Head-to-head review: 2025 RockShox Zeb vs Fox 38

This isn’t the first time we’ve pitted the RockShox Zeb against the Fox 38, and it certainly won’t be the last. Both companies continue to battle for dominance, releasing minor and not-so-minor revisions each season in search of that top spot. That’s not to say there aren’t other worthy contenders out there, but for the sake of this matchup we focused on the two brands you’re most likely to see specced on a new mountain bike this year.

Testing included several days of back-to-back testing at Whistler Bike Park (I know, sounds tough), along with multiple other trips to Squamish, BC, and Bellingham, Washington.

The latest RockShox Zeb details

• Leg 38 mm
• Damper: Charger 3.1 RC2 with buttercups
• Air springs: DebonAir+ with butter cups
• Wheel size: 27.5″, 29″
• Travel options: 150, 160, 170, 180, 190 mm
• Actual weight: 2324 grams (29″, 170mm travel with 190mm handlebar + flared grain)
• Price: $1159
• www.rockshox.com

Fox 38 Factory Details

• Leg 38 mm
• Damper: Grip X2
• Air springs: Float EVOL
• Wheel size: 27.5″, 29″
• Travel options: 160, 170, 180 mm
• Weight: 2381 grams (29″, 170mm travel with 190mm handlebar + top knot)
• Price: 1249 USD
• www.ridefox.com

Weight & Price

Cold hard facts are the easiest to compare – there’s no trying to put feelings into words, no trying to find a better adjective for ‘squishy’. When it comes to price, both forks are over $1,000, but the 38 is $90 more than the Zeb, at $1,249 versus $1,159.

The weight is close enough that I would call it a tie. The Zeb is a little lighter, especially when you consider the brake adapter, you’ll need to use a 200mm rotor on the 38, but ultimately the number of grams should not be a deciding factor in this category – both the forks were designed with a focus more on strength and performance rather than saving grams.

Bleed valves

Both the 38 and the Zeb have bleed valves that are designed to release any unwanted air pressure that has built up in the bottoms. The 38 uses a push-button design and the Zeb uses a threaded bolt that can be pulled back slightly to release trapped air.

This threaded bolt design is likely the result of Fox suing RockShox, but it actually has an unforeseen benefit – on Whistler’s new Fitzimmons seatpost, the rack can contact a fork’s bleed valves , leaving a trail of oil along the way. That can’t happen with Zeb, thanks to forced revision.

Fox 38 features and updates

For 2025, Fox revised their Grip2 shock, splitting it into the Grip X2 version reviewed here and the Grip X, which is aimed more at trail and all-mountain bikes.

The Grip X2 shock has a larger base valve to allow more oil flow, along with a new 23-bar stack (the Grip 2 had 7 bars) that allows for a much greater range of tuning options. There is also a two-step ‘hat’ that is used to define the range of high-speed compression adjustment and can be switched to suit a rider’s needs.

The design of the 38’s casing has also been changed. Previously, there were vertical grooves in the bushings that were supposed to help with oil flow, but it turned out that those grooves increased the amount of friction, so they were removed and the bushings now have a consistent surface.

RockShox Zeb Features and Updates

The changes to the Zeb’s damper design were not as extensive as the changes to the 38, but they also included increasing the amount of oil flowing through the damper circuit. According to RockShox, there’s now 68% more oil flow through the low-speed circuit, meaning lighter riders or riders who prefer less low-speed compression have more usable options.

Along with increased oil flow, the new damper has a larger high-speed compression pyramid. This increased size allows more restriction of oil flow when high-speed compression is fully closed, which increases the amount of damping.

RockShox also updated their bushing manufacturing process and applied it to the Zeb, Lyrik and Pike 2025 forks. The changes to the manufacturing process were intended to improve consistency and ensure that there is little friction on all models.

The basics of testing

The basics of the Zeb and 38 seem to be getting more and more similar, so we headed to the Whistler Bike Park to do multiple rounds of back-to-back testing to see how all the latest changes felt in the real world.

