RockShox announced the availability of its Monarch and Monarch Plus DebonAir shocks for select Trek and Specialized bikes. Treks have required a special 'trunnion' style mounting hole and Specialized bikes have non-standard shock mounts as well a their Autosag feature so using aftermarket shocks has been a difficult endeavor in the past.
RockShox invested all the R&D and testing required and they're now giving owners of these bikes the opportunity to use their new rear shock technology. For each bike they worked with the manufacturer to get the shock rate requirements for that particular bike, then they performed several rounds of bike testing in their Colorado Springs facility. Thus, there is a a shock model made specifically for each bike in the list below. And in general, the Monarch DebonAir is used for the shorter travel bikes, while the Monarch Plus DebonAir, distinguished by the external reservoir, is spec'd for the higher travel bikes.
On the day of this announcement, we had the opportunity to try the Monarch DebonAir on our Trek Fuel EX 29er. This bike has been a versatile member of our bike stable as it climbs and carves and is quite capable on descents. But we were always left wondering 'what if' we can put another rear shock on this frame. It just wasn't a possibility because there was no shock that would fit or was tuned for this bike.
But PR Coordinator Duncan Riffle knocked on our office door and showed up with a whole battery of new products and he installed the Monarch Debonair on our bike. But before he performed the swap, Duncan suggested we take the bike and stock rear shock out first our local test loop and establish a baseline for comparison. He then performed the rear shock swap at the trailhead and we did the identical lap and beyond.
Note that the FOX DRCV rear shock is no joke. We feel that it is one of the great rear shocks out there, as it has propelled Trek's growth in the full-suspension market. Its twin-can air chamber promises a more linear, bottomless suspension feel and it has allowed the Trek Fuel to deliver good comfort and control in many different environments.
Riding the Monarch DebonAir
We got the air pressures dialed in and got the rear shock to sag deep in its travel (about 30%). The rear felt smooth with very little 'breakaway' force required to initiate travel and there was no 'notchiness' to overcome typical of other shocks. I was a bit concerned that this rear shock plushness would be inefficient on climbs and I would have to ride in 'Trail' mode. But Duncan insisted I spend time in the 'Descent' or Wide Open mode and get to know it a bit.
A better Wide Open mode
I told Duncan that I wished for a more useable 'Trail' mode in rear shocks and he disagreed and said what we need is a better 'Wide Open' mode. In the end, I realized that we were talking about the same thing, as there is clearly a need for rear shock mode that riders can use 90% of the time that is less of a compromise. It needs to climb well and descend well with minimal compromise. This will allow the rider to just ride with all the benefits of suspension, while still transferring power efficiently. The rider can still play with the remote mode switches but that becomes the exception and not the norm of a typical ride.
The descending abilities of this rear shock are impressive indeed. Small bump and medium bump compliance are excellent as the bike demonstrated the comfort and traction of bikes with more than 120mm of rear travel. We did not get to do any big bumps or drops, but we hope to experience that in many upcoming rides. That's one area where the DRCV shock excelled and we're curious to see if the Monarch DebonAir can match it.
The real revelation of this ride was how well the bike climbed in in Wide Open mode. Sitting in its proper sagged position, the rear shock had a lot of support, so it did not wallow around during hard pedaling efforts. It sat securely and transferred power well. When the rocks and roots showed up, the rear suspension did it's job, absorbed the bumps and allowed the bike to maintain traction. Most of this is normal, but the unusual part is that we climbed in Wide Open mode, felt efficient, and allowed the rear suspension to do its job.
So those are our first impressions. It's good to have options especially in this day and age of bikes with ever expanding sweet spots. We'll continue to ride this bike in our more challenging local Santa Cruz trails and see how it fares.
Monarch Plus RC3 is available for the following Specialized models:
- Stumpjumper FSR EVO 29" 2012-2014
- Stumpjumper FSR EVO 26" 2012-2014
- Enduro 29" 2013-2014
- Enduro 26" 2013-2014
- Specialized Camber 29"/Rumor 29" 2013-2014
- Specialized Camber 29" EVO 2014
- Fuel EX 29" 2014
- Remedy 26"/27.5" 2010-2014
- Remedy 29" 2014
- Trek Slash 26"/27.5" 2012-2014
The Monarch is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Its lightweight design not only delivers silky smooth travel, but thanks to a redesigned Solo Air spring with updated damping controls, it also delivers a spring rate you'd generally only get from a much heavier coil shock. So you get a durable, fully adjustable shock capable of smoothing out the most aggressive trails, while simultaneously saving you weight for epic cross country riding. In other words, the perfect balance of performance and efficiency. So don't be fooled by its appearance. Like the wolf, its packaging doesn't always reveal what's inside.
Unlike a dirt-bike, Monarch Plus rear shock has no rev-limiter. Because with its fusion of the Monarch's exemplary light weight with an all-new Solo Air system, and a damper design similar to the Vivid Air, the Plus will have you bombing all-mountain trails like it was born to downhill. In other words, you're going to need some serious stopping power to slow this freight train down. So it might be time to look at some four-piston brakes for your steed.