2024 RockShox Psylo Gold RC First-Ride Review


2024 RockShox Psylo Gold RC First-Ride Review

Sometimes, the bike industry throws cost-conscious consumers a bone, and the 2024 RockShox Psylo Gold RC is a meaty one. Travis has been chewing on it for a couple weeks now, and he’s got a review with almost no flesh-based metaphors.

Front suspension has not gotten more expensive over the past three decades.*

Sure, that asterisk is doing a lot of work, but hear me out. Currently, a new RockShox Pike Ultimate costs $1049. In 1996, a RockShox Judy DH was $499. Depending on which inflation calculator you use*, that would be between $990 and $995 today. Not a huge leap to that 2024 Pike. So, if it isn’t inflation amnesia that causes suspension sticker-shock, maybe it’s simply that forks are now crossing the dreaded four-figure price threshold.

I guess we can’t ignore headline-grabbers like the inverted $2,600 Push Industries Nine One or the short-lived $2,700 Trust Message, but if we just compare flagship fork models from major brands throughout the years, the increase in price is actually pretty marginal. And if we then take into account the technology inside them, there’s really no comparison at all.

That’s why, at $540, the new RockShox Psylo Gold RC is so impressive. The closest thing out there is the Manitou Mattoc Comp at $550, but it runs on their relatively simple “ABS+” damper. There’s also the $520 Marzocchi Bomber Z2, which uses the somewhat similar “Rail” damper.

The Psylo Gold RC (along with the new enduro-focused Domain Gold RC) are the debut platforms for RockShox’s Isolator damper. There are also OEM-only Silver RC and Silver R forks dropping today, but only the Gold models get the Isolator. They also got a few other updates that played a role in my experience, which I gotta say was pretty astounding. So, let’s take a nerdy dive into what makes it tick, and maybe we’ll ease into that by starting on the outside.

Quick Hits:

  • Available with 130, 140, 150 or 160 mm of travel
  • 27.5 or 29″
  • 44 mm offset (37 mm available OEM only)
  • Tapered steerer tube only
  • 35 mm stanchions
  • 15 x 110 hub spacing
  • 180 mm direct-mount brake caliper
  • All-new Isolator damper
  • $539
  • Isolator damper upgrade (38mm Domain only) available for $84

The Psylo uses 35 mm stanchions, apparently a magic number for RockShox seeing as how that’s the diameter on Lyrik, Yari, Pike and even most SID forks. It’s available in either 27.5 or 29” wheels, and is a slightly more aggressive affair than the Mattoc or Z2, being available in 130, 140, 150 or 160 mm travel.

My 29” test fork weighs 2,260 grams and is at 140 mm of travel. It’s built with a 180 mm direct caliper mount and fits RockShox’s new bolt-on fender. It’s similar to the budget-focused Yari in its all-mountain ambitions, but has a couple tricks up its smooth aluminum sleeves.

Air Spring and Damper

In one sleeve, there’s a new Debonair air spring, taking cues from the tweaks made during RockShox’s sweeping 2023 updates. This configuration leads to higher pressure in the negative air spring (a self-charging pressurized chamber that works opposite the main air spring to ease breakaway force for better small-bump sensitivity). The positive air spring ended up offering more mid-stroke support, while the updated damper lends a hand in its own way.

Isolator is a trickled-down version of RockShox’s top-end Charger 3 damper. It uses a coil-sprung internal floating piston, or IFP. A fascinating but under-appreciated necessity in many high-end dampers, an IFP accommodates for the volume of oil displaced by the aluminum shaft that pushes a piston into the damper body.

A simpler approach would be to leave a pocket of air inside the damper, which is how ABS+, Rail, as well as RockShox’s lower-priced Motion Control dampers work. But mixing air and oil can lead to inconsistent performance, in part because it’s easier for bubbles to form, multiply, and expand. That’s most likely to happen when the fork is compressing and rebounding at high velocity, which is also when you’re most likely to need consistent performance.

In addition to its IFP, Isolator features a shim-based rebound damper, a feature normally reserved for more expensive forks. Shims are like stacks of thin, flexible washers of varying sizes that cover a series of ports, but will quickly flex out of the way when oil pressure suddenly increases. They allow for “speed-sensitive” damping, where suspension will react differently depending on the forces it’s dealing with.

It’s easy to understand the value in compression damping, where you’d want a fork to be firm under braking and pedaling forces but supple over chunky terrain. The benefits of speed-sensitive rebound damping aren’t as intuitive, but they absolutely make a difference.

In a nutshell, high-speed rebound damping plays a role when recovering from big bumps while low-speed rebound damping relates more to small bumps. When there’s only a simple adjustable port managing both, it’s hard for the fork to recover quickly on small bumps (which maintains traction and ride height) without recovering too quickly on big bumps (which is sketchy).

