My old faithful (M Trax Ti3000) has served me well over the years as a rigid, a hard tail and then back to rigid again. I generally ride 150 miles a week (on and off road) on the poor old thing and the bi annual ritual of replacing sprockets, chain rings, cables etc came round in March. Having purchased an excellent pair of Marzocchi Z2 X Fly for my “good bike” in December I was tempted by the less expensive option of Z4s for my Raleigh. Being unable resist temptation, if it means nice new shiny bits for my bike, I am now the proud owner of another new pair of forks. So how do they compare to the Z2? My trail time is spent on varied surfaces…mud, sand, forests, (little) rocks, shortish slopes (there are not many real hills in Suffolk) and bridleways. I am 6foot 4 and weigh between 14.5 to 15 stone so I give my equipment a hard time.
The Z2 feels light…very light. Steering is sharp and responsive (almost like a rigid fork) and being air sprung, the forks can be set up to suit any riding style. Out of the box they felt unresponsive and “dead” but with more trail time they begin to loosen up. I am sure that my forks have yet to be fully bedded in but can report that they feel better every ride. Rebound damping can be set with the aid of a long allen key (provided) and you can spend hours fiddling about if that is what turns you on. Tuning is obviously a matter of personal preference but some guidance does help. I did not find any “blurb” in the box so I e mailed Marzocchi and received an extremely detailed guide almost by return. The Z2 is a cross country race fork with 80mm of travel and as such is worth every penny.
Out of the box, using the standard pressure setting, the Z4 Flylight felt like nothing else I had ever ridden. Heavier than the Z2 and far more basic in ever department, I was prepared for a bit of a culture shock after all, there is no way a cheap fork could compare with the X Fly is there?
My first ride was an around the block (4 miles of bridleway and rocky bits) jaunt just to see what they were like…twenty five miles later I decided I rather liked these forks, in fact I liked them a lot! OK the M Trax is not a thoroughbred and the geometry is a little relaxed by contemporary standards but the combination is superb. The Z4 soaked up big and little hits as though they were not there and the overall impression is one of comfort and increased confidence on those fast, lumpy downhill bits. Steering is precise though less so than the Z2 and while heavier, fitted to a frame like the M Trax appear to be well matched. I assume that tolerances on the Z2 are closer than those on the Z4 hence the difference in “out of the box” performance.
Criticisms…there is no pump included in the price so add about £20.00 to your budget. There is insufficient tuning data so you need to contact Marzocchi via their web site. The paint on one of the drop outs on the Z2 has come away in a great chunk…not so good on an expensive fork but you cannot see it and it will not rust.
To summarise, both of these forks are good, the Z2 has the potential to be excellent. Although I have the Z2 fitted to my race bike which only gets occasional use (to delay the onset of wear and tear) they would benefit from more use. The Z4 is a brilliant budget fork with a big grin factor. If you are looking for a XC race fork the Z2 is the best I have tried, if you want a basic all round product with 80mm of travel on a budget you could do much worse than the Z4.