Rockshox ZEB Ultimate
Words & Images Sam Baker
New from Rockshox is the Zeb Ultimate. An answer to the recently released Fox 38, it fills a gap between the Lyrik and Boxxer forks. But what’s with the name? Apparently it’s homage to Zebulon Pike, an early American explorer who wandered the hills of Colorado, and, most notably, up Pikes Peak.
First of all we have to mention the looks. Its machined features are visually striking and easy on the eye, as is the subtle gunmetal grey colour. Simple and to-the-point seems to be the port of call here, and Rockshox have delivered in spades.
The Zeb is available in anything from 160mm, up to a whopping 190mm travel. God knows what you’d be doing with a 190mm single-crown fork strapped to your bike, but it’s there should the need arise. The main feature that sets the Zeb apart from the rest of the Rockshox lineup is the move to 38mm stanchions in an effort to increase torsional stiffness. Apparently Rockshox managed to increase this stiffness by 21 percent over the Lyriks. The ultimate model also features adjustable high- and low-speed compression through the new Charger 2.1 damper, which provides an incredibly supple nature off the top.
Additional well-thought-out features such as moving the crown slightly further forward to avoid a crash with your headtube on harsh bottom outs, and the option to bolt a fender directly to the arch are nice touches that round off a purposeful fork.
It’s been a while since I’ve been blown away by a fork. I’ve been a Fox convert for years, always admiring the grip and rider feedback they provide. However the Zeb has me swooning. The new Charger 2.1 damper really rolls out the red carpet on any rough terrain you encounter. Small, repetitive hits are smoothed over like cake icing and you can really concentrate on holding your line as opposed to battling the ground beneath you. Holding your line is something the 38mm stanchions can attest to. The torsional stiffness is really noticeable here—the extra stability when tracking over rough sections is worth noting.
Another key aspect to the Zeb is its bottomless feel. The o-ring shows I’ve reached full-travel a number of times, but not once could I tell you where it happened. Full travel is reached in a courteous way, without the noticeable whack I’ve experienced from other forks in the past. All of this reduction in rider feedback really allows you to push where you wouldn’t have in the past. Rough chutes into corners, once ridden dangling off the back, suddenly make sense with the level of calm composure the Zeb provides.
The Zeb is a burly fork for the big days and for riding harder than you ever thought you could. Coming in at 2,250g it’s a tad heavier than the Lyrik, but still lighter than the 38. The Lyrik probably fits the bill more as an all-rounder fork, but if you have a tendency to ride like it you stole it through the roughest descents, the Zeb has your name written all over it.