Fox 38 vs RockShox ZEB | Compared Simply

Fox 38 and rockshox zeb on a black background for the comparison banner photo

Fox 38 vs RockShox ZEB

    The Fox 38 and RockShox ZEB are the two most popular suspension forks for enduro, freeride, and trail bikes gone downhill. There’s a bunch of comparison all over the internet, but they’re all super long, and at the end all they talk about is how both forks are just extremely similar. We've spent lots of time riding each fork and can report that there definitely is a difference in how each fork rides, so we wanted to save you time and compare the differences simply. Choosing between the two truly comes down to a simple comparison.

    Read on for a short and sweet comparison and get the lowdown on which fork will be best for you and how you ride!

38 v ZEB - The Simple Comparison

    Both forks have 38mm stanchions and are meant for enduro and freeride mountain biking. The ZEB has low speed compression, high speed compression, and low speed rebound adjustments. The 38 has all the same, plus high speed rebound.

    Basically the ZEB is less adjustable, but that makes it easier to set up.
    The 38 is more adjustable, but that makes it harder to set up.

    The ZEB is the burlier brother of the Lyrik, and the
38 is the burlier brother of the 36. While both forks are noticeably more stiff than their lil' bros, they were engineered with different stiffness intentions. The 38 has stiffness added all around, while the ZEB’s added stiffness is mostly torsional. This means both forks feel super precise when changing direction at high speeds. The ZEB does have more fore/aft stiffness over its little brother the Lyrik, but the 38 has much more fore/aft stiffness. Fore/aft stiffness is what you feel when pointed straight, and it’s definitely noticeable when charging hard on the 38.

Fox Float Factory 38 in shiny black on a concrete background
RockShox Zeb Ultimate on a Devinci Spartan in a quarry

    The 38 is more stiff plowing straight through stuff, but both forks feel super precise when changing direction. This means the 38 does love smashing straight through chunk, but the ZEB feels less harsh since it’s a little less stiff and more compliant.

    After spending lots of time on both forks,
I can confidently say that the on-trail feel is the true deciding factor between these two.

On Trail Comparison - The True Deciding Factor Between The 38 and ZEB

    Both forks are insanely plush and smooth, so much so that there’s no need to even discuss which is more plush or smooth. These forks are both, absolutely, without a doubt, the best burly enduro forks on the market. Neither are better, they just feel slightly different. So, here's what it comes down to in our opinion:

The Fox 38 feels is slightly more tractiony,
while the RockShox Zeb is slightly more poppy.

    When I say slightly, I’m talking a 5% difference in feel when in the hands of a frequent, rider and I’m serious - we're splitting hairs.

Fox Float 38 Charging through a dusty corner

A planted 38

RockShox ZEB on a stepdown

A playful ZEB

    Both forks use similar damper and air spring designs. The way the 38’s air chamber and damper are designed gives it slightly more of a traction oriented feel, while the ZEB's gives it a slightly more poppy and active feel. The 38 uses less travel more efficiently, which provides more traction. The ZEB uses a little more travel more frequently which gives it just a little bit more pop.

To me, the 38 feels more like a single crown downhill fork,
while the ZEB feels more like a heavy duty trail fork.

Final Bullet Points

    The Fox 38 is more adjustable, more stiff, feels more “traction-y”, and weighs a little more. The RockShox Zeb is less adjustable, less stiff, feels more “poppy” and weighs less.

If you want a fork that
- Is super adjustable
- Is super stiff
- Is a burly fork to plow through everything
- Will get every bit of traction possible

Go with the Fox 38

Fox Float Factory 38 in shiny black on a black background

If you want a fork that
- Is easier to set up
- Is more compliant and less harsh
- Weighs a bit less
- Is more lively and poppy

Go with the RockShox ZEB

RockShox Zeb Ultimate in Slab Grey on a black background

    While I did very briefly touch on points and didn’t get super in-depth on trail feel, weight, etc, we truly feel as if everything is so close that deciding between the two just comes down to those few hair splitting factors that we pointed out - planted vs poppy.

    Some other quick specs are that both forks can be set to 150, 160, 170 or 180mm of travel, plus the ZEB can be set to 190mm. The top-tier ZEB Ultimate is $999 coming in Black or Slab Grey, and the Fox 38 Factory is $1,249 coming in Shiny Black or Shiny Orange. There’s also more affordable models of both forks: The Fox 38 Performance Series Elite and the RockShox ZEB Select.  

    Alright, there you have it! That’s the Fox 38 v RockShox ZEB.

Got questions? Feel free to shoot us an email or give us a call!


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Mike Randol



Bellingham, WA

Current Bikes:Mullet Devinci Spartan 27.5 Custom Build

Bike Size: Medium

Favorite Trails: Dirt Merchant in Whistler, Chuckanut Mountain Trails in Bellingham

About Me: I grew up hucking my bike off curbs in the suburbs of Chicago. I moved out to the PNW in 2014 and opened The Lost Co in 2016. I freaking love riding long rough descents and really pushing my body to the limit. I'll straight up ride any type of bike but really prefer long travel 27.5" bikes. However, mid-travel 29r's are growing on me...