With the new RockShox Domain the suspension giant is bringing its hard-hitting 38mm to affordable price point. More for less.
Available for both 27.5in and 29in wheels, the RockShox Domain comes in four travel options: 150mm; 160mm; 170mm and 180mm. There’s a single short 44mm offset and a sleek mudguard option that bolts to the brace for an extra £20.
In 2020, the suspension fork market was all about the number 38, as both Fox and RockShox launched big and burly single-crown models (Fox 38 and RockShox Zeb respectively). Equipped with 38mm stanchions, these beefcake forks aimed to boost the stiffness of hard-charging e-bikes and enduro bikes. But they came at a price, with Fox’s top-of-the-range 38 coming in at an equally chunky £1,300, and the RockShox Zeb Ultimate not far behind at £969.
What if you quite fancy the extra precision of a stiffer fork on the front of your bike, but can’t stretch to those kinds of prices? Well, boasting a 38mm chassis and up to 180mm of travel, RockShox may just have the answer in the shape of its new £530 Domain – that’s almost half the price of the entry level Fox 38 and £250 less than the cheapest Zeb.
If the name feels familiar, it’s because it was originally offered around 10 years ago as an affordable big-hitter in both single and dual crown versions. Only now it’s been reimagined with that same budget-busting performance, but a burlier chassis and trickle down tech from the Zeb.
There’s the same DebonAir air spring with its supple off-the-top compliance and higher ride height, mated to a Motion Control RC damper that uses a simpler, plastic compression assembly instead of the more sophisticated sealed bladder units found in the Charger damper. What’s really cool, though, is that RockShox makes it easy for you to upgrade to that Charger 2.1 damper further down the line for £325.
RockShox Domain first impressions
Although the Domain features the same Motion Control RC damper that’s plugged into second-tier RockShox Yari fork, the on-trail performance is quite a lot different.
When bombing through rocks gardens or racing down rooty trails, it just didn’t feel as harsh, which we noticed in our hands or rather we didn’t because there wasn’t that compression spike when we hit a lot of those square edges.
The Domain also felt more sensitive and had a softer feel than the Yari. To be fair our sample fork is brand new and has 170mm of travel compared to 160mm travel forks we normally see but maybe that Maxima Plush damping fluid does what it says on the tin.
I’m not sure if it’s the new Maxima Plush damping fluid or the extra stiffness of the 38mm chassis, but the Domain feels way more controlled than the Yari it Motion Control RC damper saves you money now but you can always upgrade later Crown steerer and upper tube assembly is modelled on the top-tier Zeb replaced on my test bike, even though it uses the same damper. Also, I couldn’t feel any of the harshness through my hands that was present with the Yari. Maybe that’s because the Domain is also way more sensitive, but at the same time there’s still plenty of support, so you’re not blowing through the travel on the steep stuff.
Like all forks in RockShox’s family, the Domain is a doddle to set up – adjust the spring pressure to get the correct amount of sag, set the rebound to about six clicks in from full open and get ready to shred. I’ve since added one bottomless token and tweaked the spring pressure and settings all in the interest of testing, but I didn’t really need to do any of that as the Domain RC really is a fit-and-forget fork.
Would I spend my money on the Domain RC? Definitely, because I can’t afford the £950 Zeb. But even if I
Comes in 29in and 27.5in wheel sizes and four travel options Rebound adjustment was perfectly dialled after just six clicks could I’d have to think hard about that because the Domain fills that sub- category way better than the Yari or Revelation ever could. The fact that you can upgrade the damper at a later date means you can have your cake and eat it when funds permit, or when you really must have that final extra five per cent of performance.
Obviously, these are just first impressions, we’ll be putting all this to the test in the coming months, but ride quality for such a cheap fork is impressive.