Marzocchi Bomber Z1 2019 Fork

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First Rides: The Reborn 2019 Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Fork

The Z1 made waves long ago. Does the newest version hold up to its storied history?

Rating: Vital Review
First Rides: The Reborn 2019 Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Fork

If you’ve been riding bikes for over a two decades or ask your seasoned shop guy (you know, the only mechanic who can setup cantilever brakes within a reasonable amount of time) which fork changed suspension as we know it, one product will come to mind: Z1. Well before the year 2000 and the frantic Y2K computer-crash scare, mountain bike forks consisted of slim tubes containing rubber-like chunks of plastic known as elastomers. Riding with dampers at the time was like playing a spontaneous game of Russian Roulette, but replace the bullet with a shower of fork fluid. Anything offering over 2.5-inches in travel was deemed undesirable as the name of the game was “lite.” It didn’t matter if you rode cross-country or downhill, there weren’t massive variations between the two and everyone was

If you’ve been riding bikes for over a two decades or ask your seasoned shop guy (you know, the only mechanic who can setup cantilever brakes within a reasonable amount of time) which fork changed suspension as we know it, one product will come to mind: Z1. Well before the year 2000 and the frantic Y2K computer-crash scare, mountain bike forks consisted of slim tubes containing rubber-like chunks of plastic known as elastomers. Riding with dampers at the time was like playing a spontaneous game of Russian Roulette, but replace the bullet with a shower of fork fluid. Anything offering over 2.5-inches in travel was deemed undesirable as the name of the game was “lite.” It didn’t matter if you rode cross-country or downhill, there weren’t massive variations between the two and everyone was pretty much on the same stuff.

In 1997, however, a motocross-centric suspension company that had wiggled their way into the mountain bike scene threw the entire industry upside down with the introduction of the Z1. The Z1 replaced elastomers and explosive damper cartridges with coil springs and open bath dampers, swapped popular 26-28mm diameter stanchions for larger 30mm tubes, and devoured ultra-lite brake arches and crowns with absolutely humongous bolt-on chunks of aluminum. It laughed at the industry-standard 2.5-inches (64mm) of travel and supplanted it with a plush and predictable 4-inches (100mm). The Z1 came with a weight penalty that paid zero [flat tires] for the norms and made every racer cringe at the thought of hauling the thing uphill during a race. Even so, the Z1 was the fork that changed everyone’s opinion on suspension. It also opened the minds of riders towards valuing performance and durability more than weight.

Fast-forward a few decades and we find ourselves witnessing another rebirth of this classic fork: the 2019 Marzocchi Bomber Z1. Although it doesn’t contain the same technology and specs as the 1997 original (thank goodness for that!), we were told the new Z1 holds true to the former’s ideology: prioritizing performance and durability over pretty much everything else. Over the past month we've been putting the new fork to the test, hucking everything in sight as we begin to evaluate if this is true.

Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Highlights

  • 29-inch and 27.5+ models: 130-170mm travel options in 10mm increments
  • 27.5-inch models: 150-180mm travel options in 10mm increments
  • 6000-series alloy 36mm single crown chassis
  • EVOL air spring
  • Customizable clip-on volume spacers
  • FIT GRIP Sweep damper with smooth low-speed compression adjust and 23-click rebound adjust
  • New Marzocchi Bomber Z1 lower legs
  • 15QR x 110mm Boost axle with QR and tooled axle options
  • Aluminum 1.5-inch tapered steerer tube
  • 180mm post mount disc brake tabs
  • Internally adjustable travel by lower air shaft assemblies (sold separately)
  • Gloss Red (29”/170mm, 27.5”/180mm) or Matte Black graphics
  • Offset: 51mm for 29/27.5+ and 44mm for 27.5
  • Weight: 2,251g (4.96-pounds, 170mm 29-inch model, actual)
  • MSRP: $699 USD
  • Available: May 2018

Feature Rundown

Times have changed dramatically since the launch of the pioneering 1997 Marzocchi Z1, and today multiple manufactures are pumping out various big-hitting suspension forks. Despite an increase of competition, the 2019 Marzocchi Z1 has unique features that set it apart.

