First Look: RockShox Monarchs now available for Trek and Specialized bikes


RockShox Monarch on Trek Fuel EX 29er

RockShox announced the availability of its Monarch and Monarch Plus DebonAir shocks for select Trek and Specialized bikes. Treks have required a special ‘trunnion’ style mounting hole and Specialized bikes have non-standard shock mounts as well a their Autosag feature so using aftermarket shocks has been a difficult endeavor in the past.

RockShox invested all the R&D and testing required and they’re now giving owners of these bikes the opportunity to use their new rear shock technology. For each bike they worked with the manufacturer to get the shock rate requirements for that particular bike, then they performed several rounds of bike testing in their Colorado Springs facility. Thus, there is a a shock model made specifically for each bike in the list below. And in general, the Monarch DebonAir is used for the shorter travel bikes, while the Monarch Plus DebonAir, distinguished by the external reservoir, is spec’d for the higher travel bikes.


On the day of this announcement, we had the opportunity to try the Monarch DebonAir on our Trek Fuel EX 29er. This bike has been a versatile member of our bike stable as it climbs and carves and is quite capable on descents. But we were always left wondering ‘what if’ we can put another rear shock on this frame. It just wasn’t a possibility because there was no shock that would fit or was tuned for this bike.

But PR Coordinator Duncan Riffle knocked on our office door and showed up with a whole battery of new products and he installed the Monarch Debonair on our bike. But before he performed the swap, Duncan suggested we take the bike and stock rear shock out first our local test loop and establish a baseline for comparison. He then performed the rear shock swap at the trailhead and we did the identical lap and beyond.

Note that the FOX DRCV rear shock is no joke. We feel that it is one of the great rear shocks out there, as it has propelled Trek’s growth in the full-suspension market. Its twin-can air chamber promises a more linear, bottomless suspension feel and it has allowed the Trek Fuel to deliver good comfort and control in many different environments.

RockShox Demo at the Mtbr trailhead

Riding the Monarch DebonAir

We got the air pressures dialed in and got the rear shock to sag deep in its travel (about 30%). The rear felt smooth with very little ‘breakaway’ force required to initiate travel and there was no ‘notchiness’ to overcome typical of other shocks. I was a bit concerned that this rear shock plushness would be inefficient on climbs and I would have to ride in ‘Trail’ mode. But Duncan insisted I spend time in the ‘Descent’ or Wide Open mode and get to know it a bit.

A better Wide Open mode

I told Duncan that I wished for a more useable ‘Trail’ mode in rear shocks and he disagreed and said what we need is a better ‘Wide Open’ mode. In the end, I realized that we were talking about the same thing, as there is clearly a need for rear shock mode that riders can use 90% of the time that is less of a compromise. It needs to climb well and descend well with minimal compromise. This will allow the rider to just ride with all the benefits of suspension, while still transferring power efficiently. The rider can still play with the remote mode switches but that becomes the exception and not the norm of a typical ride.

The descending abilities of this rear shock are impressive indeed. Small bump and medium bump compliance are excellent as the bike demonstrated the comfort and traction of bikes with more than 120mm of rear travel. We did not get to do any big bumps or drops, but we hope to experience that in many upcoming rides. That’s one area where the DRCV shock excelled and we’re curious to see if the Monarch DebonAir can match it.

The real revelation of this ride was how well the bike climbed in in Wide Open mode. Sitting in its proper sagged position, the rear shock had a lot of support, so it did not wallow around during hard pedaling efforts. It sat securely and transferred power well. When the rocks and roots showed up, the rear suspension did it’s job, absorbed the bumps and allowed the bike to maintain traction. Most of this is normal, but the unusual part is that we climbed in Wide Open mode, felt efficient, and allowed the rear suspension to do its job.

So those are our first impressions. It’s good to have options especially in this day and age of bikes with ever expanding sweet spots. We’ll continue to ride this bike in our more challenging local Santa Cruz trails and see how it fares.


