Two years ago, Marzocchi set me up with a new Bomber Z1 to check out, the re-emerging brand’s renaissance fork after Fox gave the angry M a shot of adrenaline to wake it up. Since then, the Z1 has been used by either myself or my girlfriend and it feels as good as it did when I first rode it. There have been many, many friends and other mountain bikers who have asked about the fork out on rides out of curiosity, and many who laughed it off as a re-branded Fox 36.
The Bomber Z1 shares the chassis design and air spring with the Fox 36, but it’s a heavier aluminum than Fox uses in their forks, so it’s not as if Fox just put Marzocchi stickers on unbranded 36 forks right off the boat. The design for the Z1 as a whole though, was not completely original.
Marzocchi followed the Z1 fork with a Bomber CR coil rear shock, another affordable, bomb-proof suspension option, although this time, it was basically a re-branded Fox Van RC shock. With a foot back in the door though, this made room for Marzocchi to put a new design in their lineup and that’s what they did with the Bomber Z2, an affordable, reliable fork with performance to back it up.
The Marzocchi Bomber Z2 fits squarely in the trail bike category, whereas the Z1 takes on enduro and freeriders alike. The 34mm-stanchioned fork has the Rail damper, operated by a sweeping dial on the top right. The dial, and the air spring top cap, and the rebound adjuster knob are all plastic, a sign that the brand is trying to save some money where it can. However, Fox says that the construction of the Rail damper is actually pretty similar in construction to the Grip damper.
As a 27.5″ fork, it’s available in 100, 120, 140, and 150mm in a 44mm offset only. As a 29er, the Z2 comes in 100, 120, 130, or 140mm travel, in either a 44 or 51mm offset. Both are only available Boost-spaced with a tapered steerer tube. The Z2 retails for $500 (available from JensonUSA and other sellers).
Riding the Bomber Z2
Installation and setup on the Z2 was straightforward, as fork installation usually is. The only thing I couldn’t do straight out of the box was use my 180mm brake rotor, so I added a 20mm post adapter since the Z2 mounts are designed for 160mm rotors.
The tuning took a little while to dial in though. For reference, my riding weight is about 165lbs. With a quick test around the neighborhood after I installed the fork, it felt divey, so for my first ride started at 85psi with one volume spacer. The range for my riding weight recommends setting the Z2 up somewhere between 72 and 82psi.
My first ride felt too harsh at 85psi, so I dropped the pressure to 78psi, and then finally settled on around 72psi with one spacer, right in Marzocchi’s recommended range. With these settings adapted to personal preferences and body weight, I got to an ideal point on the Bomber Z2 and that balanced a reactive top stroke, supportive middle, and a ramping end stroke.
On the top end, the Z2 isn’t as supple as the Z1. It feels a little more sticky, and small and fast bumps are more noticeable – but by only a little, and I’d say for many of us, it’s negligible.
Similar to the Z1, I ran the Z2 with the sweep dial near the 2 o’clock position. There aren’t any indicators, so riders will have to remember where they like their settings, but it’s not hard. This gave me a more supportive mid-stroke, as the Z2 can still dive through corners. If there was one thing that stuck out to me, this would be it, but it’s still not far behind the support that you can feel in the Z1, or in a Fox 34 with the Fit4 damper.
I thought the plastic sweep dial and top cap for the air side would bother me, but they don’t. Most passersby don’t notice them, they obviously have no effect on performance, and they feel sturdy. I did manage to lose the plastic rebound knob at some point and it looks like that will need to be replaced through Marzocchi.
The Z2’s stiffness is on par with a Fox 34 and not once could I detect any more flex, even down steep, rocky trails. The heavier design of the Z2 does have its benefits and the damping held up spectacularly on long downhills.
Marzocchi ought to appeal to riders who are rough around the edges, who don’t need a lot of bells, and who don’t want to service often or fuss with complicated steps. A full service is recommended every 125 hours and can be done with a Fox 34 rebuild kit. Fox lists all of the technical specs here, including recommended parts, oil type, and everything else.
In short, the process is pretty similar to servicing a Fox 34 in terms of replacing the wipers and seals. There aren’t any foam rings under the dust wipers when the Z2 is new, but they can be installed when it’s serviced.
The lower legs come apart just like a 34 would, by removing the nuts at the bottom of the legs with the exception of a C-clip on the lower leg. Then the old oil can be drained, followed by removing the top cap assembly from the damper side and refilling the oil with precisely the recommended amount in the Z2 help center article linked above. Fox doesn’t have a finalized service process for the Z2 yet since it is still relatively new, but it shouldn’t be out of the realm for most home mechanics with the right tools and parts. Update: Here is the link for the full service procedure.
The Marzocchi Bomber Z2 exceeded my expectations for a $500 fork. Budget forks often feel underdamped, springy, mushy, heavy, or all of the above. The Z2 nearly matches the performance of forks that cost hundreds more by getting rid of aesthetic frills and making the fork simpler. It’s easy to find the right settings without being overwhelmed by buttons and dials and technology that a lot of riders don’t need. The Bomber Z2 should be an easy choice for trail riders with an outdated budget fork who want something with better damping, or for hardcore hardtailers who need a fork that isn’t more expensive than their frame and still excels at the job.
Thanks to Marzocchi for providing the Z2 for testing.