Weight: 2,722g (6lb) / 160mm travel / Single-sided coil spring / 35mm stanchions
Contact: Windwave at www.windwave.co.uk
Pitched at the all-mountain brigade, the 2008 Marzocchi 55 ETA attempts to achieve a tricky balance. On the one hand, portly 35mm stanchions, chunky lowers, a 20mm through-axle and big tyre clearance all point to potential downhill prowess, while the ETA and TST lockout are a nod toward the inevitable uphill struggle that follows.
Of the two acronyms, the former is fairly easy to explain — ETA, or Extension Travel Adjustment, is a simple travel lockdown that drops the fork down and steepens the head angle for climbing, while retaining 25mm of active travel.
On the other hand, TST is more complicated. It stands for Terrain Selection Technology, and comprises a five-position lever with a small gold dial in the centre. Turn it to DS and you’re in descend mode, which translates into lots of high-speed compression damping and less low-speed compression damping. Go to AM (All-Mountain) and there are equal measures of high and low-speed compression. All the way to CL (Climb) and, well you get the idea. However, the gold dial allows you to ‘Micro’-tune the amount of damping in each position, and creates a huge range of options. Marzocchi is hoping that TST will defog damping for the consumer, much like ‘sports’, ‘landscape’ and ‘portrait’ settings are designed to do on a camera. But while we understand its reasoning, we feel the system is not without its own complexities.
Marzocchi has introduced a new quick-release 20mm axle for 2008, intended to bring tool-less wheel removal to the range. Unlike previous bolt-up designs, the dropouts do not pinch the axle, instead the axle threads into the left lower leg and squeezes the lowers together to clamp the wheel. A ratchet built into the lever makes it impossible to overtighten, and a small sprung clip retains the axle in the dropouts should the assembly come loose.
Our fork was pre-production and we experienced two problems with it from the outset. Critically, we couldn’t get our front wheel tight in the dropouts, despite the axle being at the maximum torque permitted by the ratchet. The result was roughly 1mm of play in the front wheel at the hub, causing vague, unpredictable steering. Marzocchi has informed us that a new axle design is in production that solves these issues, but we’ve yet to try one.
In addition, the sprung clip got repeatedly stuck when we tried to withdraw the axle from a hub with a stepped internal sleeve. The only way to release it was to poke something thin into the hub and release the catch while pulling out the axle; a procedure we found extremely tedious.
We also experienced a problem with the TST adjuster. Turning it from CL to DS in an anti-clockwise direction would unscrew the entire top cap assembly. Marzocchi has now solved this with a dab of Loctite.
Plugged into the head tube of Danny’s Specialized Enduro SL (one of the few forks that matches the E150’s axle-to-crown height) the 55 ETA looked the part, but we immediately hit a problem with the spring rate. Even for a fairly light rider, the fork was far too soft. With no heavier springs available, we resorted to the air assist chamber (beneath the ETA cap) to help raise the spring rate. Adding around 15psi was enough to prop up the fork in its travel, but the side-effect was a huge reduction in initial sensitivity, then the fork would compress easily through the midstroke and ramp up towards the end. We don’t feel inflating the air assist is a long-term solution, and we’re waiting to try the fork with a firmer spring.
Marzocchi assures us that the issues we experienced have been solved, and the three-year warranty offers peace of mind should any other problems arise. Obviously, we’ll update you with the results once the new parts have been installed and ridden, until then, treat the score as a preliminary verdict.
MBR RATING: 6/10