RockShox ZEB Ultimate

RockShox ZEB Ultimate Fork & Shock Review

When I first caught wind of the newly released RockShox suspension, I was immediately interested in getting my hands on the upgraded kit.

The previous generation Zeb fork has become a must-have staple on my main bike. With its firm but compliant chassis and the fast, supple action of the Charger damper, I’ve been a fan of the Zeb since its release.

The new Zeb Ultimate fork and Super Deluxe Ultimate coil shock underwent a complete overhaul in this iteration. They feature upgrades that show the team at RockShox is passionate about its craft and has considered every detail and touchpoint of the product. 

The Zeb Ultimate fork features the new Charger 3 damper that uses an internal floating piston design. The IFP was selected to give the damper a more consistent feel throughout the stroke. The Ultimate fork I received also has an increased bushing overlap to ensure the smoothest interface between the uppers and lowers of the fork. 

Although, the standout feature that will have most riders considering the upgrade are the new ButterCups. ButterCups live on both the damper and air spring shafts of Ultimate-level forks. Inside their gold packaging, ButterCups use rubber pucks and a metal plate to absorb frequencies that would otherwise travel up to the rider.

Moving down to the Super Deluxe Ultimate Coil, the team at RockShox also completely revised and improved this rear shock. The new damper features separate high-speed and low-speed compression damping circuits. RockShox claims the chassis is 20 percent stronger, with increased bushing overlap for an ultra-plush, low friction feel. Finally, my Ultimate model also came with a hydraulic bottom-out damper that saves riders from the dreaded “clang” sound that accompanies a hard bottom-out.

The Ride

I’m a bit of a fanatical rider; I consider my bike to be my sole workout program and tend to ride four days a week. Riding this often ensures that I’m getting out in every possible trail condition—from dry, frozen dirt to bone-soaking cold tire spray tests. I brought the Zeb and Super Deluxe along for it all last winter.

The first things I noticed with the Zeb were some of the most mundane but represented major victories for my daily rides. The updated Zeb features chamfered through-axle dropouts to ensure the front wheel slips into position with much less fuss than the previous generation. Further, since I don’t use RockShox torque caps, I’ve been frustrated by having to line up the axle methodically while installing the front wheel. Now, the updated Zeb comes with small thread-on plastic inserts that lock your nonproprietary hubs right into place like a dream. Since I often remove my front wheel to mount my bike in my van, this really is a game changer for my day-to-day operations.

Moving up the fork chassis, RockShox has added pressure relief valves to equalize the pressure in your lowers without any desperate zip-tie maneuvers. Few things are more satisfying than taking the time to burp your lowers after ascending 3000 feet. I’ve built my bikes up after flying before and toyed around with zip ties to burp the fork—it’s nice to make that a more refined process.

The new compression and rebound knobs are fantastic. The rebound knob has been upgraded to a larger extrusion with a nonslip machined finish. The compression knobs have a well-thought-out system of showing how much compression you’re running with a new clicks-from-center system.


The Super Deluxe Ultimate rear coil is loaded with features and touchpoints. My trunnion-style shock was easy to mount with a nicely machined bottom bushing that popped into place well with a simple three-piece design without any small washers to go flying when installing the shock. The lockout lever, low-speed compression knob, and rebound are hand-adjustable settings with the addition of tool-adjusted high-speed compression and hydraulic bottom resistance. 

I know there are only so many places to tuck these adjustments. Still, on my test bike, a Pivot Firebird, the rebound valve is inaccessible for my fat fingers, outside of hooking the indents of the valve with a 2-millimeter Allen key. Even when I remove the bottom bolt holding the shock in my frame to access the rebound knob, I still can barely adjust the valve. I know this is a bike-specific problem, but unfortunately, it represents a significant pain point for me compared to the air version of the shock, which has a massive rebound adjustment up top. 

