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First Ride: Rockshox Monarch & Monarch Plus DebonAir 2015

Giant Trance Advanced SX 2014 debonair monarch plus-4

Not content with making a dramatic impact on the suspension fork market with the class leading Pike, RockShox have now turned their attention to their rear shocks too! They have just announced a new technology, the DebonAir, which will be rolled out over their Monarch range. DebonAir shocks come with the same distinctive black treatment as the RockShox Pike’s stanchions giving it a sick pro-look. But what is this „DebonAir“ technology all about? And more importantly, how does the shock perform? Continue reading for our first impression on Moab’s finest trails.

Jed Douglas, RockShox Product Manager, explains the DebonAir technology.

DebonAir technology is available on Monarch and Monarch Plus models. There is an upgrade kit for previous model years.

DebonAir technology is available on Monarch and Monarch Plus models. There will also be an upgrade kit for previous model years.

In order to make the Monarch dampers more sensitive and plusher than ever before RockShox have changed the volume of the air chambers. By increasing the volume in the negative as well as the positive chamber, the shock will deliver a more linear spring curve.

While the damping technology stays the same, the DebonAir models have a new air can which makes a big difference in the shock's performance.

While the damping technology stays the same, the DebonAir models have a new air can which makes a big difference to the shock’s performance.

According to RockShox the Monarch Plus DebonAir requires approximately 30% less force to start the shock moving into its travel, compared to the current Monarch Plus models, resulting in a more sensitive ride with more traction.

Left: Monarch Plus DebonAir air reservoir. Right: current air reservoir.

Left: Monarch Plus DebonAir air chamber. Right: current air chamber with less volume.

The DebonAir technology is available as an option on Monarch RT3 and as the standard configuration on Monarch Plus RC3. The good news for those who already have a Monarch or Monarch Plus rear shock, is that the new air can will be available as an upgrade for any MY14 Monarch/Monarch Plus and MY13 Monarch RT3.

Moab's Captain Ahab trail offers some very technical climbing with steep ramps as well as rough underground to put the Monarch Plus DebonAir's performance to the test.

Moab’s Captain Ahab trail offers some very technical climbing with steep ramps as well as rough terrain to put the Monarch Plus DebonAir’s performance to the test.

So how’s the performance on the trail?

To be honest it’s hard to tell how a rear shock actually performs if you don’t have a direct comparison. With many suspension designs using different spring rates and curves, a rear shock’s performance is heavily influenced by the bike’s kinematics and the shock tune.

Giant Trance Advanced SX 2014 debonair monarch plus

Luckily I have been testing a Giant Trance Advanced SX (which was the provided test bike in Moab to test the Monarch Plus DebonAir) for several months with a complete Fox suspension setup before coming to Moab. As I knew how the bike felt with a fox suspension setup, it would be easier to draw comparison as we were very impressed with the Fox Float X rear shock, an awesome and capable shock.

Pedalling up sandy and rocky terrain you feel that the Monarch Plus is very sensitive to small bumps offering loads of traction in loose climbs. For steep ramps and power sections we switched to the mid-compression setting to stay higher in the travel and push the bike actively over the very grippy slickrock sections where efficiency is all!

Giant Trance Advanced SX 2014 Rock Shox monarch plus debonair-4

In the downhill sections the Monarch Plus DebonAir was very impressive, as expected for a plusher unit. Great traction and absorbing capabilities mix with a feel of never-ending travel. So endless in fact that sometimes results in the question, where exactly are you in the travel?

Giant Trance Advanced SX 2014 Rock Shox monarch plus debonair

Bottom-line: The DebonAir technology adds a significant performance benefit to the Monarch and Monarch Plus models for those who are looking for better traction and bump absorbing capabilities. For steep uphills we recommend making use of the mid-compression setting to stay higher in the travel and pedal more active over obstacles.

RockShox Monarch DebonAir models will be available in June 2014. Monarch RT3 DebonAir will be available from $365 / 324€, Monarch Plus RC3 DebonAir from $499 / 444€. The DebonAir Upgrade Kit comes in at $115.50 / 104.21€.

More info: www.sram.com/rockshox

Words: Robin Schmitt Photos: Adrian Marcoux, Margus Riga

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