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RockShox Zeb Ultimate fork review

Long-travel for big terrain

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
GBP £969.00 RRP | USD $999.00 | EUR €1,089.00 | AUD $1,505.00
RockShox Zeb Ultimate suspension mountain bike fork

Our review

Composed and smooth performance in chunky terrain justifies the weight penalty, and while it's cheaper than Fox's 38, it's not as supple or supportive
Pros: Stiff chassis doesn’t add harshness but allows the fork to swallow chunky terrain smoothly; ample range of damping adjustment
Cons: Not as ground-hugging nor as predictably supportive as Fox rivals; heavy
Skip to view product specifications

If you’re wondering where the RockShox Zeb name originates, it’s named after American soldier/explorer Lieutenant Zebulon Pike, after whom the RockShox Pike and Pike’s Peak mountain in Colorado are also named.

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It’s designed for long-travel bikes and big terrain. With 38mm stanchions and increased bushing overlap relative to the Lyrik, the Zeb squares off against Fox’s 38.

Though claimed to be only 2 per cent stiffer fore-aft than a Lyrik, the Zeb feels like it has the edge over its smaller sibling in gnarly terrain with shoebox-sized square-edge hits or rough compressions, where it’s a little more predictable and composed, and transmits less vertical movement to the bar.

I found the Zeb doesn’t settle into the first part of the travel as smoothly as its Fox rival, though, and at the same time has less support in the mid-stroke – a similar problem to the 2021 Lyrik.

This means it can’t match the traction and consistent ground-hugging feel of the Fox 38 when pattering across rough sections of trail off the brakes and doesn’t hold itself up quite as well when you are on the brakes, so sometimes dives through the middle of its travel more readily.

This makes the Zeb a little less predictable and stable on steep, gnarly terrain than the Fox 38. Adding compression damping helps it stay higher in its travel in some situations, but this sacrifices suppleness.

I couldn’t find a setup that matched the support of the Fox 38 and maintained comparable suppleness and comfort. At 85kg, I settled on 66psi for the best compromise between traction and support, after experimenting either side of this.

I removed all volume spacers to allow access to more of the travel, but still rarely used more than 85 per cent. So, while the mid-stroke is softer, it’s harder to access the last part of the travel when compared with the 38.

The range of damping adjustment is ample though, and it’s one of the few forks where the middle of the damping range works very well.

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Long-run comfort and big-hit composure are still excellent, though. It swallows up chunky terrain brilliantly. Most of the time, it’s tough to separate the Zeb and the 38, and it only loses out to its (more expensive) rival in specific situations.

How we tested

We tested seven burly enduro forks, and to make it a fair test, all forks had 170mm travel, around 42mm offset and were fitted to a 29in wheel. The same bike was used (a Privateer 161), with an identical setup and tyre pressures throughout.

We worked hard to optimise the setup of each fork by experimenting back and forth with all the available adjustments. Then they were tested back-to-back on the same familiar trails and in the same conditions, using an uplift to minimise the time between runs so the previous fork’s performance was fresh in our minds. Only when testing like this do the differences between forks stand out.

The standard of forks on test was considerably higher than 2020, and some new or upgraded models have seen firm favourites tumbling down the rankings.

Also on test:

  • Fox 36 Factory GRIP2: £1,159 / $1,139
  • Fox 38 Factory GRIP2: £1,299 / £1,249
  • Intend Ebonite: €1,428 (exc VAT and delivery) – £1,236 approx
  • Marzocchi Z1 coil: £789 / $779
  • RockShox Lyrik Ultimate (2021): £929 / $949 / AU$1,430 / €1,039
  • RockShox Zeb Ultimate: £969 / $999 / AU$1505 / €1,089
  • SR Suntour Durolux36 EQ R2C2: £640

Product Specifications

Product

Price AUD $1505.00EUR €1089.00GBP £969.00USD $999.00
Weight 2,297g (170mm travel on 29" wheel) – as tested
Brand Rockshox

Features

Features Adjustments: low- and high-speed compression, low-speed rebound, air spring pressure and volume spacers
Travel: 150-190mm (27.5” and 29”), travel change requires separate air shaft
Offset: 38, 44mm (27.5in) / 44, 51mm (29in)
Damper adjustments Charger 2.1 RC2
Offset 44mm
Spring type Air
Stanchion diameter 38mm
Travel 170mm
Wheel size 29in/700c