Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Coil and Bomber CR Coil Shock Review

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Intro

When it was originally launched way back in 1997, the Marzocchi Bomber caused something of a stir. I don’t think there would be many riders to argue against it being the first really good suspension fork on the market. In a world of flexy designs and temperamental elastomers, the buttery smooth, coil sprung Bomber with its stiff chassis was nothing short of a revelation. The world has changed quite significantly in the interim, but with help from new owners Fox, Marzocchi are back and with them they’ve brought a new Bomber Z1 coil fork and matching rear shock, the aptly named Bomber CR.

Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Coil

Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Coil. 160mm travel, 42mm offset.

The fork is available in both 27.5” and 29/27.5+ versions, with travel options from 150mm (29 only), 160mm, 170mm, and 180mm (27.5 only). Travel is easily changed at home in 10mm increments with a couple of moveable spacers – it should only take you about 15 minutes to drop the lowers and rearrange the spacers to suit. The Bomber comes with the medium (blue) spring installed for riders weighing 68 – 82kg, and additional springs are available to suit rider weights from 54 to 113kg. There are a range of offsets available too – 37mm (27.5 only), 44mm, and 51mm (29 only), and there’s plenty of clearance for 2.6” tyres.

Signature M shaped brace

The fork chassis is made out of 6000 series aluminium, and with its 36mm stanchions, leans towards the sturdier side of things, tipping the scales at 2,550g. Even the Bomber Z1 air that uses the same chassis weighs in at a chunky 2,249g. For comparison, a Fox 36 (29, 160mm) weighs just under 2000g. That extra weight isn’t wasted though, and means the fork is plenty stiff with minimal flex in any direction – at no point in the last four months have I noticed any undue flex or felt I needed the fork to be stiffer. It’s therefore no surprise that even though this is a ‘budget’ fork, Fox have moved all their freeride athletes with their hard hitting needs over to Marzocchi products. 

low friction seals

Controls and adjustment

Spring preload on the left, compression damping on the right.

Damping is provided by Fox’s entry level GRIP damper. This might have been superseded in recent years by the GRIP 2 and FIT 4 dampers, but in reality the sealed cartridge GRIP damper is still an excellent performer that’s well suited to the Bomber Z1 coil. 

There’s no getting away from the fact that it’s a simple beast, but to be honest that’s all part of the appeal. A single dial for compression on the top right of the fork winds the damping from wide open to fully locked out, and at the bottom of the leg is a single rebound knob. 

Handy reference sticker for matching spring rates to rebound clicks

The tweakers among you will be pleased to know that you can retrofit a Grip 2 damper to the fork and gain independent control of the high and low speed compression and high and low speed rebound. This isn’t a cheap upgrade mind you, and takes the total cost of the fork out of the budget price bracket to over £1,000.

Other than this, you’ve got a dial for preload on the left of the fork and that’s it. There is some additional bottom out resistance and progression provided by the trapped air and oil in the lower leg, but this bottom out resistance is fixed. As a result the set up is mind blowingly straight forward. Just install the correct spring for your weight, dial in a little preload to set sag, add a little rebound using the handy sticker on the left hand leg as a guide and away you go.

The Ride

On fast and rough terrain, the Bomber is bomber

I’m almost ashamed to admit it, especially for someone who’s been riding mountain bikes long enough to remember the first incarnation of the Marzocchi Bomber, but this is the first time I’ve properly ridden a coil fork (we’ll gloss over the AMP F3 I ran back in the late 90’s). And I’ve got one thing to say. 

The coil hype is real. 

In the past couple of months I’ve tested a Pike Ultimate, a Fox Factory 36 and a Fox Factory 38. The Fox 38 is an incredible fork with potentially overwhelming levels of adjustment, but for outright traction and big hit control, the simple Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Coil easily goes toe to toe with the top of the range Fox fork.

Big, chundery rock sections are what the Bomber Z1 Coil and Bomber CR excel on

At 87kg, the supplied blue (medium) spring was way too soft for me, so I installed the firm (green) spring before riding. As there are only four springs to cover rider weights from 54kg to 113kg, if you’re on the cusp of two different spring rates you may have to compromise. Personally, I did find the fork a little hard to bottom out, only rarely using full travel. The ability to dial out some of the progression would be nice, as would the ability to run a slightly softer spring. 

On the flip side, if you get the spring rate right, then you’ll be rewarded with the most incredibly supple and stiction free performance on the market. Compared to all the top of the range air forks I’ve ridden recently, there was minimal breakaway force required, which meant front end traction was just unreal. Repeated hits were dealt with equally well, and I’ve hardly suffered arm pump when tackling even the steepest and roughest Lake District trails.

Marzocchi Bomber CR Shock

Marzocchi Bomber CR Coil shock with 500 x 2.35 spring

Launched to work alongside the Bomber Z1 coil, the Bomber CR is a pleasingly simple coil shock. Fox are essentially using Marzocchi for their lower tier and entry level aftermarket shocks, and as such the Bomber CR is ultimately an updated Fox Vanilla RC. This is no bad thing however, as the Vanilla RC was a great shock, found on all manner of long travel bikes ridden by weekend warriors and world class racers alike.

The design is simple, but effective. There’s a piggyback oil reservoir for more consistent damping over longer runs, a single dial offering 16 clicks of compression damping, a small dial with 15 clicks of rebound damping, and a rubber bumper to prevent harsh bottom outs. 

Oil filled reservoir can make clearance an issue in some frames

Sizing is incredibly comprehensive, with all major shock sizes catered for, in both Trunnion and Metric mounts – ideal if you’ve got an older bike in need of an upgrade. Springs are Fox branded and sold separately, again in a huge range of sizes and come in 50lb increments for £44.95. The large gaps between spring weights can be an issue if you’re on the cusp of two weights, but there’s nothing stopping you from buying and fitting a Fox SLS spring (£159.95). These come in 25lb increments, and will likely save a couple of hundred grams – a not insignificant amount as the standard 500lb Fox spring I’ve got on test weighs in at 399g.

The shock is designed for bikes with 130-200mm travel, so if you’ve got a short travel XC bike, it’s probably best if you keep move swiftly on. Having said that, the actual shock itself is relatively light – depending on the size, you’re looking at roughly 350g, which is lighter than most equivalent air shocks. Sadly, this is where the comparison ends, as you still need to factor a spring into the equation.

Set up

Before setting off, I tried to measure the sag to confirm I had the right spring installed. I had already checked with Deviate and they advised a 500lb spring for my 87kg so I knew I was in the right ballpark but I still wanted to know for sure. Now, I’m much more used to riding air shocks, which are a lot easier to measure as they have a handy o-ring around the shaft. On this shock however, there’s nowhere to put an o-ring. Ah.

This issue isn’t unique to Marzocchi though, in fact it plagues all coil shocks except Rockshox. You see, Rockshox have got a patent for printing sag markers on the shaft, and unlike some frames, the Deviate Highlander doesn’t have a built in sag-o-meter. All of which meant I had to get a friend involved – while I sat on the bike, I got them to measure the eye to eye distance. Absolutely not a deal breaker, but fiddly, potentially less accurate and more time consuming.

The Ride

The shock working hard when pedalling

Once on the trail, put bluntly, I was blown away by the performance. On all manner of rough, chunky and downright choppy Lake District descents, the Bomber CR soaked up everything I rode down. In true coil shock fashion, the rear wheel stays glued to the ground more than with an equivalent air shock, and while it might feel less playful, your reward is almost limitless traction.

As per the Bomber Z1 Coil up front, this is definitely not a shock for the tweakers amongst you. It’s a shock to fit, forget, and then get on with riding your bike. Small bump sensitivity is outstanding, with the rear wheel really hugging the ground. As a result, climbing traction is frankly ridiculous and though I spent most of the time with the compression damping fully open, pedal bob was minimal. Matched with a grippy enough rear tyre, as long as you can keep the pedals spinning you’ll get up anything. Even on long, draggy fireroad climbs, the bike felt well supported and not especially wallowy.

Piggyback oil reservoir helps damping remain consistent

Thanks to the large oil volume, the shock remained composed on even the lengthiest descents, with a really consistent feel from start to finish. One off big hits were also handled with aplomb – although I’m not a great jumper, when things got out of control and I came into a section too fast, I was able to trust that the back end wasn’t going to buck me around and throw me off line.

There are very few drawbacks to this shock. Other than the weight, my main niggle is that it’s hard to tell if you’ve bottomed out on a ride and thus that it’s working optimally. Again, this isn’t unique to Marzocchi, rather it’s a general issue with coil shocks. However, looking at various video clips of me riding (as well as the old fashioned technique of glancing down while pedalling), I can see the shock working away. Maybe I just need to stop worrying and focus on riding my bike? 

Things I loved

  • True fit and forget performance from both fork and shock
  • Easy to understand adjustments
  • Amazing feel and traction. Coil is real

Things that could be improved

  • There’s no getting away from it – the fork is heavy
  • Large jumps between spring rates
  • Setting sag on the shock is fiddly

Overall

It seems crazy to think that products priced at £849 and £349 are budget or mid range options, but that’s where we are. As it is, there is simply nothing budget or mid range about the performance of either the Bomber Z1 Coil fork or Bomber CR shock. Sure, they might be less adjustable than some top end suspension, but I would argue that this simplicity means you can just focus on riding your bike and having fun.

