After initially being teased by the appearance of BlackBox-labeled
forks at this year's Andes Pacifico Enduro, and then by a batch of Lyriks with red lowers that showed up at the NZ Enduro, the wait is finally over – all the details about RockShox's revised Lyrik can now be released.
Those candy apple red lowers are the most obvious change for 2019, a color that will only be available on the new Lyrik RC2 model. It's a throwback to RockShox's early days – back in the mid- to late-90s red Judys and BoXXers were ubiquitous on the race circuit. Not into the red? Don't worry, the black option hasn't gone anywhere.
Of course, RockShox did more than just slap on a fancy paint job. The Lyrik RC2 now has externally adjustable high-speed compression damping, a feature that was missing on the last couple of iterations. There's also a new aluminum air spring seal head, which increases the negative spring volume by 42%, and is said to greatly reduce the amount of friction in compared to the previous Delrin version.
Lyrik RC2 Details
• Travel: 150, 160, 170,180mm
• Wheel size: 27.5" or 29"
• New DebonAir air spring
• New Charger 2 RC2 damper
• Offsets: 37mm, 46mm (27.5"), 42mm, 51mm (29")
• External adjustments: rebound, high- and low-speed compression
• Weight: 2,013 - 2,058g
• Price: $999 USD
• Available: April 2018
There are also more aftermarket offset options for the Lyrik – 37mm for the 27.5” fork, and 42mm for the 29” fork, which is in line with the geometry changes that companies like Transition, Whyte, and others have been adopting. MSRP for the Lyrik RC2 is $999 USD, and it will be available this April. New DebonAir Air Spring
What was the reasoning behind the changes to RockShox 2019 lineup? According to Jon Cancellier, RockShox's product manager, “We took the Pike and Lyrik chassis, put them in our test lab, and started breaking down each subsystem as a whole. What are the performance attributes that we like, what are the things we don't like, what things can we improve, and what can we get done and bring to market in a year to improve suspension feel?”
After that time in the test lab, reducing friction ended up high on the list. Cancellier continues, “Friction is the enemy of suspension. If your fork has friction, that means it's not moving. You're having to overcome that force before we can react to bumps, before we can absorb bumps, before we can move through the travel.” RockShox's engineers realized the Delrin (read: plastic) air spring seal head wasn't sliding as smoothly as they wanted – it was contributing the most amount of friction to the system. To solve that issue, they made the switch to an aluminum seal head with a bushing inside that's meant to help it resist side loading.
This design change made it possible to adhere to tighter tolerances, and according to RockShox, results in an air spring that has 51% less running friction, and 73% less static friction compared to the Delrin version. Keep in mind that those numbers refer only to the air spring – they don't mean that the fork has 51% less friction overall.
Along with the reduction in friction, the new air spring also provides more negative spring volume – 42% more in the Lyrik, and 36% more in the Pike. The larger negative spring volume is intended to increase the initial compliance of the fork, making it more supple over small bumps, but there's more to it than that. More negative volume also raises the middle of the spring curve, which should provide more support as the fork goes deeper into its travel. On paper, the fork's suspension curve begins to more closely resemble that of a coil sprung fork, with a similar shape in the beginning and middle of the travel, but with the benefit of an end stroke that can be tuned via volume reducing tokens.
If the concept of an aluminum air spring that increases negative volume is sounding familiar, you're not alone – there are several aftermarket suspension companies that currently offer products intended to do exactly what RockShox have done in the new Lyrik. The good news is that RockShox's new air spring is backwards compatible – there are options for the Lyrik, Pike, Yari, and Revelation, and, with an asking price of $42, it's a fairly reasonable upgrade. Adjustable High-Speed Compression Damping
Adjustable high-speed compression damping is now in place on the RC2 Lyrik, with a dial on the top right leg that provides five different damping settings. When the dial is turned it compresses a spring, adding more preload to a shim stack.
With the dial positioned in the middle setting it has the same amount of HSC damping as the current Lyrik, and then there are two clicks in either direction that allow riders to tune the fork to their liking.
RockShox wanted the high-speed compression adjustment to be usable, not confusing, which is why they didn't go with a dial that had dozens of minute clicks - having 5 rather than 20 options is meant to help keep riders from being overwhelmed by the tuning options.
