by Ben Haworth
November 18, 2009
Rock Shox have been getting their "rear shock" act together.
Rock Shox Monarch 4.2
From: Fisher Outdoor Leisure
Tested: 6 months on big mountains and that sort of shizzang
It’s probably fair to say that Rock Shox have never really been known for their rear shocks but they’ve been getting their act together with both burly coil and lightweight air offerings over the past year or so.
I’ve been using this Monarch 4.2 on my Orange Patriot in its “superleggera” (ha!) XC-ish guise and it’s been a more than pleasant surprise. The shock has some tidy features – it comes with an anodised sag-o-meter on the shaft and red rubber O-ring which makes setup much less of a faff. Then there’s the moveable Schraeder air valve which pivots out and then tucks away in a pleasing but slightly pointless fashion. Well, unless through some sort of terrible design flaw a normal valve is hard to get at on your frame.
There are a number of choices for the air can (suspension tunability is the new H Bar/29er/tasteless-anodising, kids) so you can either have a low volume Solo Air can like this one, a high volume version which gives less ramp up or a Dual Air version where you can manually adjust the postive and negative air chambers to get the feel you desire. You can get them in pretty much all stroke and eye-to-eye flavours from little bike to big bike too.
On this top line Monarch 4.2 there’s a switchable and adjustable pedalling platform (Floodgate) which cuts out unwanted pedal bob and happily it doesn’t intrude too much if you forget to switch if off for a descent. It also clearly tells you which way is on and which way is off too.
The other Interesting Technical Feature is that the external rebound adjuster only adjusts the rebound for the start of the stroke (small hit) as the end stroke (large hit) rebound is factory set and on a separate damping circuit. It’s called Dual Flow and if I’m entirely honest the system works so well I wasn’t aware of it’s existence until I started assembling this review. Regardless, the way the shock copes with drops and the consequences of riding the bike into things too fast is extremely impressive for unit that weighs 200g, especially on a bike with almost 7in of travel.
It’s very nice and supple over the small stuff too but it does get a bit confused and vague in really extreme non-stop rocky or rooty terrain when compared to a coil spring hardly surprising though. There have been no issues with reliability and no heat related stiffening/loss of damping problems despite more than a few unsubtle landings, a number of months of regular use on long and technical descents in the Alps and it sucked up being loaned to a friend who isn’t as much of a skinny weakling as me for a week of hucking abuse in German bike parks, which is all very confidence inspiring.
Overall: The Monarch is definitely up there with the competition and it’s well worth considering if you need a new spring or fancy losing a bit of weight. It’s a good bit cheaper than the equivalent vulpine suspension unit too. I certainly didn’t detect any plunging through the midstroke either – but then I haven’t tested it using Actual Science and for that I can only apologise. It felt great though.
Jonny “The” Woodhouse