The pinnacle of enduro performance
We got the chance to ride the current 2019 RockShox Lyrik RC2 back-to-back in an ABA test format with the new 2020 RockShox Lyrik Ultimate.
RockShox Lyrik Ultimate RC2 review
RockShox’s Lyrik RC2 was our class-leading enduro fork last year. This MY20 Lyrik Ultimate looks similar, but introduces further tweaks and improvements, best summarised as more overall smoothness and a lighter high-speed compression tune than previously.
With refined internals to reduce both friction and noise, the sealed Charger 2.1 cartridge uses a redesigned SKF seal head on the damper shaft, and a new, more heat-resistant, damper fluid. The rebound architecture has also been re-worked with piston technology borrowed from its rear shocks and a more digressive tune to improve rebound reaction and control.
Elsewhere, new SKF wiper seals on the stanchions (that took two years to develop) are even smoother, and different grease in the air spring brings extra fluidity. All this new technology will plug into older Lyrik forks too, and if you want to upgrade it will cost you £325.
The differences are subtle, but this year’s Lyrik is even better. We still run around 5psi higher than recommended in the Debonair air spring, but it perfectly balances support against sensitivity over a broad range, so you don’t need to fiddle around adding spacers or tuning damping to get excellent results.
The new model has amazing traction while riding slightly higher in its travel, so you can absorb bigger hits with the same level of comfort, support and bar height, and it retains best-in-class suppleness and tracking that keeps arms from fatiguing on the longest tracks. The lower damping threshold means you can run more high-speed compression than previously for a sportier feel, and adding a couple of clicks didn’t introducing any sharpness or discomfort into hands on repeated hard hits, even on violent Lake District rocks.
On the longest runs, the Lyrik remains super smooth and comfortable, but also offers excellent support to push against when working the bike really hard to avoid holes or boost kickers. So while Fox’s latest FIT4 damper can claim similar levels of small bump sensitivity, the overall Lyrik package is still king, whether tracking across wet off-camber roots or hammering through repeated, tiring, jagged square-edge hits.
Rockshox Lyrik Ultimate details
Words by Alan Muldoon
By far the biggest change for 2020 is at the Ultimate level with the addition of latest Charger 2.1 RC2 damper cartridge. It is more of an update than a complete redesign though, and it still sports the same adjustments as the RC2 cartridge it replaces. So you have independent high and low-speed compression adjustment, were the level of high-speed compression damping has been reduced.
And this is a good thing, as most regular riders ran the high-speed compression on the current Lyrik RC2 in the fully open position, making it a somewhat redundant adjustment.
With the new tune, the mid-position of the five available high-speed settings is now equivalent to the old fully open setting, dramatically increasing the usable range of high-speed compression adjustment.
The low-speed compression damping on the Charger 2.1 damper has also been tweaked to make the fork ride slightly higher in its travel, something that we got to experience first hand when riding the old Lyrik RC2 back-to-back with the Charger 2.1 equipped Lyrik Ultimate at the launch in Portugal. More on this in a minute.
RockShox has really gone to work on the rebound side of Charger 2.1 damper cartridge too. Replacing the old split glide-ring with a piston wearband that is sized to the damper tube and prevents oil bypassing the damping circuit on rebound. It’s technology borrowed straight from RockShox’s rear shock department, and combined with a more digressive rebound tune the end result is a fork with more consistent rebound control and better tracking.
So that covers the improvements in damping, but RockShox has also reduced friction, targeting both lubrication and sealing. So let’s take a closer look at both.
Maxima Plush fluid inside the Charger 2.1 damper is designed to reduced friction, wear and noise. All of which lead to more consistent damping, better tracking, less fatigue and longer service intervals.
The air spring side of the fork remains unchanged for 2020, but RockShox switched from SRAM Butter to a dynamic seal assembly grease, as this offers better long term friction properties, especially at higher temperatures.
In terms of sealing, once again RockShox partnered with SKF to reduce friction in the wiper seals. A joint venture that took over 2 years to develop, the new seals run smoother while still keeping dirt out and most importantly, the lubrication inside the fork lowers.
RockShox also switched to a new SKF seal head on the damper shaft that is claimed to reduce the stick/slip friction by 30 per cent. If this all sounds familiar, it’s because RockShox adopted a similar approach when it introduced the 2019 Lyrik RC2. Still, it goes to show its commitment to reducing friction further, even if the low-hanging fruit have already been harvested.
And, just like last year, the latest round of updates are all backwards compatible. So you could upgrade to the new seals, or grease, or go the whole hog and get a Charger 2.1 damper cartridge for a Lyrik RC2 for £325.
Our original back-to-back-to-back testing
Words by Alan Muldoon
The location for this testing was Sintra, Portugal and we had the opportunity to get up to speed and learn the test track on the current Lyrik RC2 (black) before any changes were made. Once we had our lines dialled, we then switched to the new Lyrik Ultimate (red) with the Charger 2.1 damper, keeping the sag and damping settings consistent on both forks.
It was also a blind test, as we had no idea what changes RockShox had made to the 2020 fork before riding it. In fact, all we knew was that the 2019 fork was black and the 2020 version was red.
Even after repeated runs on the 2020 Lyrik Ultimate, we didn’t notice a marked improvement in small bump sensitivity or tracking over the current Lyrik. But given that RockShox already has the best small bump compliance of any enduro fork, that’s probably to be expected. What we weren’t expecting was to use more of the available travel on big hits, because we hand not compromised the overall ride height of the fork.
Normally, if you want to retain the necessary support of the air spring at sag you have to compromise on travel, the red O-ring always ending up 10mm shy of bottom out. With the new Charger 2.1 damper we were able to maintain the support we needed at sag to preserve the dynamic geometry of the bike, but we could repeatedly get much closer to full travel on big hits, even reaching bottom out once or twice during the test.
Switching back to the 2019 fork confirmed that the changes we experienced were not simply due to us getting to know the test track better and going a little faster, as we were not able to make full use of the available travel on the older Lyrik when running the same amount of sag and volume spacers. The post-test presentation making it clear that this was due to the higher level of high-speed compression damping on the 2019 fork.
So we left Portugal convinced that the 2020 RockShok Lyrik is an improvement over the current design, but it’s not so drastic that it will have anyone with the 2019 Lyrik rushing out to upgrade their fork.
We’re still impressed that RockShox has been able to made the best enduro fork on the market that little bit better though. You can use full travel easier without compromising support and it still has the best small bump sensitivity going. Factor in the more useable range of high-speed damping adjustment and the 2020 RockShox Lyrik Ultimate is the enduro fork to which all others will be measured.
Even with all of the changes, the price of the Lyrik remains unchanged.
This test confirmed what we already thought, namely that the Lyrik is a superior bit of kit, hovering across the terrain with better comfort, which kept our hands stronger for longer and allowed us to maintain a better focus on the trail ahead. RockShox’s product does all this without being spongy or vague, so you can still push against it to pop the bike over holes or rocks, and really sense every shade of grip and bump shape. The fact it costs less to buy than the Fox 36 cements its position at the top of the suspension pile.