First Ride: Marzocchi Bomber CR
It was almost 12 years ago that I was assigned to review the Roco Air, one of Marzocchi's first rear shocks. And I was stoked. Not only because the brand represented what mountain biking meant to me at the time (porn star spokesmodels notwithstanding), but because the early Rocos were driven by simplicity in design. In an era when other brands focused on platform valves and pedal modes, the Roco was a straight-shooter. Lightly damped and heavily predictable, it stayed on my 2006 Giant Trance until I sold the bike years later.
A lot has changed since then. The Marzocchi I knew is no more. Now owned by Fox, the storied brand serves as the workhorse label for the very company that helped put it under only a few years ago. And nevertheless, when I was asked to review the Bomber CR, I was stoked yet again.
The new coil shock shares the simplicity that I loved about the Roco Air. Your adjustments are limited to spring rate, spring preload, low-speed compression and rebound damping. With an eye towards eventual OEM spec, the damping range can be factory-adjusted through internal shim stacks, but really, it's pretty much just coil and oil. And though the Bomber CR doesn't share the attitude of the Marzocchi we knew from the mid-2000s, I think the brand's new identity is far more in line with what the industry needs right now. Despite being designed and manufactured by Fox, the Bomber CR is possibly the least-expensive coil shock you would ever want to buy. Even the Van RC, which Fox is still quietly producing, goes for $20 more than the $300 Bomber CR and isn't available in the fancy metric and trunnion standards that the Bomber CR is. Another $30 gets you a spring and you're off to the races.
I tested the Bomber CR on a Santa Cruz 5010, whose naturally progressive leverage curve is perfect for a coil shock. It was quite a departure from the stock DPX2 that I'd been running up to that point. In The Mountain Bike Reviewer's Dictionary under the word "playful," there's a picture of the 5010. But the DPX2 takes it to another level. Then, after I bolted on the Bomber CR, the bike became far more focused on the task at hand. Small-bump sensitivity was improved both on the descents and the climbs, and the bike was able to give up more of its travel more easily when I asked it to do things that a 130-millimeter bike isn't meant to do.
Essentially, it rode more like it had a coil shock. You probably could have guessed that, and that's kind of the point. Like the Roco I tested back in the George W. Bush era, there is no platform valving, no independent high- and low-speed compression or rebound damping adjustments, and no flippy levers. And that's not to say I wouldn't welcome any of those things. Having ridden a Fox DHX2, there's something magical about the process of clicking back and forth through all of its settings until it behaves precisely as you want it. If you want to control how much slower the shock rebounds on big impacts than on small ones, or if you want to tune in extra support into the damping while taking separate measures to maximize small-bump sensitivity, you will need to spend more than $330 to do it. But I wasn't thinking about any of that while I was testing the Bomber CR. The out-of-the-box damping tune allowed me to set its rebound damping just slightly slower than dead-center, which as a 175-pound rider, seems just about right. I found myself running the compression damping only a couple clicks from wide open, but again, it was on a 130-millimeter travel bike. It was not lacking in natural support. On a longer-travel bike, I'd welcome having another dozen clicks to dip into. That means that the compression tune, like rebound, is also just about right.
Though the reservoir was hot to the touch after each of my runs, I never cooked it enough to feel any loss of damping performance, and I certainly wasn't churning the oil hard enough to form bubbles and expose gaps. The people at Fox have been doing this thing for a while, and they've got the basics pretty well on lock. And that begs the question we asked when we tested the Bomber Z1 fork. Why would Fox not just expand the Van RC platform to include metric and trunnion standards and call it a day? The simple but crass answer is "who cares?" If you're not wooed by the re-emergence of Marzocchi but you like the ideas behind this shock, you can rest easy in the knowledge that, in fact, Fox produced it. Or if you're nostalgic about Marzocchi's heyday and the undeniable impact it had on our culture, you can have a piece of it on your bike yet again.