While it's undoubtedly an overworn term, ‘game changer’ was an apt description of RockShox' Pike fork when it was introduced in 2013. The Pike raised the bar for what a trail fork should be – but while it’s incredibly capable fork, holes have remained in RockShox' long-travel product line, since the previous iteration of the Lyrik wasn’t available for 27.5 and 29in wheels.
Excitingly, that situation is now changing. So how has RockShox gone about building on the success of an already category-leading product?
“When we went back to the drawing board and asked ourselves where do we go beyond Pike we came up with two main items: we wanted to have a stiffer chassis and longer travel for enduro racing,” said RockShox communication manager Simon Citatti, presenting the new Lyrik.
The fresh fork can be thought of as a Pike on steroids, given that it shares the many of the same technologies in a beefed-up package. As with the Pike, RockShox opted to build the new Lyrik around 35mm stanchions. This enabled the company to standardize several key components across Pike, Lyrik and the new budget-friendly Yari lines. All three forks share the same slippery SKF-made wiper seals, while the Lyrik and Yari share the same lowers.
Compared with the Pike, the Lyrik’s chassis has a thicker, reinforced arch and thicker lower legs. RockShox used an asymmetrical casting, with a longer leg on the air spring side and a shorter leg on the damper side, to keep the weight gain to a minimum. The Lyrik comes with a 100-120g weight penalty over a Pike of the same travel.
RockShox claims that stiffness gains were also made possible by incorporating the oversized Torque Caps. When used with compatible forks, such as the Lyrik, Yari and 2016 Pike, these 31mm end caps increase the surface area between the hub and the fork to bolster stiffness. It’s worth noting that riders are not required to run SRAM’s Torque Cap-equipped hubs with RockShox Torque Cap-compatible forks.
While the Lyrik uses updated versions of the tried and true Charger Damper and Solo Air spring, RockShox engineers sought to improve small bump sensitivity by making the fork even suppler. They did this by increasing the volume of the negative air chamber — a technique the company used when it developed its line of DebonAir shocks.
The sum total of these refinements is what sets the Lyrik apart from the Pike when the trail turns rough.
On the trail
BikeRadar had two testers putting the Lyrik through its paces. Rob Weaver tested the Lyrik in the French Alps at Les Deux Alpes, while Josh Patterson spent two days riding the new fork on the trails surrounding Retallack Lodge in British Columbia, Canada.
While both of our riders were testing in steep, rocky alpine terrain, our test setups were dramatically different. Rob tested the Lyrik in its longest travel 27.5in version, while Josh tested it in the longest 29er version currently available.
Rob’s test platform: Cube Fritzz with 180mm front and rear travel and 27.5in wheels
Josh's test platform: Trek Remedy 29 with 160mm fork / 140mm rear travel and 29in wheels
Rob's first impressions
The Lyrik is extremely supple off the top. I rode a fresh Pike for the sake of comparison and it certainly didn’t feel as easy to get moving as the Lyrik.
It was really hard to unsettle this fork through heavy-hitting, repetitive braking bumps.
The Lyrik’s damping feels closer to the Fox 36. It’s definitely more composed than the Pike and it properly irons out chunder with plenty of composure and far less feedback to your hands. It’s a different feel than the 36, but closer for sure.
It’s impressively supportive. It’s propped up when you need it to be without feeling harsh or having to bump up the air pressure to achieve support.
Even at 180mm travel, I never had any notable issues with stiffness. Things felt accurate when dropping into awkward, stepped rocky turns and equally, high-speed inside carved catch berms where you tend to feel any vagueness when loading the bike.
Josh's first impressions
First and foremost, the Lyrik’s chassis stiffness is readily apparent. It was most noticeable when descending steep, bermed switchbacks at speed. This is a situation where fork flex can become an issue on 29ers. Some long-legged 29er forks have a tendency to load and spring back when plunging into tight turns.
The other scenario where excessive 29er fork flex rears its ugly head is tracking through rock gardens — fore/aft flex can reduce traction, thereby making it more difficult to hold a line.
In both cases, the Lyrik proved adept at holding its own.
The combination of oversized endcaps and a stiff chassis appear to be an effective means of boosting stiffness. Speaking of ‘boost,’ the fork I tested had the 100mm front axle spacing, not the wider 110mm spacing that may soon become the norm. It will be interesting to see what sort of additional stiffness gains can be made by moving to a fork designed to be paired with 110mm-wide front hub with a wider bracing angle.
Through the midstroke the Lyrik provided the support riders have come to appreciate in the Pike. It was at the far ends of the spectrum where the subtle refinements made to the Lyrik’s damper really shine: small bump sensitivity is excellent and it’s ability to absorb high-speed impacts deep into its travel is equally impressive.
RockShox has managed to take the performance of the Pike to the next level to meet the needs aggressive trail riders and enduro racers.
The Lyrik is stiffer and more capable of absorbing successive large impacts, while retaining its composure. We still need to put many more miles of this fork before we reach a final conclusion, but all signs point to this fork being able to go toe-to-toe with the Fox 36.