Marzocchi's new Bomber Z2 fork is a welcome development for a number of reasons. Fox's acquisition of Marzocchi and the storied brand's return to the marketplace generated much anticipation. Depending upon where your allegiance fell, there were questions to be answered. Would future products from the Italian brand simply become rebranded Fox production, downgraded to hit key price points, or would the Marzocchi team produce stand-alone performance suspension that spoke to riders who may not resonate with the Fox brand? The Z2's answer is,"Yes."
Meet the Bomber Z2
Admittedly, the Bomber Z1
which announced Marzocchi's comeback last year was essentially a doppelganger of the Float 36 with Fox's GRIP damper, thicker 6000-series aluminum stanchions, the trademark Marzocchi fork crown, and with fewer adjustments.
Marzocchi's Sean Estes defends the decision to essentially rebrand the 36, saying that Marzocchi needed a strong product to help re-launch the brand, and it bought the design team the time they needed to develop unique damping and technologies that spoke to the brand's loyal fans. "The Z2," said Estes, "was the team's first beginning-to-end fork design," and he hinted that its new semi-open-bath Rail damper would be proof enough that it was an authentic Marzocchi fork.
Bomber Z2 Details
• Intended use: aggressive trail
• Air sprung, Rail semi-open-bath damper
• 34mm 6000-series aluminum stanchions
• Travel: 100, 120, 130, 140, 150mm
• Offset: 44 or 51mm
• External adjustments: rebound, low-speed compression
• Internal adjustments: air volume spacers, travel
• Weight (150mm, 29"): 2000 grams
• Colors: gloss red, matte black
• MSRP: $499 USD
The new Bomber Z2 is positioned as an aggressive trail rider's fork. Marzocchi's design team took full advantage of Fox's industry standard for reliability, using the seals, bushings and chassis technology of the Float 34. From there, however, they took a turn from their parent company, weeding out over-complicated damping and adjustment features that could be replaced with simpler, more robust and user-friendly options. The idea was to both modernize and maximize the Z2's performance, and deliver it at a more realistic MSRP than today's super-forks are asking.
Your fancy fork may have five dials, each with 20 clicks, but 19 of them are going to be wrong. The Z2's "less is more" design strategy distills the body of knowledge suspension experts have learned from the recent enduro/all-mountain epoch, then hard-wires those improvements into the fork's internals. Fewer parts, spot-on damping, and simplified adjustments that provide clear feedback are Marzocchi's formula for success. That, and the Bomber Z2's refreshing, $499 USD sticker price are poised to shake up the performance suspension marketplace.Thicker fork legs:
In part, to reduce the expense of the Z2, Marzocchi uses thicker walled 6000 series alloy stanchion tubes. The damper side needed to be a bit thicker walled because the Rail damper actually operates on its inside diameter. Reportedly, the Z2 fork, while slightly heavier than the Fox 34, is also stiffer. No Kashima either. Bombers use a black anodized surface treatment that traps lubricant. Adjustable travel:
Here's where sharing components makes sense - the Z2 shares the same air piston assembly as the Fox 34 Rhythm fork. Customers can change their fork travel from 100m, 120, 130 140 or 150 millimeters by changing to a different length air-spring shaft that is readily available through Fox and its retail outlets. Inside the Z2, the standard damper and stanchion tubes will extend to the maximum 150-millimeter-travel option without modification. Rail damper:
Instead of sliding a separate damping cartridge into the right fork leg, Marzocchi configured the Rail damper to operate inside the stanchion tube. That reduces the parts and weight, while increasing the volume of fluid inside the damper. The Z2's damper has no bladder or pressurized compensating piston to separate the oil from mixing with air inside the fork. Admittedly, there will be some emulsion (air bubbles mixing with the oil), but Marzocchi suspension engineers say that the length of the stanchion tube and the location of the rebound damper at the bottom of the oil column allows the most important function of the damping system to operate in fluid that has released most or all of its bubbles.
As mentioned, the Bomber Z2 has the basic damping and air spring adjustments: low-speed rebound below the right slider, a "Sweep" low-speed compression dial up top/ remove the air cap on the left side of the crown and the Z2 accepts standard Fox air volume adjustment spacers.A-grade seals and bushings:
Most, if not all of the Z2's remarkable performance value can be attributed to reducing the parts count or using new knowledge to simplify older, more complicated designs. "Marzocchi riders will want to bolt this fork onto their bikes and shred without a thought about periodic maintenance," says Estes. "To achieve that kind of reliability, we knew we had to use the best quality seals and sliding parts. That's where the efficiency of partnering with Fox pays off. We use the same A-grade components everywhere on the Z2. The efficiency is that we designed the fork so we can use less of them."
