Having just spent the summer guiding in the French Alps where everything gets a real battering, I wanted to post a review for two items, (other than my amazing Roberts White Spider frame), that really hit the spot. In the past I have noticed that if anything is going to go wrong or break, it does after a few weeks in Chamonix! These two components are Hope C2 discs and Marzocchi Atom 80 forks. I will post two reviews so as to separate them….
I chose some Marzocchi Atom 80’s to go up front for a number of reasons. Firstly, the year before when I was guiding I had eternal problems with Pace forks, (both Evo II ‘s and Pro Class), so they were not an option. With the Evo II’s, air would not stay in them for more than a ½ day of riding and I had to carry a grease gun with me as they would seize up dramatically during a day of riding in the dust. I think that I stripped and rebuilt them eight times in four months – mmm and I thought that if you kept them lubed you did not have to do it very much! I was sent a set of Pro Class to use whilst they inspected my Evo II’s and their damper went in four days and for some reason my tyre hit the crown when they bottomed out. In fact anyone that came out for more than one week suffered the same damping cartridge failure that I was getting every few weeks. Rock Shoxs were not on the menu as I have had problems with them in the past and although Manitou forks had lasted well in the past, their travel always seems a little inactive. A friend of mine suggested that I try a set, so borrowed his bike which had a set of Z2 Atom Bombs on and was very taken from the first minute of riding with them. I did some research and found that the Atom 80 seemed to fit my requirements, (and looked good as well!).
Out of the box they seemed to bed in very quickly and got the instant sensation of “endless” travel. It seemed that I could not bottom them out, but they were constantly absorbing and absorbing impacts – really active. Another sensation that I got was that there seemed to be a fair amount of for and aft flex that, to begin with, was a bit disturbing. However, it did not seem to affect the handling of the bike and only felt a little strange when braking hard from a high speed on stutter bumps and the like, (NB. being a disc brake virgin before, I was not sure whether it was the discs doing this).
Those were the initial thoughts and soon I was out in France where the trails are very hard, rocky and vary from being eye-bleedingly fast to stupidly technical things, just got better. In all the situations encountered the forks were absolutely amazing always feeling balanced and controlled. I could not believe that I had not bought a pair of Marzocchi’s before. The damping was spot on, the travel endless and the side-to-side tracking perfect, but did they survive the constant battering of a season?
In a word – YES! After nearly 2 months out in the dust and rock I realised that the travel was not as smooth and that I was not getting full travel so went to their website and the trouble shooting page. Here I found that you should really change the oil every 100 hours or so (I had done over 150 hours!) and in dry conditions you should lift the wiper seals up periodically and grease then a little, (which I was not doing!). So I downloaded the service manual and gave them a quick going over, (which incidentally was messy but easy). I found that the oil in both legs was black, (especially the damping side), but there was no dirt at all inside the moving parts of the fork. Once back together suddenly I realised that the performance must have got gradually worse without really knowing as they seemed like a different pair of forks and way better than I remembered.
After this first service I regularly greased under the wiper seal which maintained their mega-plush action and managed to avoid servicing them till the end of the season. Throughout the whole season they were getting around 30 hours of hard use a week and not one thing went wrong. Another one of the guides that I was working with was using a pair as well and he voices the same opinions. I must mention now that I did pay for them and I don’t work for Windwave / Marzocchi but if you enjoy riding your bike and want the best – go out there and buy a set. The Atom 80 may not be the lightest or the cheapest fork around but by God they have got to be the best working and reliable hardcore xc / trail fork, forget your el cheapo Rock Shoxs for £150 and pick up a set of these – AWESOME
Want to know more? Check the Marzocchi website.