ROCKSHOX PIKE ULTIMATE RCT3 FORK REVIEW
LIGHT WEIGHT BUT NOT LIGHT DUTY
Review by Robert Johnston
RockShox have had the Pike in their lineup since 2004 – long before I was a mountain biker. Over this time, it’s seen its fair share of updates to stay with the times but has perhaps lost a little of its shine in the RockShox range as it has become overshadowed by the lighter weight SID and heavier hitting Lyrik and Zeb. That certainly doesn’t mean it’s a bad fork, with all the same tech as its siblings, but how does it stack up as an aggressive trail/light enduro fork in a competitive market?
RockShox offers the Pike in a plethora of options, with the focus on the aggressive trail through to all mountain/light enduro category. To satisfy the needs of this demographic, it’s available in either 27.5” or 29” chassis with travel from 120mm through to 160mm for both wheel sizes. Each wheel size sees a standard and “short” offset option, to allow each rider or company to obtain their desired steering response. Also common to the array of options are the 180mm post mount with compatibility with up to 220mm rotors; clearance for up to a 81mm/3.2” tire; a choice of quick release Maxle or Maxle Stealth for the 15x110mm axle; and the option to use Torque caps to add stiffness to the hub-fork interface. The Pike is E-bike approved, offering a lightweight option especially suited to eMTB light machines.
The Pike is still in the premium segment of Rock Shox offerings, meaning even the cheapest $713/€801 Select model retains a bladder style Charger damper in RC guise and their bottomless token-compatible Debonair air technology, housed within the same updated chassis. There’s a dirt-jump specific offering in there for the skinny jean crowd, as well as a newly released Flight Attendant equipped model for users of that ecosystem.
The $917/€1030 Pike Ultimate is available with the choice of Charger 2.1 damper setups: either RC2 with independently adjustable high and low speed compression; or RCT3 (tested) with low speed compression and a 3-position climb switch. Both come with a low speed rebound adjustment as you’d expect, and the aforementioned Debonair air spring can be fitted with bottom token air spacers to fine tune the progression – up to 6 depending on the travel. New to the Pike Ultimate are the Maxima Plush damping fluid, designed to offer lubrication and reduce noise within the damper; and ultra-low friction SKF wiper seals to keep the grime out while producing as little sliding friction as possible. The Ultimate is available in the signature gloss silver color, or as a high gloss black with chrome decals.
Setting up the Pike Ultimate is simple, as we’ve come to expect from a RockShox fork. The Trailhead app or web page lets you get air pressure and rebound in the correct ballpark quickly and beginning with a medium level of compression will serve as a good baseline for the majority of riders. Confirming the air pressure is in the right ballpark is simple thanks to the RockShox exclusive stanchion markings. My 140mm model came with 1 bottomless token (RockShox’s air volume spacers) from the factory, which gave quite a linear response that would lack sensitivity at pressures that kept it off the bottom out bumper. I ended up settling for 3 tokens as a good compromise, with 108psi for my 97kg (210lb) kitted mass and 8 clicks rebound from fully closed (slow). The low-speed compression adjustment started bang in the middle of the 18 click range, which ended up being reduced down to 5-7 clicks from open depending on the terrain at hand, offering a little bit more terrain-ironing in the extremely chattery trails ridden during the test. Having the pedal mode at hand to quickly bump up the LSC to a firmer setting for the smoother bike park style descents was handy, allowing the open setting to be set up more active for the majority of trail situations. The “firm” setting on the compression adjust is as described, seriously limiting the oil flow and giving a platform that’s only suitable for road or the smoothest of fire road climbs, but it’s nice to have the option. Foregoing the high-speed compression adjustment of the RC2 damper lessens the tunability without diving into the internals, limiting the ultimate performance of the fork out of the box, but the factory settings likely cater well to the vast majority of riders.
The Pike has retained its stiffness levels of the past, offering plenty of steering precision to all but the heaviest or hardest hitting riders on a trail machine through to an enduro bike, especially with a Torque Cap equipped hub. Sitting at a comparable weight to the outgoing Fox 34 from ‘21, the stiffness to weight ratio is impressive, and though the newer Fox offering has shaved off considerable weight, the Pike’s stiffness and accompanying precision and confidence ranks well in our books. As a heavy rider I’m impressed that the Pike can still hold its own in chunky terrain – terrain that RockShox would likely suggest is more appropriate for their heavier hitting Lyrik and ZEB offerings.
Compared with the Lyrik, which shares the same stanchion diameter, the Pike does have a sportier “trail” feeling in how it reacts to the terrain. There’s more feedback from the trail, which does give more feedback and confidence in the grip on the front tire but generates less traction in itself. The Lyrik does a great job of sticking firmly to the terrain below ironing out the small to mid-sized bumps, and though the Pike is far from harsh, it does transmit more force through to the bars. Big impacts are dealt with suitably well for a 140mm unit with the three bottomless tokens fitted, letting you access the full scope of the travel without encountering any jarring metal-on-metal bottom out instances. Running relatively fast rebound, it recovers impressively well from successive hits without a hint of packing, ensuring there’s always reserves on tap for the next big compression, but the deeper travel instances never return too quickly to the point of nervousness. Longevity has been a strong suit of RockShox in recent years, with their 200-hour major service intervals being some of the higher in the industry, and our experience suggesting this can be far exceeded without issue…not that we would recommend it, of course. You’ll still absolutely want to adhere to the 50-hour lower refresh service to ensure things are sliding as freely as possible. At $917 for a top tier fork, the value proposition is pretty damn reasonable too, undercutting many of the competition without compromising on performance or build quality.
The Wolf’s Last Word
RockShox may be reducing the intended aggression of the Pike, but it’s capabilities are still strong, with support for hard charging for all but the hardest hitting riders on trail through to enduro machines. The RCT3 damper offers quick on-the-fly tuning to tailor the fork to the trail situation effectively, boosting its trail bike friendly nature.
Price: $917 / €1030
Weight: 1860g (29”, 51mm offset, 140mm travel, 185mm steerer)
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