Posted on November 13 2023
Words and Pics - Scott T.
The first fork I rode in approximately 2006 was a Marzocchi Z1 coil fork. It got zero maintenance, it never failed and after several years of total abuse I ended up handing it to another new rider who went on to ride it some more. So when I got the chance to try out the latest version of the Z1 Coil fork from Marzocchi, a suspension company that in my mind has always been more about smiles than dials, I jumped at it.
For the past couple of years I’ve been riding a Fox 36 Rhythm, with the damper upgraded to the GRIP 2. It has been a solid fork. Fitted to my Norco Sight paired with a Fox X2 rear shock, the 36 Rhythm has done the job, on flowy trails and rocky tech alike. The Rhythm is low in the food chain, no doubt, but it has done long casual days and it's done multiple enduro events and performed well, tweaking pressures and volume spacers to get it just right. But my biggest gripe with the Rhythm is the lack of suppleness at the top of the stroke. A lot of feedback from roots and rocks and general chatter, which is just not comfortable and leads to fatigue and mistakes, and that’s not good.
The new Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Coil (Z1C) on the other hand... Within 5 minutes of riding my regular mixed terrain trails I could feel that supple ‘coil’ feel I’d heard of. I know most of the roots and rocks and ruts and square edges on my trails and I was trying not to make a thing of it but I was also ensuring I took my usual lines, and it was obvious the Z1C was ironing out the wrinkles. It just felt nice. Real nice. The Rhythm has a nice supportive feel and solid progression that once tuned using pressures and volume spacers gives a reliable ramp up to avoid almost any bottoming out, within reason. I was concerned that the Z1 might deliver some bottoming out, with its linear tech and unable to add volume spacers to increase progression, but with all the riding I’ve done on the Z1C I have not yet had it bottom out. And I’ve kind of leant on the front a little bit too, just to try and push the point. I’ve definitely used a lot of travel, but never felt it actually bottom out. I am on the heavier side (97kg) and am running the extra firm spring. I am a somewhat aggressive rider always looking for things to pop off and a bit of rock tech to bomb down, and I have been known to clear a few decent doubles of late. I did all of that on the Z1C and not once felt it to be bucky or jarring or unpredictable. In Fact quite the opposite and actually felt quite comfortable. I have the Z1C setup for 160mm travel, just like my Rhythm, although I could be tempted to try it in a 170mm travel configuration, done relatively easily, by reconfiguring the spacer positioning within the coil spring unit.
From a service point of view, you can say goodbye to having to service the air spring every 125 hours (or as recommended by the fork manufacturer). There is still a damper service suggested, as is the normal lower leg seal replacement every 125 hrs or annually. It’s super simple too, with the coil just needing a bit of fresh grease to quieten it down, and regular Fox36 dust seals and fluids doing the sealing and bath lubrication duties for the lowers. A service many diy bike mechs can do.
It has been a while since I have ridden anything with a coil spring, and I probably wasn’t really interested in how it felt, I was just riding. But this time round I was very curious about the linear feel of a coil fork, and to my surprise I actually really like it. I like the consistency, from top to bottom (which I have yet to experience). The fact that no matter what I hit whether it be rollers or rock gardens or a steep jump lip, I am getting the same feeling, always knowing what is next and how it's going to react if I make it go somewhere I maybe should not. As opposed to the air sprung Rhythm which yes almost never bottoms out and feels very supportive and active once it gets to the mid stroke action, but at times can be very harsh as it all of a sudden ramps up because I have put it somewhere I should not have.
My only gripe, if I can call it that, is that I do find the Z1C to feel a little less reactive as I’m trying to push through turns. I’m far from a berm shralper but I am able to pump through a nicely shaped berm and keep the bike composed and speedy on the exit. The Z1C due it being so supple tends to sort of soak down into the turn a bit. It still feels nice and smooth and any braking bumps or deviation in terrain are made significantly more comfortable with the Z1C tracking out front. The Z1C does have the sweep compression adjuster which does exactly as it is designed. Any adjustment, all the way to fully locked out for those long arduous climbs, are noticeable in all situations, but the obvious solution is to slap a GRIP 2 damper in the Z1C and have the supple off the top and all the way through coil predictable coil feel, with ability to tune High/Low Speed Compression and Rebound via the GRIP2 allowing you to tune in that Low Speed Compression keeping the fork sitting high in its travel and providing that extra support to push through the turns, whilst not compromising the ability to tune the High Speed to soak up those bigger hits.
As far as the old coil vs air debate, I’m very sold on the Z1C. I’ve been whining about the harshness of my Rhythm for sometime and the only solution is a much higher spec’d fork, and thus a much higher cost. The Z1C is a great fork for the price. In many ways it feels like my Rhythm, but much more comfortable and supple, without feeling like its moving through all its travel every time it finds a hole in the ground. That is due to selecting the correct spring for the rider weight and setting the rebound to suit. The Z1C is a little bit of a beefy boy (approx 2200 grams) against my Rhythm (approx 2000 grams) but its not something I notice and if anything its only going to add to the planted feel that the Z1C already provides.
Would I like a shiny a big factory chocked with bells and whistles fork? Yeah. Wouldn’t we all. But I have a budget and I maybe don’t necessarily need that shiny fork, and in my mind the Z1C is very much an excellent performing confidence inspiring fork for those that want more for less.