RockShox Vivid Review


The RockShox Vivid has been produced as the premier model in the RockShox rear shock lineup since 2011. The Vivid’s high-volume air can is designed to mimic the small bump sensitivity of a coil shock, but with a highly adjustable air can to fine-tune the shock’s progression rate. A shock like the Vivid bridges the gap between air and coil shocks and features characteristics from both spring types in an attempt to build one shock that rules them all.

The evolution of the RockShox Vivid:
The first geneation on the far left, the second generation in the middle, and the new third generation on the right.

Is the new RockShox Vivid really the one shock to rule them all?

That’s a question we aim to answer in this review.

Let's me preface this review of the Vivid by stating that my initial expectations were quite different from my actual experience. I had anticipated that this shock would feel like a combination of a RockShox Super Deluxe air and a RockShox Super Deluxe Coil shock, but it turned out to feel more unique and separate from both of those. The Vivid’s performance on-trail really speaks for itself, and delivers remarkable performance that I am truly excited to have experienced.

WATCH this video or continue reading below:

Overview and Initial Setup

The RC2T dampers featured on current RockShock shocks are extremely easy to adjust with their distinct and easy-to-remember markings.

Here in year 2023, RockShox has released their third generation of Vivid shock, with the Vivid Ultimate being the top-tier model and main aftermarket option. This shock features their RC2T damper with “TouchDown technology”.

TouchDown tech is a new position-sensitive damping system designed to maximize performance off the top of the shock’s stroke. The RC2T damper is highly adjustable and features 20 clicks of rebound, 5 clicks of both low and high speed compression, 5 clicks of adjustable hydraulic bottom out (HBO) and a 2-position climb switch. While this damper doesn’t offer high speed compression like the Fox Float X2, you do gain the adjustable hydraulic bottom out feature (not on the X2). Personally, I believe that HBO is a more valuable feature than adjustable high speed rebound, but that’s a topic for another a day.

A similar version of that RC2T damper is used on both the Super Deluxe Ultimate air shock and Super Deluxe Ultimate Coil shock, so I felt right at home with the initial setup. The current idealism used in the Ultimate level of RockShox fork and shock dampers is “less, but more” which makes the setup process extremely easy. The compression and HBO adjustments have a middle/neutral (0) setting, and then +1 and +2 to add damping, along with -1 and -2 to reduce damping. To get ready for my first ride on the new Vivid, I started by setting up my rebound to match the speed of my fully setup RockShox Lyrik, I set the low and high speed compression settings to the middle/neutral setting. Then, I set the HBO feature in the -2 position to test out how the shock feels without as much bottom-out support from HBO.

I weigh 150 pounds with riding gear, and inflated the new DebonAir air can to 160psi to achieve my preferred sag of 30%, and I started the test with 2 volume spacers installed. Just like any air shock, you will need to cycle the shock while inflating it to ensure the air can transfer evenly distributed between the positive and negative air chambers. Worth noting is that the Vivid's equalizer ports are positioned deeper into the stroke compared to other shocks, around the 40% mark, unlike most other models which are between 15-20% of the stroke. So keep in mind that you’ll need to cycle the Vivid slightly deeper into it’s travel to get that air properly equalized.

Like almost all air shocks, the new Vivid's Debonair air can needs to be equalized when changing the air pressure. However, the equalization ports are slightly deeper into the stroke than most other shocks at around 40% of the stroke.

With air and adjustment knobs in the their starting positions, I slowly compressed my bike’s rear suspension to feel how sensitive the new Vivid felt off the top of the stroke. We call this the “shop floor test” and it passed with flying colors. I’ve always been impressed by the how little force is required to push the Super Deluxe Ultimate air shock into its initial stroke, but the Vivid requires even less force to initiate compression and also feels more smooth. While coil shocks are generally always the winners of this test, since there is so little stiction from a coil spring and many less sliding seals, the Vivid felt virtually identical.

After the Vivid passed the shop floor test with an A+, I was beyond excited to experience the new Vivid on the dirt.

Just a few bike nerds testing a new shock to see how supple it feels off the top of the stroke.

RockShox Vivid Performance Review

After my first ride with the new Vivid, I returned to the shop and was promptly asked one question from the shop staff, “So how was it?!” My answer was “This shock is badass. It feels so good”, and that is still how I feel. The performance of the Vivid, on both the climbs and descents, is ridiculously comfortable and confidence-inspiring, but let’s get into further detail of why I feel like this after riding the new Vivid for several weeks.

Climbing With The Vivid

While this shock is built and designed specifically for the best descending performance possible, I will point out that the climbing performance of high-volume air shocks and coil shocks alike should not be ignored. This damper’s TouchDown feature was felt before even descending, as the suppleness within the shock’s initial stroke felt incredibly smooth and comfortable while climbing. During a dry Summer ride, it’s nice to feel as if I have plenty of traction to push up and over dust-covered roots and rocks, which the Vivid excels with. I don’t use a climb switch very often, and the only times I enabled the Vivid’s climb switch was while riding on the occasional paved road between trails. Beyond that, the shock stayed wide open and fully soft to maximize traction while climbing. Once you reach the peak of the hill and start descending is when you can truly feel just how capable and confidence-inspiring this shock is.

It's always great when suspension built for descending performance also climbs very well!

Descending - Where The Vivid Comes Alive

Immediately after dropping into my first descent, I was instantly blown away with how amazing the shock felt. This new Vivid felt insanely plush and pillow-y right from the get go, and after just a few minutes of descending, it was apparent that this shock meant serious business on the downhills. Like with any new suspension product, I naturally pointed my wheels directly into bomb holes and launched myself into webs of roots to see how those situations would be handled. I was pleasantly surprised at just how… pleasant everything felt. While my reason for jumping into chunky rocks and criss-cross roots was specifically for testing purposes, the confidence I gained from controllably being spit out on the other end of these silly line choices made me realize just how capable the shock was going to be for real riding scenarios. I also noticed that I didn’t notice something - sound. The new RockShox forks with Charger 3 dampers boast silent damping, which is insanely pleasant and just downright cool, and the Vivid’s smooth performance also lacks any annoying squishy noises to distract you while riding.

mountain biker riding stumpjumper evo down singletrack trail with a rockshox vivid ultimate rear shock

The Vivid does a ridiculously good job of quieting down trail chatter with its super smooth and fluid motion.

The rough sections of trail that usually toss me around felt more muted with the Vivid, and I had a sensation that I was floating over everything beneath me. The dry Summer dirt made for plenty of washboard-like ribbons of trail, and the Vivid has me feeling wildly composed through hectic chatter. When the trails dry out in Bellingham, they become ridiculously fast, and it’s easy to feel as if the trail is trying to push you off and into the sidelines. But with the Vivid, I feel less like I’m fighting the trail and more like I was riding the trail. Instead of deflecting off of roots and rocks, the Vivid truly absorbs every bump with ease and really likes to calm down the chaos. This leads to me labeling the Vivid as a "traction monster", as I felt like I have an infinite amount of grip due to the shock's ability to truly absorb every bump with ease and keep my rear tire planted in the dirt.

I'm actually really excited to ride the Vivid on some wet roots, as I really think this shock is going to provide gobs of traction during the slimy winter conditions.

The dry Summer conditions also have riders looking for new doubles that they didn’t have the speed for during the wetter months. The distinct sense of composure I felt while straight-lining through fast and rough trails was definitely giving me a sense of focus and clarity to pick lines. I found myself spending more time looking farther down the trail in preparation for what my next obstacle was, and it was an absolute thrill to seek out new lines and opportunities for silly trail gaps.

Riding fast-paced, aggressive trails doesn’t come without mistakes, and everyone knows the immediate sense of panic after they mistakingly take a bad line and get hucked into a rowdy situation. For these instances, the Vivid gives me a feeling of reassurance that I can count on that the shock’s stability characteristics to guide me through any accidental hiccup that may happen. This is important for times when I attempt to pick the fastest line but end up accidentally sending myself into a rotor-deep hole followed up with a loose pile of rocks. Its obviously the goal of any rear shock to accomplish these same tasks, but there's just something unique about the way RockShox engineered the Vivid's fluid movement and pillow-like absorption that makes this shock a very special piece of gear.

mountain bike rider jumping over trail

Trail doubles are a blast, and I found myself spotting these lines more easily with the composure I was given from the Vivid.

Another overwhelming sensation I feel while riding the new Vivid is that rough and rowdy trails tend to feel more like big pump tracks. I believe the main driver of this “pump track effect” that I’ve experienced is due to the combination of the high-volume Debonair air can and RC2T damper’s TouchDown feature working together so seamlessly to create a floating sensation while riding. TouchDown technology works by bypassing the main piston's compression damping in the initial 10% of its stroke to reduce the force needed to initiate the first bit of travel. It’s actually wild how noticeable this works to make the off-the-top sensitivity feel so incredibly supple. From there, 10-80% of the stroke is handled by the damper to create stability, while the last 20% is tasked to the HBO feature - and all of this is done in a completely fluid and seamless way.

When pushing into a trail dip to compress the bike and pump, the Vivid offers tons of plush support to carry me onward toward the next step where I pull up and unweight the bike. While unweighting the bike, the tires briefly leave the ground and then touch back down, hence the name “TouchDown” technology. But the damper doesn’t work alone, and it’s sidekick is that new high-volume Debonair air can which is tuned to create plenty of support through the air spring itself. It's very tricky for me to put in words how the mid-stroke of the Vivid feels versus a coil shock, but put quite simply, it just feels more pillow-y to me. The smooth manner in which the Vivid feels throughout repeated compressions and impacts is impressive, and flowing through a rough trail like a pump track is addictively fun.

mountain bike rider compressing suspension and pumping

Step 1: Compress and pump - Step 2: Lift up and off the ground - Step 3: Repeat. The Vivid's Touchdown technology and Debonair air can seems to make rough trails feel more like pump tracks.

