When delivered, my bike was not typically configured: Factory specc’ed rear suspension is the Magura TS RL rear shock but due to a short supply internationally the importer kindly bought some stock from various local suppliers to get me going. My bike was fitted with a Fox CTD unit and I was pretty pleased with that. The Methanol uses a 165mm eye to eye rear shock at 38mm stroke. I have had the opportunity to ride almost all offerings by way or rear suspension and so I will offer my findings: FOX CTD vs Rockshox Monarch RT3 vs Magura TS RL vs Rockshox Monarch XX
My initial feel for the bike was amazing, the shock broke in quickly and the FOX CTD has three settings: Climb, Trail, Descend.
In Climb mode it’s compression tune practically locks the rear suspension, although it is actually still active. Strike a bump and the rear wheel will travel but stand on smooth roads and it’s firm with no bob, this is mostly because the Fox has little more to add to the Bianchi’s geometry to get it locked an even purposeful input on the saddle and pedals yields only millimeters of give. Take a knock though and it opens up to allow travel of the rear wheel, after the hit it sticks back where it was. The rebound adjuster it pretty easy to use even with full gloves and has a solid click to let you know you’re making changes. There is a noticeable change too to feel the difference in each increment.
Flicking from Climb to Trail you can noticeably feel the shock sag, this is where your pre-load air tune back home is needed to give your the desired feel. Trail mode still has a fair amount of compression firmness to keep the unwanted bob out of your pedal stroke, again I tried to get it to bounce around unsuccessfully. Traction improves in this mode over bumpier jeeptrack and singletrack with less input needed from the back wheel to move the pivots. Descending smoother singletrack and jeeptrack is taught and response to directional changes is good with no wallow and minimal squat from the rear end. This mode is surprisingly efficient to climb in, and it just irons out fast pedaling on the jeep tracks.
Pointed downwards Descend mode adds suppleness to the ride soaking up everything in its path, in this setting your rebound tune is most important and even more sag is noticeable once selected. There is a noticeable squat in bermed corners but it doesn’t pack down or flick you back if you get your rebound knob dialed right, grip is amazing and big hits are taken as well as small ones with a ramped compression to avoid frequently bottoming out. Climbing over technical trails and more gnarly rocky jeep track and rooty singletrack is also great, still no unwanted bob, just traction and comfort.
In racing you can use either T or D for tech sections with no real loss if you cant remove a hand to reach the lever, transitions to fast smooth tracks then allow you to use the C mode. Fox have done really well on the tune of this shock and it’s a tough item to beat – Only downside is the lever sways past the C mode stop position, and the remote on the 2013 versions is huge. Weight as quoted at 208g. In the first ride or two I has some squeaking coming from the shock in C-mode but they went away after break in, like a compression valve being forced open.
Rockshox Monarch RT3
RockShox designed the shock along similar lines to the fox, it also has three modes with rebound adjust and air pre-load. It has a continuous rotating flick switch that can be thrown either way to get to which ever mode you want quickly and by design, only one click away. Travel felt very similar to the fox and even air pressures needed the same setting to achieve the desired sag. The full open travel was smooth, and it felt to me like the locked position had slightly more willingness to blow open when compared to the Fox’s C-mode. Overall a very good option and apparently they are more easily serviceable than a Fox unit if that’s a factor for you. Weight is quoted within grams of the Fox at 215g.
The rebound adjuster has decent grip and audibly clicks, ten positions let you dial in as much as you need. In a blindfold test you’d be hard pressed to choose between this and the Fox CTD.
Magura TS RL
The stock supplied shock on the Bianchi Methanol is a new unit from Magura. I got the opportunity to put it through its paces and I’m glad I did as this is how the designers of the Methanol FS envisioned its use. Either locked and raced like a hardtail or open to chew up everything in its wake.
Of all the shocks on test this was the most supple in the locked position. It had enough platform damping to keep the linkages taught on all smooth roads but it was also the most willing to open up for any bumps in the road, enough even to leave it locked for pretty much everything and still be softer than a hardtail and just as responsive, even standing its tight enough to not feel power losses. With only two modes your choices are made simple when racing, the lever feel flicks fast to the locked position, and needs to be pushed against some resistance into the open position. It kinda had a reverse intuition but in the end I got used to it and didn’t select the wrong mode, also it was nice to have it easy to get to the most efficient setting fast at the base of a climb. In the open position it was very plush without bottoming out, granted I didn’t ask it to handle any bigger hits. Weight on my scale was 259g and it looks pretty decent too. I did knock the selector lever once or twice while grabbing my bidon, but when I slipped it back I reselected my desired setting. I had some squeak on break in but I think it was more the mounting reducers, it also audibly squished when it was brand new but that broke in after an hours riding. Rebound tuning was pretty simple with good progression per click. Overall a good product, simple to use and set up especially with pre-marked sag increments.
Rockshox Monarch XX Remote
Rockshox themselves admit this is a trimmed down shock made for racing, Locked or Open setting with Pushloc remote. I was attracted to this model to match the remote on my SID XX WC Fork, as well as switching the setting via remote was infinitely easier than finding a flick switch under the top tube as well as being above the bidon, something I missed a few times on my early rides and had to feel my way around while watching the trail, sometimes having to leave it and ride it where it was through a sector of trail, I’d be stuck In Climb when I wanted Descend. Another plus is that the Methanol FS come pre-drilled for internal cable routing for remote shocks and the XX remote cable slides effortlessly through the frame. I needed to cut the hose anyway and bleed the remote switch. Thankfully the XX comes supplied with a spare barb, olive and bleed kit for this as well as a great shock pump and one set of seals for servicing. Win!
With only one ride on it I know its going to be great, the remote needs to break in as the selector is hit and miss, maybe another bleed will help, but in operation its so easy and I think I’ll utilize the open setting more than I would have in climbing sectors I wouldn’t be able to or couldn’t be bothered to flick a switch manually for 10m of trail. The lock setting is the most locked of all the units tested, it has a threshold blowoff, but really needs encouragement to do so. In the open position its butter smooth, great traction and very useable while climbing without loss of power to inefficiency. It felt very progressive when launching off jumps and kickers. So far the rebound has been a little ineffective compared to the others with less noticeable damping per increment, plus it wasn’t as grippy or easy to turn. Perhaps after more break in this will ease up. With too little rebound I had the rear jacking up and wallowing, then I had too much and it was dead feeling. I’ll get that dialed in right soon enough, its something you don’t need to mess with once setup for your weight and pre-load so it doesn’t need to be a fast action item. Weight with full length hose was 304g which is a small weight penalty for a remote over the others. Same easy service options as the RT3 but the drawback is the hydraulic hose internally routed doesn’t offer easy removal. Pre-marked Sag increments make preload setup a breeze.
I am still keen to get my hands on the Kashima versioned FOX CTD with Boost Valve to test, but from this I have decided for racing the Monrach XX will be the best racing shock – fast when locked and with remote to open and close you can concentrate on the important things without fishing for levers with hands off the bars. Next best is the FOX CTD; the three damping levels have a setting for anything you can encounter and I would go with this if you have one shock and want to ride a mix of trail and race, with a 120mm fork to balance the Descend plushness you could take a marathon bike anywhere. After that the RT3 and then Magura, but I feel bad placing the Magura last because it is really good, but in this company its simply outshone with options or additional settings as well as carrying an extra few grams.