RockShox Domain vs RockShox ZEB | Which Is Best For You?

Rockshox domain zeb select and zeb ultimate on a shiny table with a black background

Watch the video or read the blog to learn about the whether the RockShox ZEB or RockShox Domain is best for you!


    With the evolution of enduro riding, comes the evolution of enduro bikes and components. Forks with 38mm stanchions are the new go-to for those who want a burly single crown fork, and RockShox currently offers 3 aftermarket options with thick 38mm stanchions:

RockShox Domain, ZEB Select, and ZEB Ultimate

    Similar looks, but different feels on the trail. In this blog, we’re going to compare these three forks and help figure out which is best for you.

Rockshox domain zeb select and zeb ultimate on a shiny table with a black background

    In 2020, enduro-specific forks were being released left and right, and this included the RockShox ZEB. For years, the Lyrik was the enduro choice in the RockShox fork lineup, but as riding kept getting more and more aggressive on single crown forks, riders demanded a bit more. The ZEB was designed from the ground up to outperform the Lyrik in very aggressive enduro riding, and the primary focus was increasing stiffness where it counts. When the ZEB was released it instantly became an insanely popular fork for riders with 160 to 180mm of fork travel. If you want to learn more about the RockShox ZEB overall, you can learn all about it here.

    In the aftermarket, the ZEB is currently available in 2 different models: The ZEB Ultimate and the ZEB Select. The ZEB Ultimate is the top-tier option aimed at the best performance possible, while The ZEB Select is aimed at pretty excellent performance but with a slightly more affordable price.

RockShox ZEB Ultimate in moody dark light

    Then in 2021, that sweet sweet trickle down technology kicked in and RockShox released a new version of their long standing budget fork, the Domain. Just like the ZEB, the RockShox Domain has 38mm stanchions. The Domain’s price, however, is nearly 50% of the ZEB Ultimate, making it a truly awesome option for those looking for a stiff and burly fork but don't want to eat Ramen for 7 months.

    If you’ve been looking at 38mm forks from RockShox, chances are you’ve been deciding between the Domain, ZEB Select and ZEB Ultimate. Don’t worry, we’re here to help by covering the differences in specs and performance, and then help figure out which is best for you and how you ride.

RockShox ZEB and Domain Specifications

    Alright, first let’s look at the available specs of each fork including things like available travels, offsets, dampers, weight, and more, to make sure they’ll fit your bike.

  • All forks have 38mm stanchions
  • All are air forks (so no coils)
  • All are only available in boost 15x110 hub spacing
  • All come in 27.5" or 29” wheel sizes
  • All have sag gradients on the stanchions for easy setup
  • All can mount a 200mm rotor directly with no adapters
  • All have clearance for a 2.8" tire
  • All are compatible with the RockShox bolt-on fender and include a zip-tie fender in the box
  • All are torque-cap hub compatible
  • All use Maxima plush fluid for smooth operation
RockShox ZEB Ultimate mounted on a Knolly Chulcotin
RockShox Domain floating in nature

    For offsets, both ZEB’s are available in short 38mm or 44mm offset for 27.5” wheels, and only available in 44mm offset for 29” wheels. The Domain is only available in 44mm offset for both wheel sizes, so at this time there is no short offset option for 27.5” wheels.

    For travels, the ZEBs can be set to 150, 160, 170 180 or 190mm of travel. The Domain does all of those besides 190, so if you NEEEED a 190mm travel fork, then you can simply rule out the Domain.

sag gradients on a rockshox ZEB ultimate mountain bike fork

Now onto dampers.

    The Domain is only available with the Motion Control RC which is an emulsion or open cartridge damper where air and oil exist in the same space. The adjustments are low speed compression and low speed rebound. The ZEB Select uses the Charger RC which is a closed cartridge damper with a piston to keep the air and oil separate. The ZEB Ultimate uses the Charger 2.1 RC2 which is a sealed cartridge damper with an expanding bladder.

Now let’s weigh these puppies.

  • The Domain weighs in at 2,550g
  • The ZEB Select is 2,260g
  • The ZEB Ultimate is 2,300g

     You’ll notice the Domain weighs quite a bit more than both ZEBs, and that extra weight mainly comes from its stanchions and damper. The Domain stanchions use a more cost effective, yet heavier alloy, than the fancier alloy on the ZEBs. The more affordable alloys are less stiff than the fancy stuff, so the Domain’s stanchions are physically thicker than the ZEB’s to retain similar stiffness. The Motion Control damper also holds quite a bit more oil than the Charger style dampers which also increases the weight. We asked RockShox if there was any difference in measured stiffness between the Domain and ZEB platforms, but they confirmed that it was nearly identical and not worth mentioning any difference.

Last but not least, price.

