Exclusive One Ride Review: The Italian Stallion Returns with the Marzocchi 350 NCR Fork

Marzocchi 350 NCRFor many celebrities on the rebound, Las Vegas has been the perfect place for staging their comeback tour. So while work is beginning on the brand new Britney Spears theater, Marzocchi brought a few preproduction riding samples from the boot shaped motherland to the sweltering desert.

Over the past few years a botched sale to Suntour, poor quality control, and warranty issues plagued the legendary manufacturer of bomber forks, but the Italian stallion has recently debuted two new gravity forks that are packed with tried and true motocross inspired technology.

Spring past the break to learn more…Marzocchi CR

The entry level CR and R Models receive the Gold Race Coating. Only the top of the line NCR gets Marz’s trademark nickel coated stanchions.

The new Marzocchi 350 will be available at two different price points but both rely on the same basic miniaturization of a hybrid open bath/closed system found in their elite motorcycle forks. The company calls this tech DBC (Dynamic Bleed Cartridge) and it works by utilizing a spring actuated compensation reservoir to maintain the proper levels of oil in the damper. As high pressure develops, excess oil flows out through a circuit to prevent hydrolocking and lubricates the sliders. This oil can then be pulled back into the damper via a one-way seal as needed.

Marzocchi 350 NCR Adjustments

The top of the line model has various external adjustments but you can easily pull the cartridge from the top of the fork and customize the shim stack for the ultimate race feel. The other fork leg houses an positive air spring and negative coil spring.

The forks will be available in 140, 150, and 160mm travel options but are internally adjustable via spacers. The 20mm camp will be disappointed but Marzocchi has made the choice to go with a 15mm axle, which is in line with current industry trends. Claimed weight for the burly 35mm fork is 1.9 kg (4.19 lbs) thanks to redesigned lowers and 15mm qr and hollow crown. For a company with a reputation for heavy products, they’ve really turned things around considering their upcoming coil DH 380 fork and Moto C2R shock are comparable in weight to the majority of competitors current air offerings

 On the Trail

Marzhocchi 380 NCR On the TrailPhoto Credit: Peter Classen

My ride time on the new Marzocchi 350 was limited to a quick and dirty loop in Bootleg Canyon on a preproduction unit shipped from Italy expressly for the event. After Interbike, Marzocchi USA would be shipping the fork back to Italy for further testing. As a result, the steerer tube on our demo bike provided by Giant Canada was nearly a mile long and the fork seals and bushings had probably not had sufficient ride time to properly break in.

Despite all the complications, the Marzocchi 350 still retains that plush feel and supple ride characteristics over chatter that had earned the company a legion of devoted fans. There are 18 clicks of low speed compression and each makes a noticeable impact in the way the fork rides. Our loop was filled with little high speed drops and rock gardens which gradually transformed into ridgeline sand berms. With the compression dialed all the way out, the fork dived relentlessly, but ramping up the LSC provided a firm platform for cornering. There is enough adjust-ability built in to dial this fork in whichever way you please.

I’m  a mediocre climber at best, so the “lockout” switch or LSC knob has always been my best friend on sustained climbs. While several companies have moved towards on the fly compression adjustments for climbing and descending, Marz went the opposite route and gave riders an LSC for tuning and a separate “lockout” switch for climbing. In their version the “lockout” switch creates more of a platform. In practice, the lockout gives the the rider a small amount of travel but pumping around the convention and on a brief section of trail, it felt clunky. The fork we rode wasn’t a production models so this could be remedied when production units churn out, but I felt that the short travel in lockout mode was too easy to top out and rougher on the hands than the more aggressive tune offered by simply cranking the LSC dial to the max. 

Despite the hiccups in recent years, Marzocchi has always produced solid performing forks and the new 350 NCF is no slouch. The aggressive fork felt smooth and plush even in pre-production trim and we look forward to spending time on a production model in the future.

For more info on their entire lineup, check our Eurobike Coverage here

Comments

Tim - 11/06/13 - 4:09pm

15mm is a joke, this will not be me my next fork.

Joey - 11/06/13 - 4:29pm

15mm works well. Lots of hub and wheel options too.

Craw - 11/06/13 - 5:36pm

I was anti 15mm at first but after a year on one I have been converted.

What wheel sizes will this fork cover?

hermies - 11/06/13 - 6:14pm

tim
considering the new pike uses a 15mm, which is a top tier fork in this travel range, i would say 15mm just fine for the from of this unless you are putting this on to a park bike in which case this is likely not your first choice of fork as is.

Reformed Roadie - 11/06/13 - 6:18pm

Tim, no one cares…
The one in the pic is 650b, so they got it covered.

It would be nice to have a straight 1 1/8″ steerer options. Everyone whines about wheels sizes and axles, but the lack of 1 1/8th steerers on new forks has done more to make perfectly good frames (almost) obsolete then anything…IMHO.

pornitswhatlwouldratherbmaking - 11/06/13 - 6:57pm

Soo, good! My 36 rlc blows compared to this.

Tim - 11/06/13 - 7:37pm

RR- there are def. people who care. All this standard changing is done to make people buy new stuff, whether it’s wheel size, axle and steerer tube diameter, bottom brackets, or whatever. All such changes cause discomfort for people with older standards. Some such changes make up for the discomfort by helping the bike work better for its application- tapered steerers and 31.8mm bars being two of them- and no one complains. 15mm is a changed standard which is a step backward. Not a huge one, it is good enough as someone noted, but when I buy stuff, I am not aiming for good enough. “Good enough” is a weak goal.

roadrash - 11/06/13 - 8:07pm

Tim, Yeah your right all bike bike companies actually intend on f*&king over their customers rather constantly innovating and progressing their product line….All of the wheel sizes have their ups and downs and a 15mm axel is superior to the 9mm QR axel, everything has its advantages and disadvantages, accept this and move on. There is no “perfect” bike or part.

will - 11/06/13 - 8:44pm

I think all this front end stiffness is blown way out of proportion. I’m a big guy (6’5″, 275) and I ride real hard (and have been since I was a kid). I’ve just recently updated to a bike a 15mm thru-axle and a tapered steerer. Don’t notice much difference. Besides, you get used to whatever you’re riding. I’m not saying bigger axles and tapered steerers are a bad thing, but they sure aren’t a deal breaker for me.

JOEP - 11/06/13 - 9:22pm

@Will – I am 6′ 240, for me I like the added strength (every bit counts) of the 20mm. Note stiffness could negligible but having more material gives me a bit more comfort. Regardless of the engineering and science behind 15mm versus 20mm I prefer 20mm for peace of mind it brings.

The Pike is on my list as a few other burly 34mm stanchion forks, but not many.

Will - 11/06/13 - 9:59pm

I’ve just got a 100mm Reba (29er) on my bike, and it’s plenty stiff for me. Never notice a lack of stiffness on my old bike with a 9mm quick release. To each their own…

duder - 11/06/13 - 10:08pm

I bought a 55CR this summer and performance has been great so far (running at 150mm), especially for the $599 price, which is way below Fox and RS’s similar forks. The CR damper is great. The 350 is almost a full pound lighter than the 55, which makes me regret buying the 55 a little bit, however it sucks that they won’t offer the 350 with a 20mm axle.

Tim - 11/06/13 - 10:54pm

@Will- I think you took me the wrong way. Bike companies need to keep afloat, and they do it by changing things around. That doesn’t bother me at all, in their position I would do the same. It’s not about screwing people over, it’s about them staying in business. It’s just better when their changes make a + difference. Overall, today’s bikes are miles ahead of those of ten years ago, so I can’t complain too much, and of course accept what the industry makes- I don’t have much of a choice either way. It happens that most of the changes have been good, just not this one.
Other than 15mm, this looks like a good fork. Good to hear Marzocchi is getting back to its roots.

MaLóL - 11/06/13 - 11:27pm

I´m a very light rider, and 5 can tell you that 9mm QR in the front is extremely flexible for me, with discs or v-brakes. 15mm and no qr sounds like a great idea for XC, and weight is not higher at all, as you can use aluminium axles. If 15mm is good for xc, i think is too little for this, and for the reba is too little too.

I would never buy any marzocchi, they are not very reliable.

Stampers - 11/06/13 - 11:54pm

@JOEP-Pike not offering a 20mm thru axle, only 15mm…Lyric still has 20mm though…

Padrote - 11/07/13 - 12:24pm

@JOEP let me know when you hear of a 15mm thru axle breaking due to anything other than a manufacturer defect or misuse

Rivers @ The MTB Life - 11/07/13 - 1:46pm

I am a 250lb man (in natures clothes) that rides a AM 29er in BC and I thought I would notice a difference in stiffness between my old 20mm 55RC3′s and my new X-Fusion Traces…and well…I can’t.

I can see the argument for always changing “Standards” but I think we need to innovate and keep moving forward. Yes it’s a pain in the ass but it’s always been this way for the 30 years I have been riding MTB. We are still growing and finding out what works and what doesn’t…it’s kinda fun.

