2023 ROCKSHOX SUSPENSION REVIEW
LYRIK ULTIMATE FORK & SUPER DELUXE COIL SHOCK
Photos & Words by Dario DiGiulio
When the new 2023 RockShox Lyrik and Super Deluxe were unveiled as part of a major line overhaul, some major claims were made. Over the past few years, many of the elements of the mountain bike have improved in leaps and bounds compared to the early days of the sport. One of the primary fields of development is in suspension technology, where companies appear to be able to one-up themselves year after year, no matter how good things get. Though it might seem like many of the changes that roll out are small, inconsequential tweaks, occasionally one of the main players will come to market with something completely different to anything that preceded it. In the case of the new RockShox suspension lineup, that is certainly the case, as they’ve completely redesigned their forks – on the inside at least – and brought a bevy of updates to the shocks as well. With all that new tech packed into one release, is it all for good?
The RockShox Lyrik Ultimate and the Super Deluxe Ultimate Coil (hereby referred to as “Lyrik” and “Super Deluxe” for my own sanity) have been staples in the RockShox lineup for a while now and cover one of the broader sections of the market. With the Lyrik’s travel bracket spanning from 140 to 160mm, it hits a point that fits many of the bikes people are riding these days. To match, the Super Deluxe has 26 different fitments available, and a form factor that should work with many of the coil-compatible frames on the market.
Though they’ve been around a while, there’s almost nothing repetitive about this newest iteration of the fork and shock – both have had major revisions that are worth getting into. First, I’ll tackle the new 2023 RockShox Lyrik, as it’s arguably the more dramatic change of the two. The damper – now titled Charger 3 – has been completely redesigned. Out goes the bladder from the previous Charger dampers, instead featuring an internal floating piston (IFP) design. Though both can work quite well, in this case the IFP was chosen because of its ability to eliminate “cross-talk” between the high-speed and low-speed compression circuits, allowing each to be tuned independently.
On the air spring side, there’s a refined version of the prior system, with an aluminium piston head opposed to the plastic previously, and a slightly tweaked negative/positive air chamber balance to help with support and small bump. Attached to the bottom of each of those shafts are one of RockShox’s cutest new technologies, the ButterCups. These are essentially captive elastomer bumpers that are meant to reduce high-frequency trail chatter and make for a smoother feel at the handlebar.
Yet another piece of new tech, this time closely copied from their chief competitor Fox, are the Pressure Relief Valves, which can be depressed after big changes in altitude or temperature to release pent up pressure in the lower legs, bringing things back to normal and preventing the movement of the fork from being influenced. For the Ultimate moniker models, RockShox has increased the bushing overlap, which should decrease sliding friction and increase the durability of the system. Sadly, neither this nor the ButterCups trickle down to the lower-tiered options for now, but it’s the primary way in which the Ultimate package stands out from the fleet. RockShox have also updated the lower-leg castings to allow for a direct mount fender, bolt-in torque cap adapters, and even a new color.
On the shock side, many of those updates carry over, starting with a redesigned damper, the RC2T. This promises to remove the “cross-talk” between the high and low circuits, and coupled with 20 clicks of rebound adjustment, riders will have plenty of range of adjustment to match your ride needs. The “T” stands for Threshold – their name for a climb switch/lockout lever. The Ultimate models come with 5-position Adjustable Hydraulic Bottom Out, which allows the rider to tune the last 20% of the stroke to match their frame’s bottom-out performance and crucially add extra support so heavy hitters don’t need to overspring their coil shock. The bushings on the shock have also grown, which should make for a smoother feel, and helps with the increased durability RockShox promises with the new model.
That’s a heap of new tech packed into a fork and a shock, but ultimately (pardon the pun) they’ve changed everything they can to provide a suspension package that competes with the other flagship models on the market. Pricing matches that expectation, with the 2023 RockShox Lyrik now coming in at $1,107, and the RockShox Super Deluxe between $549 and $580 depending on fitment. The fork weighs just north of 2,000 grams, and the shock weighs 900 in 230x65mm sizing with a 350lb coil spring.
I’ve been rocking the RockShox bouncy bits on my Specialized Stumpjumper Evo Alloy, a bike with the versatility and capability to match these products quite well. Testing conditions have been mostly bone dry, with a couple downpours to provide some slippery challenges to get through. Half of my time has been spent on my local trails in Bellingham, and the other half up in Whistler, in the bike park and on pedal-access trails in the valley.
Up front, I’m running the 160mm travel Lyrik option, and for the shock it’s the stock fitment of 210x55mm. I weigh around 175-180 pounds, and have settled on a 550-pound coil for my Stumpy, having spent a while on the 600. The 550 puts me at right around 27% sag on this bike, which feels like the sweet spot of climbing support, descending traction, and bottom-out resistance.
Though the fork and shock are meant to work in concert, it’s worth talking about each on their own, since people often mix and match with suspension components, or may upgrade one end of their bike before the other. I started off riding the Lyrik on its own, coming off my personal fork, which was the 170mm 2020 RockShox Lyrik Ultimate B1 version. This isn’t the most recent C1 air spring, as I preferred the ride feel of the B1 in steep rough terrain, which is typical to my area. I don’t want to get too much into the weeds, but that’s my baseline to compare with. Worth noting is the fact that although I was technically running a 10mm longer fork before, the exposed stanchion when riding is almost exactly the same on the new 160mm Lyrik, thanks to the higher ride height of the updated air spring.