     Right now the Domain is $549, the ZEB Select is $815 and the ZEB Ultimate is $1,019. There’s obviously a big difference in price between these forks, but let’s talk about how they handle on the trail and see if there’s also a big difference in performance.


    These forks are meant for enduro bikes and sustained, chunky, gnarly descents, and that’s just what we threw at them. We’ve got tons of riding time on the ZEB Ultimate, and a bit of time on the Domain as well. Shortly after the ZEB was released, we made an in-depth video on how the ZEB rides, which you can watch by clicking here.

    I’ll start by saying that both the ZEB and Domain have an immediate noticeable increase in stiffness compared to their 35mm siblings in the RockShox fork lineup. The added support from the 38mm stanchions and beefier chassis design not only give you more confidence in the “smash through stuff” department, but it also creates a more precise feeling when steering due to less chassis flex. So, if you currently have a RockShox Yari or Lyrik, but you’re wanting a fork that’s more stiff and confidence inspiring on rough terrain, don’t worry as both the ZEB and Domain will absolutely make a noticeable difference.

Ok so now let’s do more of a direct comparison between these forks.

irst, let’s talk about setup and adjustability.

    The Domain is extremely simple to set up with just low speed compression up top and low speed rebound on the bottom. To set up the Domain, I simply added air to the recommended amount on the fork’s chart, bounced around in the shop to match the fork’s rebound to my shock’s rebound as closely as possible and hit the trails. After that initial setup, I didn’t change anything besides adding compression to stiffen things up for the climb and then open it back up for the descent. This is easy as the compression adjuster is basically a “lockout switch” with just a few positions. Other than that, all I did was ride!

Compression adjustments on a RockShox Domain RC mountain bike fork

Compression adjustment on the Charger RC Damper found in the Domain

Compression adjustments on a RockShox ZEB ultimate

Compression adjustment on the Charger RC2 2.1 Damper found in the ZEB Ultimate

    The ZEB Ultimate, on the other hand, adds a high-speed compression adjustment with the Charger 2.1 RC2 damper which took 2 or 3 rides to fully dial in. This damper is less of a simple “lockout” style compression switch, meaning you don’t just open and close it with an easy-to-remember preferred placement for climbing and descending.

    Instead, you’re going to want to tune this damper to work as well as possible going up, down and around the mountain since you definitely don’t want to be turning knobs and counting clicks in the middle of your ride. This means that setup is a little more critical, since you don’t just open and close the switch depending on which way you’re facing on the mountain. With the Charger 2.1 RC2 you’ll want to be a little more diligent with initial setup of the low and high speed compression settings.

    I will say, though, that the change in feel with each click of low or high speed compression is easily noticeable, making setup pretty easy compared to other forks with similar adjustments. Once you’ve got it all setup, though, there’s really no reason to adjust anything any further unless you’re going on a trip to an area with vastly different terrain than your home trails.

     We didn't mention the ZEB Select, but it has the same damper adjustments as the Domain, so the setup procedures for both of those are the same.

henry railing a dusty corner on a rockshox zeb ultimate

Now let’s talk about riding performance, and how these things manage the bumps.

    The ZEB Ultimate is built for, well, ultimate performance and that’s just how it feels on the trail. It’s buttery smooth, extremely accurate, extremely sensitive, supple, plush and consistent. The Domain, however, is about half the price so your inclination might be to say that it sucks.

    To my very pleasant suprise, this is far from the case.

    I’ve ridden forks with the RockShox Motion Control damper in the past, which I thought felt a little chintzy, so I went into testing the Domain with a bit of a preconceived notion of how it would feel. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it actually felt really, really good.

mike jumping off some rocks on a rockshox domain mountain bike fork

    Upon dropping into the descent, the fork just felt pretty dang good overall. It was nice and smooth, handled chatter well, was very sensitive on small bumps - I was definitely surprised at the initial performance. About 80% of my way down the trail, however, is where the Motion Control damper started to suffer just a little bit of performance fade.

    The fork’s damping became just a little bit more harsh than it did at the top after about 1,200 feet of continuous descending. This is because the Motion Control damper has air mixed with the oil which becomes inconsistent with constant cycling. I gotta say, though, I’m being rather nit-picky here as it’s my job to ride bikes and think critically about how components feel, and I honestly don’t think a majority of riders would notice something like this. What I did notice was the difference of continuous bump handling when testing both forks back to back.

    Also worth noting is the weight. The Domain does weigh 250 grams more than the ZEB, and even though I didn’t really notice it on the trail I sure know that I wouldn’t mind the lighter option.

mike riding through rocks and chunky terrain on a rockshox domain fork

Now onto the ZEB.

    I’ve got tons of time on the ZEB Ultimate, and I don’t remember ever experiencing any bit of fade in damping performance due to the Charger 2.1 RC2’s sealed design with the expanding bladder. This damper’s oil is bled free from air, meaning there’s no air bubbles forming during constant cycling like the Motion Control. Thus, the damper has better consistency on the trail. With the ZEB, you can expect the fork to perform just as amazing at the bottom of a long descent as it did at the top.

