You’re holding your 2006 launch where? Austria? Giddy up! I’m all over it.
It took me all of 30 seconds to decide whether I wanted to head to Saalbach Austria to check out the new goods from Marzocchi. They always put on a plush event but for the past three years it’s been just up the road in Whistler. Now don’t get me wrong – Whistler is awesome – but when you live on the North Shore it’s not all that exotic.
I had a three-leg itinerary; fly to Toronto, then Munich and then ‘transfer’ to Saalbach. Things were going well until the hour of our scheduled departure in TO. Pearson Airport got pounded by a thunder storm causing our flight to be delayed by 45 minutes. Our luggage was just about to be loaded on the plane when the deluge hit and the handlers abandoned the carts on the tarmac leaving my bags to take on about 14 gallons of acid rain.
Toronto is beautiful in June. Photo ~ Cam McRae
The flight went well and I grabbed my water-logged bag and rolled it through the hyper-modern airport in München. I had no idea who was meeting me but as I emerged I saw a sign with a Marzocchi logo and my name on it. I thought for sure there was going to be some kind of cock-up but everything was dialled. The driver didn’t speak English and my vocab was limited to ‘ein bier’ so I dozed for most of the two hour trip.
This year’s Marzocchi girls were equipped with cosmetic factory upgrades but the internals have been downgraded.
Marzocchi still has the original Dirty Girls on the roster but they have again decided to hire ‘models’ to represent their line. They looked fine – if you fancy silicone – but they were about as much fun as a Mountie at a house party. I have a feeling the recruiting process will be overhauled for next year. Photo ~ Stefan Hunziker.
As we rolled into Saalbach there were no surprises; the Von Trapp family would be right at home prancing and singing on the pastures and mountains that surround the tiny Austrian town. The place appears to have deep roots but a little research will reveal that there was nothing much here before around 1975. This started to become clear after some odd experiences. On the day I took an XC ride with Karl Platt and some others our climb ended at our lunch destination which looked to be a centuries-old alpine hut. As we walked inside two ancient looking wooden doors silently slid open and into the door frame. The bathroom in the basement had auto flush urinals – in fact everything was auto from the towel dispenser to the taps. The place was made to look old but all the fixtures were state of the art which was all a bit eerie.
Rob Jauch riding a new Rocky Mountain RMX equipped with the 888 RC2X in Saalbach. The hills were indeed alive. Photo ~ Stefan Hunziker.
Back to the topic at hand; Marzocchi. Despite being a wildly successful platform, there were some knocks against the 2004 and 2005 888 forks. The most significant issue was the height of the fork. The stylish M-arch with the integrated fender raised the front end up at least an inch higher than it needed to be; this at a time when many top riders – particularly racers – were doing whatever they could to lower the front end of their bikes. After-market flat crowns appeared first and then last year Marzocchi began making their own. For 2006 all 888 forks will come stock with an M-Arch that lowers the front end as much as the flat crowns did in the past while retaining the signature Marzocchi style.
Left to right: The 2006 Monster T, the 66 RC2X, the 66 Light and the 888 VF2.
An issue I had with 888 forks was the fact that it was possible to bottom out metal on metal – which was always accompanied by a loud ‘clack.’ I was eager to find out whether or not this was still the case. There is also a lot to love about the 888. They are tough and generally low maintenance and can be tuned to be über supple off the top while still resisting bottom-out. With a few tweaks they could be unbelievable.
Ryan Leech enjoying some heli time. . Photo ~ Cam McRae
The 66 made a big splash last year. It was available with up to 170mm (7″) of travel and it was stiff enough to feel right at home on big bikes. Richie Schley rode one in the Crankworx Slopestyle last year and more and more riders are choosing single crowns to compete in these comps. Not yet sure of the market for a large single crown, Marzocchi took a shortcut with the 66 last year and used the lowers from the 888. As you can imagine this wasn’t an ideal solution and it resulted in a fork that was heavier and taller than it needed to be.
The Roco is legit. It’s a user friendly shock that anyone can work on. No need to send it to Edmonton.
