 1 2
 I'm not sure how we should measure "most popular". The oem brands are more prevalent. But what is most popular among aftermarket buyers? People who buy whole bikes vs people who replace components or build of frames; these are different markets.
  • 4 0
 My 0.02 is that quality control is absolutely horrible with the new RS stuff. I ordered a '23 Lyrik last year the day it was announced it. It was the worst fork I have ever ridden. If I ran enough air to get proper sag, it was extremely harsh. If I ran less air, it would dive like crazy and blast through the travel. I pulled the lowers and there was no oil in it, I shit you not, none. I added the spec'd oil volume and made sure the grease looked good. It still felt bad. I sent it to RS and they replaced the air spring and damper but didn't give me much detail as to what might have been wrong. It felt a little better, but I still couldn't get it to feel "great". After over a month of frequent riding, I sold it.

Fast forward to this season, I built up a new rig with the new Zeb (I was on the fence about it after the Lyrik issues) and initial impressions are positive. I do think the rebound is over damped, but I'm not running it wide open (200lb rider over here). The small bump compliance seems great and it feels really supportive in the mid-stroke compared to the 38 I spent some time on (I did love that fork).

TLDR; QC is atrocious for a $1k+ suspension product. There's a lot of subjectivity in this sort of thing. YMMV.
  • 6 0
 Since the first Judy RS has been trying to prove that elastomers have a place in suspension products.
  • 8 1
 May be time to check out a Mezzer Pro and see what's cooking....
  • 7 1
 Have been rocking one for nearly a year , best fork period.
Previously has a n ohlins RXF coil and a Lyrik ultimate , these don’t come close
  • 5 1
 @pedro46: People keep hating on it but I have been wildly impressed and nearly a pound lighter...
  • 3 0
 Please test the all the forks across the Fox lineup with and without Kashima on the spring dyno.
Ideally 5 of each and averaged Smile .

If Fox is really telling the truth with the 10-12% improvement that is what we are looking at right there.
  • 3 0
 How long until there's a Marzocchi version of the 38? The Z1 is essentially a slightly less expensive entry-level 36 - and it's doing very well for a lot of folks. For people who want the stouter chassis, a Z0 (?) might be the ticket. Set/forget/shred...
  • 1 0
 You can get a Fox 38 Performance, which has the Grip 1 damper like on a Marzocchi Z1. Also, it is made of 7k series alloy, so a little bit lighter than the hypothetical Marzocchi Z1 38, which would be in 6k alloy.
  • 1 0
 This is what I've been saying for ages. I'm sure it's in the pipeline and will be called a 66, with the coil version being the reason I'm thinking about it, obvs. They'd be mad if they weren't working on this.
  • 3 0
 "To tell them apart, I had to spend a long time dialling in the setup, and then test them back-to-back on the same track. Even then, there were only a few sections where I felt the 38 was performing better.".........its been this way for years. For the average pedestrian they offer the same performance.
  • 8 1
 where's the Mezzer? o, that's right, not enough ad spend to get tested.
  • 5 1
 It's just coincidence that advertising packages get you product exposure!
  • 1 5
flag bigmeatpete420 (Apr 14, 2023 at 20:50) (Below Threshold)
 It broke on the way over from China
  • 2 0
 @sebstott

Does the carbon air affect mid stroke support while descending? Does it make the fork feel more divey for a given pressure?

Also is it reversible if you don't like it or does it score the inside of the air spring?
  • 4 0
 Yeah, you may write what is considered a good written comparison @seb-stott, but I'm not happy unless it's turned into a compelling sea shanty.
  • 2 0
 Interesting to compare this and Dan Roberts article from 2021. m.pinkbike.com/news/fox-38-vs-rockshox-zeb-2021-review.html. I have that 2021 Zeb model and I have been happy with it. But I have to admit that I don't feel so much differences with lsc clicks. 2, 4, 6 from open feels the same to me
On the other hand Fox with grip 2 seems to be even harder to get dialed. Haven't tried one though.
  • 1 0
 Really? I can really tell the effect of lsc. Maybe is the type of terrain you are riding? I always do bracketing with new suspension and then once every service.
  • 5 0
 Seems to me if youre 189 pounds and have to ride the rebound fully open something is very wrong.
  • 3 0
 Unless you need to do barspins you are surely better off with a 190mm dual crown rather than a single crown 180/190mm fork. Similar axle to crown, stiffer and zero CSU creaks.
  • 2 1
 Yes we’ve been asking for this for about ten years now but they just keep giving us chunkier beefier forks with the same crown / steerer weak spot. I can’t see how they couldn’t make a lighter stiffer dual crown than the current 38.
  • 1 0
 @thenotoriousmic: And bike manufacturers keep designing enduro frames that aren't dual crown rated...
  • 2 0
 Just sitting here waiting patiently for the next coil Totem and Fox 40 SC…

In all seriousness, I have been looking for a 170mm single crown fork and ended up with a Zeb Ultimate based on reviews stating it was slightly more supple and better mid stroke support. To read the opposite here is making me wonder if I picked the wrong fork.
Also a massive manitou fan, so was considering Mezzers, but put off by reviews stating set up was particularly difficult.
I guess I’ll see how they ride and may have to reach out to suspension experts for additional tuning or setup help. Not too worried though.

Not sure you can go far wrong with modern high end mtb forks regardless of brand (here’s hoping!!)
  • 2 0
 Had Fox 36, multiple 38s, the Zeb 1 and now Zeb 2. Zeb 2 the winner by a long shot has been my experience. All the fox forks felt good for the first 10 rides or so, and then got super harsh off the top. The Zeb has been super plush, smooth, good midstroke, etc. Interesting how different it can be, probably a lot is QC based and not much else.
  • 2 0
 I have a '23 Zeb (as have several of my riding buddies). All of us are blown away by it. Best fork any of us have ever ridden. We all ended up 2 or 3 clicks from fully open on rebound but none of us have had any issues with rebound being too slow. Strange.
  • 3 1
 Shoutout to @seb-stott. Time and time again you produce tech content with the required depth and breadth to holistically review a product while still providing an opinion (and never sounding like a mouthpiece for the brand/written like an ad). You're my favorite nerd-tech-journo. Keep up the good brilliant mate.
  • 2 0
 And here, a North Shore rider for 42 years, and I clearly remember a time when it was Marzocchi, and nothing else. There were no shootouts, comparisons or debate. Period. Marzocchi ruled until 2008 when they decided to go cheap and got bit in the ass hard. So hard they folded. Sad, really. They made forks that were admittedly heavy but performed and were easy to service with the open bath. Moreover, they were tough. Saving weight? Get to the gym. I miss those days. Ya, today's forks have better tech but I am not sure it translates to performance that actually matters. What can be achieved on paper is one thing. The trail, another. I am a Fox guy (the Kashima coating sells me) but if Marzocchi could come back to what it what was once was........owned by Fox....game over. RIP old days.
  • 5 0
 I can only say my Zeb is likely the best fork I've ridden, with Manitou Mezzer a close second.
  • 2 0
 ahem, PotAto!
  • 2 0
 Potahtoe
  • 2 0
 This is a well written piece. I appreciate the combination of the subjective, anecdotal review combined with the data based analysis. Bummed the Zeb isn't more improved. Guess I'll stick with my 38.
  • 3 10
flag thenotoriousmic (Apr 13, 2023 at 8:31) (Below Threshold)
 It is better and so is latest version of the olins fork this guys a Fox fanboy and always has been. Performance there’s not a lot between them but the Zeb has a much better chassis, needs way less maintenance and way less likely to start creaking and if you live in the UK you can buy a pike for your hardtail with the money you saved not buying a 38.
  • 2 0
 @thenotoriousmic: I dunno. I had a Zeb and thought it gave up a lot of performance compared to the 38. This article just makes it sound like the changes to the Zeb didn't fix it. Haven't ridden an Ohlins, so no opinions there.
  • 4 2
 @toast2266: no complaints from ether fork performance wise. I’d put it down to personal preference it’s everything else that a mentioned that puts the Zeb ahead. Better chassis, more reliable and needs less maintenance and the fact you can buy a second high end fork with the change. Plus it’s no secret Fox have been having some issues recently especially with their crowns and air shocks.
  • 3 2
 I wonder how much of bad QC affects reviews of forks anyway.
I have owned so many forks that were sticky, sloppy, or with a badly adjusted damper (just read what @ dougal on mtbr tells about the tolerances on the Grip2VVC)...must have been 50% bad forks, a sticky 2018 Lyrik was the latest, my Fox 38 VVC now is a bit soft on compression...
  • 4 0
 I got a Lyrik with a damper that chirped like a chicken on compression, right from the box. lol. had to completely disassmble the stack. there were two shims in in reverse order. Big Grin NAILED IT!
  • 6 10
flag norcalbike (Apr 13, 2023 at 10:35) (Below Threshold)
 Dougal is also a curmudgeon who’s trying to sell manitou
  • 1 0
 Yeah, I've argued more than once that QC is super important to test because it is very likely to affect buyers.

But for some reason reviewers don't like testing 10+ forks and seeing if they are all the same. Manufactureres aprobably aren't very willing to send so many out for free either. Over time, that happens with the test bikes that come stock with certain forks but it takes time and only with the big brands we will see enough.
  • 7 2
 @norcalbike: My daily work is mostly tuning Fox and RS dampers. Because out of the box they're harsh and lack support. There'd be less work for me if they produced better forks.
  • 6 1
 @norcalbike: yeah man, it's wild. He doesn't actually test, tune, and recommend the best stuff. He's just a dealer for manitou spreading misinformation to make sales so he can buy a yacht. Just image search "Dougal Yacht" and you'll see tons of pics of him on rented boats pretending to be all oligarchic.
  • 1 0
 Interesting conclusions. I just had a 50hr done on my 23' ZEB and found it to be MUCH better after service. I attributed this to just having fresh oil and the rides leading up to it where the oil wasn't as in good a shape for the difference I felt, but perhaps it did not have enough in it to begin with? I also have a 23' Lyrik, so I'll have to drop the lowers when I get home and do the same check. Good info Seb!
  • 5 0
 Came from a 38, to a new ZEB, its noticeably better and easier to tune.
  • 1 0
 Ehhh why does an alarm bell go off if you would have to set up a fork with the rebound completely open? I know this setup exist for some people but it makes me believe that there is something faulty with the product.

Anyway about the comparision:

I would say, the Zeb requires more precision on the setup, if you are off by a few PSI, you could feel this quite easily. Quite a few seem to have problems on the damper, straight out of the box, which throws your whole 'shop'setup with the client in the trash. Quite a few of them need to be 'awakened' in the sense of having a larger negative charge, thus not responding well to precise settings, so the whole thing needs to be emptied of air, pulled up, and then carefull inflated again..

The Fox 38 seems a little bit more easy to dial in following the printed tables on the fork. Then again, they seem to require a little bit more service to keep them running real smooth. The changes made on the LSC and HSC on the grip2 seem also more noticiable then the changes on the Zeb.

Out of the factory oil levels are usually questionable on both, same as the air bleed valves or the functioning of them.

I would go for an FOX 38 Performance Elite if possibile, which seems fit the head to head comparison more then the Factory version. Then again they don't offer these forks to be bought normally.

It would be great to see the difference between the FOX38 Factory against the FOX38 PE.
  • 1 0
 I found your statements about the 38 to be spot on with my experience riding the fork for over a year. However, all my homies have switched to the Zeb! It would be interesting to see 6 riders review the same two forks and battle it out.
  • 1 0
 This is the first I've learned about the TruTune. You basically need a Luftkappe plus a TruTune to make the old Zeb air spring decent. With a Luftkappe also acting like a single volume spacer it makes using the last 2cm or so of travel difficult if you run enough air pressure to make the fork supportive. TruTune is cheaper than buying a new fork I guess.
  • 2 1
 Is a floating axle really actually an improvement?
I have them on my dorado and circus, and dont notice it being any better for alignment than the qr20 and qr15 on my marzocchi forks. Imean if the lower casting and csu were made properly there shoupd not be any alignments issues at all...
Front hub neasurements havent changed for a while, so by introducing the loating axle, are they just hiding the fact that they cant trust their own manufacturing tolerances.?
  • 3 0
 I think it's just a gimmick to help them differentiate. I'll bet the tolerances on the lowers are worse than front hubs.
  • 2 0
 "re-lubed the foam rings and injected 20 ml of oil into each leg. "

@seb-stott: this is not the recommended amount for the MY23 forks. What fluid did you use? The MY23 forks also require different fluid.
  • 1 0
 Weird set up on Zeb. I have both Zeb and Fox and have to go at least 87 psi on mine with volume spacers and only 4-5 clicks rebound. Use HSC/LSC as needed depending on trail. High speed DH with big jumps, hits, senders, it’s usually 2 clicks HSC, 7-9 clicks LSC. I have found the Fox fo lack mid stroke support in comparison and not as good under high speed compressive hits since goes thru the travel to easy for me in these situations even with 111psi, 5-7 clicks HSC, 11-12 clicks LSC. Don’t like that the multiple compression dial doesn’t detent with each click as well, making it easy to not get adjustment dialed as easy.,
  • 1 0
 I have the 2023 zeb. I've found it performs poorly in cold temperatures feeling slow and harsh. Above 10 degrees C it comes alive again but I wish the rebound was faster. Oil volumes for the 2023 fork are 30 in the damper leg and 15 in the spring
  • 1 0
 I noticed that about the oil volumes too Big Grin
Are you running rebound fully open all the time? What are you feeling to make you think it needs to be quicker?
  • 1 0
 @chakaping: yes fully open all the time. I am light though and running 42psi. I don't think it's too far off and sometimes slower is better but I am used to a faster more active fork. I just wish I had the option to speed it up whereas I can only make it slower
  • 2 0
 Quite amazing to post spring force charts but not force velocity charts for the damper and then base conclusions off of the spring charts. Grip 2 vvc creates abysmal compression damping at all settings
  • 2 0
 Ohlins… changed my life.

Owned many, many Fox and RS forks and shocks over the years. Buying into the marketing… these two are the best available. Gave Ohlins a try last season… never going back!
  • 1 0
 "After a handful of rides, I decided to take the fork apart and have a look inside. I didn't measure how much oil was inside because it went straight into the oil tray, but it didn't look like the specified 20 ml per leg. I cleaned the seals, re-lubed the foam rings and injected 20 ml of oil into each leg. The suppleness was dramatically improved. This allowed me to increase the pressure to 68 psi for more support, while still maintaining good sensitivity."

Noticed the same thing with the 2021 Zeb! went from 170 to 180 with the MRP ramp up unit and the fork performed FAR better.... but thats an annoying thing to do out of the box to get the feel you want though. (Evil Insurgent MX)
  • 1 0
 Wow, it's the exact same outcome as when Seb reviewed fox Vs rockshox a million times over for mountain biking UK / bike radar.

I'm currently running a 38 btw and haven't tried the current Zeb... But I put little faith in this article.
  • 1 0
 I own a Rockshox Revelation 2020 which I have been able to heavily modify with a new damper from Novo, new lighter stronger steerer from ND Tuned and upgraded the Airspring. Rockshox allow all this to happen and what started as a very average folk is now a great fork. I also own a 2022 Fox 32. A great folk which work really well straightaway and i'm very happy with but can't do much more with it!!!!
  • 1 0
 Anybody notice that piston on the new Zeb looks almost identical to the old Vorsprung Luftkappe. The evol air cans were copies of the old vorsprung corset too. Crazy that a company like vorsprung comes out with stuff before the big ones do.
  • 1 0
 Hi Seb,

I also ride a current Strive CFR with Fox 38 Factory and X2 Factory. The settings of the fork you have already described in the article. Would it be possible that you also share the settings of the damper with us? PSI; LSR, HSR, LSC, HSC and Volumenspacher would be great.

Kind regards Daniel
  • 5 0
 Both forks are lovely
  • 3 0
 Thanks for the review! I appreciate that you clearly stated what was better. Some reviews just won't pick a clear winner.
  • 4 4
 I think Rockshox is well known for their stiffer off-the-top feel, and some people enjoy that support on the top. I have own several of their newly revised forks and then switched to Fox version. Personally, I would choose Fox over most all RS forks. I love how Fox forks feel and feel they are better for my ride style and preferences.
  • 4 1
 I wouldn’t call it support, more so a terribly designed air spring that leads to harshness off the top, no midstroke support and too much progression that results in a damper tune and design that has to compensate for poor engineering. I’ve been saying since the release of the C1 airspring id rather ride the original solo airspring to the C1, and the B2 was the best one they made. Currently I’m riding a zeb and I’d be interested to ride a 38 to see if I could have it setup to be both more supple and more supportive than the stock zeb. I’d like to try a vorsprung secus or luftkappe with a trutune insert to try to fix the zeb air spring too.
  • 1 0
 @TheSlayer99: I had no idea about the TruTune until now and I want to try it. I've been running a Luftkappe for a few years and it goes a long way to improving the air spring but makes the fork even more progressive. The Secus is probably even better, just expensive and I haven't tried it. Combining the Luftkappe (or 2023 air spring) and the TruTune might make the air spring pretty decent. TruTune probably wouldn't be necessary with a Secus except for very light riders.
  • 2 1
 Disagree. I think Fox is nice off the top for about 10 rides and then gets ultra harsh. RS is harsh the first 3-4 rides and then gets super soft and nice for life after that. I'd rather have RS.
  • 10 10
 It is almost meaningless to put two 170mm travel forks on a dyno that only goes to 120mm.....and then only take one of them to 107mm.

But at least it captured the unsupported mush in the first 15mm of the 38 travel.

But bro, it's so plushhhhh Smile
  • 3 0
 Lot's of people like plush - it very much depends on your riding style, how you distribute weight, and you personal competency and capabilities. There is a reason many folks opt for coil swaps.

Personally, I didn't get along with my Fox 38 when running recommended spring rates. Removed a few PSI and boom - fork is plush and amazing. Haven't gone back as I am objectively faster and more comfortable on the "plush" setting. Admittedly, my upper body is quite strong from training and sports beyond mountain biking - so I can compensate in initial dive and prefer this work over hand/arm pump of a stiffer fork.

Different strokes for different folks.
  • 4 0
 I mean, they captured the initial and mid stroke, which is more intrinsict to the the spring itself, rather than pressure and volume spacers. And then tied that chart into feeling on the trail. Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Calling it unsupported mush is an interesting take. What value do you find in firm support in in the pre-sag section of travel? Vorsprung would argue that just results in harshness and an inability for the fork to extend over rough terrain, which speaks directly to Seb's feeling of the trail of the Zeb feeling like it's losing connection with the ground. Looking at the chart suggest to me that you have an active fork over chatter and more midstroke support. This unsupported mush take is exactly what caused Rockshox to reduce their negative spring and make their forks feel worse - but at least customers stopped whining about 10mm of "missing" travel. The goal of a fork is to reduce harshness and improve traction, which one spring curve hear clearly does better.
  • 3 0
 15mm is a lot in your world hey?
  • 1 0
 @k2theg: As long as it's not unsupported mush
  • 2 0
 I hate the unsupported mush feel that most forks (and rear shocks) now have with their oversized negative chambers. I agree that the love for this feel comes from squids doing car park tests and plowing blue trails.

Really hard to tune it out without massively ramping end stroke. Best solution I've found is running a 2022 rockshocks air spring plus Vorsprung Secus.
  • 2 0
 No they didn't capture that because they didn't run the damper on a dyno. The spring curve is good actually. The grip 2 vvc makes nearly NO lsc
  • 4 0
 First one with internal brake line routing wins....lol
  • 1 0
 Stop giving them ideas!
  • 6 6
 I think it should be mentioned that the grip damper is a bleed damper(Fox, Showa, KYB) and is superior to a sealed cartridge (RS).
Reasons:
1) Dampers ingest oil and or air at the damper seal, where does that extra volume go? With a Blatter or sealed cartridge that volume must be corrected at service
2) Bleed dampers allow more oil to be ingested and therefor a damper seal with less stiction can be used
3) Bleed dampers use the lower leg oil, which is great when your lower leg service provides 40cc's of new oil into a circulating damper, like a transmission service.
4) Bleed dampers have been proven for years in motorsports
5) Bleed dampers are what I know and own and therefore I must be correct and they must be the best.
  • 3 0
 Rs charger 3 is not a sealed cartridge
  • 1 1
 @arek-hs: where did you find that?

"All of this was made possible because of a new design featuring a spring-backed, IFP cartridge damper—a sealed and fully self-contained system—offering riders a very consistent feel through the stroke."

source: www.sram.com/en/rockshox/rockshox-technology/charger-3
  • 2 0
 @way2manyhobbies2keep: Charger 3 is dynamic bleed, same as Grip/Grip2. Feel free to grab one, compress it 80% and you'll see air/oil get expelled from the bleed port.
  • 2 1
 RS forks have been coming with little to no lower leg lube oil from factory for literally decades now. It's quite widely known that they all need a lowers service from new - as was your test fork
  • 1 0
 Rockshox should stop with the gimmicky features, and just maximize their usage of the available space with simple parts. That airspring could be so much more simple and linear.
  • 3 0
 IMO having both forks at the moment, The Zeb blows the 38 out the water in everyway, then again im a average Joe
  • 2 2
 At last ,someone that picks up the bad things in rock shox forks ,they do not have any elasticity in them not even small bump reaction ,it is a strange thing why after 5 years they are still making the same mistake, they are not bad ,but that small bump is a joke, you can feel that only the tire is reacting to the little things ,and when that rubber contact ends you feel that the fork didn’t do anything.And people say that is a fork easy to adjust ,guess what it isn’t,and yes their rebound is also a joke like the fork is dead ,and when you feel like you have a good one ,they deflect on rocks when turning ,i think the main problems the tolerance is the forks seals or dust wipers ,and that torque caps ,is another joke (I guess maybe improve in 5%),if you grab your front brake and start wiggle your front wheel you will see the fork twist like it is made of some sort spaghetti.Another thing in rock shox is one day the fork feels amazing like some magic just happened,the day after just a joke like you have to much air on them or that some one touched your fork and want to play with your mind :-)))),for me the next gonna be a coil one ,it is unbelievable,the only thing they miss is more coil options,nothing more ,good REAL review ,and yes the Fox are in a different level
  • 2 0
 Also, I have noticed that every Zeb i've has has ridden rough the first 3-5 rides, then softens up. So if people are taking a zeb straight out of the box, it'll feel harsh.
  • 2 0
 My experiences as well. Also, -5 psi from recommendation, add one token, a few + clicks of high speed and a few - clicks of low speed has resulted in a fantastic fork.
  • 2 0
 Honestly regardless of how much I like my 38 I won't run it anymore because I had to get rid of my X2. Only RS on everything now.
  • 2 0
 Look at the Euro pricing.

ZEB is the way to go if you want to save a significant amount of money regardless of the potental last tiny % of performance.
  • 2 0
 It looks like the exchange rates for the MSRP changed a lot between the two forks...
  • 1 0
 That's mentioned in the article, sounds like Fox makes a lot more money outside the US on their stuff.
  • 1 0
 So basically the old R/S Zeb was a better damper...sounds like good old bike marketing at play- You need the latest super deluxe ultra amazing Fork with Super lube!!!
  • 2 0
 Man what a deal on the Zeb in Canada. That is a very favourable conversion rate! LoL
  • 3 0
 It would be nice to see similar article with 36 vs lyrik.
  • 2 0
 One insanely good high priced item versus another. These are the conversations the manufacturers are hoping we'll have.
  • 2 0
 I love reading these articles and then buying a used Suntour Durolux from BuySell
  • 1 0
 The steep initial part of the curve looks a lot like preload to me. Anyone know if this is just a general design element for the RS forks?
  • 2 0
 How about compare other forks down the road? Like Manitu vs Ohlins vs Cane Creek vs whatever isn’t a or RS
  • 3 0
 Airbus or Boeing? When I board a plane it's usually a De Havilland.
  • 1 0
 My next bike build I want to put a bike together that doesn't have any big S or F components. Ohlins/DVO/EXT suspension, Hayes brakes, TRP drivetrain. Totally sweet
  • 1 0
 Bought the new Zeb last August. Love it when its fresh but it seems to need servicing more often than my previous Fox forks to keep it feeling smooth.
  • 2 0
 DVO, Cane Creek Helm II, Formula Selva S & R, MRP Ribbon, DT Swiss, Intend, EXT Any I missed? Do any of these stack up?
  • 1 0
 Dvo doesn’t in the single crown forks. Dual crown onyx yes.
  • 3 1
 "2023 Fox 38 Factiory GRIP2 Details" How does this typo get this far in a heading no doubt?
  • 2 1
 Sorry, but Ohlins is just better in every way. They are expensive and lack a service network, but the performance is more consistent.
  • 1 0
 Lmao so not better lmao
  • 1 0
 @GumptionZA: Setting up the Mezzer doesn't seem complicated, just a few clicks on the low speed and high speed compression, but can you direct me to that document?
  • 1 0
 @seb-stott Thank you for a brilliantly written, objective and easy to read deep dive. After 2 years on a Fox 38 your ride impressions of the 38 are spot on.
  • 1 0
 1170 cad and 1160 for the zeb? Exchange alone is like 40% should be like 1600-1700 cad
  • 1 0
 Would really love to see a 3 way showdown for 36mm & 38mm forks…
Fox vs Rockshox vs Ohlins
  • 2 0
 I choose the gold one because gold!
  • 2 0
 Why not compare with the Ohlins?
  • 2 0
 My 39 is just a bit better
  • 2 0
 My ZEB Ultimate started creaking at the CSU just after a few rides.
  • 1 0
 Making me feel good on my decision to go for a Fox 36. Honestly most stuff is great these days anyway.
  • 2 0
 What about the Öhlins RXF38
  • 3 1
 two forks I'll never put on my bikes. overpriced and overhyped.
  • 2 0
 Shampoo = head & shoulders
  • 1 0
 Very interested on sag levels, there is no mention of these, what was the ran sag on the RS and FOX when used?
  • 1 0
 Pick a fork and be a dick about it. Some like RS. Some like Fox. Just ride!
  • 4 2
 BRING BACK PISTACHIO!!!
  • 3 0
 Please don´t
  • 2 1
 MAKE AMERICA PISTACHIO AGAIN
  • 1 0
 Any 38/Zeb Smashpot users here?
  • 1 0
 Here.
  • 2 1
 One of the best reviews I've read in a while. Well done @seb-stott!
  • 1 1
 Where in Canada I can get the Zeb for just $1170.35 CAD? Are you sure the price is right?
  • 1 0
 Nice to see a fork that is cheaper in CAN than the US - thanks RockShox!
  • 2 0
 Suspension is stressful.
  • 1 0
 Bomber with avalanche for the win.
  • 1 0
 Might be better if ur 150 lbs. Garbage when ur over 200
  • 1 2
 Isn’t it a bit unfair reviewing a 3 year old product against something brand new this year? It took 3 years longer for RockShox to release a comparable fork.
  • 1 0
 Waiting for Dan’s review. Pretty sure it will be the opposite
  • 1 0
 When did a difference of $90 usd equate to $518.65 cad?
  • 1 0
 This is such a great article, thanks @seb-stott !
  • 1 0
 Yes, but how do they compare to a 2004 monster T?
  • 1 0
 Pick your brand and be a dick about it. That's what I do...
  • 1 1
 I'm waiting for a 40 singlecrown.
  • 1 2
 I will never base sram because it's extremely boring to see OEM bikes with the same fucking build kits every damn day.
  • 1 0
 One word. Avalanche!!
  • 1 0
 Speed and Power.
  • 1 0
 Nice writing Seb.
  • 1 3
 why did it take sooo long to do a review and why not more forks reviewed at the same time..BAH
  • 1 2
 No video? Cry
  • 2 3
 reviewer bias is obvious
  • 1 2
 DVO is still the winner
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