What is it
Once upon a time, the Marzocchi Bomber Z1 was the fork to have. While other suspension makers were struggling to find the balance between performance and weight, the then-Italian company went all in on making a fork that featured oil, coils, and massive stanchions. This earned Marzocchi revered status among the emerging freeride crowd. But… then the rest of the world caught up and Marzocchi slid out of favor, with the likes of RockShox and Fox all but drumming them out of business.
Flash forward to present time and Marzocchi has made a comeback of sorts. In 2015, Fox bought what was left of the brand, and earlier this year it made a reemergence, launching the 2019 version of Marzocchi Bomber Z1 along with the dual crown Bomber 58. But unlike back in the day, the new Marzocchi Bomber Z1 has been positioned as a budget-friendly option for trail/enduro riders. Indeed, the fork sells for $699, while the entry point for a Fox 36 is about $200 more.
Features of the Marzocchi Bomber Z1 include a 36mm chassis, plush air spring, and well-regarded FIT GRIP damper with adjustable compression and rebound. Color options are gloss red or matte black, with travel options of 130-170mm in 10mm increments for 29er/27.5+, and 150-180mm in 10mm increments for 27.5. Spacing is 15QR x 110 boost, and it uses the same Float EVOL (as in extra volume) air spring found on current Fox 34 and 36 forks. And just like those forks, the Z1 accepts clip-on air-volume spacers, where more spacers deliver a more progressive feel, while less spacers make things more linear.
The FIT GRIP “sweep” is a closed cartridge style damper that recirculates and purges bath fluid, thus maintaining consistent cartridge fill and damping performance. The lever adjustment is a combined LSC/HSC compression adjustment knob at the top of the damper leg that ranges from open to lockout. It has no detents (thus the sweep terminology). Along with the lessened amount of adjustment compared to a Fox 36, there’s a small weight penalty of roughly 180 grams depending on travel length.
For this test, Mtbr installed a 130mm travel Marzocchi Bomber Z1 on a Scott Spark 900 29er that came stock with a 120mm Fox 34 Float Performance Elite. Cost of the Marzocchi Bomber Z1 is typically about $110 less than that fork, while the weight penalty for the extra 10mm of travel and beefier stanchions was exactly 1 pound, rising from 4.1 to 5.1 including axle. Keep reading to find out how the new setup performed on the trail.
- Budget friendly
- Beefy 36mm stanchions
- Impressive small-bump sensitivity
- Can use volume spacers to adjust bottom-out resistance
- Easy-to-adjust GRIP damper
- Wide array of travel options
- Holds its own against more expensive forks
- Great for set-and-forget riders
- Good looks and color options
- Firm lock-out for paved climbing
- Available in 51mm and 44mm offset for 29ers
- Definite weight penalty
- Limited amount of adjustability
- LSC/HSC adjustment dial lacks detents
- QR lever is finicky and feels cheap
- Bolt-on thru-axle option only available after market
If you’re looking to save money, are not obsessed over weight, and would rather ride your bike than spend excessive time tweaking your suspension setup, then there is a lot to love about the Marzocchi Bomber Z1.
Setup is supremely simple. The fork comes with one volume spacer installed and another in the spare parts bag. I stuck with one and had no issues. Same goes for the rest of the personalization process. Figure out air pressure and rebound setting using the recommendations printed on the lower fork leg as a starting point. Then get out on the trail and start playing with the LSC/HSC dial, which ranges from wide open to firm and has no detents. As a 165-pound moderately aggressive rider, I ended up at 70psi,with 9 clicks of rebound (there are 23 total), and roughly 1/10 of a turn on the sweep dial. Sure, it’d be nice if there were actual detents, but honestly once I found the sweet spot it really wasn’t a big deal.
The extra weight was a little tougher to swallow, especially considering I installed the Marzocchi Bomber Z1 on what’s essentially a cross-country race bike. Most of that girth comes from the fact that the Z1’s stanchions are constructed from 6000-series aluminum versus the 7000 series alloy that’s used on Fox forks. This is obviously a cost-saving measure, which is clearly one of (if not the) primary selling points. That was likely also the case when they choose the QR-style thru-axle, which is arguably the fork’s weak point. It’s finicky to adjust and feels a tad cheap. But again, once it’s set and secured, you likely won’t think about it anymore. And for an extra $45 you can pick up an after-market Fox Kabolt bolt-on thru-axle.
On the trail, the Marzocchi Bomber Z1 performed a lot like its more expensive Fox 36 cousin. Action was smooth and consistent, with minimal required breakaway force and never any hint of stiction. Small bump performance was especially impressive, the fork having no trouble smoothing out the chop of our Crested Butte-area trails beat up by a summer’s worth of heavy use and minimal moisture.
It was a similar story on the occasional bigger hit. The Marzocchi Bomber Z1 sat high in its travel, never packed up or dove too deep, and had no trouble reloading when faced with a succession of obstacles.
Bottom line, unless you really like spending money or are uber-weight conscious, there’s no reason to not consider the Marzocchi Bomber Z1. It’s easy top set-up and performance is near or at the level of more expensive mountain bike suspension forks.
Rating: 4 out of 5
More Info: www.marzocchi.com