Probably the biggest news from Marzocchi this year was Roco – their rear shock program has finally reached maturity. LaPierre (a French brand that will soon be looking to penetrate the North American market) will be spec’ing Roco on many of their bikes this year. Perhaps the coolest thing about the Roco is that it is the first shock for bikes that is user serviceable. According to Tom Rogers just about anyone can rip a Roco apart and rebuild it. Here in Canada Fox Shox need to be sent to Edmonton when they fail while Progressive and Manitou are serviced in B.C. Marzocchi’s new service centre in North Van will quite happily rebuild a Roco if you aren’t up to the challenge. Marzocchi made it pretty clear that they aren’t chasing platform systems. In their eyes a shock should be active all the time and a platform isn’t necessary if everything is tuned and set up just so.
Marzocchi has a huge number of forks this year. Photo ~ Stefan Hunziker.
Another treat for the deep pocket set is a high line model for both the 888 and 66 line. The RC2X models add a new hydraulic low speed compression and rebound damping (RC2) as well as a new high speed compression adjust (X). Together the new systems form the RC2X designation. The compression circuit can be adjusted to be both position and speed sensitive meaning you can adjust it to avoid dive (position) and to resist bottom out (speed). There is an air preload as well – on both sides for the 888 and just one for the 66.
The 2006 Marzocchi 888 RC2X
On our third day in Austria we had a chance to ride the bike park in Saalbach (I chose to climb on day two). Unfortunately it was wet and very slimy and there was a lot of woodwork. Here on the Shore the natural cedar grips fairly well in the wet but the treated wood used in the park was like riding on roller bearings. Tom Rogers of Marzocchi found this out the hard way falling off a ladder bridge and landing 8 feet later flat on his back. He bounced back with a smile on his face but not before dislodging enough internals to spit blood.
For this day I jumped on a 888 RC2X/Roco equipped 2006 RMX for a few runs. The bike felt great. It was nicely balanced and the Roco was lively and active. I do like platform shocks – even the Progressive 5th Element which is probably the least active feeling of the lot – but it was nice to get on something that reminded me of the old Fox Vanilla. I had a great time on the RMX.
After that I saddled up a Norco A-Line. This bike offers a lot for the money but obviously when you make an 8″ bike and try to keep the price under $3000 Canadian there are some sacrifices to be made. The bike was spec’ed with a base model 888 and this was a great chance to compare the top line model with the base. The fork lacked the control and smoothness of the RC2X but that’s not surprising. The unfortunate part was that on any drop over about two feet it would hit bottom with a clang that reverberated through my hands and into my spine. Marzocchi tells me this can be tweaked with oil levels but I still don’t think this should be able happen on a fork of this quality.
Many of the features in the Bike N Soul park were built for the Build it and Ride contest. Photo ~ Georg Oberlechner
Bike N Soul, from what I’ve heard is probably the best bike park in Europe. The trails were fun but there wasn’t much vertical or much variety. A nice factor is that there are many challenging stunts to help you squeeze more fun per vertical foot but it’s got a long way to go before it can hold a candle to any bike park in B.C.
Thomas Vanderham about to enjoy a Schnaapappetizer at the Goaßstall. Photo ~ Stefan Hunziker.
You won’t see a Shiver in this year’s line up. Last year it was available in the US but not Canada and this year the much-loved inverted Zoke is gone. The Super Monster has also gone the way of the dinosaur and Josh Bender’s absence from this year’s Marzocchi Session may be a sign of the times. The grind from the rumour mill has also revealed that Bender is no longer on Banshee – less than a year after they gave him a signature model frame. The regular Monster lives on – now with a full 200mm (8″) of travel. I’m amazed to see how many people love this behemoth of a fork but with the 40mm stanchions and double digit weight it has a feel that can’t be duplicated. There is no Super T for 2006 but the Junior lives on.
The riders formerly known as Fro Riders. Left to right Tarek Rasouli, Wade Simmons, Thomas Vanderham and Richie Schley. Photo ~ Stefan Hunziker.
The new 888s are 25mm (an inch) less axle-to-crown than last year and the 66 has dropped by 40mm (1.5″). Another change for this year is that most of the big forks in the line, including all the 888s and 66s will feature post mount brake attachments that will only allow use of an 8″ rotor. All in all there have been some nice refinements to this year’s Marzocchi line as well as a few very promising new models.
Our schedule was pretty packed with lunches, heli rides and of course the Adidas Slopestyle so I didn’t get nearly as much riding in as I would have liked so my impressions are based on limited experience. The laps I did manage make me very optimistic about this year for Marzocchi – 2006 may well mature into the best Italian vintage in recent memory.
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