The Isolator damper aims to optimize rebound in all situations. And it’s available as an aftermarket upgrade for $84, though only for the 38mm Domain enduro fork. Put everything together, and it’s finally time to talk about how the damn thing rides.

Ride Impressions

What first stood out to me was that the Psylo Gold likes to ride high in its travel. “Ride height” has become a popular talking point in fancy, modern forks, and it’s a bit misleading. If you want to ride high, just add pressure, right? Well, yeah, kinda, but if the only factor in ride height were the positive air-spring pressure, then keeping it high would come with huge consequences to small-bump sensitivity.

Speaking of which, what stood out to me second was the Psylo Gold’s small-bump sensitivity. Of course, this wasn’t the first fork I’d ridden to strike a good balance between the two. And the ones that have weren’t necessarily in that dreaded four-figure price category. I own a Marzocchi Z1, which uses Fox’s simplest Grip damper. It’s pretty impressive, but it retails for $730. What the Psylo Gold can do for almost $200 less is beyond impressive.

Even though I spent most of my time in the “Open” mode of the Psylo Gold’s three-position compression adjustment (which I’ll get to in a moment), I was regularly amazed at how supportive it was. In recent years, I’m proud to say my body position has finally caught up to what modern frame design has mandated: Lean forward. Long wheelbases and short stems make for more stability, but you have to get over the front end to maintain steering traction.

And when a fork dives under your body weight, leaning forward goes from safe to scary. It’s an unnerving feeling to lose front-end support any time your bike is pointed downhill, but it’s especially unnerving when it’s pointed downhill in a bumpy section. That’s where the Psylo Gold truly rode like a fork of twice its price.

It wasn’t until I rode RockShox’s Charger damper, and later Fox’s Grip damper, that I realized that suspension can be clairvoyant. I had no idea that an inanimate object—or I suppose, an orchestra of inanimate objects—could predict what I wanted and immediately deliver it. Until then, I assumed that my front end might sink when I needed it to float, and this sinking would be accelerated by quick successive hits. But modern forks can steady your bike geometry with one hand, while battling unpredictable terrain with the other. That’s exactly the sensation I got from the Psylo Gold.

The breakaway threshold was paper-thin, and yet the range of impact speeds it could manage was a mile wide. I even pulled out the one stock volume spacer in my 140 mm test fork in my attempt to find out what a harsh bottom-out would even feel like on this fork. And all the while, its motion was inspiringly quick. I usually bump up against the fastest ends of both rebound and compression adjustment ranges, but I landed four clicks from wide open in the Psylo Gold’s eight-click span.

And the compression adjustment was just as surprising. At first, I was put off by the whole three-position thing. I’d have liked to see a less “lockout-like” fine-tunable dial. But the “Pedal” mode was actually quite functional. I expected I’d give up the smooth predictability that I love so much about this fork, but it maintained the same feathery breakaway and much of the same small-bump sensitivity. It was just a bit more resistant to giving up its travel when the terrain put that forward weight bias into the redline.

If I were on the steep, unsustainable fall-line chutes I used to ride in Laguna Beach or other such heavily pirated locales, I’d get a lot of use out of that “Pedal” mode. Very little of it would actually be while pedaling, but that brings me to what I think may be the best way to wrap up my thoughts on this fork.

When bike brands are speccing their affordable models—hardtails in particular—the biggest single line item is always the fork. So, that’s where they can save you the most money by downgrading. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Provided it features an adjustable air spring and rebound, a house-brand or entry-level fork is a great way to make room for a dropper post, tubeless tires, or wide-range 1x drivetrains. And anyway, when a brand bumps up to a sophisticated fork, they usually bump up everything else to match. Maybe that wide-range drivetrain leaps from 11 speeds to 12, or that hardtail leaps to full suspension.

For anyone who wasn’t ready to make those leaps when they bought their bike, but whose riding has evolved in the intervening years, few upgrades will have a greater impact than this fork. Plus, the “Pedal” and “Firm” modes are simple, approachable, and make a lot of sense on a hardtail. On a full-suspension, a Psylo Gold in its “Open” mode will shift the overall capability clear into the next pricepoint.

And there’s never been a better time for something like this to hit the market. As geometry evolution slows and new standards just become standards, there’s less of a reason to replace your six- or seven-year-old bike. Maybe it just needs a $540 fork upgrade. But act now. In three decades, it might be twice the price.*


  • Supportive without sacrificing small-bump sensitivity
  • Sensitive to small bumps without sacrificing support
  • Wide range of rebound damping adjustment
  • Wide range of travel options
  • All-mountain capability
  • Isolator is more user-serviceable than other damper designs
  • Incredible value


  • No fine-tuning of compression damping
  • All-mountain weight

See more at RockShox.