The combination of the Vivid's initial stroke sensitivity, the above-average pillowy feeling over bumps, and mid-stroke support have made me feel like I’ve actually been riding with a more aggressive body stance on my bike. As redundant as it may seem in this review, I just feel tremendously cradled with the Vivid, and I’ve been positioning my body lower and riding harder due to the confidence I feel with the Vivid. I don’t use the word “weapon” very often to describe bike parts, but the Vivid is a weapon in my arsenal to ride harder and (attempt to) ride faster.

Overall, the air can and damper do an excellent job of making this shock extremely plush. I know the word “plush” is quite the buzzword in suspension, but in my opinion, the Vivid is the most plush shock I’ve ever felt, and likely just raised the bar for other suspension manufacturers to surpass in the future.

Long-Term Setup

After riding the Vivid for several weeks, I tinkered with adjustments a bit, but settled close to what I started with. I’m sticking with -1 LSC, 0 HSC and 0 HBO. The main tinkering I did was with the volume spacers, as I started with 2 volume spacers, and then removed them all completely, but ultimately went back to 2. I wanted to try the shock fully linear without any volume spacers to see just how coil-like I could get it to feel. My Stumpjumper EVO’s suspension design isn’t super progressive, and I found myself relying on the HBO more than I would have liked to control the bottom-out sensation while riding bigger features. While the HBO handled this with ease, I ultimately preferred the more supportive progressive feeling with 2 tokens for most of my riding, and the shock just felt like it stayed a little higher in its travel. However, if I was going to race a very rough course and was reaching for all of the traction I could get, I would likely run 1 or 0 tokens to more easily use full travel to keep my tires as planted as possible.

Hydraulic Bottom Out (HBO) does an excellent job of reducing how jarring a hard bottom-out feels. The combination of volume spacers in the air can and HBO in the damper are a match made in heaven for aggressive riders who like to fine tune everything as much as possible. I'm sticking with 2 volume spacers in my air can, and the HBO set to the "0" position (neutral/middle position).

With 0 volume spacers, the Vivid feels very coil-like as the shock is pretty dang linear, and the travel is more easily usable. This is either a pro or a con depending on your riding style, terrain and your bike’s suspension platform, but it’s awesome to see that this shock intended to feel coil-like is actually very coil-like.

The Vivid sets itself apart from a coil shock by being more progressive, even with 0 volume spacers, and offering much more flexibility within its tunability. To make the Vivid more firm or more soft, I simply add or remove air with a shock pump (free). With a coil shock, I would have to purchase a new spring ($$$). To make the Vivid more progressive, I just add volume spacers relatively quickly (free). With a coil shock, I would need to purchase a progressive coil spring ($$$). With that said, the Vivid is an easy solution for a rider who wants the feeling of a coil shock, but with easy spring tunabily rather the cost and hassle of buying and replacing coil springs.

Also, the Vivid saves weight over a coil shock. We weighed a Vivid at 660 grams and a Super Deluxe Ultimate Coil shock at 896 grams with a spring, both in a 210x55 size. That’s a weight savings of over 26%, which is important to most riders. Noteworthy is that the Super Deluxe Ultimate air shock weighs 484 grams, which is even ~26% lighter than the Vivid.

Worth mentioning is that it only took me about 2 rides to dial in my damper settings, and I'd like to point out just how valuable this is.

While there is a ton of high-performance suspension out there, the RockShox RC2T damper is simple and easy to setup, yet I don't feel like I'm missing anything. Historically, die hard riders always want more and more damper clicks to tune their settings with pinpoint precision. The available amount of clicks on the RC2T damper does make some riders feel as if they won't be able to fine-tune their settings with enough accuracy at first glance, however, I haven't found this to be an issue for me whatsoever. I'm so excited that the Vivid performs as well as it does while being simple enough for the average rider to fine-tune, yet doesn't feel like any adjustability is being left on the table for even the most experienced suspension tinkerers.


Due to how controlled, smooth and pillow-y this shock feels on trail, combined with the easy-yet-extensive adjustability, I really feel like this is new hot shock on the market. So let's answer the question:

Is the RockShox Vivid the one shock to rule them all?

In our opinion, YES it is for any rider with a bike over 130mm of rear wheel travel who desires super premium rear shock performance that floats right through rough terrain.

While I originally thought that the Vivid would feel like a mixture of the Super Deluxe air and coil shocks, the Vivid is truly unique in its own ways. Compared to the Super Deluxe air shock, it has more oil, bigger bushings, more air volume and more advanced tech to create an ultra-premium feeling air shock. While the Vivid isn't as linear as a coil shock, it's plush and pillow-y feeling just absorbs bumps in what I've felt to be a more comfortable fashion. The Vivid shines in the RockShox rear shock lineup through its level of comfort, control, and tunability that clearly separates itself apart from other shock options.

In conclusion, my personal experience with the RockShox Vivid has been nothing short of exceptional. It’s overall function and feel make it a must-have for riders seeking to push their descending confidence to a new level. Whether you're a competitive racer or just a weekend warrior looking for one shock that tackles every task quite well, the RockShox Vivid will be an incredible upgrade to your rig. It transforms any bike into a more capable descending machine, providing exceptional performance, easy tunability, and is just an overall pleasant shock to set up and live with long-term.

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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...