First and foremost are the lowers. Nothing screams “Hey, I’m here. Check me out!” with as much intensity as throwing some loud and noticeable pigment on a component. Fork manufactures have been doing this from the beginning, but it appears to have ramped up exponentially in recent years. Once black, then green, a little bit of white, some orange... The past few years have been nothing short of a painter’s paradise. With the release of the new Marzocchi Z1 and RockShox Lyrik, the new “in” color has begun to shift towards the lowest of the visible wave frequencies (red). Those who don't want red will be please to know the new Z1 is offered with classic black lowers as well. Red lowers are only available on the longest travel forks (170mm for 29/27.5 and 180mm for 27.5).

Looking past the paint, you’ll find historic style passed on. First introduced in 2000, the classic Marzocchi “M” brake arch is a prominent feature of the new Z1’s lowers. Contending with the infamous Monster T, this new brake arch design is arguably the biggest and boldest in Marzocchi history. Hollowed out in the back, the latest Z1 steps a bit away from its predecessors by shaving some unnecessary weight.

Making our way above the brake arch, the new Z1 houses 36mm stanchions and one of the heftiest crowns found in the industry. The stanchions are made from 6000-series alloy which and are thicker than other 36mm stanchions on the market. With the combination of thicker 36mm stanchions and a burly crown, the Z1 holds true to the mentality of stiffness over gram shavings.

On the driveside of the fork rests the new GRIP Sweep damper. This damper is modeled after the original FIT GRIP that the industry has learned to love for its level of performance while requiring less maintenance compared to other dampers. Marzocchi took what was already working well and made it even better with some improvements. Namely, a new damper shaft seal, IFP piston and O-ring, plus a hard anodized pressure tube.

Unlike most dampers that contain a low-speed adjustment knob that clicks, the GRIP Sweep damper’s knob rotates smoothly from fully open to firm. Internally, this damper utilizes preload-based, mixed, high/low-speed compression and a fixed high-speed rebound shim stack with adjustable low-speed rebound adjustment.

The yellow compression cap found on the top of the fork offers a unique appearance for the Z1 and feels very stout and study compared to others on the market.

Protected by a black cap, the red rebound adjustment knob is found at the bottom of the fork. With 23 total clicks, obtaining the right amount of rebound is possible for all.

While many riders are turning towards aftermarket coil conversion kits to achieve the suppleness and consistency they long after, the developers of the Float EVOL air spring claim they are as close as they have ever been to producing a ride that achieves all of this.

On the other side is the Float EVOL air spring. The Float EVOL has an automatically filled and balanced negative spring. The size of this negative chamber has been increased compared to previous Float versions which offers a more supple feel at the initial part of the travel.

Want insane bottom-out adjustability? You’ve got it with the purple volume spacers. These spacers aren’t anything new and certainly haven’t changed in what they do either. More spacers equate to more bottom-out resistance and are ideal for riders who want to avoid clapping out on big hits while not sacrificing small bump compliance.

While many riders are turning towards aftermarket coil conversion kits to achieve the suppleness and consistency they long after, the developers of the Float EVOL air spring claim they are as close as they have ever been to producing a ride that achieves all of this. In addition to this, the air spring offers complete adjustability on spring rates so riders can have a properly tuned fork with amazing performance right out of the box.

The Z1 comes with a tuning chart just below the spring side dust seal which not only lists recommended air pressures per rider weight, but also suggested rebound clicks. Max air pressure is 120psi, so don’t be anywhere near Rob Warner if you see him testing out the new Z1.

Travel can be internally adjusted. The range of travel is as follows: 130-170mm in 10mm increments for the 29/27.5 and 150-180mm in 10mm increments for 27.5 versions. Adjusting the travel requires exchanging the air spring assembly. Want to go from 160mm to 170mm? You’ll need to swap the air spring assembly for one with a 10mm longer shaft. Luckily the process is fairly simple to do and air spring assemblies can be special ordered through your LBS or online dealers.

The Z1 will be offered in 15x110mm Boost spacing with a quick release axle. If there are tool-loving riders out there, the fork will is also compatible with the FOX Kabolt.

180mm post mount disc brake tabs come on all versions. This specific mounting spec is quickly becoming an industry standard for long-travel single crown forks because it makes running a 180mm rotor as easy as throwing bolts through the brake caliper and torquing them down. No need for additional washers or adapters. Running a larger rotor requires an adaptor, however, so make sure you do your homework and plan accordingly.

Lastly, the actual weight isn’t that bad considering the ideology that the Z1 was built after – prioritizing control and performance over pretty much everything else, including weight. Coming in at 2,251g (4.96-pounds) the Z1 isn’t the lightest long travel single crown, but it certainly doesn’t suffer from dumbbell size weights like previous Marzocchi forks have been known for.

Compared To The FOX 36

Now to address the elephant in the room. No doubt many of you are saying, “It has 36mm stanchions, an EVOL air spring, and a GRIP damper. It’s a FOX 36!” On the surface it would appear so. Considering Marzocchi has their own research and development team, however, they have tweaked things to make this beast beat to its own drum.

The most obvious difference are the lowers. As mentioned previously, the Z1 comes with the classic “M” brake arch.

Another difference is the finer details of the front brake hose retention system. Instead of sandwiching the front brake hose between a U-shaped plastic over a rubber pad found on all FOX forks, the Z1 comes with a plastic clip the wraps all the way around the hose and holds it very securely in place. 

The top caps on both the damper and air spring of the Z1 also differ.

All of these being somewhat superficial changes, the performance differences are what really matter. The compression adjustment on the GRIP Sweep damper rotates smoothly across the entire range of adjustment. What this allows is for the rider to select the perfect compression rate that matches their riding style without being influenced by what the manufacture feels is best.

At a price of $699, the Marzocchi Z1 is arguably one of the best value forks on the market.

Finally, the largest difference between the Marzocchi Z1 and FOX 36 is the overall burliness of the uppers. This is very evident with a side-by-side comparison of the crowns. The Z1 is simply much thicker. In addition to that, the tubes are thicker as well. So much thicker that Marzocchi has their own diameter volume spacer. Although they haven't provided data to show stiffness ratings to compare the two, it’s safe to assume the Z1 offers just a bit more stiffness.

Enough about specs. How does the Z1 perform?

On The Trail

We jumped at the opportunity to take the Z1 out for a spin on our favorite trails. Opting for the 29-inch 170mm travel version ensured we’d be able to take full advantage of everything this reborn icon had to offer.

Similar to switching your radio from Guns N’ Roses to Slayer, swapping out a FOX 36 RC2 for the new Marzocchi Z1 seemed to make our test bike, the Intense Carbine, display a harder attitude. Throwing a leg over the Z1-enriched rig and heading out to the hills, the fork provided a familiar ride to what we’ve been used to but with some stark differences. 

Climbing

One of the most profound features was the on-the-fly adjustability of the GRIP Sweep damper. With a smooth twist of the compression lever the 170mm of travel instantly became restrained to prevent any bobbing on long ascents. The firmness matches that of similar forks with the GRIP damper and is very impressive during long hauls. Coming across an unexpected bump, however, the firm platform does give way.

Although the Z1 is on the heavier side of the spectrum for long-travel single crown forks, its added weight wasn’t very noticeable on the trail.

Descending

Twisting the compression knob back towards the open position releases the beast, and every millimeter of travel is at your ultimate disposal.

