The Monarch Plus RC3 was introduced as RockShox’s big hitting, high performance air shock, offering coil like performance at a very low weight. Now, I have been running this shock for just over 1000km, and was keen to find out for myself if the shock could live up to its reputation. Looking inside the shock, the Monarch Plus RC3 uses the new Rapid Recovery technology, allowing it to return faster between hits, keep high in its travel and preserve the bikes geometry. The shock also features the Solo Air cartridge, allowing the pressure to be set in both the positive and negative spring chambers through a single Schrader valve. The current DebonAir version of the Monarch Plus features the new black coating on the shaft, however this, the standard model is certainly no poor performer.
Over the last 6 months this shock has been tested in many different conditions, mud, rain, shine and over all sorts of aggressive terrain. I have also used it in 6 races, where any performance issues become startlingly obvious. Overall the shock has been a great performer, offering reliability and smooth, confident performance over rough ground. There have been times where I would like more control over the compression damping, rather than just the 3 levels that can be selected, but if you are not a total suspension geek you will be well served. The three compression settings, Open-Pedal-Lock are easily select-able and have very observable differences.
In Lock, the bike is not totally locked but is very firm under pedaling while retaining a firmer, but still consistent, suspension action to reduce any big hits. In Pedal, the action is perfect for undulating trails and trail centres, great for climbing and when you do not need big hit absorption. In Open, you are well set to shred the downhills with smooth and controlled suspension. The Rapid recovery seems to work very well, the shock returns faster than the standard Monarch and the performance is excellent in fast, repeated hits. The shock also exhibits a very consistent action throughout the stroke even under extreme heat and use.
The only issue I found was that when running 30% sag for aggressive riding (155psi for my 80kg ride weight), the shock would blow through its travel on big hits. This is a factor that is also dependent on frame suspension kinematics, but the addition of 4 volume reducers has solved the problem, the shock now ramps up faster and is an excellent performer for its weight. Initial breakaway stiction is very good. and the shock is still very smooth through its travel with no dead spots or notches. It is starting to feel like it could do with a second strip down and lube, but luckily that is an easy job. The shock strikes a good balance of sensitivity in the first part of the stroke with support in the midstroke, ramping up well at the end of its travel. The shock also responds well to heat build up, remaining unfazed by long alpine descents, without any noticeable harshness.
The Bottom Line
After 1000km of riding the Monarch Plus has been a worthy companion on the bike. I have performed one air can service in that time and added 4 volume reducers (20 minute job) to provide a more progressive feel to the high volume shock. As standard, when running 30% sag, I found it easy to blow through the mid travel (80kg on Focus SAM 1.0) but with the addition of the volume reducers, the shock now performs perfectly. At 325g, it is very light weight, and servicing is simple. This shock excels in hard terrain, offering exemplary, almost coil like performance at a fraction of the weight, and the rapid recovery can be felt on the trail. With limited controls, this is not a shock for a fettler, but if you just want a ‘fit and forget’ shock to shred the downhills while keeping the weight down, the Monarch Plus offers an excellent price/performance ratio.
Price: €444 – €483
Sizes available: 190x51mm, 200x51mm, 200x57mm, 216x63mm
Also available in 195x46mm, 195x51mm, 216x57mm, 216x63mm with Specialized mount, 210x60mm with Trek mount
Words and photos: Trev Worsey