2023 RockShox ZEB Ultimate | Overview and Specs

2023 RockShox Zeb Ultimate  in slab grey on a colorful background


    Rockshox has been hard at work behind the scenes and has just launched a new iteration of their burliest single crown fork, the long travel fan-favorite ZEB. Ever since the 38mm stanchion single crown forks burst onto the mountain bike market a couple of years ago, they have been the go-to platform for any hard-charging freerider, enduro racers, or generally aggressive riders. Thicker stanchions increase confidence for all mountain bikers who are looking to push their limits, and are a very popular upgrade for those looking to go faster and jump higher. These days, suspension products perform at such a high level that it’s hard to imagine huge improvements, but RockShox has managed to put together a whole host of incremental improvements that have really impressed us.

2023 ZEB Ultimate
At A Glance

  • 160mm, 170mm, 180mm, 190mm travel options
  • 27.5" or 29"
  • NEW Charger3 Damper with adjustment etchings
  • NEW DebonAir+ airs spring
  • NEW ButterCups helps noise damping, reduce trail chatter, and more
  • Larger bushing overlap
  • Pressure relief valves

    The new ZEB has been completely redesigned from the ground up, and we’ll be going over what sets this fork apart from its previous generation. You can get this fork in four different trim packages, ranging from the standard ZEB, all the way up to the ZEB Ultimate. In this article, however, we’ll be focusing on the new features on the top-tier RockShox ZEB Ultimate.

    When I say this fork has been redesigned from the ground up, I am not messing with you!

    The chassis, damper, and airspring have all been taken back to the drawing board by the engineers at RockShox. It all started with a redesigned damper for the Lyrik then they realized that they could get way more performance out of this new damper by redesigning the air spring and chassis around it. The fine folks over at RockShox then realized they could throw all this new tech into a new ZEB chassis to get some seriously impressive performance, and here we are!

RockShox ZEB Specs

    Before we get into the features of the fork, let’s take a look at the specs it’s offered in.

    The updated RockShox ZEB comes in 160, 170, 180, or 190mm of travel, in either 27.5” or 29” wheel sizes. You are also able to change the travel via an after-market Travel Change Kit if you change your mind later. The 27.5” wheel version comes with either 38 or 44mm of offset, while the 29” ZEB only comes in 44mm of offset.


    Let’s dive into the new features of this fork, starting with that new damper that brought this whole fork to fruition.

The New RockShox Charger 3 Damper

    The Charger3 Damper is built around a new oil made by Maxima, which is said to increase the performance of RockShox products. Our favorite feature of this new damper is how silent it is - which is largely thanks to some new Rockshox technology, Buttercups. More on that later. If you are a fan of just hearing your tires ripping into the dirt while you’re hauling down the trail, then this feature could be the biggest selling point of this new fork for you. I especially noticed this feature when switching back to the fork I was riding previously and I was blown away by how much noise it was making that I wasn’t noticing before.

Compression Dials

    RockShox products have always been known for their simplicity in setup, and they’ve updated the high speed compression and low speed compression dials to simplify setting up the fork even more. Now, instead of just spinning the dials with no context as to how many clicks from closed you are, they have markings etched into the dials which help you see where you lie in the compression circuits. You can just look down at your fork and see exactly what your settings are, which is a major time saver if you’re always tinkering and trying to achieve that perfect set up.

A Difference You Can Feel

    In order to increase the performance and tunability of this damper, it also completely separates your high and low-speed compression circuits. This eliminates any interference they had with each other on the previous 2.1 damper, and what this translates to on the trail is a more noticeable difference between each click. You won’t need to move the needle two or three clicks to for a tangible difference out on the trail, instead every click counts on this new damper.

    The idea with the new layout on the dials is that you start at the center and you tune your settings from there, increasing or decreasing compression one click at a time. And with the magnified difference in trail feel between each click, I was able to dial my settings in after just one ride. The range of adjustment in the compression is a much more usable range than the 2.1 damper, and I didn’t feel the need to deviate from the central starting position by more than a couple clicks on both high and low-speed compression.

DebonAir+ Airspring

    Along with the new damper, is the new air spring, the DebonAir+!

    Right as I dropped into my first descent, the fork was riding noticeably higher in the travel than the previous generation of ZEB, and this also didn’t feel like it came with a compromise to the small bump compliance at all. I only opened my low-speed compression up a couple of clicks from the center to get that supple, buttery feeling off the top. I was running it almost wide open on the previous damper to get a similar feeling.

    Staying high in the travel gave me a lot more confidence and control through steep sections of trail, and allowed me to launch into chundery sections without a second thought. Not only that, but I struggled to find the bottom of this fork. I took this fork down one of my favorite laps in town that has some sizable compressions where I’ll typically bottom out a comparable fork a couple of times. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my o-ring was only about 90% of the way through the travel when I got to the bottom, and this was with just one volume spacer installed.


    Right at the bottom of both the damper and the air spring, RockShox has added some new tech - ButterCups. The gold hardware acts as another form of damping, specifically for trail chatter. RockShox has done internal testing and came up with a 20% reduction in trail chatter translated to your hands, which is going to reduce the amount of arm pump you get on those extended descents.

    I have to say, of all the new features RockShox has packed in this fork, this is the one that I noticed the least out on the trail, but I think that’s because of the wet and forgiving dirt we get to ride here in the Pacific Northwest. If I was back in California riding hardpack dirt with rough braking bumps, that is where I think I would be able to notice a much bigger difference, and keep that dreaded arm pump away for a bit longer.

More Changes to 2023 Rockshox

Lower Legs, Bushings, Bleeder Valves

    The lower legs are another brand new piece of tech, featuring larger bushings to maximize overlap and reduce friction, but these are only found on Ultimate level forks. Another new feature is the bleeder valves, which allow you to purge any unwanted air pressure that’s snuck its way into the lowers of the fork. Instead of sliding a zip tie past your seals, all you need is a quick press of the bleeders and you can hear a quick ‘psst’ as the air equalizes again. This feature shines when you’re lapping bike parks in the summer and taking the chair lift up to the top because the repeated increase and decrease in altitude will definitely cause that air to creep into the lower legs. During my testing here in the low altitude of Bellingham, I wasn’t able to get it to release any pressure, but I look forward to seeing how big of a difference it makes once we get out to Whistler this summer.

Hub Cap Adapters

    Another smaller change to this generation of ZEB is the addition of hub end cap adapters right by your dropouts. Previously, if you weren't running RockShox’s Torque Caps, you would have to hold the wheel a couple of millimeters from bottomed out in the dropouts to install the axle. Now, these adapters take up that little bit of room, and installing the wheel just got a little bit easier. And if you’re one of the few people running those Torque caps, then you can unbolt these adapters and you’ll have the same installation process as before.

RockShox ZEB Price and Options

    With this increase in performance, there is an increase in price up to $1099 from $999 for the previous ZEB. The Charger3 Damper is available for $339, and the DebonAir+ is available for $99. The ZEB select is also available for purchase at $849, with the Charger RC damper and DebonAir+ air spring, but will not have the pressure relief valves or ButterCups. For those of you with the previous generation ZEB, you can install the new damper and air spring to get quite a few of the performance benefits of the new model at a fraction of the cost.

    The previous ZEB was already my favorite fork, and with all of these incremental improvements, it continues to raise the bar. With the silent damper, ease of setup, and retuned air spring, this is the fork that I’ll be running for the foreseeable future, and I have to recommend it to everyone that enjoys riding hard and pushing their bikes to the limit.

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Tor Weiland



Bellingham, WA

Current Bikes: Transition Spire

Bike Size: Medium

Favorite Trails: Oriental Express, Galbraith

About Me: Hailing from the sunny landscape of California, Tor headed north and landed here in the cloudy town of Bellingham, WA. His riding style is "PINNED" and he loves to scope out those seemingly impossible triples. He loves riding and also loves sharing his experiences with others. You can catch Tor in front of the camera or behind the keyboard, but best of luck catching him on the trail!