    Ok, besides consistency, this damper’s high-end design has better overall oil flow resulting in better sensitivity on small bumps as well, and has just a more composed feeling overall. Big bumps, little bumps and everything in between are all soaked up nice and smooth by the ZEB Ultimate. It’s hard to explain, but the Charger 2.1 RC2 in the ZEB Ultimate just feels more fluid throughout its entire stroke whether you’re bouncing on the fork in your garage, or out on the trails.

mike doing a rock roll on a rockshox zeb ultimate mountain bike fork

    When riding at a low to medium speed, the Charger 2.1 RC2’s increased sensitivity makes the fork feel like it absorbs every little, teeny, tiny bump. Then when pointed downhill at a faster speed, this sensation feels just the same which results in a crazy amount of traction as the front wheel feels super planted between every bump. When charging through a super rough stretch of trail with tons of repeated hits, the Charger 2.1 RC2 stand’s its ground staying composed through the madness, and then recovers well, with no noticeable spikes in compression. Between being planted, composed, and recovering, you feel very controlled on the ZEB through the entirety of the trail.

    You may notice that I didn’t bring up how the Domain handles small bumps and how composed it stays in repeated hits. This is because you don’t actually notice those little things until you get on the ZEB Ultimate. The increased amount of engineering and design that goes into the Charger 2.1 RC2 makes it more precision-oriented. It’s riding a fork like ZEB Ultimate when you start to learn about how the super high-end stuff acts on the trails.

    When switching from the ZEB Ultimate to the Domain is when you notice that the Domain feels like it sort of skips over some small bumps here and there at higher speeds, rather than absorbing them. Also, you’ll notice that the Domain is slightly less composed on repeated hits and feels slightly more skittish in the consistently rough sections. The recovery between repeated hits feels a little less controlled than the ZEB Ultimate, but you still feel an impressive amount. I had more to say about the ZEB Ultimate because it’s more precise, while the Domain just works really good and gets the job done with less fine details about it’s riding characteristics.

Trickle down technology is starting to make an entirely new breed of “entry level” suspension,
and I’m pretty excited on how impressive the Domain was.

mike jumping on a rockshox domain mountain bike fork

     With that said, if you’ve never ridden a ZEB Ultimate, then you’ll be extremely impressed with the Domain. Riding these forks back-to-back is what it takes to really tell the difference.

The Domain does fork stuff really good, and its an amazing option for its price.

    The big brain engineers over at RockShox spent more time with the ZEB Ultimate and it delivers a more precise experience on the trail. It’s hard to actually pin the Domain and ZEB Ultimate against each other since they aren’t really competitors with one another, but rather designed for different budgets and different goals.

    Real quick, you might have noticed that I didn’t mention how the ZEB Select rides.

    Well, honestly, we haven’t ridden one, but we have ridden many current model Lyrik’s with the Charger RC damper that comes in the ZEB Select, so we can at least guess how it will feel. We’ve never been mega impressed by the performance from the Charger RC in the past, and while it is an upgrade over the Motion Control RC, it’s never been incredibly noticeable like the jump up to the Charger 2.1 RC2. The Charger RC will have a little more consistency due to it’s closed cartridge design, but from our experience, I wouldn’t expect much more of a noticeable difference in sensitivity over the Motion Control. Also, the Charger RC lacks that indecently adjustable high and low speed compression like the Charger 2.1 RC2 has, so you won’t be able to fine tune the fork.

    The ZEB Select does weigh quite a bit less than the Domain, which is the main selling point there.

Which Is Best For You?

    If you want a burly fork with an easy setup process, don’t mind a little extra weight, have a budget between $500 and $600, and want great performance, but you aren’t necessarily chasing World Cup level performance, go with the Domain.

    If you want a fork that’s a little over half a pound lighter and don’t mind spending about $250 more, go with the ZEB Select.

    If you want the best performance possible, with the most sensitivity, the most traction, with the most composed feeling on brutally rough trails, and you’ve already balanced your checkbooks for about $1,000 leaving your account, then the ZEB Ultimate is the fork for you.

    Further, buying the Domain and upgrading to the Charger 2.1 RC2 damper would cost $886, so just a little more than the ZEB Select. Doing the same to the ZEB Select would cost $1,152, which is more than the ZEB Ultimate at $1,019. While the Domain is heavier, it’s a great platform to learn and grow with for many riders out on the trails. If you plan on upgrading to the Charger 2.1 RC2 down the road, the Domain may be a more cost-effective method of doing this if you don’t mind the little extra weight.

    So there you have it, that’s an overview and comparison of the three 38mm RockShox offerings: RockShox Domain, ZEB Select and ZEB Ultimate.


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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...