Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Reviewed
For those that weren't aware, some years ago Fox bought Marzoccchi. It took a little time but recently Fox re-launched the Marzocchi brand. This was quieter than expected, mostly because we were accustomed to jacked up monster trucks and scantily clad ladies serenaded by death metal. And of course bros jumping stuff and tossing the horns bro brah! I'm the first to wax whimsically about some of the fantastic products Marzocchi has made in the past. My best race results came on Marzocchi forks, and I always liked the small bump compliance and reliability (I know, an Italian product and reliability are rarely used in the same sentence). In short, I was excited when I heard Fox was relaunching the Marzocchi brand... really excited.
I expected some big coil springs, a juicy open bath damper, a big 'ol M-arch, and maybe some pinup girl decals on the side, or some flames. F*&k yeah bud! To my horror I learned that Fox had done the opposite. They designed a cheapened Fox 36, painted it red, and slapped some Marzocchi sticks on the side. Blasphemy! To me, this was like Ford buying Ferrari, painting a Mustang red, and throwing a prancing horse on the front. "It's not a Marzocchi!!" I yelled, "show me the springs!!"
The Marzocchi box arrived, and I mounted the red fork on my Norco Range. I got the fork later in the season than I would have liked, but I had a couple weekends left in the Whistler Bike Park, and figured that'd be a good testing ground. Coles notes of features read like this:
- 36 mm stanchions
- Fox FIT GRIP Sweep damper (same as the GRIP damper, but without the detents)
- Fox Float EVOL air spring
- 6000 series aluminium crown
- Magnesium lowers
- External Adjustments: Compression and Rebound
- Travel options for 27.5" wheels: 150, 160, 170, 180 mm
- Travels options for 29" / 27.5"+ wheels: 130, 140, 150, 160, 170 mm
- 15QR x 110 Boost axle
- Price: $699 USD
I initially prepped the fork with the recommended settings: 85 psi air and 6 clicks out on the rebound adjuster. Compression was set to the 2 o'clock position. After my first ride the fork felt a bit harsh, and it looked like I was only using 140 mm of travel. The fork seemed to gradually soften and break in over subsequent rides. I checked the volume spacers, saw the fork had come with 2. The removal of a spacer made a significant difference, and I wound up having to increase the air pressure to 90 psi (which is a bit higher than the suggestion on the chart on the lowers) to prevent bottom out. I'd heard another tip, which was to remove the compression adjuster and try rotating it clockwise on the mating hex (60 degrees). This meant the fork would have less compression damping when returned fully counter clockwise. I found I used this "even more open setting" on high speed, and rough trails, like you often find in the bike park. On the steeper, slower trails in North Vancouver, I would run the damper at the 1 o'clock position, which is only a little bit off full open in the stock configuration.
I've had the Marzocchi Z1 on the front of Norco Range for a while now. It's been to the Whistler Bike Park and a number of locations around Vancouver. I've ridden the fork through a variety of trails ranging from fast to slow, smooth to rough AF, flat to mega steep. It's also had its fair share of weather, with an uncharacteristically wet and cold September. Through the wide variety of terrain and weather, the Z1 so far has impressed. And here's why.
The first thing I noticed riding the new Z1 is the chassis stiffness. In using a lower strength and cheaper aluminum, Marzocchi has needed to use more material in the crown. Since the modulus or stiffness of aluminum is the same regardless of its strength, the crown is stiffer due to the additional material. I'm not sure how much stiffer, but the change was noticeable to me. This might not be something everyone notices, but I instantly enjoyed the stiffer fork. I notice the fork had less deflection fore and aft under heavy braking on steep, rough trails than I'm used to. I also haven't heard so much as a peep from the crown of the fork. If this crown proves to be creak free over the long term, I'd gladly pay the 150 gram weight penalty with improved stiffness as a bonus.
The exterior chassis of the Marzocchi Z1 is a departure from the Fox 36. The Z1 feels a bit cheaper than the 36, and it should, because it is cheaper. The paint is a bit glossy, and doesn't look quite as nice. Also the quick release axle feels a bit cheaper. That said the paint still looks good, and the quick release functions perfectly, never coming loose during the test period. The caps and the details are all there and function as intended. The stanchions are anodized plain black, and so far haven't shown any signs of degradation.
The air spring in the Marzocchi Z1 is well judged in my opinion. The air spring curve is tunable through volume spacers, and each spacer makes a noticeable difference. After a few rides the air spring feels to have minimal friction, and even with a single volume spacer is nicely progressive.
So far I've been impressed with the GRIP Sweep damper. Some might complain about the lack of detents or clicks but after a couple of strokes with a permanent marker I can return the damper to the positions I like. I'm somewhat surprised Marzocchi hasn't included some marks on the crown, but it's no bother to me. My marks have more character and took all of 30 seconds to apply. As I explained earlier I clocked the adjuster clockwise a step to allow more open compression damping range. At the closed end the fork was fully locked out, but on the properly high speed stuff I felt like the fork was a bit harsh.
The GRIP damper is good; really good if you consider this is priced as a more entry level fork. I can see why FOX has designed the GRIP 2 around this damper, and now use it in their high end forks. I'd use a bit more compression damping for steeper trails, and the damper did an admirable job of controlling heavy braking loads, in rough terrain, and on steep trail. A little more open, and the Z1 felt great blasting through braking bumps.
The GRIP Sweep adjuster seems to adjust both high and low-speed compression damping, as advertised. I understand why and don't disagree with Marzocchi's logic here, but I'd personally like to separate them to have more low-speed compression damping and a fairly open high-speed compression circuit. This would allow me to run one compression setting on all trails, rather than how I change the damper based on what type of trail is coming up. With no detents, and a little over half a turn of travel on the compression adjuster, I found myself using the firm settings on the climb far more than I normally would. The rebound adjuster worked well, and I really liked the rebound damping curve. The fork seemed controlled over low-speed rebound events around sag but recovered quickly from deeper in the travel.
Overall you can colour me impressed with the Z1. This hasn't been a long-term review, so I can't comment on long term durability but it's taken a beating so far without a single issue. This isn't surprising given all the insides are well developed Fox technology. Maintenance-wise, anyone servicing Fox forks should be able to service the Z1. I certainly hope the stiffer Z1 crown means this fork won't suffer the creaky crown syndrome some other forks are known for (so far I haven't heard a creaky Z1).
If the GRIP Sweep doesn't have enough knobs for you, I've been told the damper can be upgraded to the newer GRIP 2 unit, giving independent and externally adjustable high speed and low-speed compression and rebound. I suspect this is going to be a hot setup for some hard-charging endurbros next year.
Crotchety old timers might say this new Z1 is nothing like the Marzocchis of old; the lack of coils and an open oil bath is a cry for help! Maybe so, but the new Z1 is a burly single crown fork that is fantastic and for a reasonable price, and that's not so far off the Marzocchi of old is it? I think the new Z1 offers great performance, for a lower price point, and for many folks may well suit their needs as well if not better than the more expensive options out there right now.