Manly Dam and Mt Narrabeen MTB Rockshox Monarch set-up and tuning ©
This is a BASIC mountain bike Rockshox Monarch RT3 rear shock tuning guide for Northern Beaches cyclists. Confused by the levers, dials & graphics etc? Read on…
I know, I know, this has nothing to do with chiropractic or health. I ride with and support many local mountain bike and road cyclists from Manly and the Northern Beaches as their Chiropractor in Collaroy. We have a great local bike scene around and a lot of good riding.
This article is actually a Rockshox set-up and tuning guide that I put together from my notes whilst tuning my bike for both Manly Dam and Mt Narra at Narrabeen – our local Mountain bike trails. This guide may assist other Northern Beaches Cyclists with their mtb suspension tuning… Hey, a well tuned shock may even save a few injuries, so I guess it is related to health!
My Rockshox Monarch RT3 is a 2012 model and that is what the guide’s based on – but it will probably help for other models, the methodology even translates to setting up fork sag and rebound – just be aware of the differences between shock functions, dials, levers etc.
I am an ex-Engineer (turned Chiropractor) and have tuned car, motorcycle and MTB suspensions, but would not call myself a suspension tuning expert. Essentially this is a compilation of info that would have been useful to me when I first bought my bike, but wasn’t provided by Rockshox. If anyone more qualified wants to add info, please contact.
The final tuning of your shock will depend a lot on the way the factory tuned your shock, your weight, bike type, suspension design or lever ratios, preferred riding terrain and riding style etc. It’s a personal preference and there are a lot of variables, so it will come down to your own trial and error. This article isn’t a table telling exactly the right set-up for you, instead it gives you a method (and confidence) to do the trial and error. The cool thing is that during your trial and error you will learn a lot, have some fun and the satisfaction of getting the most from your own bike.
Factory tune of the Rockshox Monarch shock
The little red/blue letters on the shock will tell you how the Rockshox factory has set-up your shock internals. I believe for 2012 Rockshox used the L M H / L M H to indicate low medium and high settings. The first letter indicating Rebound damping and the second letter indicating the Compression damping (eg the letters “ML” = Medium rebound / Low compression). The L1, L2 means different low compression tunings, and is beyond the scope of this article, but the info exists out on the www.
If you wish to dive further into tuning you can purchase specific/different factory tunes, or modify your shock internals/shims, or even send the shock to aftermarket tuners who can custom modify the internals etc. I haven’t done any of this. Local Manly cyclists can contact The Fixed wheel Bike shop in Manly and Fusion Peak in Fairlight for more info. Those a little further north might like to check out BS16 in Collaroy. I highly recommend all of these contacts for their straight talking and client focused care.
Oh, and while i’m sharing the love; if you ever damage your carbon frame the man to see is The Carbon Doctor at Monavale, Tristan did a stellar job on my Pinarello when it suffered a cosmetic ding.
Setting Monach sag by altering air pressure (spring stiffness).
Before you start changing the air pressure to adjust the sag, you will want to put the rebound damping dial (red) and the compression damping ‘gate’ lever (blue) on minimum. You do this by moving the red dial full anticlockwise (see photo). BUT be sure to count how many clicks it takes to put this dial to the minimum and record this number. Move the blue lever to ‘min’ (see photo).
You do these changes to let the shock move as freely as possible, so it can settle to give the most accurate sag measurement. Other model shocks might have a rabbit or a minus sign or the word ‘open’ or ‘unlock’ etc.
Put your riding gear on, camelbak etc then get onto the bike VERY gently (have a friend help). Gently so you only compress the suspension the minimum amount when in your riding position, then record the sag% on the shock. Whilst still sitting on the bike, compress the suspension down a bit more and let it SLOWLY come up, and again record the sag % on the shock.
This second sag reading will probably be more than the first sag reading – this is due to the stiction (static friction) in your suspension system. You need to average these two sag readings to work out your true sag % (add them together and divide by 2) – record this number.
Look in your bike manual, or perhaps a sticker on the frame (or on www) for recommended sag % and/or the psi per rider weight recommendations. Often they say to match the shock psi to your own riding weight in pounds etc. The manual’s sag recommendation will probably be set to take into account the sweetspot for the linkage angles and suspension geometry of your bike. There is a bit of a tolerance either side of this, but use their settings as a start point, then experiment from there. A higher sag (say 30%) will give a softer feel and lower sag (say 20%) gives a firmer feel.
Before changing anything, always record settings, it’s a great way to track and learn what works.
When setting the air pressure with a pump, only screw the pump onto the shock until you JUST hear the valve open no need to crank it up too tight. When you screw the pump on, the gauge will register a slightly lower pressure than what you put in last time. The reason for this is that when you screwed the pump on this time, some of the air in the shock had to fill the hose on the pump.
Just remember that due to the air escaping into the hose, the gauge doesn’t accurately show what was in the shock before, it can only accurately show what you put in this time. This is why it is important to record all your settings when you do them (you will get sick of me saying this).