Official Release

Monarch Plus RC3 is available for the following Specialized models:

  • Stumpjumper FSR EVO 29″ 2012-2014
  • Stumpjumper FSR EVO 26″ 2012-2014
  • Enduro 29″ 2013-2014
  • Enduro 26″ 2013-2014

Monarch RT3 Auto Sag is available for the following Specialized models:

  • Specialized Camber 29″/Rumor 29″ 2013-2014
  • Specialized Camber 29″ EVO 2014

Monarch RT3 is available for the following Trek models:

  • Fuel EX 29″ 2014
  • Remedy 26″/27.5″ 2010-2014
  • Remedy 29″ 2014

Monarch Plus RC3 is available for the following Trek models:

  • Trek Slash 26″/27.5″ 2012-2014

RockShox Monarch on Trek


The Monarch is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Its lightweight design not only delivers silky smooth travel, but thanks to a redesigned Solo Air spring with updated damping controls, it also delivers a spring rate you’d generally only get from a much heavier coil shock. So you get a durable, fully adjustable shock capable of smoothing out the most aggressive trails, while simultaneously saving you weight for epic cross country riding. In other words, the perfect balance of performance and efficiency. So don’t be fooled by its appearance. Like the wolf, its packaging doesn’t always reveal what’s inside.


Monarch Plus

Unlike a dirt-bike, Monarch Plus rear shock has no rev-limiter. Because with its fusion of the Monarch’s exemplary light weight with an all-new Solo Air system, and a damper design similar to the Vivid Air, the Plus will have you bombing all-mountain trails like it was born to downhill. In other words, you’re going to need some serious stopping power to slow this freight train down. So it might be time to look at some four-piston brakes for your steed.

Monarch Plus

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.

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  • RP says:

    Not to be a jerk, but saying the AutoSag feature is what prevented aftermarket shocks instead of the proprietary mount make you guys look ignorant. Maybe you just don’t want to bash the big S, after all one of their lawyers has read this story.

  • Francis Cebedo says:

    >> Not to be a jerk, but saying the AutoSag feature is …

    You make a good point. We’re actually not sure Autosag was a requirement for aftermarket. We do know that it’s a key differentiator for them.

    We’ll make an edit on that statement.

  • Kevin Woodward says:

    Let me know if you need any help demo-ing these shocks at Demo. Only 15 min away and am interested in checking out the Monarchs. More than happy to lend a hand 🙂

  • Jeff says:

    Can you clarify the Specialized offerings? Camber, Camber EVO, Stumpjumper EVO, and Enduro, but no option for the regular Stumpjumper models?

    Is this an editing error somewhere or was there any discussion as to why they jumped over the mid travel offering?

    • zhr says:

      Would getting an Evo link mess with the frame in anyway? According to the guys i chatted to, the Evo has shorter chain stays, and adding the link to my non Evo Fsr, would void warranty, anyone know if this is correct? kinda sucks if it is, that monarch plus looks the business.

  • mike says:

    i wish they’d make a monarch plus for the 2010-2012 Enduro’s… the rp23 is decent for AM but doesn’t cut it on longer dh runs.

    • Chris says:

      At one point i was told there was a conversion kit that included all hardware and the CCDB air that would work on my 2012 enduro. was given a part number and everything directly form Specialized. i never got around to ordering it, but now that i am in the market again, i have my local shop looking into getting me just the conversion hardware, and the Monarch Plus RC3.

  • madsedan says:

    Does this mean we may be able to get autosag monarchs for bikes other than Specialized? Wouldn’t mind having one on my Giant, just sayin’

  • Javier says:

    Can either one of these Monarch versions be used for a 2013 Trek Rumblefish??

  • Jonathan dine says:

    I have a specialized 2013 camber with a monarch RL. I want to put a debonair rct3 model on but don’t think they make it for the frame 🙁

    • catg says:

      Hey you maybe able toget the debonair canister for your RL. Thats where the improvement is. Ive read about the ability to swap out the canisters

  • Matt Anderson says:

    So in the end how does the RT3 compare to the DVRC? Looking into this on my EX9 to match up with a Pike 140.

    • jo says:

      Matt, did you end up trying out the RT3 over the Fox DCRV on your Fuel ex9? I’m also probably going to do this and just wondering if you took the plunge.

  • Matt Anderson says:

    @jo -I put my order in, yet to receive it tho. I’ll keep you posted.

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