It's ok if you lusted over over the original Marzocchi Bombers in the mid-nineties, we did too. In an era of skinny-legged forks, blown cartridges and dry seals the classic Italian suspension brand changed everything with the Bomber Z1 and Z2. After a few shaky years and a merger with suspension giants, FOX, Marzocchi is back with a fresh overhaul and we've spent a few weeks riding the new Bomber Z1. Read on for how they performed.
The not-so-minor details
Marzocchi Bomber Z1
Only a little cheaper than a FOX fork.
Noisy damper in our test sample.
Marzocchi is announcing a return to the game with three products produced by parent company FOX; the Bomber Z1 all-mountain/enduro fork, Bomber 58 downhill fork and Transfer dropper post.
They will be sold and serviced via the current FOX Suspension people at SOLA Sport, based in Sydney. Marzocchi aims to provide hardy and uncomplicated suspension with the type of quality Fox is known for at a lower price point.
In a press release announcing Marzocchi’s merger with FOX; “FOX’s strategic plan is to further expand the penetration of bike suspension products across more price points.”
Taking a ride down memory lane, from the 90s to now.
Please excuse us for getting a little nostalgic here (maybe if you weren’t a mountain bike geek in the 90s, skip down a paragraph or two) as we recall the fantastic era of the nineties from the standpoint of mountain bike development, the Bomber was a legitimate icon. What was so special about the original Marzocchi Bomber? Borrowing cues from the motorcycle world the overbuild Bombers used an open oil bath system with oil sloshing around inside around all the moving parts, whereas brands that dominated the scene Manitou and RockShox used sealed cartridges that would overheat and blow, plus the legs needed constant greasing for a relatively ‘smooth’ action. With only 60-80mm of travel from the regular brands, the Bomber’s generous 100mm caused a real stir!
The 1997 model Bombers felt amazing on the first ride and seemed to require a lot less servicing to keep feeling ultra plush. They were the forks on the bikes of the ‘freeride’ era, long travel, single crown forks for doing nasty drops and getting away with reckless riding.
So, in a nutshell, that’s why we loved the original Bombers.
Get over it, nerd, how about 2019?
The new Bomber Z1 is aimed at the similar rider like in the 90s, someone seeking a durable, sturdy and uncomplicated fork. With only one compression and one rebound dial, it’s child’s play to understand and to use the adjustments.
- 36mm single crown chassis.
- 15QRx110mm Boost with the option of QR or tooled axle.
- 1.5-inch tapered steerer tube.
- FIT GRIP Sweep damper with adjustable compression and rebound damping.
- EVOL air spring with adjustable volume.
- Gloss Red or Matte Black
- Travel options: 29/27.5+” – 130-170mm. 27.5” – 150-180mm.
How similar to a FOX fork is the Bomber?
They feel very similar to a FOX Float fork, though there are many differences internally and externally. While is uses 36mm legs like a FOX 36, the thicker inner walls will mean it will require its own specific air volume spacers, and because the negative transfer port is on the upper tube, it does require a change in air assembly to change travel.
The latest Grip Sweep damper is a new generation unit for 2019, which in comparison to the Float 34 Performance fork we reviewed on the Rocky Mountain Instinct this year offers more support and we found it harder to reach the latter portion of travel when encountering large impacts.
The lowers are constructed from 6000 series aluminium, while the FOX Factory and Performance Elite forks are from higher grade 7000 series aluminium for a lighter body.
Swapping out the FOX Factory 34 Float 29 with the bright red Bomber Z1, our Norco Sight gained 55g but remained the exact same height from axle to crown. We inflated the air spring to the recommended pressure, double checked the sag and off we went.
Like a brand new fork should, the action felt very supple and sensitive, and we were able to feel the difference in the wide range of compression adjustment with a little flick of the large gold coloured Grip Sweep dial.
Ploughing through rocky trails we were reminded that we had a big fork on the front of our bike, the legs feel very stiff, much more than the 34 it replaced. Dropping a few PSI to help us reach further into the travel was a good move, and counteracting that with a touch more compression had us using more of the travel more regularly, but with no extra dive or wallowing.
On our fourth ride, we began to hear a slight noise from the damper over fast and rough terrain, we contacted Marzocchi and we’ll send it to SOLA for an examination, stay tuned for an update.
Cheaper than FOX, though just as good?
After a few weeks on the Z1, we almost forget it was there, it is a great fork with a familiar feeling, a smooth action, very progressive and supportive that allows you to ride the front end of the bike very hard with confidence.
What makes it stand out from the rest then? Let’s look at what makes the Bomber Z1 appealing over a FOX fork, aside from just nostalgic value, of course.
The Bomber Z1 – $1149.
2018 FOX Performance 34 (also Grip Damper) – $1169.
2018 FOX Factory 34 – $1379.
2018 FOX Factory 36 HSC LSC FIT – $1649.
When you look at it, the Bomber is only a slightly less than the 2018 model Performance 34 built around similar internals.
The Bomber is a great fork, hands down. While it might lack the fine tuning abilities of a more expensive Lyrik or FOX 36, the simplicity, price and robust chassis will no doubt see it specced on many bikes next season, and is a very worth update or upgrade from a flogged out fork that’s done its time.
Welcome back, Bomber!