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MTB Suspension Sales, Service & Support

RockShox Vivid Air - Jason's take. Bike: SB165

Posted on November 09 2023

Vivid is certainly no stranger to us, it’s been around for over a decade, but it has been hiding in the shadows for a while now as RockShox focussed on their other offerings. So when I heard it was being reborn, better than ever and packed full of cool features, I was excited to give it a go. Some bold claims have been made against this shock, the main one promising coil-like performance. So I’m unbolting my coil shock and fitting one of these in to see how it stacks up. 


  • Test Bike: Yeti SB165
  • Usual Shock: Push ElevenSix
  • Rider Weight: 85kg kitted up
  • Riding Style: Aggressive Enduro




Features / setup


Do you want tune-ability? Well the new Vivid certainly doesn’t fall short on that, with all the relevant adjusters to fine-tune the shock to your liking. The only thing missing is high speed rebound, but arguably that’s not a necessary external adjustment for most riders. Almost every rider however, will praise the ability to adjust the hydraulic bottom-out resistance externally - something few air shocks are capable of doing. HBO helps take the edge off those big hits without affecting the remainder of the travel. This means you can refine your air pressure/volume better and then dial in support from the HBO as needed. 


Adjustments include: 

  • Air - Up to 360psi
  • Air volume - Up to 4 spacers in most shocks but 6 in some offerings. 
  • Low Speed Compression - 5 clicks 
  • High Speed Compression - 5 clicks 
  • Low Speed Rebound - 20 clicks 
  • Hydraulic Bottom-Out - 5 clicks
  • Climb Switch - Firm


Now, if you’ve ever felt a little overwhelmed trying to dial in suspension, you’re not alone, especially when there can be so many different clicker combinations. Fear not though, Rockshox have gone for more of a minimalist approach, having less clicks of adjustment but greater changes between them. You can actually feel the difference between each click which assists with dialling it in, and also means finding a base setup is relatively quick and easy. Bonus points to Rockshox for incorporating the rebound knob as a tool to adjust the HSC and HBO on the trail too. Though adjustments might be a little fiddly on some bikes with tighter clearances between the shock and the frame. 


You’ve probably gathered by now that this shock has quite a few features, but one thing I think could have been added is a max travel line - all the other Rockshox air shocks have it, so why not the Vivid? It’s not a major downfall, but would be nice for riders to have an indication of how much is left in the tank. 
I will point out that the equalising point is about 35% into the travel, so when setting air pressure you will require a little more effort to equalise the pressure during pumping. I found it best to compress the shock and equalise every 30-40psi. 


After just a few rides, trying to get as much variety in terrain as I could, I was able to find a good base setup. I tested different air pressure/volume spacer combos in order to achieve the feel I desired - sensitive but sitting high and supported in the middle. Compression and HBO were dialled in by doing repeat laps on a local trail and bracketing to find the sweet spot. Rebound was the only adjustment I found myself not having to change very much, Trailhead’s recommendation was spot on. 


Base Setup: 215psi (30% sag), 3 spacers, +1 lsc, 0 hsc, -1 hbo, 12 rebound. 
(0 is considered the neutral-point of these adjusters with ‘-‘ being more open and ‘+’ being more closed. Rebound is an exception, counting clicks from full closed)



Firstly, let me say it’s very noticeable just how quiet the shock is when in use, and minimal noise means less distractions. Suspension typically makes swishy swooshy noises as oil passes through pistons and valves, but Rockshox have managed to make things more like a whisper in their new shock. 


On the trail, the Vivid is definitely more compliant than other air shocks I’ve tried, it just absorbs everything with minimal effort and little feedback. Given the first 10% of travel is not restricted by valving (thanks to Touchdown Technology), it makes the transition from full-extension to entering compressions very smooth and effortless. This takes the edge off impacts, especially when skipping over the top of chattery terrain or braking bumps. It’s not quite as planted/controlled in rough terrain as my usual coil shock, but is not far off all things considered. I personally found the Vivid excelled more on fast chattery terrain as oppose to repeated chunkier terrain, where it started to lack some composure, unlike my coil shock. It also excelled in terms of playfulness, you’ll likely find yourself popping and hopping around the trail even more. The Vivid had me wanting to pop off / over obstacles, even jumping into rock gardens, not because it couldn’t handle hitting all the obstacles but rather it was always looking to work harder. 



I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of harshness / pressure spiking when extra volume spacers were added, something i found necessary for sufficient mid stroke support. It’s not uncommon for an air spring to ramp up quickly and feel like it’s hitting a wall deep in the travel with lots of volume spacers installed, but the Vivid doesn’t do that. This will be a result of the shocks air spring equalising at 35% travel, therefore reducing how high the pressure in the positive chamber gets throughout the rest of the stroke. As a result, it does however reduce bottom-out resistance from the air spring since there is less pressure buildup, but that’s where HBO comes into play. 
This all being said, the Vivid may not be suitable for everyone / every bike due to the linearity of the shock. Yeti’s SB165 is quite a progressive bike and I found myself running 3 spacers for the desired feel with the HBO set at -1, leaving 3 clicks in the tank for trails with bigger hits. Running less spacers found me running much higher pressures to prevent it blowing through the middle of the travel, at the cost of traction. This does have me questioning how it would perform on frames that are far more linear and require the shock to provide most of the progression. 


Let’s not forget that keeping your squishy bits working the best they can on the trail requires looking after them off the trail. Rockshox have lengthened the service intervals for this shock, meaning less time servicing and more time riding. Usual intervals are 50hours for an air can service and 100hours for a full rebuild, but Rockshox have upped that to 100hours for an air can and 200hours for a full rebuild on the Vivid.
So if you are someone who rides lots, or someone who tends to put off servicing for a while, then the Vivid might just be an option for you. 
And yes, air can services can be done seperate to damper services now, unlike the previous Vivid that required full disassembly (but you will still require some special tools if you do it yourself). 
At the time of writing this, I’ve spent about 40 hours on the Vivid, so I haven’t reached the first service interval yet. It still feels really smooth, performance hasn’t decreased at all, there’s no signs of oil weeping out of anywhere, and there has been no air loss issues. In other words, so far so good. 


So what’s the bottom line? I found the Vivid to exceed my expectations for an air shock. Not only is the shock smooth and compliant, but even the little details such as its quietness and easy tune-ability make it that little bit more desirable. RockShox have certainly hit the nail on the head with the new and improved Vivid, and I’d safely say it won’t require updating for a while… once again. Being a beefier shock it’s going to be best suited to those riding enduro and downhill, but will still be more than fine on trail bikes as well. 


In response to the “coil-like performance” claim, it has certainly closed the gap between how air shocks feel / perform vs coil shocks, and will be very desirable for a lot of people who want the best of both worlds. However for me and my bike, the coil still has the upper hand…just. 


  • smooth and compliant 
  • quiet
  • 360psi max pressure
  • adjustable hydraulic bottom-out
  • longer service intervals, and can do complete air can services without disassembling the damper
  • fewer clicks on adjusters but noticeable difference between settings, and can get it set up in a short amount of time
  • can use back of the rebound knob to adjust clickers
  • reduced air pressure spiking (harsh feeling due to excessive ramp up) due to more linear air spring curve
  • pretty firm lockout, but will still absorb an impact if it has to


  • some frame clearance issues due to bulkiness, also adjusters may be difficult to get to
  • max travel marking would be nice like other Rockshox shocks
  • equalising shock when pumping up requires more effort due to port being 35% into travel
  • air spring may not suit some bikes/riders due to it being less progressive than other air shocks
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