Performs decently but it’s overpriced
If you’re thinking the Marzocchi Bomber Z1 bears a resemblance to a Fox 36’s beefy, you’re right because it uses the same crown and steerer from the Rhythm.
I won’t bore you with Marzocchi’s history, you probably already know it and if you don’t you just need to understand that it’s a seminal brand in the MTB annals. This reincarnation of a famous fork only carries the old name though, because the company is now part of Fox Racing. In reality that’s good news because Fox is of course at the forefront of suspension design and the Z1 gets plenty of Fox’s technology, like the EVOL air spring and the Grip damper we’ve seen before in Fox’s OEM Rhythm forks, something I’ll get onto in a minute.
With uppers made from 6000 series alloy rather than the Fox’s 7000 series. This makes it slightly heavier but also gives the fork a really solid and stable feeling, perfect for its intended use as a do-it-all big hit fork. The lowers are of course a new design. The paint is just starting to chip off where the axle threads in.
The 15mm quick release Boost axle is adequate but it feels cheap and reminds me of the old RockShox axle of five years ago, where you tighten the bolt by turning the QR against a collar that’s too soft to take the force. I upgraded to a Fox Kabolt, but it’s an aftermarket upgrade you shouldn’t have to make.
The top of the left leg houses the air valve, with an oversized top cap that’s easier to use than Fox’s blue variety, and you can remove the valve and add or subtract volume reducer spacers as per normal. On the other side you’ll find a gold dial that adjusts both high and low speed damping, it’s not indexed but sweeps, and can almost lock the fork out on when fully engaged. Underneath the right leg is a familiar sight, a red cap hiding a rebound knob, which allows for 23 clicks of useable adjustment.
I rode the 29er model with 170mm travel and tested it first on a Specialized Stumpjumper and then a YT Capra, and settled on 65psi with 17 clicks of rebound for winter riding in Surrey. Just as Marzocchi said it would, the Z1 feels very supple and active over choppy ground, eating up the big hits on anything I threw the bike down. At BikePark Wales I dropped the rebound to 10 clicks to help it recover faster and it proved really capable at soak up those fast, chundery holes and rocks that some forks really struggle with.
What it doesn’t do so well though, is hold you up on smooth, fast trails where you need low speed support, or prop you up when pedalling. I tried dialling on more low speed compression using the gold dial, and it does work effectively, but it also adds more high-speed, blunting the Z1’s big hit performance and making it feel spiky on big square edge hits. It’s frustrating to get close to a good setup but never quite find it, and I settled on a quarter turn because it seemed to offer the best compromise of support and suppleness.
I then went one step further and slid the fork into the monstrous Specialized Turbo Kenevo e-bike, a machine that weights 50lb, replacing the stock RockShox Lyrik RCT3 and pumping the Z1 to allow for the extra weight of the bike and get my sag right. It pretty much confirmed the Z1’s faults, the extra weight the e-bike carries exaggerates the usual fore and aft weight shift any bike experiences as you ride, and it really put pressure on the fork, overwhelming it on steep trails.
SRAM says the latest Lyrik RC2 should retail at around £1,000 but it’s all over the internet at £700, as is the Z1 here. I know which I’d choose. The Z1 performs decently, it’s proved reliable and plush, but it’s overpriced for the performance it delivers, is overly heavy and less adjustable than the competition.