Tim - 11/07/13 - 3:01pm

@Padrote- of course the 15mm axles won’t break. Again, though, is “it doesn’t break” the standard the bike industry should aim for? Is “it doesn’t break” what you are hoping to get from a 600-dollar fork? Of course getting out and riding is the most important thing, not what we ride, but this is a tech-head site- so I say talk tech, and not (paraphrase) “I am looking for parts that don’t break and that’s good enough”.

Jeff - 11/07/13 - 5:45pm

@ Tim – I’ll come clean and admit the comment was a dig, based on my perception that you were being like all the “pry my 26″ wheels from my cold dead hands” types posting on pinkbike.com. (sorry) The industry is moving towards 605b and 15qr, whether you like it or not.
15qr, IMHO, works because the hubs and thus wheels are lighter – rotating, unsprung weight, not the forks themselves.
I think 9qr to 15qr is a much bigger jump than 15 to 20, in terms of stiffness.
The irony, for me is that the only options I like for my Blur LT with a straight headtube are 20mm forks – the Vengeance and Fox 36…all of my wheels are 15qr.
What is the AtoC and offset?

Tim - 11/07/13 - 6:39pm

@bin judgin- I weigh 165 or so. Kudos to people who have weight problems and use a bike to fight them. One cyclist I had tremendous respect for was a woman with a metabolic problem who was a customer at a shop I once worked at, she needed to bike all day just to keep her weight stable at around 300 pounds. She used tandem gear. 48 spokes, heavy rims.
@Jeff- I do agree the industry is moving in the direction of 15mm. I don’t think the weight difference is significant- maybe 30 grams or so? King makes two 15mm front hubs- a small diameter, lightweight, short travel oriented one which is 40g lighter than the 20mm version, and a larger diameter, stouter, long travel oriented one which is only ten grams lighter. In the case of Hope hubs, the weight difference is nil because the difference between a 15mm hub and a 20mm one is simply the endcaps.
I don’t know how important unsprung weight is on bicycle front suspension. I just honestly can’t say, and it may well have a significant effect.
As for rotating weight, the hub is the least important part of the wheel in that regard- the rim contributes far, far more than the center of the wheel. I can say with some certainty that even 40g of weight at the hub axle is little more than a rounding error.
15mm makes sense for XC weight weenie types, but not for 5″ travel forks (unless your standard is that the stuff doesn’t break on you).

chasejj - 11/07/13 - 7:59pm

I do not buy the argument that 15qr is a significant decrease in weight. a few grams of cast magnesium on a fork leg which could be shaved any number of ways in other areas?
The 15mm switch is similar to the 650b/27.5 although not nearly as precipitous.

The 27.5 craze from 26 is tanta mount to following someone to the side of a cliff to see the view and the person jumps over the edge. It simply does not make sense.
I have ridden 275 and found them to be heavier, certainly less structurally sound,less gearing options, and more expensive than 26″, not by a large margin but enough to question the validity of this industry shift overnight.
All for a slightly better angle of approach to rough trail obstacles? Really?
No thanks. 26″ will do just fine for me for as long as I can push it. I will go to 15mm and 27.5 kicking and screaming as it just makes no sense. I will not walk off the cliff just because the industry wants me to do it.

chasejj - 11/07/13 - 8:02pm

Now that my rant is over Marzocchi should look at what XFusion is doing with options and sound designs and model their strategy after them. Just design with less A2C in their model range. Xfusion A2C lengths are the only thing that is keeping from purchasing their stuff.
I hope Marzocchi does well, is a great name in the business and options are always a good thing.

Mindless - 11/11/13 - 1:06am

@Tim: get your foil hat off. There is no conspiracy. Most people go to a shop and buy a complete bike and hang it on a garage wall. Only a few, and overrepresented in the bitching section of the interwebs, “upgrade” old frame.

Mindless - 11/11/13 - 1:08am

@Tim: There is no such thing as “metabolic problem”. There are people who eat too much. Eat less and lose weight.

Will #2 - 11/11/13 - 1:23am

1. (deleted)
2. @Jeff. I think you have a couple options. I believe Cane Creek makes an adapter assuming you have at least an oversized (if not tapered) headtube. Failing that, there are likely tons of really great used forks with straight steerers. Like say a Revelation RLT Ti. Or a slightly older float. Tons of options.

Mirwin - 11/14/13 - 5:31pm

I think the 15 qr standard is just fine. My old BLT had a 9mm QR. Sold that bought a new bike with the 15 QR: WA-A-AY stiffer, night and day stiffer . ‘Course that could be that a combo of the different hubs and rims too. Anyways, you can always find old 1/18″ forks with 9 mil QR and not just used ones either. Haters gonna hate.

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