Pinkbike was invited by Marzocchi to take a tour of their US headquarters, a facility that turned out to be full of exciting new technology. While some of these developments are likely still a few years away, what we saw is indicative of a company that is focused on the future. Product development, no matter what the component, is always years ahead of what is currently available to the public, and it was great to see Marzocchi open their doors and show us some of these upcoming products.
Marzocchi is putting a lot of effort into some interesting new additions to their lineup, including an entirely new rear shock, tentatively named the Premier. Slated to be a 2013 product, the Premier will likely continue with the very active feel that Marzocchi suspension has become known for, but it will also integrate some interesting new features. The shock shown above is still in the early design stages, but Marzocchi's R and D man, Josh Baltaxe, told us that it would likely employ external adjustments for both the high and low speed rebound, although he was coy on what the finalized shock would include in the way of dials. We were only shown CAD images and a plastic 3D prototype of the new damper, but one dial that was very clear to see was the additional knob atop the now somewhat standard piggyback volume adjuster. Given that the new shock is still a long ways away from production, Josh wasn't about to give us a complete breakdown as to the function of the dual inline adjuster, but he did use the word "dynamic" when referencing the design, hinting that it may be some sort of on-the-go self adjusting system that is separate from the standard volume feature or the piggyback's internal floating piston.
While their 888 platform has been very successful in many arenas, the inverted Shiver, with its insanely supple action, is a fork that many riders remember fondly. It looks like Marzocchi is set to make a lot of riders happy by reintroducing the Shiver, albeit with more up to date damper technology and possibly a much lighter weight. The Shiver shown above looks just like the original model, but Levy spotted one big difference: check out the fork's adjustment knobs atop each leg, the very same that you would find on a 888. While the fork pictured uses the old Shiver chassis (the lowers tubes, uppers, and fork crowns are from the original
), it is serving as a test bed for future designs.
An inverted DH fork is always going to walk a fine line when it comes to stiffness versus weight (the original Shiver wasn't known as the most rigid fork out there
), with more material required to approach the torsional stiffness of a right side up fork. That is why Marzocchi is looking at using carbon fiber for the contemporary Shiver's construction, allowing them to possibly build an inverted fork that is much more torsionally stiff than the old design, but still keep the weight at a respectable figure. They wouldn't be the first to go this route, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Marzocchi take it to the next level with a one piece outer leg, lower crown and steerer tube assembly that could eliminate many of the difficulties concerning both stiffness and clamping carbon tubes. Am I off my rocker? Maybe, but I don't see the Shiver returning unless it can truly challenge the current crop of DH forks.
The photo on the left is of a carbon fiber tube that has had its external surface coated with an aluminum nano particle treatment, giving it an extremely thin coat of aluminum that would allow it to slide smoothly in and out of fork seals. While it may sound like something out of a science fiction novel, this type of technology has actually been used in other fields for many years, allowing engineers to combine the best attributes of multiple materials for one job. A carbon fiber stanchion would likely be much lighter than even a butted aluminum counterpart, and the aluminum nano coating would allow for a consistant sealing surface, something that simply wouldn't be possible with a bare carbon tube. There are, of course, many challenges when it comes to applying this technology to creating functioning fork stanchion tubes, including manufacturing tolerances and clamping surfaces (unless it was used on an inverted for, that is...
), not to mention that it is likely cost prohibitive. Remember that carbon has been used for years, with much success, to build ultra-light one piece crown and steerer tube units for high-end forks.
Marzocchi's head tech, Ronnie Dilan, was busy building up Team CRC/Nukeproof's factory racing suspension during our visit, with their '12 888 V2 EVO Ti forks receiving some extra love before being shipping off to Europe. While we would have assumed that these race forks were full of one-off damper bits and other top secret internals, Ronnie was adamant that the entire CRC/Nukeproof team uses forks that are "very close to stock
". Some minor tuning will likely be done by the CRC/Nukeproof team mechanics once they arrived across the pond, but the only modifications Ronnie makes include bumping up to 6.5 kg spring (the stock spring is a 5.5 kg
), and adding a Teflon anti-friction additive to the standard 7.5wt fork oil. Apparently the CRC/Nukeproof boys also stick with the stock shim stack for the most part, not making any drastic changes from what the average consumer can purchase.
Marzocchi forks have long used an open bath configuration, meaning that the damping oil also acts as lubrication. Because the oil is free to cycle up and down within the fork lowers as the stanchions compress and extend, it creates a very well lubricated system that can feel extremely supple. The downside to this layout, though, is that the current design depends on an oil free space, meaning air at the top of the stanchion allows for volume displacement as the fork goes through its travel. That can allow the oil to slosh around and mix with the air over rough terrain, known as emulsification, that leads to inconsistent damping. The photo above shows a 888 fork equipped with a closed cell foam compensator that takes up some of that air volume, helping to limit emulsification by compressing as the fork goes into its travel.
With the return of the much vaunted Shiver, the possibility of aluminum nano coated carbon stanchions, and a new rear shock set to debut, Marzocchi looks to be committed to mountain bike suspension for the foreseeable future. Stay tuned to Pinkbike for more information as it becomes available. www.marzocchi.com