Suspension these days is good—really good. Despite this, it keeps getting better every year. Sometimes it’s in leaps and bounds, while other times it’s a small step in the right direction. RockShox’s Signature Series and the updates that come along with it fall somewhere between. The Signature Series is, on the surface, a reorganization of all Sid, Pike, Lyric and Boxxer forks and Deluxe and Super Deluxe shocks, as well as offering new upgrades in damping and hardware.
The Signature Series is a tiered system: Ultimate, Select + (as in “plus,” but not plus-sized), and Select—Ultimate being the bells-and-whistles option and Select being bare bones. Each of RockShox’s Sid, Pike, Lyric and Boxxer forks and Deluxe, Super Deluxe and Super Deluxe Coil shocks are now organized by this system, with a few notable exceptions, which we’ll go into later.
Most noteworthy of the upgrades to the Signature Series is the new(ish) Charger 2.1 damper for RockShox forks. While the internal layout of the Charger 2.1 is the same as the Charger 2—hence the “2.1” instead of “3”—the new damper sports a fresh tune, as well as new seals and fluids that are said to reduce friction by a sizable margin. The high-speed compression range has been softened slightly, while the low-speed range has actually been stiffened. Each has the same amount of adjustment and the same number of clicks, but the start and end points of the high-speed adjustment has been shifted towards the softer end of the spectrum, and those of the low-speed adjustment have been shifted towards the firmer. The RC2 model of damper still allows riders to adjust both circuits to their liking, while the RCT3 and RC will just have an adjustment for the low-speed circuit.
The real meat and potatoes of the Charger 2.1 come in the form of fresh damping oil from Maxima and new seals from SKF. The new SKF seals on the piston wear band, rebound shock seal and wiper seals are said to drastically reduce friction—upwards of 30 percent at the rebound shaft seal alone. The Maxima fluids reduce friction further, as well as improve wear-life, quiet damper noise and remain consistent in varied temperatures.
On a side note, you can use the new Maxima fluids in your Charger 2 damper, but you can’t upgrade with the new SKF seals. Or you can just pick up a new Charger 2.1 for $250 ($330-$375 for some models) to drop into your current fork. The chassis and air-spring haven’t changed from MY19 to MY20, so a Charger 2.1 will, in theory, bring your MY19 fork up-to-date. What if you have an older fork though? Well, the Charger 2.1 will fit into any of the following chassis:
- RCT3: Pike (2014+), Lyrik (2016+),
- RC2: Pike (2018+), Lyrik (2016+), BoXXer (2019+)
There are two major updates for the Signature Series rear shocks, one being a brand-new, five-piston damper for the Deluxe Ultimate. Each piston is tuneable, and tackles damping in a slightly different way than we usually see. Here’s how RockShox explains it.
“The Deluxe Ultimate shock is an entirely new damper made up of five tuneable pistons, representing a new level of inline shock. The shock deals with compression and rebound in a symmetric manner. The rebound/compression needle controls the oil flow in the initial shock movement — metering oil through an orifice before traveling through a shim stack. Therefore, LSC and rebound are managed more consistently than ever before. This system also stops the backflow of oil in the compression and rebound circuits. ”
The other major update for rear shocks is an aftermarket air can for all the Deluxe and Super Deluxe shocks. The new MegaNeg can offer a dramatic increase in negative air chamber volume. How drastic? Up to 211 percent, plus the ability to tune it down to 168 percent in four increments of about 11 percent with Bottomless Bands. Why would you want an increase in negative air chamber volume? Marketing aside, there are some benefits for most bikes—suspension designs that are very progressive might ramp up too fast with a bigger negative chamber. Here’s why that happens, but also why it works really well most bikes.
The larger the negative air chamber, the more the negative chamber will affect the shock’s spring curve. We’re not talking about making it firmer or softer, although that’s effectively what it does. No, we’re talking about percentage into the stoke, i.e. a bigger negative chamber affects the spring into the mid-stroke of the shock, making the shock more compliant and supportive. How does it do this? The negative chamber balances the spring forces—think of it like a scale. On one side is the positive chamber, we’ll say at 100 pounds. If only that one side is weighted (pressurized) you need 100 pounds of force to move it. Add another 100 pounds to the other side (the negative chamber) and the system becomes balanced, but still remains stationary. Now, you only need the slightest force to move the suspension—AKA better small-bump compliance. With a small negative chamber this balance falls off quickly, but with a large negative chamber, it continues far into the stroke. In turn, and this is the good part, it allows you to run a more linear (larger) positive air chamber, which is where the tag line of “improves mid-stoke support” comes into play. It’s not the larger negative chamber, but rather the interaction of negative and positive that allows you to set up your spring rate for a subtle but supportive action.
Best part of MegaNeg? You can pick one up for $90, including new seals and bands.
The Signature Series Lineup
All forks get the Maxima Plush fluid and SKF seals, as well as the new Charger 2.1 (RC2 or RCT3) damper. The Pike also get a new Silver Signature color option. The BoXXer gets a Charger 2.1 RC2 damper and the SID gets the RC damper. There’s also an Ultimate Carbon version of the SID with a carbon crown-steerer.
All forks get the Charger 2.1, fancy fluids and seals except for the SID and BoXXer. The former gets a Charger 2 RL and the BoXXer does not have a Select+ option.
Charger RC is the name of the game here with the Maxima Plush fluid, except for the SID which gets a Charger RL.
With the exception of the Deluxe, which gets a whole new damper, all the shocks have the same dampers as the previous model year with the Maxima Plush fluid inside. All shocks have remote locking options, including the Super Deluxe Coil. The Super Deluxe in both air and coil version comes in the “DH” option, which replaces the LSC lever for a dial. On the Super Deluxe Coil you can now get a fancy red spring to match your BoXXer or Lyrik.
The Maxima Plush fluid is inside, and the LSC lever is a simple open/closed instead of the more adjustable version on the Ultimate series.
There’s Maxima Plush fluid, but no LSC compression lever.
Hungry for more details, specs, prices and whatnots? Check out all the facts here on RockShox’s website.