The Z1 offered great small bump compliance while riding some of the rockiest and toughest sections of the trail we could find. The hard anodized 36mm stanchions glided smoothly past the low-friction seals. Unlike other manufactures which ship their forks off with dry seals, Marzocchi sent the Z1 out with lubed seals which really added to the overall suppleness of the fork. The increased negative chamber and overall simplicity of the EVOL air spring places the Z1 right up to the top as one of the smoothest forks on the market. 

Prioritizing small bump compliance has caused mid-stroke support to suffer in some forks during previous years. This is not the case with the Z1. We found the fork sitting higher in the travel than other forks tweaked to offer similar small bump compliance.

Getting sendy is where the Z1 really impressed us. Although our tester hasn’t had problems with flex among modern forks in this category, the Z1 provided unmatched front end stiffness. This is most likely due to the hefty crown and thicker stanchions than other forks running a 36mm diameter.

In addition to stiffness, bottom-out resistance was exceptional. Our tester, who normally runs two or three volume spacers in the front, was satisfied with only one spacer in the Z1. Only on the largest of impacts was the entire travel consumed.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Marzocchi Z1 offers great small bump compliance, mid-stroke support, and adjustable bottom-out control. The GRIP Sweep damper glides smoothly from fully open to firm and can be set anywhere in between. Optimizing performance and durability over everything else, the rebirth of the Marzocchi Z1 holds true to its heritage and fills a void in mountain bike suspension. With a burly set of uppers and the classic “M” style lowers, anyone who sees the Z1 will know it’s a Marzocchi. At a price of $699, the Marzocchi Z1 is arguably one of the best value forks on the market.

Vital MTB Z1 First Ride Rating: 4.5 Stars - Outstanding


Also New - 2019 Marzocchi Bomber 58 Fork

Marzocchi is also introducing the Bomber 58 downhill fork, which shares many of the same features and ride qualities as the Z1.

  • Fits 27.5-inch wheels
  • 203mm travel
  • EVOL air spring with adjustable volume and air negative spring
  • FIT GRIP damper with compression and rebound adjustment
  • New 40mm chassis with Marzocchi specific lower casting
  • 20x110mm axle (non-Boost)
  • Gloss Red or Matte Black graphics
  • MSRP: $999 USD

Visit www.marzocchi.com for more details.


About The Reviewer 

Lance Starling - Age: 30 // Years Riding: 17 // Height: 6'3" (1.91m) // Weight: 190-pounds (86.2kg)

Lance got his first mountain bike in 2001. Fast-forward 17 years and not a day has gone by that he hasn’t completely obsessed over the sport. This obsession has transformed him into a mountain bike guru whose love for picking apart components and gear is similar to a honey badger consuming king cobras. Nothing is left untouched. His playful riding style generally keeps him more in the air than on the ground and whatever tricks he lacks he makes up for with a good ol’ bar hump. Never at any time have consumers have had it so good and with over ten years in the industry as a certified mechanic and gear expert, Lance is devoted to helping those riders find the perfect gear to meet their needs.

Photos by Lance Starling and Tyson Hudson

Specifications

Product Marzocchi Bomber Z1 2019 Fork
Riding Type Freeride / Bike Park, Trail
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b), 29", 27.5+
Travel
  • 130mm
  • 140mm
  • 150mm
  • 160mm
  • 170mm
  • 180mm
Spring Type EVOL air
Damping FIT GRIP Sweep damper
External Adjustments Compression, rebound, and air spring volume
Crown Single
Front Axle 15mm x 110mm (Boost)
Brake Mounts 180mm post
Steer Tube Diameter 1.5-inch tapered
Steer Tube Construction Aluminum
Stanchion Diameter 36mm 6000-series alloy
Colors Gloss Red (29”/170mm, 27.5”/180mm) or Matte Black
Weight 4 lb 15.4 oz (2,251 g)
Miscellaneous 2019 model year
New Marzocchi Bomber Z1 lower legs
Option of quick release or tooled axle
Weight is for 170mm 29-inch model
Price $699
More Info

www.marzocchi.com

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