Want an RC2 damper in your current Lyrik or Yari? That's an option, although at $244-$321 it's a little more pricey than upgrading the air spring. Super Deluxe Updates
The Super Deluxe shock also received several updates that are meant to reduce friction and improve performance, although they're a little more subtle than the changes to the Lyrik. The prior version of the air can had a small dimple stamped into the inside of it, which allowed the positive and negative chambers to equalize. There are now three smaller dimples, and they're machined rather than stamped, which allows for a more precise finished product. That change also means that the sensation of the air transferring between the positive and negative chambers, the slight “psssst” of air that you may have felt while hopping around in a parking lot, is much less noticeable.
The air cans are also now more round due to changes in manufacturing practices, which seems like a small detail, but it's one that can have a significant impact on the amount of friction in a shock. There's also a new textured surface on the inside of the air can that's meant to allow oil to stick better, ensuring everything is well-lubricated and running smoothly. Overall, those changes are said to have reduced static friction by 16%, and stick/slip friction by 22%. (Static friction is pushing on the shock from a stationary position, and stick/slip friction is while it's in motion).
The Super Deluxe's rebound circuit was also updated, and now each click affects the rebound damping the same way. Previously, the clicks at the beginning of the range had a different amount of impact to the feeling of the shock than those at the middle of the range. The overall range of damping options is the same, but now the steps between each setting are even, which should help make setup easier.
There's also a new low-speed check valve, similar to what's found in the Super Deluxe Coil, that's designed to add more rebound damping at low shaft speeds as the shock changes directions. That check valve is intended to help keep the shock more composed when faced with repeated impacts – picture a section of trail filled with braking bumps, or multiple roots in a row.
I'm ten solid rides in on the new Lyrik RC2 so far, which includes three days spend navigating the rooty, rocky, technical trails of the NZ Enduro. I'll admit that during the race I was concentrating more on not cartwheeling through the jungle, with varying degrees of success, but the blind race format did deliver plenty of unexpected terrain features to put the new fork to the test.
A Kona Process 153 CR
served as the home for the new fork and shock, with a 170mm Lyrik RC2 up front and a Super Deluxe RCT at the back. As far as fork setup goes, my current air pressure is around 10% higher than what I ran in the 2018 model, due to the increase in negative volume, and I'm also running one less token than usual. The reduction in the number of tokens is due to the curve created by the new air spring – with more support in the middle of the travel there's not as much need to increase the end stroke ramp up. Depending on the terrain I usually ran between one or two clicks of high-speed compression from fully open, but I can see bigger riders or those who frequent high speed, really rough terrain appreciating the new external adjustments. Each click is distinct, and makes a difference that can actually be felt on the trail.
It'd be easy to think that increasing a fork's negative travel would result in a super squishy, ultra plush ride, but that's not entirely true. The Lyrik is
nice and soft off the top, but I didn't feel much of a difference between the initial stroke of the 2018 vs. the 2019 Lyrik - it's in the middle of the stroke where the revised air spring is most noticeable. There's more support, which keeps the fork from diving too deeply into its travel in really rough terrain.
Now, 'mid-stroke support' is one of those terms that gets thrown around so much it's almost become a cliché, but it is an important characteristic of a well-performing fork. Ideally, you want a responsive and supple beginning stroke, in order to take the edge of the small bumps and chattery sections of trail. After that, the middle of the fork's travel should be smooth and controlled, without any unwanted diving during bigger hits. The Lyrik RC2 hits the mark on all those points, with a slippery-smooth initial portion of its travel, followed by plenty of support in the middle of the travel that helped keep it from getting sucked into the spaces between the endless spiderwebs of roots that crisscrossed the trails in New Zealand. I was also impressed by the level of comfort the Lyrik delivered – even on stages that stretched past the 10-minute mark, on trails that were full of unrelenting sections of anaconda-like roots, I never experienced any hand pain or discomfort.
Overall, the changes to the Lyrik are more evolutionary than revolutionary, but they do serve to create a fork that remains even more composed when blasting through the rough stuff, and the fact that the new air spring is available as a reasonably priced aftermarket upgrade is a nice touch. How does the Lyrik stack up against the rest of the field? I'd place it right up there in the lead pack, but keep an eye out for a more definitive conclusion, including notes on durability, once we spend some more time on it and get a chance to pit it against other contenders in back-to-back testing.