RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 Shock

RockShox Monarch RC3, Blister Gear ReviewComponent: RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 Shock

Weight: 325 g / 11.4 oz.

Damping: Hydraulic with IFP, External Rebound, 3 Position Compression Lever

Configurations:

  • 222 xx 66mm (8.75×2.6″)
  • 216 x 63mm (8.5×2.5″)
  • 200 x 50 or 57mm (7.875×2.0 or 2.25″)
  • 190 x 50mm (7.5×2.0″)

Spring: Solo Air

Spring Adjust: Air pressure via single Schrader valve

Shaft Material: Aluminum

Shaft Diameter: 9mm

Body Material: Aluminum

Body Finish: Clear hard anodized with sag gradients

Upgrade: Over R: 3 position compression adjuster

Options: High Volume air can; Color Options: White, Black

MSRP: $450

Ever since I’ve been riding my Turner 5.Spot, I couldn’t escape the feeling that the bike wasn’t being “allowed” to work to its full potential. Any heavily marketed suspension system (that a frame builder spends far too much money promoting) relies heavily on what the spring and damper are doing in the equation. All the veepeedeedubquadcrap in the world doesn’t mean a whole lot if it’s crippled by a shock.

“Crippled” might be a little rough for how the stock Fox damper feels on the 5.Spot frames, but super-high-frequency chatter still felt like it could be opened up a bit in how the bike was working. Plus, I blew the damper on the thing within the first few months and had to order a second shock from Fox, which was promised to be the same tune. But I’ve had enough “special treatment” from shock tuners telling me what I really want that, when I got a replacement, it didn’t surprise me that it was shimmed with an even harsher compression tune. It just kind of pissed me off. So now it was really time to try something else.

After some discussions with friends and a nice feller from Turner bikes, it sounded like a lot of folks were really digging the Rock Shox Monarch Plus RC3. In fact, everyone I’d talked to said this was pretty much the shock for this frame. After digging into the tuning for a bit and almost a full summer season riding it, I absolutely agree.

RockShox Monarch Plus RC3, Blister Gear Review

RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 with "ding dong," aka Piggyback Reservoir.

The RC3 takes a nod from some bigger non-trail bike dampers and does one thing important: It puts more stuff inside. That extra ding dong on the body is filled with something that makes 15-minute sustained descents all the more enjoyable: more damper oil. That means is the overall temperature of the oil in the damper circuit stays a little cooler because there’s more oil to heat up for a given number of cycles. Most XC/trailbike/all-mountaineering shocks focus hard on weight savings, and oil and the space to store it means weight. This little guy bridges the gap a bit between total priority on performance and priority on weight. Oil gets thinner as it gets hot, and that means it can pass through damper ports and shims quicker. I’ve gotten so used to compromised rebound damping on long descents with air shocks, I’ve kind of just come to accept it as a given.

When I got the shock, Colorado Springs was half on fire, with most, if not all, of the employees at the RockShox base there under not only workplace evacuation threats, but looming danger to their own domiciles. When I realized that I’d gotten a shock most certainly not setup for the frame I’d intended to put it on (in terms of air spring), I certainly gave the guys a pass. Sometimes real life just gets distracting, ya know?

Like Fox, there’s a bit of selection when it comes to air sleeve size: There’s a small and large configuration, and I got the large. But a quick call to RockShox left me with the impression that I’d no doubt find some rubber band spacers in the outer sleeve. See, RockShox does something really cool: They make this large-volume air can but also make some red rubber bands that fit on the inner sleeve to cut down on that volume. So, yes, if you have a small can, and a large can, and want something in between, it’s all yours. Fox offers some plastic ring equivalents, but you’ve got to remove the full air can, not just an outer sleeve, to install them, and there are only three of them. (It takes about eight RockShox rubber bands to fill the outer sleeve of a Monarch can, for reference.) Don’t even ask me how a small, medium, or large spacer on the inside of a Fox can compares to god-knows-how-many rubber bands in the outer sleeve of a RockShox can…just know that there’s a little more precision with the RockShox system.

3 Comments

  1. Mr. P October 31, 2012 Reply

    I appreciate that the review followed a process of learning in. Nice one.

    Turner has specced a lower compression tune (and a low volume cannister) in their more recent offerings due to the issues you described. Which would point to the shock spec rather than the specific model. Also, the air spring rate and the INTERNAL damper tune of the shock must match the characteristics of the frame linkage design and the rider’s intention for a shock to sing. IME, off the shelf shock swaps are rarely a bolt-up-and-your-done situation as the article outlines so well. A Push or other custom tuner is the ticket.

    Can you tell I’ve played off-the-shelf shock roulette?

    The Monarch does have a larger piston than a Fox Float for more oil control.

    A few side notes:
    – Fox’s air chamber spacers allow you to tune both large volume and small volume air chamber
    – I wonder if the single wall air canister will have more effect on temperature than a piggy back, the double wall large chamber acts as an insulator as would the rubber bands. I’ve had my body fatigue before my damping broke down due to heat on an inline single wall shock, but we are all different.

    P

  2. Chez November 20, 2012 Reply

    Wow. This is a great review and very interesting to hear about going through the complex series of tuning a shock to a frame. I have one of the RT3s on my 29er with a 4 bar linkage and it runs great! I set it on firm for climbing(sometimes on medium) and open it wide up for descending. Most of the time I don’t realize it’s working. I mean this in a good way. It just flows with the bike.
    I have a Yeti AS-R with an RP23 on it. Granted, it’s a different linkage system but it feels like the shock is always bobbing around. I’m considering either getting an RT3 with a medium compression or getting the RP23 Pushed. I really would love to get an RT3 or even this RC3(though a 4″ travel bike hardly merits one) instead of having it Pushed. I’m just not a fan of Fox much anymore. They seem overly complex and near impossible to tune how one wants it. Plus, it would give me the same servicing when I service the shocks.
    Interesting to hear about the rubber bands. I’d never heard that mentioned before. Thanks!

  3. Michael McLaren January 9, 2014 Reply

    Great write up, after reading this i put an order in for a 2014 RC3 PLUS for my 5 spot. I had my RP23 PUSH’ed about 6 months ago and it took all the small bump harshness out of it and for a couple of months i was happy. But when i got into the mountains i found the shock lacked something i just couldn’t put my finger on initially. But after a bit more riding i found it was just getting harsher and harsher on long sustained descents. Great shock for trail riding but if you are looking at pushing yourself and the bike more and more then i felt i needed something a bit better.

    Im still waiting for it and it is getting tuned for me from a specialist company here in the UK so when i get my mitts on it ill hopefully have the final piece in my bike jigsaw :-)

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