The idea behind RockShox’s Monarch Plus was to make an air shock that, while remaining light, provides consistent damping and isn’t affected by heat build-up on longer, rougher runs.
We’ve ridden with the shock on a host of bikes now, and have had one unit on a longer term test since June. We’ve taken it around the Pass’Portes du Soleil loop in the French Alps twice, given it a further month of hammering around Morzine and then brought it home and put it through the UK all-mountain treatment, including a load of uplift action.
Adjustment wise, the Monarch Plus offers everything you need. The red dial controls beginning-stroke rebound adjustment and the blue lever controls three compression settings to aid with those uphill sections.
Flick the blue lever to the ‘Mid’ setting and you’ve effectively added a further 50lb of compression damping to push against. The ‘Max’ setting ups that to 125lb, and this feel remains consistent throughout the full stroke of the shock – there’s no hard platform followed by spongy travel, just a consistent feeling for the uphill grind.
We’ve hardly used the firmer setting but have spent a bit of time in the middle one on hard climbs. Most of the time we’ve just left the shock in the minimum compression setting and let it do its job.
The first thing we noticed about the Monarch was the lack of stiction; the stroke is silky smooth throughout. There’s a helpful percentage/sag marker on the shaft, which is useful for getting spring pressure dialled. It’s when the downhill comes that the Monarch Plus really shines, managing to thoroughly exceed our expectations.
The consistent damping, with no need for platform or pedalling aid, gives the feel of being on a high-end coil shock, especially when it comes to half-hour Alpine descents where we’d expect to see some kind of damping fade or spring-rate increase due to heat buildup.
We tried our best to get the Plus to start to fade but even in 35-degree heat and hammering the downhill tracks on a 140mm (5.5in) travel bike, the shock remained totally composed and gave a serious amount of control due to its faultless predictability. It’s coped amazingly well with UK conditions too, and has held up through as much mud and grime as we could find. It’s been nothing but a pleasure to ride with.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine.