Review: Rockshox Monarch XX Rear Shock

Rockshox Monarch XX rear shock review and actual weight

We got our first ride on the Rockshox Monarch XX shocks at Roc d’Azur when they launched the new SRAM Rise mountain bike wheels, with the opportunity to ride it back to back with the Monarch RT3 on the same Rocky Mountain Element.

On my Niner, it replaced the stock Fox RP23 (pre-CTD), and the effect was not dissimilar. In both cases, the change in performance was immediately apparent and dramatic: The Monarch XX is meant for racing.

Introduced in August 2011, the Monarch XX originally came with both carbon fiber (aftermarket) and alloy (OEM) canisters, the latter of which is what’s tested here, and the carbon version has been discontinued. The damping is limited to two positions, essentially on and off, rather than three functional positions in the RT3, with compression settings tuned for firmer, more race oriented performance. Rockshox said it’s built on feedback from sponsored pros that wanted a hardtail feel during lockout, and they achieved it. Push the hydraulic X-Loc remote button, and it changes the character of a full suspension bike completely, giving it near-hardtail stiffness in a split second.

Is this a good thing? Click through for the full review…

ACTUAL WEIGHTS & BOX CONTENTS

Rockshox Monarch XX rear shock review and actual weight

The Monarch, like all new Rockshox products since last September, come with a complete seal/wiper rebuild kit in the box. It also comes with zip ties, mounting hardware and various other bits and pieces to fit it to your bike and a very nice high pressure shock pump. Claimed weight for the alloy shock in its smallest shaft size is about 290g. Ours came in at 322 with the full length X-Loc hydraulic hose and remote. That’s a bit heavier than the Fox it replaced, and about 100g heavier than a stock RT3, so you’re getting this for the performance, not the weight savings.

You can get high volume cans and leverage-ratio-based tunes as options, but ours was a stock item. One thing that would be handy is a rod that guides the mounting hardware into the shock…there’s a special tool, but none of our local shops had it, so we used a number of hands, slow movements and a table vise to drive them into place.

Sag gradients on the shaft make setting it up a breeze.

DETAILS & REVIEW

Rockshox Monarch XX rear shock review and actual weight

Other than on/off and air pressure, your only external tuning is beginning stroke (small hit) rebound, handled by the red dial. The shock uses their Dual Flow Rebound, with ending stroke (big hit) rebound set at the factory. The range is effective, particularly for the type of terrain most XC racers will get into, and the knob is easy to turn even with gloved or bare fingers. It uses their Solo Air design, so one valve fills both positive and negative thanks to a small check valve inside the canister. The hydraulic hose swivels 360º around the rebound knob, making it very easy to route the cable anywhere your frame dictates without creating severe bends.

Rockshox Monarch XX rear shock review and actual weight

The Niner Jet 9 Carbon/RDO doesn’t come with shock remote/dropper post cable routing, so those included zip ties came in handy. I simply clipped it along the rear brake cable and looped the hose directly up to the shock, keeping it out of the way of all moving parts.

Rockshox Monarch XX rear shock review and actual weight

The X-Loc hydraulic remote remains the best, easiest remote I’ve used for anything. I haven’t ridden Fox’s iCD, but that one’s also insanely expensive. Against cable actuated remotes, there’s no comparison, these are awesome. They can also hold your shifters/brake levers, too, keeping your cockpit tight and clean.

Functionally, it all works as promised. The lockout is quick and smooth, and it really does lock it out. There’s a tiny bit of movement to prevent damage to the internals, and it’ll blow off and move through a bit of travel if you hit something big or forget to unlock it before hitting the descent, but for all practical purposes it really does lock out.

Compared to the RT3 or other normal shocks, the overall feel is a bit firmer, but the bike will maintain traction very well. Standing and hammering yields a bit less bob than with others, something racers should appreciate. On drops or big hits, it’ll feel slightly less plush or bottomless, but it still soaks up the hit well enough that you maintain complete control. In other words, it’s not bouncing you around like a Honda Civic with the springs cut in half. It’s tight, but without rattling your teeth loose.

When I hit the lockout, it really does make my bike feel like a hardtail. Not that the Niner is inefficient, but it adds another level of sprinting efficiency. I felt it on the Rocky Mountain, too, and I suspect it would do the same for any other full suspension bike.

I like full suspension. My days of owning or riding a hardtail for long distances are mostly over (though I do enjoy racing one now and then for review). I also like going fast. The Monarch XX provides the right damping and tune for going fast without overriding a bike’s ability to smooth the trail. It’s not something I’d put on a trail bike, but for an XC weapon, it provides the right blend of suspension and firmness with a super quick, easy lockout.

Check out original post on the Monarch XX for complete tech details and Rockshox.com for options. Retail is $358.00. In case you’re wondering, the carbon fiber version was removed from the line because it was a lot more expensive for minor weight savings, and it was very difficult to manufacture.

Comments

Matt - 04/03/13 - 3:28pm

It amazes me how many controls we are putting up on the bars.

jay - 04/03/13 - 3:35pm

dude, you need to get better at trimming zip-ties. you’re going to end up with scratches all over your legs.

also, they really need to offer a dual fork+shock remote on a single button.

David French - 04/03/13 - 4:01pm

Try a zip tie gun… Soooo useful!

Bob - 04/03/13 - 4:03pm

I dremel the ends of my zip ties,works great and takes like 3 seconds!

Zach Overholt - 04/03/13 - 4:04pm

No need for a Zip tie gun if you have a Park BT-2 and a razor blade. I’ll have to teach Tyler that one ;)

GN - 04/03/13 - 4:18pm

Cool, but when is the Monarch Relay going to be available as a aftermarket shock and not just on LaPierre bikes which we can’t get here in the US?

iride - 04/03/13 - 5:49pm

So, does the lockout control the front fork and rear shock simultaneously? Thanks!

Tyler - 04/03/13 - 6:12pm

All – we’ve asked them before about a dual remote, but the shock and fork’s respective lockout mechanisms require very different amounts of oil flow to operate them, making a single button a difficult proposition. It’s explained more in the link to the original coverage when they introduced that shock.

It’s not those zip ties that scratch my legs, it’s the one on the outside of the seatstay that holds the brake hose!

Matt - 04/03/13 - 7:12pm

I think Rockshox should make a control that simultaneously controls the front and back shock as well as the reverb seat post. It would take some getting used to, but would be sweet.

ccolagio - 04/03/13 - 7:53pm

BEST tool to trim zip ties: a nail clipper. gets the ends nice and flush.

Greg - 04/03/13 - 9:54pm

damn, ccolagio.
you beat me to it. i was gonna say that.

Trey R - 04/04/13 - 12:54am

What a hack. I’m pulling your man card for improper zip-tie execution. Razors are not just for your legs Tyler.

Jake - 04/04/13 - 2:42pm

So if you want the simplicity of an on/off compression adjustment and the remote lockout, will Rock Shox do a custom rebound and compression tune on the Monarch XX if you ask for it? The firmer compression tune wouldn’t fit with my bike…

Darryl - 04/05/13 - 5:04am

Any good electronic side cutting pliers will trim cable ties perfectly.
They are made to cut component legs flush and will leave no sharpness on a cable tie.

Sensible positioning of the tie joint will put it out of way of your skin.

That’s just plain shoddy.

Fred - 04/05/13 - 4:38pm

On my Rocky, the remote for the SID has a flood gate adjuster. No adjustment for shock on remote. Also the rear remote seems to have a fairly high lemon factor. Mine is mushy. Others I know w/ same bike have had it fail to actuate the damper.

I wonder what the default setting is on the fork and shock in case the remotes break… would I be locked out rigid?

Kawaschapi - 05/14/13 - 8:03am

I’ve got the xx but it will not lock out completely, I feel the diference, but a complete lockout like the front fork, is not available! It still move to much:(

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