The Marzocchi Bomber Z1 uses technology from parent company Fox to offer quality damping and construction with less adjustability for a lower price.
The distinctive ‘M’ in the chassis brace of the Marzocchi Bomber Z1 and oversized dials here are unique to the former Italian brand, but inside there’s the exact same GRIP damper as Fox’s cheapest 38 fork; itself a stripped-back version of the fully-sealed, top-tier, GRIP2 design in the pricier Performance Elite tested recently.
The Z1 comes in either air or coil versions, with the air fork offering the option to add clip-on volume reducer tokens to tune/increase ramp-up if needed. Rated up to 180mm travel, the 36mm stanchions use a heavier-grade alloy than the Fox equivalent, which explains some of the cost savings, and also the weight increase over a Float 36 fork.
Damping control adjustability is slightly decreased over others here, with fairly simple compression and rebound knobs. The former is a big sweeping gold dial that affects both high and low-speed compression damping simultaneously, and isn’t indexed, so you can’t count the clicks for a precise set-up. It stays where it is set though, and there’s a nice wide damping range extending from very fluid and open, to almost locked-out when turned fully clockwise.
Much like classic Marzcocchi forks of old – which had the reputation of being by far the best mountain bike forks of the era – the GRIP damper itself recirculates oil in the entire lowers, so the fluid is used for both damping and lubrication. This means a larger volume overall to add credibility to the claims of extended durability and longer service intervals.
The Z1 air spring runs at slightly lower pressures than some on test – we settled on roughly the same psi as the rider weight in kg, and although the negative chamber (that helps push any fork into its usable travel) is proportionally smaller than Fox’s 38, we had no complaints with the off-the-top sensitivity
when the gold damping dial is run open.
That’s because a key Bomber trait is smoothness and squidge. It does a great job of isolating hands from terrain and absorbing bumps, right up to massive square edges, with a really rounded, dull touch, so there’s never any jarring or damping spikes, even steaming into horrendous rock gardens or massive root webs. Landing big jumps, the damping smoothes harsh impacts on the high-speed compression side really well, even if you have the compression dial further wound in.
Excellent grip in the wet and traction off-the-top to find control and tracking leant over helps control the bike down spidery steep descents, so long as the damping dial is pretty open. The Z1 can feel slightly compromised, though, when you need lots of mid-stroke support to push against to pump and flow along mellower trails without impacting the sensitivity. This means it’s harder to find stability and balance to really charge along flatter trails, and the Z1 is also lacking support compared to some in the mid- stroke, before darting through useable travel to ramp up on really steep slower tracks, which decreases control where the front brake is used heavily or wheels drop off repeated steps or ledges.
Almost as sensitive as the best here in terms of comfort and super-smooth tracking, the Marzocchi Bomber Z1 punches above its pay grade and delivers a rounded feel that’s never too staccato or sharp. Despite our comments about mid-stroke support, this very fluid and supple fork has a stiff and solid chassis, performs well for the cash and will suit a lot of riders that aren’t trying to win any races and want a grippy and cushy-feeling fork.