- Marzocchi Z1FR ETA fork
Marzocchi’s Z1FR fork can be looked at as one of two things. Either it’s a beefed-up, longer version of the 2004 Z1FR, or it’s a slimmed-down version of the old Z150. In fact, it’s both of those with a few unique features of its own. According to the warning sticker on the fork leg, the Z1 is for “cross country, all mountain, freeride and dirt jumper” but not for “freeride extreme or downhill”. We’re not even going to begin to try and draw the lines between all those things, but suffice to say that the Z1 is intended to be sturdy without being ridiculous.
From the top, we’ve got a reinforced (read: thick) alloy steerer bonded into Marzocchi’s distinctively-shaped crown. Plugged into the underneath of this is a pair of 32mm diameter alloy stanchions, complete with black anodised finish. One-piece magnesium alloy sliders and arch complete the package.
Like previous forks of this ilk, the Z1 uses a 20mm axle system, but unlike its predecessors it’s a straightforward through-axle setup rather than one of the various iterations of the QR20 “semi-quick-release” design. Unlike some forks, the axle doesn’t thread into one of the fork legs – instead there’s an end-cap that threads into the axle, so you’ll need two Allen keys to do it up and then a different-sized one to snug up the pinch bolts to keep everything tight.
As with other Marzocchi 20mm-axle forks, the disc mount is a bit further away from the wheel than the QR models, so you’ll need a different bracket to mount a caliper. Or longer bolts, lots of spacers and a healthy dose of luck. The right bracket is the best plan…
The 150mm of travel is supplied by a pair of coil springs. There’s an air preload system that’ll allow for a range of rider weights. The boinginess is tamed by Marzocchi’s most sophisticated damping system, the HSCV cartridges similar to those in the 888 downhill fork. You get an external rebound adjuster, but any further tuning will require getting inside.
As with most of the Marzocchi range, the Z1 is fairly long for its travel (although nothing like as long as its 66 big brother), so you may find it slows your steering a little. It depends what you like and what you’re putting it on – for what it’s worth, we ran it on a 2005 Specialized Enduro and it felt stable rather than slow.
The left-hand leg carries the ETA travel lock-down lever, allowing you to shorten the fork for steep climbs. It’s not a feature that’ll interest the freeride set much, but if you’re coming at this fork from a heavy-duty trail riding perspective you’ll probably find it useful. It’ll drop the front end by a useful amount while retaining a degree of travel.
How useful you’ll find that travel is debatable, though. The Z1’s performance is definitely geared towards the riding-off-things end of its application spectrum. It’ll reliably save you from all manner of ham-fisted landings thanks to a combination of big-hit friendly internals and super-stiff structure, but it doesn’t consider the little pattery stuff to be really worthy of any attention. If your favoured trails are fast and rocky then it’ll be great, but if you value a plush and sensitive feel you may wish to shop elsewhere.
At 2.6kg (5.7lb) they’re on the hefty side, too (although lighter than the old Z150 and a lot lighter than the current 66) but that’s not unusual for Marzocchi. The trade off comes in stiffness and reliability.
Positives: Stiff, strong, reliable, looks great, proper through-axle, eats big stuff without burping, ETA
Negatives: Heavy, fairly pricey, not interested in little stuff, tall, ETA perhaps unnecessary for the riders that the fork’ll be best suited for
Verdict: The Z1FR’s trying to cover a lot of bases, filling the quite substantial gap between Marzocchi’s 150mm All Mountain forks and the shorter incarnations of the 66. The Z1’s trying to satisfy riders who’d quite like a through-axle with their trail fork and those who’d like a relatively low-mass freeride fork, and inevitably it’ll suit some of them more than others. Performance and weight-wise it’s definitely happier at the freeride end, but that may leave you feeling like you’re paying extra for the ETA system that you don’t use. Don’t discount it for the rockier end of the trail spectrum, though – it doesn’t do small bumps but that just means you need to go faster…