Upgrading Your Mountain Bike – Part One – Rear Shock

In this installment we will cover replacing the rear shock on the Stumpjumper.  Having a shock that is tuned properly and in good working condition is vital on a full suspension bike.  The shock controls the movement of the swing-arm and keeps the rear tire in contact with the ground.  A poorly matched shock/suspension combo can make a bike miserable to ride.  Excessive bob, kickback and all-around poor manners can result.  Therefore it is important to make sure that the shock you choose is right for your bike.

It’s a pretty good shock, but after 4 years of hard use, it could be a lot better

The Stumpjumper came with a Fox Triad II shock.  This is one of Fox’s lower end offerings.  It is a decent shock but nothing to get excited about.  After over four years of use, the shock was in desperate need of a rebuild.  Rather than spend the money to rebuild the so-so Fox, it was decided that an appropriate upgrade was in order.  A RockShox Monarch RT3 was chosen to replace the Fox.  This particular model Monarch is designed to fit the proprietary shock clevis mount that is on Specialized frames.  Trek bikes also require a shock that fits a proprietary mounting system and RockShox is happy to oblige.  The install was relatively straight forward with the only hiccup being a too long OEM rear mounting bolt contacting the seat tube when the shock was fully extended.  A visit to the bench grinder took care of any issue.  Once the bolt was ground down and everything was buttoned up, it was time for the test ride.

Dang Specialized, why do you have to be so....specializedDang Specialized, why do you have to be so….specialized

No shock

RockShox Monarch RT3

The bolt to mount the bottom of the shock to the frame, above and behind "FSR", was slightly too long, but it didn't take long to fix that hiccup

The bolt to mount the bottom of the shock to the frame, above and behind “FSR”, was slightly too long, but it didn’t take long to fix that hiccup


Rider feedback

Initial impressions: 

Overall control is vastly better than the OEM shock.  Square edge hits are no longer a problem with the Monarch controlling the rebound with ease.  Pedal bob is less and the pedal platform on the shock is strong without killing all of the small bump compliance.  Looking forward to getting it completely dialed in.

Final verdict: 

This is the type of shock the bike should have come with from the factory.  The OEM shock can’t hold a candle to the Monarch, even when it was new. Performance has increased in every parameter.  Compliance for small and large bumps has markedly improved.  Rebound is controlled much better with less snap back on sharp peaks.  Overall this is a great improvement and definitely worth the price.

Main Traingle Stumpy w/RT3

RockShox Monarch RT3 c/u

Upgrading Your Mountain Bike – A Case Study

One of the most addictive parts of mountain biking is buying and installing upgraded parts. Whether it is new cranks, wheels, gears or grips, the temptation is always there. We all suffer from the dreaded Upgrade-itis at one time or another. Since it is almost inevitable, learning to choose upgrades wisely is very important. That is what this series will focus on.

The bike that is the subject in the series is a 2012 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29 (say that three times real fast). It was purchased new in November of 2011 has had one owner. Overall the bike is in very good condition with only the normal wear and tear present.

This is our willing test subject. 2012 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29

This is our willing test subject. 2012 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29

That brings us to the first point. Should I upgrade my bike? The answer is maybe. If you have a bike that is in good condition with no excessive wear, fits you well and you enjoy riding, then upgrading parts makes sense.

Point two is What should I upgrade? and that is a bit harder to answer. The best guideline is to replace things as they break or wear out. Also, if you are riding beyond the capabilities of a certain part. This usually leads to part failure rather quickly, but not always. There is also upgrading just because you want to. There is nothing wrong with this. Just be aware that changing out parts is not going to make you go faster or jump higher unless you were exceeding the capabilities of the original parts.

That brings us to the Stumpjumper. The upgrades were done in three phases over a period of about five months to allow each upgrade to show its merit and to let the rider appreciate the differences the new components made. In the interest of fairness, it must be noted that this bike was far from stock before this series began. It had several upgrades previously. Parts one and two will deal with replacing the stock shock and fork, while the third installment will cover changing a previously upgraded set of wheels with another aftermarket set. Each installment will include an initial ride report and an additional report after about half a dozen rides. The idea is to give you, the reader, a little insight into choosing upgrades that will give you the most bang for your buck.

First up, changing out the original rear shock!

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