RockShox Boxxer World Cup - First Ride
It was ten years ago that RockShox launched the first Boxxer with 35mm stanchions, ushering in the next era in the fork's storied history. Over the course of the years that followed its the internals were upgraded as new technology, namely the Charger damper, emerged, but the chassis remained relatively unchanged. Even with the introduction of 27.5” wheels the overall design didn't stray too far from the look of that 2008/09 model. Once it became clear that 29” wheels were going to become common on the World Cup DH circuit, RockShox began weighing their options. Would creating new lowers and calling it good suffice, or was it time for a more extensive revision? It was the latter option that prevailed, in order to make sure that the final product was fully optimized for the latest crop of downhill race machines.
Boxxer World Cup Details• Charger RC2 damper, Debonair air spring • Adjustable rebound, high- and low-speed compression damping • Travel: 200mm, 190, 180 (29"), 200mm (27.5")• 20 x 110 Boost spacing• Offset: 48mm (27.5"), 56mm (29")• Weight (claimed): 2656 - 2615 grams• MSRP: $1,699 USD
The resulting Boxxer World Cup has a new crown and lowers, the new Charger RC2 damper, and an updated air spring. In short, there's not much that hasn't been modified in some way versus the previous model. 29” wheels were the priority for this project, but 27.5” wheels haven't been neglected either – the fork is available for both wheel sizes.
The pewter-colored flat crowns may look like an aftermarket upgrade, but in reality they're the stock configuration.
ChassisLast year a number of RockShox's athletes raced on what was referred to internally as the 'Lyxxer' – a Boxxer that was running 29” Lyrik lowers. And yes, that means some of the hardest chargers in the world were racing with a 15mm thru-axle. In fact, there were serious discussions about using a 15 x 110mm thru axle on the new Boxxer, which would have allowed riders to swap wheels from their trail bike to their downhill bikes. In the end, the 20mm thru-axle won out, although it is a little different than the 20 x 110 spacing that's been the standard for years. The new Boxxer uses Boost 20 x 110 spacing, but before you pull out too much hair, if you have a non-Boost wheel that you're dying to use, all that's required is a 5mm spacer behind the rotor to make it compatible. With the new lowers, RockShox spread out the bushings as much as they could in order to increase the amount of overlap. Big wheels, slack head angles, and steep tracks put a lot of force on a fork, and better bushing overlap helps ensure that the fork keeps sliding smoothly even when subjected to high loads.It was the pewter colored flat crowns that first caught the attention of eagle-eyed observers over the offseason. They have the look of an aftermarket item, some sort of custom upgrade, but that's the stock configuration. The new fork has longer upper tubes than before, which made it possible to create a fully flat crown. For the longer-limbed riders out there who are looking for a taller front end, a drop crown option is also available. The offet of the Boxxer is determined by the dropout profile, not by the crown shape like it is with many single crown forks. There's all sorts of offset experimentation going on in the trail bike world, but for now the Boxxer will be available with 58mm of offset for 29” wheels, and 48mm for 27.5” wheels.
There's plenty of tire clearance for meaty DH rubber, even when a fender is installed. There's also a nice new brake line guide.
InternalsThe Boxxer World Cup uses the same Charger RC2 damper that's found in the new Lyrik, although it's obviously longer, and it's tuned for that extra travel. The damper gives riders five potential settings for the amount of high-speed compression damping, a feature that wasn't present on the previous version. On the air spring side, the fork received a new Debonair spring, again, very similar to what's found in the new Lyrik, but the amount of negative volume has been greatly increased. Compared to the prior Boxxer World Cup, the negative volume has increased by 91%. That was done in order to give the fork as close to a coil-like feel as possible, which is a good thing, because there's no longer a coil sprung option in the Boxxer lineup. According to Jon Cancellier, RockShox's product manager, “Coil is the buzzword right now, but I think we can really make an air spring that rides like a coil, but then you have the ability to fine-tune it in one, two psi increments, and play with tokens without needing to play with oil volumes or complicated bump stops.” The lack of a coil option also makes it easier for shops, especially ones that do a high volume of rental traffic, to ensure that customers have a proper setup.
Boxxer RCThe RC is the slightly more affordable counterpart to the World Cup version. It's still air sprung, and equipped with the Debonair air spring, but it uses a new Charger RC damper. Rather than having an expanding bladder to compensate for the displaced oil that occurs during compression, the Charger RC uses a spring back IFP, a design that seems to be experiencing an upswing in popularity – multiple suspension manufacturers are now using it throughout their lineup.
I was able to get in two days of riding on the muddy, slippery, and extremely entertaining trails in Windrock, Tennessee. My arrival coincided with one of RockShox's tuning camps, where World Cup and EWS athletes were getting accustomed to their new suspension in preparation for the upcoming race season. It was a little intimidating heading up in a shuttle packed with some of the fastest riders in the world, but it was also interesting to witness the dynamic between riders and their mechanics as they discussed settings after each run, and collaborated to figure out what would work best for the first race of the year. As for myself, with the air pressure set to my liking (the new air spring does require more pressure than before, somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 psi higher, a necessary step due to the altered spring volume), and the rebound and compression dials twisted to where I wanted them, it was time to start knocking out some laps. For the most part, I stuck to the same three trails in order to keep the things consistent – as fun as it would have been to explore every single offshoot, that would have meant I was focusing more on learning a new track, rather than on how the fork felt.
So, how did it feel? Very similar to the new Lyrik, which is a good thing. The 200mm of travel is well managed – it's nice and supple off the top, but even when I was dropping into wheel-sucking, goop filled ruts there was plenty of support to keep the fork from diving too deep into its travel. I ran the high-speed compression dial one click in from fully open due to the super soft conditions, and a few clicks of low speed compression, which left plenty of range left to stiffen things up for higher speed, more hardpacked trails.The wet and sloppy trails made it a little tricky to see how the fork handled fast, really high speed hits, but on the whole, the new Boxxer's performance was extremely consistent, and it didn't take much fiddling to get the fork dialed into a place that I was very happy with. The level of small bump sensitivity and overall grip that the fork provided was excellent, and nicely complemented the Intense M29's overall performance. I'm sure there will be riders who will bemoan the lack of a coil-sprung option, but I honestly never found myself thinking "If only this fork had a coil spring..." We'll be spending more time on the Boxxer to really dive into its ride characteristics, as well as overall durability - stay tuned for for a more in-depth report later this year.