Friday, March 10, 2006

2006 Marzocchi Z.1 Freeride SL RC2

After having more problems than I could shake a stick at with my Manitou Shermans, I decided it was time to ditch the crappy things and get a fork I can depend on and not have to service after every ride to keep them from seizing up. Having thoroughly lost confidence in Manitou since I’ve managed to blow the Swinger 6way on my Gemini as well, I felt it was time for a visit back to the good old big “M” that have served me so well in the past.

The 2006 Z.1 Freeride Sl is the top end “light” version of the infamous Z.1 range. Only one sits above this in the price range, and that is the Z.1 Light (coil sprung version). Unfortunately this only comes in a 150mm flavour, and I don’t think I’m good enough yet to be giving my fork written notice of an upcoming corner while trying to stay on the bike, so I opted for these as they have a 130mm option.

Adjustability
: Doppio Air, Rebound, Compression, Progressiveness, Travel
Preload : 2x Positive low pressure air chambers (one each side)

Travel Adjust : 130mm-150mm via different pressure in the negative chamber
Rebound : Indexed dial on top of fork
Compression : Lovely revolver style indexed dial at the bottom of the fork
PAR : Progressive Air Resistance for bottom of stroke ramp up adjustment

External Business :
32mm Alloy slick coated, tapered stanchions, Forged “FR” crown, Mg “Monolite”, 20mm lowers, all Alloy adjusters.

I’ve always felt that Marzocchi have been quite quiet on what their forks can actually do, but when you look into them, they’ve been doing travel adjusters, and many other useful features long before other manufacturers. Things like ETA and the new TST, all designed to be easy and require the least amount of faffing about twiddling dials possible, and this is a philosophy carried through all of the Marzocchi forks. No winding of Uturns, or any other such business, just flip on and off. Sadly, this fork doesn’t have these, but it’s a small price to pay.

The fork is quite light for the fact that it is a 150mm travel fork, especially for a Marzocchi. I weighed mine in at 4.6lbs before I cut the steerer down.

It certainly looks the part, with big black 32mm tapered stanchions, burly crown, and beefy lowers attached to 20mm dedicated dropouts.

Preload and travel are set by air pressure. Since the fork uses the “DOPPIO” system, the pressures for preload have always been quite low. An adapter to use with all of the marzocchi valves is provided, but no pump. Which is a shame, because you really need 2 pumps to set these forks up; the travel adjuster uses high pressures, and trying to set the preload with a high pressure is an exercise in futility. About 2psi can make a big difference, and trying to add just 2psi with a high-pressure pump, is er, interesting!

Setting the travel is also difficult to get used to, basically there is a negative chamber that the more air you put in, the more it pulls the forks down. Pumping them up can be confusing at first, but if you put a couple of strokes in, then compress the fork, you can see what travel you’ve got.

Rebound and compression adjustments work really well, with a noticable difference between each click on the adjuster. Watch out for the bolt on the compression adjuster though, mine fell off; it seems Marz don’t do them up very tight when they leave the factory. I’ve since nipped it up and it’s stayed on through a muddy, bumpy ride at Cannock, so it seems to be ok now. Something I will be checking every now and then.

So, how does these badboys perform? Amazing. They’ve done it again, put DH suspension technology into a tough little nut of a fork. What I mean by this is: with a lot of XC forks, you will find they are plenty happy rebounding fast over little quick bumps, but rebound as fast as a fast thing off a jump, or drop. This can obviously be an issue if the landing is sketchy! The last thing you want is to be wrestling a fork that has just sprung back at you at MACH3. Top end DH forks strive to get a balance of both: supple and fast at the start of the stroke to take out the roots and braking bumps, and then choke it when you go off a big jump/drop. These badboys manage this, I’ve found a rebound setting that makes supple as a soft nipple over small, stuttery bumps, but I didn’t have to change it when I went for a jump/DH session, handled flowing doubles, bombholes and rooty corners with ease. The black coating is one of the smoothest I’ve felt ever too, which really goes along way to making these very smooth strokers indeed.

I’ve found the PAR very useful as well, and one of the reasons I bought them. You can set this at 0psi and have the fork completely linear, or pump as much air up to around 100psi to make the fork ramp up real nice. So basically, you’ve got a fork that: zips nicely over all the roots, doesn’t dive away from you suddenly when you hit something big, and doesn’t rebound like a pogo when you go of said big thing.

I just love this fork to bits! I was trying to stick into silly places on my ride at Cannock (March 9th), and it didn’t faulter once, and the incredible steerering offered by it’s burly crown and 20mm dropouts really allowed me to put the wheel exactly where I wanted it. Having tried just about every fork out there, and found it a compromise for about 60% of the stuff I do, this is finally the one I’ve been looking for, also works better than others I’ve tried too!

Bottom Line : Ok, you get to the bit you really want to read after all of that stuff up there!

I just love this fork to bits! I was trying to stick into silly places on my ride at Cannock (March 9th), and it didn’t faulter once, amd the incredible steerering offered by it’s burly crown and 20mm dropouts really allowed me to put the wheel exactly where I wanted it. Having tried just about every fork out there, and found it a compromise for about 60% of the stuff I do, this is finally the one I’ve been looking for, also works better than others I’ve tried too!

This fork is perfect if you want something that really can do it all, whilst not being a tank of a fork. It's a bit of a faff to set up, and a shock pump would be nice, especially for the price, but most of you probably have one already anyway. It's equally at home on a long travel full bounce, or a mid travel hardcore hardtail, Marzocchi have come up trumps, again. The only thing I wouldn’t mind having on this fork is a lockout or lock down feature, as it can get a little bouncy when the compression adjuster is wound full off. I’ve found a couple of turns of this sorts it out though.

Go on! Be a DH’er today!!!!!!

6 Comments:


Farqui said...

That's a cool writeup there buddy, v.informative. Thank goodness Firefox has an easy increase font option tho :D

The bouncer is packed with features and it ain't too heavy either. I particularly like the idea the PAR, especailly on longer forks.

Is the axle to crown measurement a little shorter on Marz's this year ? - 'cos last yr they were loooong.

Now lets give 'em a right pasting around Coed-y-Brenin.


daahnhilla said...

It looked bigger when I was creating it! Honest Guv!!!:D Looking forward to battering them silly at Coedy:p

( p.s, hurrah for Firefox;) )


Farqui said...

Needing two pumps sounds like an ar$e tho.


daahnhilla said...

It is a little, though I've just had a go with a FOX one, and it seems to be better. For some reason, the Rockshox one I have isn't very good at registering low pressures, but this FOX one seems to be able to do the job perfectly. I guess you may want a low one for fine tuning the PAR and preload, but it depends how much of a fettler you are.

ONce they're set, they're set though.

Oh, Marz heights remain taller than others.


Farqui said...

It's funny you should say that 'cos Chipmunks RS pump that came free with her FuelEx isn't happy reading low psi's either. I just thought it was due to me landing on my backpack a couple of times ! :p

Darn those Marz A-C lengths, I'm still hankerin' after a Pike but I don't have a bolt thru hub :rolleyes


daahnhilla said...

52.5cm A-C height on mine, set at 130mm. About 50.5 on a 130mm Vanilla, so I guess it is a little high. It's the crown/stanchion overlap that does it I think.


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