New axle adjustment: Marzocchi redesigned the adjustable quick release through axle from Fox's splined clocking mechanism, to a simpler and lighter weight threaded adjustment. The axle threads into a fixed steel insert. The angle and tension of the through-axle's quick release lever is tuned with a 4-millimeter Allen key from the right side of the axle.
Two offsets: While the crown, stanchions and steerer are the same between 29 and 27.5 inch wheel forks in all travel lengths, the magnesium lowers are not. 29-inch sliders offer either 44 or 51-
millimeter offsets, while 27.5-inch wheel sliders only have the 44-millimeter option. Interesting note: our 29-inch fork's sliders were labeled 29/27.5 Plus, which suggests that there's generous tire clearance built in to the Z2 fork. Riding the Bomber Z2
From the first roll-out, I knew the Z2 was going to deliver a special ride. Pressurized at 77 psi, which was on the high side for my weight, the Marzocchi damper was a measure smoother off the beginning of its stroke than any fork at its pay grade, and better than most forks costing hundreds more. I say this because it was my first thought - and I had only made ballpark adjustments to the air spring and low-speed damping dials.
I rode the 29" Bomber Z2 originally in the 140mm travel setting without any air-volume spacers, which produced a ride quality that was supple up to the mid stroke, with a gradual ramp up in the air spring. With the compression dial backed off completely, I could bottom the fork landing to flat and impacting moderate rock drops. Bottom-outs were never harsh and both control and front wheel traction were enhanced compared to the same tire and bike set up with a RockShox Revelation fork at similar travel.
Adding a quarter turn of low-speed compression brought the ride height of the Z2 up and reduced the number of full-travel events without diminishing the fork's velvety feel over smaller roots and trail chatter, but when I started smashing rock gardens, I found the need for more support up front. I added one Fox air volume spacer, which handily solved the issue. With the low-speed rebound somewhere in the first third of its range, the O-ring indicating 20-percent sag and the Rail damper's compression dial rotated slightly less than a quarter turn, I found the fork's sweet spot: sensitive off the beginning of the stroke, ample support for pedaling and corners, and with enough oomph left in the end-stroke to cover my mistakes at higher speeds.
Later, I switched to the 150mm air shaft that Marzocchi provided me - which added a spoonful of sugar to an already awesome performing fork with no further adjustments.
One concern I had after learning that the Rail damper had no volume compensation device to isolate air from the damping fluid was that the fork would fade dramatically after a long pull down a rocky descent. I gave the Z2 the chance to fail on a 9-mile local descent which features prolonged boulder fields. I emerged at the bottom end with a fully functional fork. If it did fade, I didn't notice - the Marzocchi had enough performance left in the bank to keep the rubber side down and my confidence in the green.
While on the subject of bashing rocks, I found the Z2's chassis was much stiffer than expected. Admittedly, Fox's 34 chassis is also underrated by '36 devotees for its rigidity and steering precision. Marzocchi's 34-millimeter Z2, raises that bar, probably by another ten percent, with pinpoint steering accuracy in situations where I was using most or all of the fork's travel to find a line down the rocks. Technical Notes
Marzocchi have produced a truly great fork with the new Z2 - a surprise that had me searching for bad things to say in order to present a more level sounding review. One nick is that the brake caliper post mounts are dedicated to 160-millimeter brake rotors. I think the last time I saw one of those was on the back of a 26-inch wheel Trek Fuel. Nowadays, 180 rotors are the smallest I'd suggest for a 29-inch wheel trail bike and considering their target audience, Marzocchi should make this a running change.
Good call on the new axle design. Dialing in the splined Fox axle system is not a huge deal, but it can become a guessing game. Marzocchi's Allen key adjustment should (and probably will) begin to appear on Fox products in the not too distant future.
Remarkable damping performance, top to bottom+
Stiff chassis for a 34mm fork+
Excellent performance value
Dedicated to the disappearing 160mm front brake rotor-
Knob twisters may not accept its minimalist adjustment options