The Charger name has been a staple of Rockshox for nearly a decade now, with a number of revisions and versions offering performance and a plush feel that has become a signature of Rockshox's forks. With perhaps the biggest change to Charger dampers since their introduction with the all new Charger3 design, we take a look back at the evolution of the Rockshox Charger damper.
(Pic - L to R: Charger 1, Charger 2/2.1, Charger 3)
Rockshox stepped up their damper game when they introduced the original Charger damper back in 2013 in the Pike. Compared to their Motion Control damper design the Charger damper was a sealed and bled cartridge that used an extruded rubber bladder to allow the damper oil to be displaced as the fork compressed. This kept the damper oil from mixing with air, giving more consistent performance, especially on rougher trails. They also included their Rapid Recovery dual rate rebound damping that started life in rear shocks, a design that has faster end stroke rebound, and slower beginning stroke rebound, allowing the fork to recover quickly from big hits without feeling like it would buck the rider off as it extends back to full travel.
It was a big improvement over the Motion Control damper design and improved each fork model as Rockshox gradually implemented it across their range, with the Boxxer getting a Charger damper in 2015, the Lyrik in 2016.
Servicing a Charger damper is a little more involved than a Motion Control damper, but Rockshox made things a little easier with hours based kits and the Charger damper was completely rebuildable with a 400-hour service kit containing replacement bladder, seal head, all seals, foot nuts, and several other bits and pieces.
Sneakily introduced for MY17 on the SID, and shortly after on the MY18 Pike B1, the Charger2 damper brought more use-specific compression adjustments with the SID having a solid lockout with the Charger2 RLC damper, while the trail and enduro forks got a firm mode on the Charger2 RCT3 damper that allowed for meaningful tuning of the open setting with better low speed compression damping as Rockshox didn't need to make the lockout rock solid. In addition, the Lyrik received an additional option in the Charger2 RC2 damper with low and high speed compression adjustments that are more relevant for gravity oriented riding. All versions of the Charger2 were easier to bleed and simpler to service, but the serviceability of Charger2 was limited when compared to Charger with respect to what spare parts Rockshox made available.
Charger2.1 built on the Charger2 platform with internal improvements to allow for more oil flow in both compression and rebound, with the aim of reducing harshness and the impact on big hits and allowing for more control of the low speed damping. Sealing changes, redesigned shim stacks and needle shapes, and a switch to Maxima Plush oil in the damper reduced friction and improved the performance of the Charger2.1 dampers in the gnarly stuff, making for a plusher ride, and the improved low speed damping control has less effect in high speed shock movements, making it more useful to more riders. Sharing the same basic architecture of the Charger2 means the Charger2.1 is easy to bleed and simple to service, but the degree that you can disassemble them is still limited.
Charger3 is quite a departure from the previous designs. Rather than using a rubber bladder to allow for the change in volume, the Charger3 design uses a coil sprung internal floating piston (IFP). This change has allowed Rockshox to achieve two things. The first is a super consistent damper regardless of heat build up on long, rough descents or elevation and pressure changes. Consistent performance makes for easier setup and tuning and a more confident ride, and as a little bonus the Charger3 damper is really, really quiet.
The second thing is that for the first time, the low speed damping has no effect on the high speed damping, and vice versa. Rockshox has eliminated any "cross talk" between the two systems, so you can set your low speed and high speed adjusters how you see fit, with confidence that your settings for one circuit won't impede the performance of the other. Time will of course tell, but we're hoping that the solid reliability and serviceability that we've seen from other IFP style dampers like the Fox GRIP2 will be seen in the Charger3 also. It certainly has the performance, with wins during the 2021 season under the Rockshox Blackbox program.
Charger3 RC2 dampers are offered on the Ultimate spec of the all new Pike C1, all new Lyrik D1, and the updated Zeb A2.
CHARGER 3 in pictures: