When RockShox introduced the Charger damper in the Pike back in 2013 it really raised the bar and reset expectations of how good a trail fork could feel. With appetites whetted, we couldn’t wait to get the new version for RockShox’s long-running BoXXer downhill fork slotted in and up on the hill as soon as possible.
The upgrade fits any 35mm BoXXer chassis (from model year 2010 onwards) and is a doddle to fit if you have a comprehensive toolkit and a good knowledge of how the fork works internally. While you’re there, it’s worth giving the seals a clean and spruce-up – as we did – or even changing them, so you can get a real feel for the changes that the new damper makes.
With the Charger installed, the BoXXer’s initial stroke feels super-sensitive and almost frictionless. We were surprised by how much difference it made, because the previous R2C2 cartridge already did a good job of masking any friction in the seals and bushings. We were lucky enough to have our first ride on the Charger on the braking bump riddled trails above Les Deux Alpes in France, where the differences were obvious in just seconds.
The upgrade kit delivers almost breathtakingly silky yet supportive performance
That silky feel carries on all the way through the travel, and while the compression damping feels less noticeable when compared to previous BoXXer dampers, the Charger still keeps the fork incredibly well propped up and supported when the trail gets ugly or you get out of shape. Even though our test BoXXer was initially somewhat undersprung, it was still reluctant to dive and served up a tremendous amount of control in the rough stuff.
After several runs spent experimenting with the compression adjustment we decided to change to a harder spring and stick with a mid-range compression setting.The spring change really brought out the true potential of the damper, with the stiffer coil allowing the fork to sit higher up in its travel and let the Charger get on with keeping the front end as composed as possible.
The amount of small bump sensitivity and the way it’s seamlessly integrated with hard hit support is mindblowing when you ride it back-to-back with the previous damper. The Charger allows you to be more confident in your riding and to be in a more aggressive position over heavy hits. It also massively reduced hand fatigue during long downhill runs thanks to that initial sensitivity, even with the harder spring we swapped to.