The RockShox Pike raised the performance bar when it was introduced. Although it has now been overshadowed by the burlier Zeb in terms of size and intended use, the Pike still makes a highly effective trail fork.
Relaunched around a decade ago with a sealed Charger damper, stiff 35mm stanchions and an air-spring tuneable with volume spacers, RockShox’s Pike quickly became the go-to enduro fork. Enduro then got even gnarlier, and bikes (often with bigger 29er wheels that increased the leverage on forks) became more capable too, until the winning Pike format spawned sturdier siblings, namely the Lyrik and Zeb.
These later generation forks used the expanding bladder Charger damper tech and also increased bushing overlap, stanchion size and wall thickness for extra rigidity and toughness, but with increased material came additional weight.
The Pike was continually updated as well and got even lighter (while retaining stiffness), slowly morphing into RockShox’s trail fork, with the shift from enduro to trail category also mirroring how mountain bike product technology has become way more beefed-up in recent years. The latest Pike goes up to 160mm travel (120-150mm on 29ers), with the Ultimate version here using a Charger RC2.1 damper offering high and low-speed compression adjustment. An updated RCT3 damper (similar to the original Pike) is available in cheaper models.
Internal updates have centred on reducing friction and increasing suppleness to better track bumps, with slippier SKF seals, special damping oil that flows quietly and tweaks to both damper internals and the air seal head upping smoothness levels – subtle incremental changes that have made the fork more sensitive than ever.
Because the Pike is a dedicated trail fork, the biggest difference compared to fatter RockShox models is the air spring having more initial support. There’s a less sucked down, ground-hugging ride – instead it’s sportier with a bit more to push back against. This makes sense considering it’s aimed at matching the feel of shorter travel bikes and hardtails.
RockShox achieves this feel by moving the position of the dimple swapping air as the piston passes between the self-balancing negative and positive air chambers. A smaller negative chamber here pulls the Pike less into its travel, with the outcome of advertised travel numbers being fully achieved and a slightly higher ride height. It’s all noticeable too, so if you’re after a plusher, terrain-tracing feel with maximum comfort, I’d plug a Lyrik into your trail bike and accept the 200g or so weight penalty for the extra grip and tracking.
In my experience RockShox has totally nailed reliability and long term performance over the last few years. Few other brands’ forks work as well for as long, even if you neglect maintenance, which is a major advantage for undisturbed ride time and those averse to fettling or paying someone else to keep their fork sweet.
The latest RC2.1 damper has a much more useable high-speed compression range too, so just about the only reason not to choose a Pike as an all-round trail for is if you prefer the more slurpy, off-the-top action of a Lyrik, as it will track and grip better in winter slop and the chunkier build will let you be more committed in DH-style terrain.
For everyone else, the latest Pike is an evolved and totally refined product that’s very easy to set up. It’s the stiffest in its category, cheaper than high-end rivals and packs enough control and absorption for really hard charging – bordering on enduro – levels of abuse, with a trail-friendly weight that’s easier to lug uphill.