When Fox acquired Marzocchi we knew that could only mean good things for the future of the brand. Considering the Bomber Z1 Fork was engineered by the same people that created the legendary Fox 36, it was safe to assume that some of that technology would trickle down to the Bomber. After some time on the new fork, we can say that it is seriously impressive! In this review, we take an in-depth look at the Marzocchi Bomber Z1 and see how to it compares to the other forks on the market. Enjoy!
The first thing I noticed about the Marzocchi Bomber Z1 fork when I took it out of the box was how stout it was. Marzocchi has had the reputation to make beefy “Freeride” inspired forks in the past, and the design influences on this brand-new fork seem to intend to keep that reputation intact. The main things that really caught my eye were the crown and the arch of the fork. Both are extremely sturdy and before I ever put this fork on my bike I could tell that stiffness was not going to be an issue.
The fork came with a manual as well as extra volume spacers. The manual had info and a quick start guide suggested settings based on weight, with suggested rebound and how many volume spacers you are able to run depending on the travel of the fork. Something that I was not particularly fond of with the Z1 fork was that the compression knob has no click in it and that it just spins freely. The rebound knob has a nice aluminum protective cover like similar fox forks do to protect the low hanging knob from unexpected rock hits, which is a nice and often overlooked feature to me. All the knobs and screws felt extremely quality, and initially, I was extremely excited to try this fork out.
It came with 2 volume spacers installed. For a 160mm travel 29” fork, 7 spacers are the maximum amount, so I started testing with 5 spacers and 90 PSI. As I mentioned before, the compression knob has no clicks so I started with it wide open in hopes of not needing much low-speed compression and using air pressure and volume spacers to be able to fine-tune how the fork rode. I also started with the rebound at 6 clicks from closed, as suggested by the manual, which sounded good to me as I tend to like my rebound a little slower than most.
The first impressions while climbing up the fire roads of my local trails in Simi Valley, CA was that this fork weighed a bit more than that of the Lyrik it replaced on my bike. It may be more noticeable to some, but with the way we must outfit our bikes in our area to survive the brutality of the terrain, it was not that big of a penalty. The one benefit that I saw when climbing was that when the compression knob was turned to the closed position that the fork was essentially rigid. I could put my full body weight on the front end and the fork moved a few millimeters. This may be important to some who have less technical climbs but being that the climbing in my area is still technical, I prefer the fork open to help track the difficult climbs. When the ride turned the other way and it was time to descend, within seconds I could feel the rigidity of the chassis which felt very reassuring to me. The fork also felt really supple on small bumps and tracked well through the small bumps.
The first issue I had is when I encountered repeated medium size hits in the trail, the fork started to feel overwhelmed, and out of control. I finished the run to see that I did not use close to 30mm of the travel on the fork. I took out 8 PSI on the next run and was able to use just about all the travel, which helped the feeling of the fork on the medium to large hits of the trail. The Bomber Z1 excels in one major area and that is when the hits turn into extremely large drops and G outs, this thing feels the most at home and composed in those difficult trail situations. The EVOL air spring and Grip damper do an excellent job at resisting bottoming and being very confident on the biggest of hits a trail has to offer.
The thing that I was still struggling to figure out was the rebound tune, as no matter which direction I was going, it felt like the fork was stuttering over the extremely chattering terrain. I chalked it down to the open bath damper getting a little overwhelmed and was able to settle with the rebound a little faster than originally set at 9 clicks from closed. I always kept the compression adjuster open, as the compression felt fine where it was, and I never felt that I needed more low speed. The beginning stroke of the fork, as well as the resistance to bottoming, are where this fork shine. The unfortunate thing is that the fork spends a lot more time than it should in the middle of its travel, where it seems to be the least smooth.
Overall, the Bomber Z1 is a great fork for the price. This fork comes in at around three hundred dollars cheaper than the top of the line Fox and Rockshox offerings. Fox paid the name of Marzocchi justice with the creation of this new Z1 fork. This fork offers extreme stiffness with the reinforced 36mm chassis of the 36, in combination with the stability of the GRIP damper to create a fork that begs to be sent deep of jumps, drops, and charge hard into the toughest most technical sections of trail. This, in combination with the short 44mm offset for the 29” fork, means that it turns extremely well, which helps to compliment the hard-charging” feeling this fork offers.
One thing I would like to see changed is the addition of clicks to the low speed compression adjuster on the upper crown of the fork. It so happened that during the testing of this fork, I went off-trail and hit a bush, which happened to turn the lever of the compression adjuster essentially locking out the fork. I did not notice until far down the trail and it helped to explain the sudden difficulty I was having on a trail I’ve ridden many times before. It would also help in the tuning process to be able to compare settings more accurately.
Overall, this fork is perfect for those riders who want an inexpensive solution to try a short offset fork, those who push the stiffness of components to the extreme, and anyone who wants a fork that begs to be pushed as hard as possible.
In addition to Griffin’s review on the Marzocchi, I’d like to add my thoughts on this fork as well. I tested the fork on an XL Yeti SB5.5 with the fork set at 160mm travel. I initially added 5 psi to the fork to compensate for the 15-pound weight difference between Griffin and myself, I left the rebound and volume spacers as he had it set. After a few slower speed shake down runs on a mild 2 min shuttle trail my initial impression was that the fork had a smooth initial stroke, tracked very well, and had an overall solid feel to it. I took to some fast, extremely blown out/chunky, much steeper trails and I found the fork performed well, especially given its price point. I have quite a bit of time on the Fox 36 FIT4 over the last year and I feel this entry level grip damper is superior to the FIT4 damper in every way, especially bottom out resistance. The only time I bottomed the Marzocchi was when I did so intentionally.
In comparison to the new Lyrik and Fox 36 GRIP2, I found the Marzocchi to be lacking a bit of mid-stroke support and the high speed/ending stroke rebound to be a little slow for my liking. This caused the fork to pack and ride in the harsh part of the travel and not provide the same level of confidence to ride your trail bike on downhill bike trails, without being much slower than actual downhill bikes. It is a bit unfair, and a compliment at the same time to be able to even compare a fork that’s roughly 30% cheaper to the highest of the high-end forks, but it’s the question people want to know the answer to. It doesn’t offer the level of control and composure at professional level speeds that a Lyrik RC2 or Fox 36 Grip2 has, but its close. The fork handled G outs, tricky off cambers, and sending to flat on par with the more expensive duo and was only on the roughest, fastest bits of the trail where you could critique the Bomber. Overall, I came away very impressed with this fork and thought it punched well above its weight as an entry-level cost fork!