380 C2R2 Titanium Fork
WORDS Mike Levy
PHOTOS Amy Mcdermid
Marzocchi's brand new 380 C2R2 Titanium may look like a 888 at first glance, but the 200mm travel fork is actually an entirely new beast from the ground up. There is no doubting the 888's legacy and performance in the past, with the Italian company's most successful DH fork winning over a lot of riders with both its set-and-forget reliability and ultra-sensitive early stroke, but it also has to be said that riders' expectations have risen over the last few years. No longer can a fork be pronounced a winner simply because it's near stiction-less and doesn't ask much of its owner beyond a bit of yearly love. With racers looking for more and more sophisticated damping, always less weight, and long-term dependability to boot, it was time for Marzocchi to head back to the drawing board to design a new fork that ticks all the boxes while also retaining that slippery, active suspension feel that they have become known for. The result is the 380 C2R2 Titanium, and the only thing it has in common with the previous 888 is it being right-side-up. A brand new 'Dynamic Bleed Cartridge' is hidden inside, while much lighter crowns, a fresh lower leg design that loses the 'M' arch yet gains rigidity, and added external damper adjustments in the form of both separate low and high-speed compression and rebound dials are some external features. It is also compatible with both 26'' and 650B wheel sizes. Dynamic Bleed Cartridge
380 C2R2 Titanium Details
• Intended use: DH racing
• Travel: 200mm
• Titanium coil spring
• 38mm nickel treated stanchions
• Tapered or straight steerer
• New 'Dynamic Bleed Cartridge'
• Adjustments: separate low and high-speed compression, low and high-speed rebound
• Titanium clamp bolts stock
• Compatible with 650B wheels
• Production fork weight: 6.28lb
• Availability: September, 2013
• MSRP: TBA
Marzocchi's forks have utilized an open bath approach to damper design for many, many years, with a cartridge that fed on the same oil that acted as lubrication within the fork. This design made for exceptionally smooth performance due to there being enough oil to slosh about and lube the fork's bushings, although it couldn't meet how a closed or semi-closed damper performs when talking consistency because of that very same sloshing effect. Marzocchi says that the 380's Dynamic Bleed Cartridge is hybrid of those three damper designs, with it requiring some internal trickery to make that happen. The DBC cartridge uses a one-way seal that lets damping oil enter as required, but the clever bit is a spring-loaded piston that acts as a compensator (similar to how an internal floating piston functions in a shock's piggyback
) that keeps the cartridge full of oil without it hydraulically locking: the piston moves up to make room as the damper cartridge fills with oil, and also down in its travel to take up the lost displacement as oil rushes out. While more complicated than Marzocchi's previous open bath damper, the DBC system employs technology that the Italian company is familiar with from using it within their motocross forks, meaning that they should be able to create a reliable design that performs well in the long run.
The DBC damper may be new to Marzocchi's lineup, but they are not straying away from their open approach to giving consumers the ability to remove and tune vital damper components. Looking for a change that can't be done via the external low and high-speed compression dials? The entire compression assembly can be removed from the top of the fork to allow the garage tuners and pro mechanics to make alterations to the mid-speed compression circuit, and shim stack assemblies that will make the job easier will be available from Marzocchi for aftermarket purchase. On The Trail
We rolled over to the Marzocchi race support truck in the morning to have the 380 fork and Moto shock installed on our GT Fury downhill bike, a rig that we'll be using as a testing platform to put time on a number of downhill components in the future. Having given Pietro Palladino, the Italian suspension technician who is responsible for tuning the forks and shocks for Marzocchi's World Cup racers, our stats before arriving, he had done much of the necessary tuning before we arrived. All that was left to do was to double check our sag numbers and go over the fork's four separate damper adjustments: low-speed and high-speed compression, as well as low-speed and high-speed rebound.
The first push reveals a fork that feels very much like the Marzocchi of old, with an incredibly active feel at the top of the stroke that had us wondering if the fork was underdamped, a trait that older 888 models were guilty of. It honestly felt very much like we would be blowing through a lot of the travel the second the trail pointed down, and it had us thinking that Marzocchi might have sacrificed performance at speed for the parking lot plushness that comes with not enough low-speed compression. We really shouldn't jump to conclusions, though, because we turned out to be very, very wrong. The 380 proved to have two personalities: one that was able to take out the smallest of trail chatter - picture micro sized rocks and roots, and another side that kept enough travel in reserve to take the force out of huge hits and spikes. Sometimes it's good to be mistaken, isn't it?
The supple feel that Marzocchi is famous for is there, and calling the 380 active really doesn't begin to describe how yielding its early travel actually is. This translated to an impressive amount of front-end grip in the dry, silty conditions that the Whistler Bike Park is known for during the heat of the summer, with the front tire able to stay in contact with the ground instead of pushing over it due to losing its hold. Confidence in the front of your bike is key to carrying good speed, and we found ourselves putting more and more faith in the front of the GT thanks to the 380's performance. The other advantage to that plushness, one that we confess to not noting until halfway through the first day on the fork, is how much fresher our hands felt after hours of laps on fast trails littered with braking bumps and holes. High frequency vibrations are muted before they reach the handlebar, and it was almost as if we simply didn't need to use a death grip on the bar when tracking over the roughest sections.
While supreme plushness is a nice trait to boast about, any fast rider who knows a thing or two about bike setup will tell you that sacrificing all around suspension performance for a supple feel is a recipe for disaster. Thankfully Marzocchi didn't go this route, with the 380 being far from a one trick pony. Deep chunder - picture foot high holes, roots, and rocks - all taken in with very little fuss. There is no spiking, and it took more than a few runs to believe that the 380 could be both as supple as it is without eating up all of its travel at the first sight of trouble. One heavy hit in particular, smack dab in the middle of the fast line on the notoriously rough Canadian Open track, has always been a bit of a ''close your eyes and hope for the best'' kind of moment, with whatever bike we've pointed down it groaning in protest each and every time we roll the dice. That very same punch in the gut sort of impact didn't carry quite as much force behind it with the 380 on the front of the Fury, and we actually had to roll the dice again by hiking and re-riding the section to confirm our thoughts. Once again, not only did we survive but we also came out the other side with more control - no hard bottom, and only a controlled feel on the run-out after the impact. Pinkbike's Take:
The two days that we've put on the 380 C2R2 Titanium fork isn't enough time to consider this as a true test - we've need a few months on it in order to comment on any reliability issues that may or may not come to light - but it was more than enough time for us to announce Marzocchi's return to the upper echelon of suspension makers. The Italian brand has yet again created a fork who's suppleness almost beggars belief but has also added an element of performance that the 888 always seemed to be missing: damping control when pushing hard on a steep track. Is the 380 the entire package, then? It appears as if it certainly might be, with the key being its longterm reliability. We'll soon have a 380 on the front of the Fury for a more lengthy test, one that will allow us to comment on that last remaining question mark, so stay tuned for the final word on Marzocchi's re-entry into the downhill marketplace. - Mike Levy