Review Info

Brand: Marzocchi
Product: Bomber Z1 Coil fork & Bomber CR Coil shock
From: silverfish-uk.com
Price: £849 (fork), £349 (shock only), £44.95 (springs)
Tested: by James Vincent for 4 months

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Having ridden bikes for as long as he can remember, James takes a certain twisted pleasure in carrying his bike to the most inaccessible locations he can find, before attempting to ride back down again, preferably with both feet on the pedals. After seeing the light on a recent road trip to Austria, James walked away from the stresses of running a design agency, picked up a camera and is several years deep into a mid life crisis that shows no sign of abating. As a photographer, he enjoys nothing more than climbing trees and asking others to follow his sketchy lines while expecting them to make it look as natural and stylish as possible. He has come to realise this is infinitely more fun than being tied to a desk, and is in no hurry to go back.

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Comments (13)

    My old RC3 Ti’s, managed to get that amazing coil performance with reasonable weight.

    I appreciate this is their ‘budget’ line, but I’d hate to think Fox wouldny want them too lightweight as they’d outperform the 36s or even 38s

    Not sure why Fox don’t offer a coil option for the 36 and 38 tbh, with these big burly forks it makes tons of sense, and if you’re riding hard enough for a coil to be the best option you’re also going to want good damping (I have a smashpot in a 36 and it is superb). I guess it’ll be pretty easy to retrofit the Bomber parts into a 36 though.

    The Grip damper’s a weird thing… It performs really well, but the adjustability is very weak. So, if it works for you then it’s great, but you’ve really got to be lucky and be in its narrow range of adjustability. I wasn’t, and I reckon a lot of other people would be in the same boat and will never get good performance out of it without a rebuild/retune. That’s not good…

    Honestly an £850 big hitting fork has to be able to deal with a wide range of riders, and the Grip can’t, it doesn’t even try. For me that’s a basic failure and they need to go back to the drawing board. If they could retain the sensitivity of it but give more appropriate adjustability, even if just basic single dial compression adjustment, it’d be a brilliant thing.

    Someone discovered coils! The Z1 coil is the second best coil fork to date, out performed by only the legendary 2012 Fox 36 Van (Kashima upgrade please!). Now we need a coil conversion for Fox 49s. Like ASAP. The Grip damper on the Z1 has a big gold cap and lever for compression, which I have found works well with a wide range of adjustment and easy access to firm up for climbs all the way to full lockout. At over 14 stone, I only run the rebound 5-7 clicks in. So far, everything has been simple and reliable.

    @fahzure, I have indeed. As Elwood once said, “yes, yes. Jesus h goddamn christ I have seen the light!” Or not, as they weigh a freaking ton. Can’t have your cake and eat it I guess.

    As for the damper, I left the compression wide open on both the fork and shock for most of the time so I must be one of the lucky ones.

    And @northwind – I reckon you could be onto something there. I wonder if the Z1 coil conversion kit is retrofitable to a Fox 36. The only drawback is that you can’t go back to air once you’ve installed the coil so it’ll be a pretty expensive experiment to try out

    What would be useful to know is how does the shock and fork compare to the other coil suspension setups on the market? Ohlins, Cane Creek, Rockshox’s SD coil, and the venerable Vorsprung and Push coil kits.

    @Rickon- that’d be a great grouptest, return of the coil. Throw in an ancient Lyrik with mission control for lolz, since it’d beat the Ohlins and probably this Bomber ;)

    You might be able to get the coil kit into a Fox 36 Rhythm, but then you wouldn’t get the weight saving over the Z1.

    The coil conversion will only fit the 36 Rhythm due to the extra wall thickness of the stantions.
    I’ve been more than happy with the Z1 coil & CR on my V3 Banshee Rune. It would be nice if there were some more spring options for the fork though.

    Is the rubber bump stop fixed in place on the shock? On the Ohlins TTX you use the bump stop like an o-ring for setting sag.

    I have a set of air Z1s on my Banshee Prime and they are great. I run the compression wide open downhill and move it to 12 o clock for climbing. If there is a slight niggle with the fork it’s the lack of “clicks” on the compression adjuster.

    If you find the “wide open” compression setting still too slow, then apparently you can take the adjuster off and move it clockwise a bit and get the wide open even more open, if that makes sense?

    I actually have a Fox DPX2 Performance Elite out back and I’m considering the Bomber CR for trips to the alps/BPW etc.

    Going coil on the front is a more complicated conundrum as once you convert the fork to coil you can’t convert back to air apparently.

    @jordan – you’re right, the rubber bump stop is moveable so it can be used as an o-ring for sag. It’s tricky to move it though as the gaps between the springs are pretty small.

    @billoddie, tbh I don’t think anyone would ever go back to air from coil. Mostly because it’s so damn good and you can see all the drawbacks (ie weight) in advance clearly, but also because who actually spends hundreds of quid on an upgrade then admits they were wrong? That’s crazy talk!

    I do wonder why Fox never adopted the RC3 (particularly v2) damping when they bought Marzocchi. As mentioned in numerous threads and above, it’s superb.

    Whether it was in a 44, 55, or 66 it worked brilliantly.

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