First impressions can be deceiving, and in this case, they were a bit of an initial hurdle. I went out to a trail I know well, and rode it the way I always do, but felt like I couldn’t keep the front end planted through rough sections of trail. I also felt arm pump for the first time ever on that track. I knew immediately I needed to reconsider how I set things up. Talking to Chris Mandell, one of the product managers most familiar with the new RockShox lineup, his sole recommendation was to give the recommended settings an honest crack, and told me to refer to the Trailhead app that RockShox has developed for just this purpose. My aversion to doing that initially was based on how inaccurate the recommendations had been for my prior generation forks, where I tended to up pressure and reduce rebound compression quite a bit from its suggestions. Upon entering my info on the app, it spit out two numbers for me, and I stuck to them this time, even though they still felt a bit “off” bouncing around my back lot.
This skepticism was pretty much erased as soon as I got back onto dirt. The word I would use to sum up the new RockShox Lyrik is control. Compared to the last generation of Lyriks, I don’t think it feels as comfortable per se, but I do think it is more capable and composed at pace. It’s going to be hard to draw apples-to-apples comparisons between the new and the old though, because the two feel vastly different in almost every way. Old is fast shaft speeds, light damping, and a pretty linear feel until the end ramp. New is planted, muted, and a little more feedback, but with better support throughout the travel. I’m surprised by this, but I actually do notice a small improvement in how the fork acts over chattery loose trail conditions, probably in part due to those little ButterCups.
Prior to Crankworx, I had the opportunity to race the Whistler EWS100, and figured I’d throw the new suspension into the deep end and run the fork/shock combo I didn’t know at all for the back-to-back race and practice days. Over the course of practice, I was able to hone in on some compression settings that felt good at speed, and generally stuck to those recommended pressure/rebound settings as a baseline. My psi went up by one or two, my rebound sped up by one click, and the resulting 83 psi / 9 clicks is where I’ve remained since. The beauty of RockShock’s new Charger 3 damper is the relative adjustment on the compression circuits, which gives you a clean visual reference for where you’re sitting in the range of adjustment. At the moment, I’m -3 on the LSC, and -1 on the HSC, as I prefer to get that top bit of travel feeling as soft as I can while preserving most of the support.
All in all, the fork not only maintains traction and support through rough, loose, awkward sections of trail, it does so without making the slightest bit of noise, which is a pretty wild sensation when you’re used to the sound of rushing oil all the time. The fork also feels quite muted, as impacts are reacted to without blowing through the travel, giving kind of a soft catch feeling.
Adding the Super Deluxe to the equation turned the capability of the bike up even more, in such a remarkable way that I think this will be my baseline shock going forward. I quite liked how the Stumpy performed with the stock Float X, but it’s a given that a good coil shock is going to have a much more forgiving feel than a sporty air shock. That being said, there are things about the Super Deluxe that make it stand out from the crowd.
First is the satisfyingly simple yet effective adjustments you have tool-free access to. This makes bracketing settings quick and easy without getting lost in a myriad of potential setting combinations. Second is the hydraulic bottom out, which I came to appreciate when experimenting with spring weights. I was initially running a 600-pound spring but wasn’t sitting where I wanted to in the travel, so I swapped down to a 550. At this rate, mid stroke and top end support felt great, but on rare occasion I would find the rubber bumper at the end of the travel. After adding a couple clicks to the HBO, that last bit of travel is a much nicer transition, and makes the bike feel more composed in that end of stroke position.
I was able to get excellent grip out of the shock with both the 600- and 550-pound springs, as you can balance that top end feel to match your spring rate with the compression and rebound settings. The softer spring feels better in corners and steeper sections, as I’m able to pump into the travel a bit more and have more of the edge taken off in rough spots. Worth noting is just how well this shock climbs, and that’s not using the lockout switch – now called Threshold by the folks at RockShox. There’s enough support from the compression and spring to keep you at a comfortable ride height (on my Stumpjumper EVO at least), but the grip provided lets you scrape up the nastiest little bits of technical climbing, so long as you provide the power. To me, this is worth the loss in efficiency compared to an air shock, as those little tech climbs are a joy to clean.
As a system, the Lyrik and the Super Deluxe work wonderfully together. There’s enough range in the rebound to get things feeling very similar, and one should be able to tune front-rear balance perfectly with the few but substantial clicks on hand. I realize 38mm-stanchion forks are all the rage right now, but I can’t help but think that the majority of people running Zebs and 38s would be better off on something like the Lyrik to improve hand comfort and front wheel traction in situations where the stiffness isn’t called upon. It’s certainly up to the task of an EWS race, at my amateur pace at the very least, plus the lower system weight makes for a more well-rounded piece of kit for long days in the saddle.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Through an impressive, ground-up redesign, RockShox has set a new high bar for all-mountain bike suspension. I was a big fan of the prior generation of Lyriks, and the new one steps up the performance in a noticeable way, offering better control in just about every setting. There is a small sacrifice in comfort over a full run, but the gain in speed and composure is worth the tradeoff. The Super Deluxe matches that performance and gives the quiet reliability of the coil, making for a very predictable, stable, and grippy rear end feel. The new lineup should be all one needs to tackle some of the hardest trails and races around, provided you’re willing to spend a day on set up and adapting to the changes.
$1,107 : Lyrik Ultimate
$549-$580 : Super Deluxe
2,090g : Lyrik Ultimate
902g : Super Deluxe
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