Marzocchi Bomber Z1
- 27.5”: 150 – 180 mm (10 mm increments)
- 29” / 27.5+: 130 – 170 mm (10 mm increments)
Version Tested: 27.5”, 170 mm travel, 44 mm offset
Stanchions: 36 mm
Mounted To: Zerode Taniwha
Blister’s Measured Weight: 2246 g (4.97 lbs)
Reviewer: 5’10”, 145 lbs
Test Locations: Downieville, Graeagle, South Lake Tahoe, & Pacifica, CA
Duration of Test: ~3 months
The Marzocchi Bomber might just be one of the more iconic forks out there. When it came out in the 90s, it blew lighter, shorter-travel, elastomer forks out of the water and began fanning the flames of the freeride movement. But despite its iconic beginnings in the MTB scene, Marzocchi had plenty of ups and downs over the last decade. Bankruptcy eventually led to the brand closing its doors in 2015.
Fox Racing Shox has since acquired and resurrected the brand, releasing two forks and a Marzocchi-branded version of their Transfer dropper post (which we’ll be reviewing soon).
I’ve been testing the Bomber Z1, a long-travel, single-crown fork that aims to offer much of Fox’s performance in a no-frills package and at a budget-oriented price point.
Is it a Fox 36?
Let’s get this out of the way before going any further: since Fox now runs the Marzocchi brand, it should be expected that the two brands’ products are going to share a lot in terms of design elements and internals.
For the most part, they do — the Bomber Z1 uses Fox’s FIT GRIP damper, FLOAT EVOL airspring, 36 mm stanchions, and a very similar-looking crown. These elements all make it nearly identical to the OEM-only 36 Performance, which slots into Fox’s lineup below the 36 Performance Elite. But since the 36 Performance is only available on pre-built bikes, the Z1 is effectively the cheapest “Fox” fork you can buy aftermarket.
So what’s actually different between the Z1 and the Fox-branded forks? First off, the stanchions are slightly thicker and made of 6000 series aluminum instead of 7000 series, which adds a little bit of weight. There’s also a slightly more basic (and unfortunately flimsier) thru axle, the damper comes with fewer adjustments, and the fork arch has Marzocchi’s classic “M” shape.
And unlike its Fox-branded cousins, the Marzocchi is red, which meant that I got a lot of people coming up to me, asking if I was sponsored, asking how I liked the new Lyrik, and then getting disappointed upon closer inspection when they realized it was a completely different fork. SRAM, if you’re listening, your marketing worked.
As a budget-oriented unit that intends to squeeze out as much performance as possible per dollar, the Bomber Z1 is pretty devoid of bells and whistles. Instead, it features a fairly bare-bones set of adjustments that cover the basics reasonably well.
There’s one, non-indexed compression damping knob on top of the damper side of the fork, which rotates about 200 degrees from fully open to completely locked out. The knob’s action is super smooth and it’s easy to set it somewhere between open and closed, which is useful for giving the fork a little more support.
Since you don’t have any clicks to go by, you have to eyeball how much damping you’re adding, which is never going to be ideal for those that want to be extremely precise about their suspension settings. Nonetheless, the damping range the knob offers is both gradual and usable, so it’s a totally functional, if not precise feature.
My biggest complaint about the compression damping knob is simply that it’s fairly easy to move if you bump the fork on something. This wasn’t ever an issue for me out on the trail, but I could still envision a scenario in which tossing your bike into a bush or loading it into a car accidentally changes your settings. Not exactly ideal.
On the bottom of the damper-side leg, there’s a more traditional rebound damping knob, which thankfully has 23 discernable clicks of adjustment. It’s also protected by a threaded cover, which is a nice touch.
Like any other Fox unit, air pressure on the Bomber Z1 can be adjusted via a valve on top of the airspring, and those who want to add some progressivity to the airspring’s stroke can use Fox 36 volume reducers.
The rest of the fork continues in this no-frills approach, with a simple plastic brake-hose guide and a 15 mm thru axle that resembles the previous iteration of the Rockshox Maxle. The Bomber Z1’s fork arch is rated for a 2.8” tire and looks like it. Clearance for muddy tires looks like it would be a non-issue in just about any conditions.
On the Trail
I started this test with the Bomber Z1 at 60 psi, one volume reducer, and 11 clicks from closed on rebound, which is pretty close to what Marzocchi recommends. Without clicks, it’s tricky to say exactly how much compression damping I used, but in general, it tended to hover in between 30° and 45° from fully open.
Getting on this fork for the first time, the first thing I noticed is that this fork is surprisingly loud. Especially on bigger or faster hits, the damper produces an audible clicking noise as oil is forced through it. This noise increases relative to how far you have the compression damping knob turned. Initially, this noise fell somewhere between “non-issue” and “slightly annoying.” But either the noise decreased as the fork broke in or I got used to it, as I more or less stopped thinking about it within a few rides.
