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New Rockshox Monarch Plus Fills Freeride Gap, Entire Line Gets Tweaked

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Freeriders, you now have more options: Rockshox has introduced a brand new Monarch Plus rear shock to bridge the gap between their XC-oriented Monarch and their downhill Vivid line (including the new Vivid Air) and compete directly with Fox’s DHX shock.

The Monarch Plus adds a small piggy-back chamber that moves some of the damping oil out of the main chamber. This increases the amount of space for air and adds oil volume, all of which improves performance during longer downhill runs.

Speaking of improved performance, the entire Monarch line gets lots of updates, including revised air volume differentials between the positive and negative chambers, new seal systems and new surface finishes. The result of all these changes, Rockshox says, is better small bump performance. They didn’t have them in yet, so we didn’t get to test them out at the press camp. The other change on Monarch shocks is the improved rebound adjuster placement and detents. The larger red knob is now placed on the outside (as opposed to inline under the top eyelet), and it has 10 detents with an indicator flag on the bezel, making adjustments much easier.

Check out “cutaway” diagrams comparing the Monarch and Monarch Plus with technical descriptions after the break…


The Monarch Plus gets a damping system that’s a hybrid between what’s found in the standard Monarch and Vivid Air shocks. In the absolutely-not-to-scale technical diagram above, drawn by Rockshox project manager Jeremiah Boobar, you have the Monarch on left, Monarch Plus on right. Here’s what you’re looking at:

  • Assume the canisters are drawn at the same size, which they are in reality, and you get more air and oil volume in the Plus by moving oil to the piggy back reservoir.
  • The shocks use an IFP (independent floating piston*) to separate the damping oil from a gas-filled chamber (usually air or nitrogen). The gas chamber is used to exert pressure on the damping oil, which facilitates its flow through the damping shims located on the end of the damping piston. It also compresses enough to compensate for the oil displacement that occurs when the piston shaft is driven into the oil. Without this compensation, the oil would blow through the seals and into the air chamber.
  • Both versions of the Monarch use Rockshox’s Solo Air, which means the positive and negative chambers are filled simultaneously and maintain fairly equal pressures. This is achieved by small notches inside the air chamber that, at a certain point in the travel, allow air to briefly move around the Air Piston. If you take a shock and compress it very slowly, you’d be able to notice a slight “give” as the piston moves over the notch. During normal riding, it’s imperceptible.

Technically, Rockshox classifies the Monarch Plus as an “All Mountain” shock designed to be used in conjunction with Lyrik or Revelation forks, but during the discussions we had with them the term “freeride” was bandied about frequently.

It’ll be available in two versions: R (rebound adjust only) and RC3 (rebound plus 3-position compression adjust). The RC3 controls are shown on the standard Monarch at the top and allow you to set it wide open, in the middle to provide medium damping and firm. The firm position is not a full lockout, but provides a harder platform to pedal against before dropping into its travel. The rebound is their Dual Flow, which lets you adjust beginning stroke (small bump) performance, and end stroke (big hit) damping is set at the factory.

There will be large volume canister options available, too, for bigger travel bikes. The normal canister should weigh in around 350g (R) to 355g (RC3) and both sizes start shipping in September to manufacturers and distributors, meaning you should be able to get your hands on one by the end of the year. Pricing is TBD.

Available sizes: 190x50mm / 200x50mm / 200x57mm / 216x63mm / 222x66mm

* IFP is also known as “internal floating piston”. Depending on which one you think is correct, then the other camp is obviously and terribly misguided.

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