At a Glance
It's not every day we see a classic reborn. Having grown up riding bikes through the '90s there was nothing I wanted more than a DMR Trailstar with a set of Bomber Z1s. For me, at the time, there was nothing cooler and they represented something that was lacking at the time; a reliable and burly fork with a usable amount of travel.Buy Forks on
Bombers would allow for the hardest riding, minimal maintenance and maximum fun. Since then the Bomber family grew into various guises and the name continued to be well respected and a byword for reliable, hard-hitting forks. Marzocchi’s ride hasn't been easy in the highly competitive suspension market though. In 2008 it was bought up by Tenneco, which revived the brand slightly before various issues caused production problems. In 2015 'certain assets' of the brand were acquired by Fox and since then there are obviously been a lot of work behind the scenes.
Fast forward to 2018, or if you like, 2019 (these are a 2019 model) and we see the triumphant return of the Bomber Z1. Times may have changed, wheels are bigger, travel is greater and axles and standards have developed but the bomber is back.
Available in 130mm to 170mm in 29er (yes 170mm 29!) and 150mm to 180mm in 650b they've got the range covered. As Marzocchi say the Z1s 'brought oil, coils and massive stanchions—it unapologetically prioritized grip and ride quality over just about everything else'. This looks set to continue with 36mm stanchions and a not featherweight 2277g (uncut steerer), Fox 36 equivalent is about 2000g.
So with chunky lowers it's obviously a hard hitter, and in each leg, we see some familiar technology. The EVOL air spring is coupled with a GRIP damper so keep things bouncing and yes, these are classic Fox internals. The air volume is adjustable with the same spacers as standard Fox shocks and the GRIP damper offers rebound adjustment and a simple compression switch on the top of the leg.
The 15mm axle is different from a standard Fox fork, and the top caps look a little more basic, so coupled with the lowers they don't look 'Fox' at a glance. It's not until you get close that the labels suggest otherwise. They don't look quite as polished as there Factory stablemates, but the look ready for a fight, which is what a Bomber is all about.
On The Trail
I love a quick set up, and this is precisely what you get. Put some air in, dial in some sag, calm the rebound down and you're off. The testing process was essentially pretty simple, having been told nothing about pricing or anything other than the basics, I had to set my own criteria without preconceptions.
I wanted the Bombers to be stiff, hard-hitting and simple to set up, and this is pretty much what I got. Dropping into the steepest and rockiest trails I could find, I was instantly happy with the support and feel given. Stiffness was top of the list, and the steering and tracking available through the 160mm 29er was extremely satisfying.
Smashing through rock gardens, the Bombers did what was needed and took the major hits casually without ever feeling the need to use all their travel. They wanted more, more than I could give, more speed, more rocks. They certainly proved themselves in the strength and stiffness stakes, this being a result of the new lowers and therefore the extra weight.
The hooligan nature of the forks might suggest a complete lack of subtly, style or aplomb, but it's there when you need it. They feel like a very lively fork but will happily track the ground on tricky corners or during low friction conditions. They don't have the ground sucking ability of a Factory 36, but the then the internals are very different from top end fox and as such don't give the frictionless feel in early travel.
This is not really what they are about. Composure can be left behind, as can worry about weight because the Bombers instantly give the feeling that you can ride faster and harder than before. Now, this could well be a psychological trick from memories of my 16year old brain but these bombers give me confidence.
Adjustments are simple and basic in scope. The top caps feel a bit cheap but are solid in construction. Dialling in rebound is easy and air volume is simple to clip in and out. Compression is a continuous dial from locked to fully open and is easily done on the fly if any extra support is needed.
The final icing on the cake is a price tag of £749, which although is still a chunk of cash, firmly keep the Bombers at the more accessible end of the high performance spectrum.
Stiff and direct, there is nothing that cannot be charged into with these forks. Sure, they may lack the sensitivity of touch or perfectly controlled manners of a more advanced damper but they thrive on the roughest of terrain.
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This review was in Issue 53 of IMB.For more information visit Marzocchi
By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.