As for the actual feel of the fork, I came away quite impressed. It’s super supple and buttery off the top, which I really hadn’t expected. In fact, I think it felt about as good as forks that cost $300 more. And much like its Fox 36 cousins, the chassis stiffness of the Z1 is fantastic. This, in combination with the fork’s excellent small-bump compliance, made it easy to muscle the bike and hold lines through awkward, off-camber sections of trail. In the majority of aggressive trail riding situations I put the fork through, it was easy to forget that I was on a fork sold at a “budget” price point.
There were still a few times where I missed the features you get out of higher-end forks, particularly access to independently adjustable high- and low-speed compression damping. Particularly with rapid, big hits or steep terrain, the fork felt divey and less controlled through its travel than I wanted. With a more adjustable fork, I’d usually start fiddling with compression damping settings at this point, but with the single damping adjustment on the Z1, my options were a little more limited.
I ended up adding a volume reducer and dropping about 5 psi, which was a decent, but not perfect workaround. It certainly helped slow the fork down more at the end of its travel while retaining some small-bump sensitivity, but it didn’t do much for the divey feeling.
Despite my nitpicking, I was extremely excited about just how well this thing performed right out of the box.
For the most part, I have no issues to report regarding the fork’s functional durability. It’s been a few months of aggressive riding, I haven’t dropped the lowers yet, and the fork still feels super buttery.
And for what it’s worth, the signature red paint on the lowers seems pretty solid. I slid the lowers on some gravel during this test, and was pleased see way less scratching than I anticipated.
My biggest gripe is with the thru axle, which after a handful of times removing the front wheel, is getting sticky and having issues closing with enough torque to fully secure the wheel. I’m considering switching to a Fox Kabolt axle or any one of the compatible aftermarket axles available to remedy this.
Marzocchi Bomber Z1 vs. Rockshox Yari RC
The Yari RC is the Z1’s most obvious competitor — it also comes with minimal features, is aimed at the Trail / Enduro / Park crowd, and has an identical price tag.
But after time on both forks, I can comfortably say that the Z1 takes the lead in performance, especially when it comes to traction and sensitivity. In general, the Yari feels a little more like a budget fork, whereas, at least in the majority of riding situations, the Z1 doesn’t.
The only reason I’d steer a rider toward the Yari RC over the Z1 is if he or she is overly concerned with weight, as the Z1 is about a half-pound heavier. But even then, I’d argue that the Z1’s performance gains are worth the weight penalty.
Marzocchi Bomber Z1 vs. 2017 Rockshox Lyrik RCT3
The Rockshox Lyrik comes in at an entirely different price point than the Z1, so this comparison is probably a little unfair. That said, the fact that it’s even worth comparing the two forks is a testament to just how well the Z1 performs.
Both forks feature a super stiff chassis, and although the heavier and thicker Z1 may theoretically be a hair stiffer, I highly doubt most riders would really be able to spot a discernible difference. Small-bump sensitivity is similarly impressive on both forks, but the buttery smooth Lyrik gets the nod here. Both forks seem to ride similarly high in their travel, but the Lyrik feels less prone to diving under braking and seems to manage its travel better when subjected to harsh impacts at high speeds.
Marzocchi Bomber Z1 vs. Cane Creek Helm Air
Again, the Helm comes in at a very different price point as the Z1, so take this with a grain of salt.
The Helm is one of the most adjustable forks on the market, and more so than any fork that I’ve ridden, it’s positioned to satisfy super aggressive riders first and foremost. This is due to its tune — even with the fork’s high- and low-speed compression knobs backed completely off, it feels more heavily damped than any other fork I’ve ridden. This makes it ride high in its travel and seems to get the most praise from heavier and / or aggressive riders. As an aggressive, but light-ish rider, I appreciate the Helm’s damping the most when I’m riding at my limit on very technical terrain.
When A/B-ing the Z1 against the Helm, the Z1 felt more sensitive and compliant at mellower speeds, but when things truly got fast, steep, and rowdy, the Z1 was more easily overwhelmed, blowing through its travel under braking or on repeated fast hits. The Helm, on the other hand, felt more composed and competent the harder I hammered on it.
Price point aside, the biggest takeaway here is that the Helm is best suited to skilled riders that ride stupid fast and tinkerers who want to optimize every aspect of their suspension’s behavior. The Z1, on the other hand, aims much closer to the center of the bell curve, offering a base tune that may feel more comfortable at “normal” trail speeds and a set-it-and-forget-it approach to adjustment and setup.
The Bomber Z1 is a minimally adjustable fork that is easy to set up and easy to get along with.
Nitpicky tinkerers and super aggressive riders may find the fork’s feature set lacking, but this is still a fork that a wide variety of riders should be able to ride fast on right out of the box. Those who are specifically seeking out a fork without a ton of bells and whistles should be particularly excited, as setting up the Z1 takes almost no guesswork or experimentation to get right.
But most importantly, the performance the Z1 offers is super impressive for a fork of its price point. There really isn’t any other fork out there that hits this level of performance for the money, and that alone earns it extremely high marks in my book.