Marzocchi Bomber Z2 RAIL Gen 2 MTB fork review – simply sorted suspension fork

Marzocchi has slightly tweaked their excellent affordable short/mid-travel suspension fork, so is it even better value now?

Marzocchi Bomber Z2
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

BikePerfect Verdict

The Marzocchi Bomber Z2 RAIL was already a firm favorite but the generation 2 version is even more of a fit and forget winner for riders who just want to get on with riding.

Pros

  • +

    Quality build and performance

  • +

    Economy cost

  • +

    Simple but effective damper

  • +

    Stiff, strong, simplified chassis

  • +

    Big tire space

Cons

  • -

    Heavy for short travel

  • -

    160mm rotor mounts

  • -

    Recommended pressures are potentially low

Why you can trust BikePerfect Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Marzocchi was reborn by Fox in 2018 and the short-mid travel, mid-price Z2 was a best budget mountain bike fork award winner when it launched in 2019. It was also the first ‘proper’ Marzocchi fork rather than just a cosmetic change to an existing Fox fork. 

The current Z2 keeps the signature semi-open bath RAIL Sweep damper that ‘Zocchi die-hards will rejoice over but has had small changes for an even smoother, more balanced stroke. It’s still affordable and very reliable too.

Zr Arch

The M arch stands for Marzocchi, but also Masses of Mud room (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Design and build

Marzocchi still bases the Z2 around the entry-level Rhythm version of the Fox 34. That includes the thicker walled 6066 stanchions, seals, other internal components, and Float air spring. That means you can use the same clip-in volume spacers (it comes with none fitted but four in the box) and switchable air shafts to change travel from 100 to 150mm in 10mm increments.

As you might guess from the ‘M’ shaped brace the lower legs are Marzocchi specific and use a simpler 4mm Allen key (rather than press and twist spline) adjusted 15mm QR axle. You can specify a simple screw in Kabolt axle to save weight though as it’s not light at just over 2kg.

Some of that extra weight comes from the increased oil volume in the Rail Sweep damper which uses the full right leg rather than a separate cartridge. The damping piston is simplified too, with a basic low-speed compression valve operated from the top and a chunky rebound knob on the bottom of the leg. There’s no compensating piston (IFP) in the open bath circuit either, just a lot of oil to reduce the risk of turbulence and air bubble ‘cavitation’. 

The only slight ‘meh’ is the fact it comes with a 160mm rotor mount which would be fine on an XC fork but seems dumb on an obviously aggro-targeted fork. Oh and the Sweep lever and air spring top cap are plastic, not metal, but you can get it in red or black, in 100-150mm travel settings, and 27.5 or 29in wheel formats. As you can’t even buy a Fox 34 Rhythm aftermarket the Z2 fills a gap and also costs £250 less than the cheapest 34.  

Z2 axle

The Z2 gets a simplified 15QR axle compared to Fox and a 160mm not 180mm brake mount as standard. (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Performance

The first thing old-school Marzocchi addicts will want to know is whether the open bath damper still has the signature squelching sound that was the signature soundtrack of their classic forks. The bad news for them is that while there’s still some ‘sink plunger’ audio if really worked hard, it’s much more muted than before and easily masked by cable rattle/trail noise. The good news is that’s because the damping head of the fork is sunk deep into the oil where there’s much less indigestion and air bubble cavitation going on. Marzocchi has also made small changes to the bushing tolerances on these second-generation forks to improve overall oil flow too.

The Float air spring, top-quality seals, plenty of oil, and an impressively stiff thick legged structure give it a really supple and responsive stroke even if you’re working the brakes or tires hard. I’d recommend more aggressive riders add 10 percent more air than Marzocchi’s fork leg setup guide suggests though - or just use the 15 percent sag recommendation in the manual. Otherwise, they sit quite deep while riding and push through their travel easily using their numbers. You can unscrew the air spring cap and add volume spacers easily though and while how many are fitted as standard depends on travel, I only needed to add one to my ‘empty’ 140mm sample. I also clocked on some low-speed compression with a 1/3rd turn of the Sweep lever if I knew I was going to be loading the fork hard into turns rather than wanting full smoothness across roots and rocks.

While dialing in the setup definitely gets better results, even if you just slap it on with Marzocchi’s guide settings it’s still impressively consistent and controlled in terms of both compression and rebound. That holds true even on extended descents where I had none of the arm pump issues I’d expect on other forks at this price, even when I deliberately took rougher lines. It’s settled enough to not get caught out transitioning between short stutter sections and pop/pull-up climbs too. I had zero long-term issues with my previous Marzzochi Z2 and this one seems to be shrugging off the most brutal descents and horrible weather absolutely fine too. 

Z2 damper

The Rail Sweep damper uses a simple but very sorted semi-open bath design to relive Marzocchi's game-changing glory days.  (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Verdict

If you’re currently getting beaten up on a mid-price bike or looking at building a machine for going properly hard on without emptying your wallet or worrying about complicated setup and servicing, then the Z2 is an absolute gift. A bit of tuning time definitely pays dividends to get it really snapping on the heels of forks twice its price but even running a stock setup it’s a great fork. 

It’s still cheaper than the previous generation ‘super forks’ being sold off cheap too and not having to worry about multi-dial dampers adds a real ‘have a go hero’ joy to the Marzocchi experience too.

Tech specs: Marzocchi Bomber Z2 Rail Gen 2

  • Price: $519 / £579
  • Sizes: 29 or 27.5in wheel
  • Options: 100-150mm travel (27.5in), 100-140mm travel (29in) 44 or 51mm (29in only) offset, 15QR or ‘Kabolt’ axle
  • Weight: 2010g (190mm steerer with star nut and QR15 axle) 

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect and Cyclingnews’ contributing tech editor. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg