$1,000 is a whole lot of money for a fork, and for riders on a budget, or product managers trying to keep a bike's price below a certain threshold, it can be a prohibitive price tag. $549, on the other hand, is a much more reasonable figure, one that makes it possible to spec a bike with thing like brakes that actually work and a drivetrain that shifts reasonably well without driving the final cost up into the stratosphere. It's also the price of the new Domain, which sits in RockShox's lineup as the more affordable counterpart of the Zeb.
Like the Zeb, the Domain has 38mm stanchions, and is available with up to 180mm of travel. It's air sprung, and uses RockShox's open bath Motion Control RC
damper, rather than the pricier Charger cartridge damper found in the Zeb. It also uses 6000 series aluminum in order to keep the costs down, although that does bring the weight up to a fairly hefty 2540 grams.
Domain RC Details
• Wheel Size: 27.5", 29"
• Travel: 150, 160, 170, 180mm
• Offset: 44mm
• Stanchions: 38mm aluminum
• Damper: Motion Control RC
• Adjustments: low speed compression, rebound
• Weight: 2540 grams (170mm, 29")
• MSRP: $549 USD
A lower price for a for a fork or shock typically means a few less external adjustments, and that's the case here. The Domain RC's adjustments consist of air pressure, low speed compression, rebound, and end-stroke ramp up via volume spacers.
The Domain will accept RockShox's higher end Charger 2.1 damper, and riders who decide to take that route will be able to purchase an upgrade kit for $330 USD. There's also an $42 upgrade kit that can be used to upgrade the base model Domain R to the RC version, which adds external low speed compression adjustment. SETUP
Once the air pressure is set (RockShox's chart provides a good place to start) all that's left to do is adjust the rebound and then turn the low speed compression dial until everything feels like it should. In my case, that meant running 60 psi when the fork was installed on a 'regular' bike, and 70 psi on an eMTB.
It’s possible to adjust the amount of end-stroke ramp up by adding or subtracting volume spacers, but I found that for my 160lb weight there was more than enough progression without any spacers installed.
I tested the fork on both a non-motorized Commencal Meta TR, and on a Specalized Turbo Levo e-bike. On the Commencal I typically left the compression dial in the fully open position, and on the Levo I’d add a couple clicks to gain a bit more support. The compression clicks all make a noticeable difference, and in the fully closed position the fork is almost totally locked out.
On the rebound side the adjustments weren’t as defined – there are a lot of clicks without much difference between them, and the amount of damping seems to be on the faster side. I was able to find a setting the suited my needs, but a slightly narrower range with more of a difference between each click would make setup easier. PERFORMANCE
The last Domain that I tried was on a bike with 26” wheels, and my memories of that fork aren't exactly warm and fuzzy. Thankfully, it didn't take very many miles on the new Domain for those old memories to fade away, replaced by new impressions that were much, much more positive.
The Domain feels very smooth throughout its travel, free of any traits that immediately distinguish it as a budget-oriented fork. It's easy to forget about, and I mean that in a good way - it's a solid, no fuss type of fork, one that didn't require much fiddling to get it dialed into meet my needs.
There are a couple quirks worth mentioning, though. The first has to do with the substantial ramp up towards the end of its stroke, even without any volume spacers installed. Despite my best efforts, I was never able to fully bottom it out – the biggest nosedives or hucks to flat always ended with around 10mm of travel left on the table. It was only once all the air was let out that I could I get it to go through all 170mm of travel. It’s not the end of the world, but it would be nice to have a better range of ramp-up tuning available. WEIGHT & PRICE
The Domain replaced a Fox 36 on the Commencal, and in that case the extra weight was noticeable, at least initially. The Domain is over a pound heavier, and while a pound may not seem like that much in the grand scheme of things, when that weight is hanging off the front of the bike where you'll be lifting it over and over again, it does add up. On the e-bike that extra heft wasn't an issue, and realistically I can see the Domain being a good way to bring the astronomical price of e-bikes down without negatively affecting their performance.
As far as price goes, the Domain sort of sits in its own category when compared to offerings from other major manufacturers. At the moment there aren't really many direct competitors with 38mm stanchions that hit a similar pricepoint , which means you'll need to spend $200 more to get a fork like the Manitou Mezzer Expert or Marzocchi Z1. Suntour also now offers a Durolux 38 in the $750 price range - we'll work on getting one of those in for review in the near future.
RockShox Domain: 2540 grams, $549 USD.
Manitou Mezzer Expert: 2040 grams, $750 USD
Marzocchi Z1: 2210 grams, $729 USD
RockShox Zeb: 2250 grams, $1,019 USD
Fox 38: 2430 grams, $949 - $1,199 USDDOMAIN VS ZEB
How much of a performance difference is there between the budget-oriented Domain and the top-of-the-line Zeb? Not as much as you’d think. They both have great small bump sensitivity, although the Zeb does feel a little slipperier, requiring less breakaway force than the Domain.
Where the Domain does falter a little is on sections of trail with repeated impacts – imagine a steep run with a bunch of big braking bumps. In those instances the Domain didn’t feel as composed as the Zeb – it felt like the rapidfire impacts caused it to choke, making the final hits in a series harsher than expected. The Zeb also has a more effective rebound adjustment, along with low- and high-speed compression adjustments. Less weight, more adjustments, and a better damper are the reasons why the Zeb costs nearly twice as much as the Domain.SERVICE
Just like with their other forks, RockShox recommends performing a lower leg service every 50 hours, and a complete damper and spring service every 200 hours. A lower leg service is a simple procedure, and can be performed at home in well under an hour. After five months of regular use my test fork remains leak- and creek-free, and is still operating smoothly.
Great price vs performance ratio+
Effective range of compression adjustment
Very progressive air spring makes it difficult to make use of all the travel-