We won’t lie – in the realm of short travel air shocks, Rockshox have done it tough over the past few years. The FOX RP23 and CTD rear shocks are very good, and Rockshox just haven’t been able to keep up. So when we went looking for a shock to fit our new BH Lynx 4.8 29er frame, our first inclination was FOX.
As it turned out, the BH uses a fairly obscure shock size, and while we couldn’t get a FOX to suit, we were able to get the new Monarch RT3 from Rockshox in the correct length. ‘What the hell,’ we though, ‘let’s give it a run!’ Turns out we’re very thankful that we did, as Rockshox seem to have really upped their game.
The new Monarch is, in a word, excellent. Compared to the previous iterations of Monarch shocks we’ve used, the most noticeable improvement is in its small bump sensitivity. This shock is as supple off the top of the stroke as any short travel air shock we’ve used, coming very close to the sensitivity of a Kashima coated FOX shock.
Setup is very easy, thanks to the sag markings on the shock shaft, particularly appreciated on the BH where the shock is quite tricky to access. The rebound damping range is suitably wide; there seems to be a rather large jump between each click of rebound adjustment once you get towards the slower end of the rebound range, but that is our only gripe.
The Rapid Recovery damping is a new inclusion for this shock and it seems to work very well. Essentially, the rebound circuit is valved to ‘recover’ quickly from big impacts, allowing the shock to ride higher in its travel rather than becoming bogged down. It’s not the kind of thing you’re actively aware of on the trail, but on a shorter travel bikes it makes good sense, as you want to make the most of the bike’s available suspension travel.
Similarly to a FOX CTD shock, there are three compression damping positions; open, platform and a ‘locked’ setting. We rarely use the locked setting, but the middle platform setting is ideal on our test bike, and we’ll regularly go for a whole ride with the shock in this setting if the terrain is smooth and grippy. We particularly like the way the lever operates to toggle between the different modes. Whereas on a FOX CTD shock, the lever only moves approximately 30 or 40-degrees between each setting, with the Monarch there is a full 120-degrees between each setting. Simply put, you’re never in any doubt about which setting the shock is in.
Rockshox have some catching up to do when it comes to their shock mounting hardware. Compared to the new five-piece FOX hardware, there is a lot more friction with the Rockshox bushings. Fortunately, you can actually use FOX hardware in a Rockshox shock, although neither manufacturer would recommend it! (We did, running it on the end of the shock that encountered the most bushing rotation, and there have been no problems.)
All up, we’re really pleasantly surprised by the new Monarch RT3 and we’ll be sticking with this shock for the long term.