Aiming to bring back the simplicity and reliability that made us all lust after those bright red 'Zocchis from back in the day, Marzocchi takes us on a trip down memory lane with the return of the classic Bomber Z2.
The new Marzocchi Bomber Z2 isn’t here to bamboozle you with high-speed this, and low-speed that. Keeping things simple, the Bomber Z2 is designed to offer solid, honest performance and ease of adjustability, while still being loaded with the latest 2020 tech. But is the Z2 just a cheaper Fox fork? Or something altogether different? Time to find out!
Looking to the future, with an eye on the past
After a few years on the rocks, Italian suspension brand Marzocchi has been clawing its way back into the suspension market. Having been bought out by Fox Racing Shox in 2015, a revitalised Marzocchi engaged in a successful re-entry back into the mountain bike world last year with the re-release of the iconic Bomber Z1. The Z1 was also accompanied by a dual-crown downhill fork called the Bomber 58, which was then later joined by an entry-level coil shock called the Bomber CR.
We tested out and reviewed the 2019 Bomber Z1 last year, and came away thoroughly impressed by the fork’s control and sensitivity, especially given its sharp pricing relative to its big brother, the Fox 36. In his review, Mick offered up this concise but accurate evaluation; “the Bomber is a great fork, hands down.” It also probably helped that the Z1 looked absolutely grouse with those dashing red lowers.
One year on, and we’ve seen the new generation Z1 fork make its way onto a load of bikes out on the trails. Looking to build on that momentum, Marzocchi has recently added another fork to its lineup for 2020; the brand new Bomber Z2.
The Z2 Returns!
22-years on from the launch of the original Z2, and it’s now back in the Marzocchi lineup. This one is a little different to the original though.
In reality, the new Z2 is essentially a shrunken-down Z1. Rather than chunky 36mm stanchions and 130-180mm of travel, the Z2 sizes down to 34mm stanchions and 100-150mm of travel. Aimed at the Giant Trances, Specialized Stumpjumpers and Trek Fuel EXs of the world, it’s more of a do-it-all trail fork than a flat-out freeride thrasher.
Marzocchi is offering the 2020 Bomber Z2 for both 27.5in and 29in wheelsizes, and you can choose from 100, 120, 130, 140 & 150mm travel options. It’s possible to alter the travel internally, but you’ll need a new air spring shaft to do so. You can get the 29er fork in both 51mm and 44mm offsets, while the 27.5in version is currently only available with a 44mm offset.
Bring Simple Back
The tagline for the new Z2 fork could very well be inspired by the words of a certain Mr Timberlake. Indeed, Marzocchi says it would like to bring
sexy simple back with the Z2, which is kind of what the brand is best known for. Rather than relying on expensive materials and offering up a zillion different adjustments, the Z2 instead strips things back to basics, with a keen focus on reliability and ease of use.
Like the Z1, the Z2 is also an air-sprung fork, and you can adjust both spring pressure and volume. In the other leg you’ve got Marzocchi’s own RAIL damper, which offers adjustable rebound damping via a single dial at the bottom, with an adjustable compression/lockout dial up top.
What’s Under The Hood?
Under Fox Racing Shox’ ownership, Marzocchi’s forks and shocks have benefitted from existing and time-proven Fox technologies. And for the Z2, that’s sort of the case.
The chassis is based upon the popular Fox 34 Float fork, with both forks utilising 34mm diameter stanchions. However, the Z2 uses cheaper and heavier 6000-series alloy upper tubes instead of the 7000-series alloy found on the 34. The Z2 also gets one-piece magnesium lowers, but they’re treated to their own unique M-arch design.
Likewise, the 110x15mm dropouts aren’t quite the same as what you’ll find on a Fox fork – the QR15 lever is the same, but the threaded nut isn’t clocked like the Fox version. Instead, a 4mm hex bolt in the end of the axle allows you to tighten or loosen the axle after you’ve clamped the lever in place. It’s actually quite neat, and a welcome improvement to the cheaper axle used on the Z1 fork. We might even prefer it to the Fox QR15 axle system.
