Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: Rock Shox Monarch RT3 2011 (2012)

My initial expectations for the Monarch RT3 shock where very high. Rock Shox promised a revised 2011 monarch, that had a competent midstroke, and factory set high speed rebound. This combined with a 3 way compression setting, sounded like just the right shock for me and my AM riding.

The first version I got was faulty, the shock had issues with compression and rebound, had to send it back in, and got a new version - faulty as well. You can imagine my frustration at this point. So had to send it back in, again, and I finally got a working version, and after 7 months of testing I can finally pin a review.

RockShox has stated that there is no difference between the 2011 and 2012 version.
(click to enlarge)

The RT3 has a 3 way compression tune, a low-speed rebound, and an internal pre-set highspeed rebound. I went for the high volume canister.
(click to enlarge)

Black and Pink line shows the official Rockshox spring curves. Green, Blue, and Red shows my impressions of the spring curve of a given compression setting.
So what you are looking at here, is a shock that takes a while to activate, as well as having a persistent tendency to stabilise on the hard-feeling sag. Small bump sensitivity is poor - I don't mind that actually, as my trails are very forgiving to such behavior. After the sag, the shock actually has a very good mid-stroke support, and ramps up nicely, but refuses to use all travel, as illustrated on the grapf.
All this is coupled with the fact that the 3 diffrent compression setting are actually giving 3 different shock behaviors, and for once ive actually been using the different compression settings - whereas I usually just set it in one place, and forget about it.

Blue: High compression setting
Green: Medium compression setting
Red: Low compression setting
(Grapf is simplified to better illustrate behavior.)
(click to enlarge)

Weight resembles a FOX RP23, size shown is a 216x63mm, with bushings:
(click to enlarge)

Set the compression to high, and enjoy a "firm" setting that makes you propel faster on pedally sections, but still allows the wheel to tracks the ground. Don't expect great small bump sensitivity tho'
 (click to enlarge)

The Monarch RT3 does a great job sucking in well transitioned hits, small and big. Square-bump hits is another story, it feels inconsistent, and will sometimes give a kickback. Makes me wonder why the high-speed rebound doesn't kick in.
(click to enlarge)

The Good:
-Very competent platform settings, it really has 3 settings.
-Great mid stroke
-Handles big hits very well
-Different tune options
-You can get racy xc performance, whilst still being able to take hard hits

The Bad:
-High speed rebound feels inconsistent
-Does not use full travel
-Negative air spring problems in the High-Compression setting when riding flat sections.

Score: 3/6

As I stated before, I had somewhat high expectations for this shock, and it just didnt deliver what I expected. Its not a bad shock, it definately has its moments, but overall its nothing special. So once again I end up with a shock, that doesnt live up to my idea of a good AM shock. Funny thing is, that the best air shock I have been on so far, was a 2009 Fox Float R. Cheap, consistent, and just felt damn good. So, where do I go from here shock wise?


  1. It sounds like Rockshox is just trying to keep up with Fox shocks, but can't. Maybe except the Boxxer. I had RP2 and worked fine. Maybe you could try the DHX Air? I'm thinking about starting to switch to air shock for AM riding instead of DHX RC4. Or if you can wait till 2012, I hear Cane creek makes awesome shocks, but expensive. They're coming out with Dbair. No info on it yet but check this out. http://www.canecreek.com/dbair

  2. Cane Creek DBAIR is definately a shock im following closely, along with the BOS VIP'R. Problem with these two shocks is that they are silly expensive, so Im still not ruling out the 2012 RP23 just yet.

    The DHX air has a bad rep, so unless it starts to get a better rep, im staying away, perhaps its better for 2012?

  3. CC is definitely expensive and it will be about 500 g, not the lightest. If I'm correct it will be first year for CC with air shock? Don't know if its a bad thing, but they don't have many issues with reliability. Haven't heard much about BOS VIP'R here in the US of A, but I read a review saying it's good for big air hits or rocks, but not so good for small bump absorption. From what I see, it would suit you for the big air.

    As for reliability for the DHX air, I don't know anyone that has it, but from what I read in the reviews, everyone loves it for the last two years. You heard bad things about it? But it's still pricey and 450g, not light either. The RP23 sounds pretty good too. The Kashima coating must be really smooth. DT Swiss has nice light shocks, but I think they're more for XC than AM riding.

  4. I ride a DHX Air and an RP23 and found that the shocks can both be either set up smooth but wallowy or either firm with bad small bump sensitivity which had me searching for better settings for a long time...

    Until I got them both tuned for my weight. Especially for the DHX Air the difference is night & day, now I can have smooth and small bump sensitivity and a pedal platform, that was quite a revelation!
    It does suffer some reliability issues though in the form of a returning oil leak at the seal behind the propedal lever and apparently a lot of the 3rd party shock maintenance and tune shops don't do DHX overhauls because of the many seal problems afterwards that might result in unhappy customers.

    My main concern with the current generation of RP23 is the inability to set BoostValve pressure yourself. Depending on the riding I do with this shock I tend to go throught all the available travel like butter on the aggressive trails or don't use up more then half of it.
    Also, unlike with the DHX Air where I can ride without Propedal I still find myself swithing it on and off all the time on the RP23, alas.

    Anyway, since shocks are made to be fit for a wide range of people with different body weights I can understand it's nigh impossible to make a shock that is perfect from the shelf. And that's not counting all the other variables (that might make your findings completely different for other people on different bikes in different terrain).

    I guess what I'm trying to say is, since you seem to be a demanding rider who knows what he wants and with a bit of technical knowledge to translate your needs to a graph / explanation it will probably net you better results to get it tuned and see what it can do for you then instead of wanting to find the perfect shock off the shelf

  5. @Matej
    Cane Creek is actually not new to the air shock segment, they have made the Cloud Nine for years. But it never really made it to the "mass market". I know a few guys riding the DHX air (2008-2009), and none of them like it. Read alot of bad things about it on mtbr.com as well. Perhaps the new 2012 is better? Ill definately look out for a review.

    Im definitely an advocate for shock tuning, problem is that no one will touch the DHX air here in Europe, and PUSH does not accept shocks from EU.

    I would love to have my Monarch tuned, but once again, there is no one to tune it here in Europe, its all service. : (

  6. @V.P.
    check out "Fast suspension" in France; http://www.fast-suspension.com/accueil_2010.htm
    I had his Works kit installed and am very happy with that. The website is in french but Fabien speaks english too. You can also check his facebook page.

    Alternatively you could look here too:
    at Unik Suspension:
    (this dude is the official team GT Downhill mechanic)

  7. Cool thanks for the heads up, ill definitely check it out! : )

  8. I have a VIPr. In the shrt time I've had it,it has impressed. I'd certainly recommend it for your consideration.

    Don't forget it does tuned for the bike, something you'd have to pay for separately with any other shock

  9. Thanks, im definitely looking into the VIP'r as well. Did you get a good price?