I have loved my time riding this new suspension. The break-in and setup process was almost immediate. Both my fork and shock performed well right out of the box. After following the recommended air pressure in the fork and playing between two weights of the coil, I was good to go for the entire time of running the fork. The Zeb stayed supple off the top with incredible mid-stroke support right out of the box. I never had to play with volume reducers or use the compression adjustment to get the fork to feel right. Despite this, the fork seemed to always be using the correct amount of travel and hardly ever got a full bottom-out despite only running one volume reducer on my 170-millimeter fork. 

I prefer running my forks with as little damping as possible, which was easy to achieve on the Zeb. Due to my fast rebound setting, the last generation damper would occasionally top out with a hard “thunk” sound. I could usually feel that while yanking the front of the bike up. However, the new Charger 3 damper has a similar fast rebound feel without that nasty top out sensation. 

If I run any compression damping, it's usually 1-3 clicks of high-speed compression when riding steeper trails. Just like the previous Zeb, the way the high-speed compression comes on feels supple and pillowy—eating energy and preventing the fork from diving. 

I never choose to run any low speed on any of my forks, but I tried it for testing purposes, and it does give a nice mid-stroke shelf feeling without jarring my hands.

Both the fork and shock are dead silent. I really love this. Riding bikes is my head-clearing time, and the more I can hear nothing other than my tire casings, the better for me. 

The feature I was most excited about was the new ButterCups that cradle the bottom of the air shaft and damper tube. These puppies are supposed to eat up some high-frequency trail chatter, which I found to be immediately noticeable. One of my biggest pain points as a rider is the dreaded pump out that your forearms get while riding long sections of bumpy trails. Even in cold 30-to 40-degree temperatures, I thought the ButterCups took the edge off that type of pain significantly. I can ride faster for longer and feel less pumped out when I come to a stop. 

Both the fork and shock pair nicely together. I found them to balance with each other front to back immediately on my Firebird. As I mentioned, I run rebound extremely fast, and despite the fast shaft speeds, the wheels track nicely on the ground. I don’t feel a sense of chaos despite the fast-fluttering wheels, and running the rebound so fast allows my long-travel bike to pop. 

The Super Deluxe Ultimate coil feels like it was built to take a beating. It’s hard to separate the attributes of my finely tuned DW link suspension from the damping of the rear shock other than to say that I can run the rebound fast, and it tracks the ground beautifully without feeling dangerous or slappy. I was able to run the rear shock without any damping at all, and it felt just the way I wanted - spare the few days when I would add a few clicks of rebound when things were feeling crazy.

Unfortunately, with my rear suspension platform, I wasn’t able to feel too many bottom-outs with the progressive curve of my suspension. So, the large bottom-out elastomer at the bottom of the shaft was all I needed for protection. Therefore, I can’t report too much on the feel of the hydraulic bottom-out damper.

One thing I loved about the Super Deluxe was the strength of the lockout lever. I find that Rockshox has absolutely put other shocks to shame with the stiffness it provides. On the Firebird, the bike went from pedaling well to essentially a hardtail when I would flip the lever. This is not the kind of lockout lever you’ll forget about while riding downhill. The lockout lever itself is stout and takes a meaty hand to move into position, so it can be a bit of a move while pedaling. However, once it’s in place, it’s not going anywhere.


I’ve been so impressed by this new suspension package. It’s hard to nitpick such a well-thought-out and reliable system. When riding a Pivot Firebird, the rebound valve placement is an annoying pain point. Beyond that, my only remaining gripe is to be offered a much larger OEM fender for our muddy corner of the world. I’d love to have a bolt-on fender that remains silent and doesn’t flop around like my after-market extra-large fender.


I’ve really liked my time running the new suspension offering from RockShox. Just about every detail of the fork and shock shows that the team at RockShox are passionate riders as well as capable engineers. We demand a lot from our suspension systems, with the new focus on 170-millimeter enduro bikes that can still climb steep mountains like goats. I gave this Zeb Ultimate and Super Deluxe Ultimate the complete smackdown and was rewarded with excellent reliability and plush, consistent performance. I think this upgrade is worth it if you’re a fanatic rider like me. The last generation of Zeb was so good, it’s incredible that they raised the bar again so fast.