It’s worth noting that the air spring is exactly the same EVOL design that you’ll find inside the Fox 34 though, with a self-equalising positive/negative spring chamber and the same coloured plastic volume spacers used for altering the spring rate. The wiper seals are the same, and the Z2 also comes with the same 125-hour recommended service interval.
RAIL, Not GRIP
The main difference between the Fox 34 and the Marzocchi Bomber Z2 though is the RAIL damper. Whereas the Z1 fork borrows the GRIP damper directly from Fox, the RAIL damper found inside the Z2 is unique to Marzocchi.
Aiming to simplify the internals while also making maintenance easier, the RAIL damper completely separates the compression and rebound piston assemblies. Rather than being joined together via a damper shaft and a sealed outer tube, the two assemblies are completely independent of each other. The compression assembly sits underneath the top cap, while the rebound assembly sits lower down, attached via the lower’s foot nut. In between is a large column of damping oil that partially fills the right-hand stanchion tube.
With less moving parts, the RAIL damper is simpler to manufacture, and the split layout means there’s also no need to bleed the damper during servicing. Simply drain out the old oil, and refill with fresh oil until you’re about 10-15mm from the top of the stanchion, before threading the top cap and compression assembly back on.
Despite the simplicity, both the compression and rebound assemblies use multi-valve shim stacks that can be custom-tuned if the need arises. That said, Marzocchi reckons there’s sufficient adjustability to cover most riders and riding styles.
Speaking of adjustability, you get 16-clicks of rebound damping at the bottom of the fork, while the function of the ‘Sweep Adj’ lever at the top of the fork is the same as the blue-coloured lever found on a Fox GRIP damper. You wind the dial counter-clockwise to decrease compression damping, and clockwise to increase compression damping, all the way to a full lockout. One thing we do like about the lever on the RAIL damper is that it’s a lot firmer in action, which means you’re less likely to accidentally bump it out of position.
Is It Cheaper?
Yes, by quite a healthy amount!
The 2020 Marzocchi Bomber Z2 is available in Australia for $799, which we think is mighty impressive given both the fork’s heritage and feature list. That price puts it a fair whack cheaper than a Fox 34 Performance Elite Series fork ($1,189), and it also undercuts the RockShox Revelation RC ($999).
Part of the price reduction can be spotted in the adjusters, which are all made from plastic rather than the alloy dials you’ll find on a Fox fork. Even the air cap is plastic. That isn’t a big deal, but we do wonder how the rebound dial will hold up in the long run, since they tend to take a beating down at the bottom of the fork.
So It’s Heavier, Right?
Not as much as you might think. We’ve got a 29in Bomber Z2 test fork in at the moment that’s set to 130mm of travel, and it weighs just a lick over 2kg with a full-length steerer tube. That’s about 100g more than Fox’s Performance Series 34, and about 70g more than the Revelation.
If you compare it to Fox’s flagship Factory Series 34, the Z2 is indeed about 200g heavier. But we are talking about a fork that costs nearly twice the price of the Z2.
We’ll be riding the 2020 Marzocchi Bomber Z2 fork over the coming months to see how its performance compares to the Fox 34, and to find out just how the new RAIL damper will fare in the long run. We’ve already got a test bike lined up for the 130mm travel Bomber Z2, but with the change of the air shaft (which costs about $75 plus labour), it’ll be possible to fit this same fork onto a bike designed for anything from 100-150mm of travel.
Stay tuned for the longterm review!
2020 Marzocchi Bomber Z2 Fork Specs
- 34mm diameter butted & anodised 6000-series alloy stanchions
- 100, 120, 130, 140 & 150mm travel options
- FLOAT EVOL air spring
- RAIL Sweep-Adj damper system
- Adjustments: Air pressure, air volume, rebound, low-speed compression & lockout
- Available in 29in and 27.5in sizes
- Max tyre clearance: 27.5×2.8in, 29×2.6in
- Offset: 44mm (27.5in), 44 & 51mm (29in)
- 110x15mm QR thru-axle lowers
- Confirmed weight: 2020g
- Colours: Gloss Red, Matte Black
- From: Sola Sport
- RRP: $799