If you really want to get into tuning pressures you can also buy an adapter to play around with the IFP pressure. That’s beyond the scope of this beginner’s guide (there are different pressures for each year model and can lead to problems if you get it wrong etc). Google search under “Rockshox IFP pressure” for more info – there are some good threads on mtbr.com. Note that a couple of people have mentioned that their IFP was not correct from the factory and that correcting it solved problems with their bike handling. So if things still seem very wrong even after basic tuning perhaps investigate the IFP. Your local bike shop can probably alter this setting for a small fee. Also SRAM have a chart here
Tuning the Rockshox Monarch Rebound Damping
The red dial controls the speed that the suspension extends back to normal after hitting a bump. Rebound damping reduces the pogo effect of the suspension bouncing back too quickly after compressing from a bump.
If you have just set the sag, you should already have your rebound on minimum. If not, put it to minimum or fast (full anticlockwise). Remember to count the number of clicks to the minimum setting – and note that number down. Also check again that the blue lever is still on the minimum gate setting (more on this later).
Bounce up and down (big bunny hops etc) and note how the rear wheel leaves the ground – like a pogo stick. Increase the rebound damping (turning clockwise one click at a time) until the ‘pogo effect’ is suitably reduced. Your aim is to only just stop the wheel leaving the ground after a big compression of the rear suspension. This is a good base line.
Be careful that you don’t overdo the rebound damping. You still want the suspension to extend swiftly enough to recover after bumps you encounter on your normal riding terrain. But so that the extension or ‘rebound’ is controlled, with no pogo effect.
It’s a balance, reduced rebound damping means a livelier bike BUT not enough rebound damping and it will pogo. Increased rebound has a more calm feel BUT too much rebound damping and it won’t recover in time for the next bump, making the rear end feel dead and harsh as you hit a series of bumps. When you have your baseline, you can fine tune on your favourite track – one click at a time.
Once you are happy with the new setting, record where it is. Do this by counting the clicks as you turn the dial back to minimum – then reset it by recounting it back to your new setting. You may want to fine tune the rebound on your regular trails once you get a feel of what works for you. Don’t be scared to experiment, and always record your changes.
The Rockshox Monarch Compression Damping ‘Gate’
The blue lever controls the slow compression damping or the ‘gate’ that stops the bike bobbing when you pedal. The minimum setting opens the compression damping gate and sets the suspension compression its most plush/soft (e.g. for downhill sections).
The mid setting (lever downwards) reduces pedal bob. It still allows the suspension to react to bumps, although with a mildly reduced sensitivity. The max setting (lever to the right) closes the ‘gate’ making the compression very firm, almost locked. This is good for riding on sealed pavement or hammering uphill on really smooth fire trails. I have been told that the lever settings on the 2013 model are all rotated clockwise with ‘max’ now at the 12 oclock position.
If you find that there is not a lot of difference between these gate settings and the suspension is on the firm side, try reducing the air pressure in the shock by 5% until it improves. Also if you aren’t using much travel or the rear seems harsher than it should, then also try playing with slightly reduced air pressure. Conversely if you are using a lot of travel on moderate trails and bottom out too often or you can’t seem to reduce the pedal bobbing effect, then you might wish to increase pressure by 5% and see what happens.
Remember that any change in air pressure may (probably will) require a change in damping. You will probably reduce it for reduced pressure and increase it for increased shock pressure, until once again you find that sweet balance where the rebound of the wheel is controlled but it still recovers swiftly enough for the next bump – record all your changes.
Tuning For Manly Dam and Mt Narra MTB Tracks
Manly Dam and mt Narra provide an amazing mix of terrain, a bit of everything. I had my shock pressure set as per factory recommendation, but found it too firm. The gate lever settings did not differ very much, I wasn’t utilising all of the travel on the bigger hits and the bike was chattering and losing grip on the fast small bumps.
After reducing the air pressure about 5%, (to gain a full 30% sag), the rear suspension is much improved. I can now notice the gate differences – minimum is now plush for downhills, mid is good for pedal bob control and max is quite firm. Pedal bob in the min/open gate setting is negligible with the Giant Anthem so the setting stays there most of the time, shifting to min for the downhills. The bike is now a totally different experience to ride after only a 5% change.
Fine tuning the rebound removed even more the rear end being too skippy on the fast sections, giving more control, but also allowing the bike to stay lively on the technical and single trail. This has made me noticeably safer and faster (= more enjoyment) and it didn’t cost a cent.
Hence why I wrote this guide so you too can start playing around with your settings and get the most enjoyment from your MTB experience.
Again, the basic methodology outlined in this guide will work for setting other shocks and even most forks. Just be aware of different functions and directions with damping dials and levers etc. Also understand that tyre pressures, tubed/tubeless set-ups etc, will play a BIG part in how a bike handles and feels. This is another area to find free performance but it’s a whole subject to itself.
Sadly necessary disclaimer: Do you own research, I am not a suspension guru and take no responsibility for any damages sustained whilst using this guide. Use your own brain, wear protective gear and ride safely within your limits to suit the conditions.
If this was helpful, check out “Manly Cyclists – unlock your potential”… and stay tuned for more.
Dr Andrew Maher.
[ Tags: Collaroy Chiropractor Mountain Bike Manly Dam Mt Narra Rockshox]
Note: My Rockshox article was originally posted here on the well known www.mtbr.com website