Our main test track was the Upper and Lower Whistler DH, which has a good mix of higher speed, rough sections mixed with slightly slower, steeper sections that require hard braking. It’s a track that wouldn’t be out of place in an enduro race, and the higher speeds and repeated hard hits make it ideal for fork testing.

To keep things as consistent as possible, both forks were set with a similar amount of sag and enough volume spacers to use a similar amount of travel by the end of each run. Once we had each fork set up to our liking, it was time to start taking side-by-side laps to really understand the similarities and differences.


When it comes to placement, Henry and I sit on different sides of the fence. My setup for both forks is close to the manufacturers recommended settings and if it deviates it ends up on the lighter side of low and high speed damping.

Henry has fallen down a data acquisition rabbit hole recently and tends to run his high-speed compression fully closed, low-speed compression close to closed, and rebound set very quickly, with a higher amount decrease. It’s certainly not a setup I’d run, but it’s working for him, so I try not to argue, at least not too much.

The good thing is that we were both able to find setups that felt comfortable and worked with our riding styles, which is really the point and is a testament to the range of capabilities that both forks have.

On the Trail

When it comes to the initial stroke, the Zeb feels more eager to penetrate its travel, with a more undulating feel compared to the 38. This leads to an overall feel that is quieter than the 38 – the Zeb seems to round out edges of impacts before they reach your hands to a greater extent than 38. Now, I should note that none of the forks felt harsh and I didn’t experience any sudden hand/forearm issues even after breaking laps for many days in a row, but for riders who prefer a plush, almost coil-like fork, the Zeb has it clear here.

To break it down a little further, Zeb feels like it prioritizes comfort a little more than accuracy. It is very eager to enter its journey, and also to use that initial part of its journey. ‘Busier’ is the term that came to mind when trying to compare the Zeb and 38 – the 38 has a more immediate and direct feel that lets you know exactly what your front wheel is doing. Henry’s analogy was that the Zeb absorbed itself into the ground and the 38th went into the ground, which I think is appropriate.

Both Henry and I were able to get the rebound speeds as quickly as we wanted with both forks, something riders had found lacking on the previous Zeb. Interestingly, the new Zeb’s rebound circuit is the same as before, which means it could be increased oil flow and compression bar build-up, or possibly better coil tolerances that allow it faster return speed.

Bottom resistance can be easily changed by adding or subtracting volume dividers, and I was happy running a divider on each fork. That setup gave me plenty of rides to work with, with a little extra in reserve for those unexpected big hits.

Is there an ideal rider for any fork? If pressed, I’d say the 38 feels ‘racier’ and not in a skimpy dressy kind of way. That aforementioned direct feel makes it seem like it wants to take on an impact as quickly as possible and keep charging forward, which is exactly what you want when you’re trying to be first across the finish line. Of course, the Zeb can certainly be raced, and already has plenty of podium finishes, but I’d say the ideal candidate for the Zeb is someone who puts control and comfort high on their priority list and doesn’t. note a slightly more active feel in the front end.


Neither fork had any problems during our testing, and both saw plenty of use in wet and muddy conditions, along with drier, almost dusty rides. There hasn’t been any unwanted ring play, creaking crowns or seal issues to speak of. I’d call this part a draw – the basics have been taken care of and both forks can withstand tough conditions without a problem. We’ll update this if anything happens, but so far there hasn’t been any cause for concern.


great quotes Bottom line, the RockShox Zeb 2025 and the Fox 38 fork are both excellent forks. They offer a good range of usable adjustments and are quiet and stable on the road. However, we wouldn’t call this break a draw. Henry and I reached our conclusions independently and when it was time to find out which fork we preferred, the answer was the same – Fox 38. This does not mean that the Zeb is an inferior product – far from it – but controlled Support that 38 bids gave him our votes and the win in this contest.

But wait, there’s more. If you can’t stand videos and don’t want to read all those annoying words, how about listening to a podcast? In this episode, Henry and I dig a little deeper into how we tested, our setup preferences, and then play school teacher to give each fork a grade.

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