Here is my take on it...Linear rate means that the linkage will compress the shock at the same rate through it's entire travel. This usually yields a more plush ride but may be more likely to bottom on a big hit. The progreesive setting or "rising rate" means the further the shock is compressed the faster the linkage compresses it due to geometric changes in the shock and linkage positions relative to each other. If you can imagine the fluid in the shock getting forced through orifices in the valving at a constant rate versus an ever increasing rate you can see what effect the rising rate will have. The shock will get progressively stiffer and more like a wound spring. This position wouldn't be as plush through the stroke but will be more resistant to bottoming.
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