On Tuesday the 5th of March we headed off to visit Marzocchi in their home town of Bologna to see what they have been working on for the past 12 months and also to see what they have planned for the future.
|entrance to marzocchi.com|
A little background to what has been going on. Last July (2013) Marzocchi’s fork assembler (Suntour) ceased production of all Marzocchi MTB forks, this news came somewhat abruptly and caused many problems and industry rumours. However with the help of Marzocchi’s parent company (multibillion dollar company Tenneco) they made a new long term strategy and investment to create their own factory and re-start production. To enable production to continue while the new factory gets up and running Marzocchi have already invested $1m in new tooling and assembly line in an existing assembly partner, Hodaka. Hodaka have an extremely high reputation for quality and already assemble the Roco rear shock line.
|some classic's and prototype parts|
We got the factory around mid-day and after a catch up with all our friends and colleagues we took some time looking at their ‘classics’ collection and the many prototype components they have in the offices. It is always great to be reminded of the vast and rich contribution Marzocchi have made to the mountain bike market over the years. Marzocchi have always produced motorcycle suspension and entered the MTB market back in 1991 with the original idea to do so coming from a Dutchman! Obviously the game changer was the ‘Bomber’ and it was really cool to see they still had the prototype Z1 with steel stanchions that was raced to glory by riders such as Rob Warner.
|prototype Z1 Bomber, note steel stanchions|
We also looked in depth at a motorcycle project that offers fully electronic active damping; this is something usually reserved for modern sports cars (sport mode button). Marzocchi’s system makes micro adjustments in compression and rebound damping in response to the terrain with a 10 millisecond response time and is fully user customizable using an ipad app – ground breaking stuff on two wheels!
|Marzocchi still make lots of motorcycle forks for BMW, Ducati and MV amongst others...|
We also ventured in to the MTB testing department. This is where every detail of the fork gets tested to all the current safety standards, in fact Marzocchi test well beyond the limits of their own products as safety has always been in the forefront of their designs. Here is where all the competitors’ products are also bench marked, it is vitally important to know what other suspension brands are doing in order to make sure your own is competitive performance wise.
At the 2014 meeting we spoke extensively about the new product range, which unfortunately I cannot go it to any details here, but we have seen it along with a 2015 concept and what I can tell you is that they have something very special in the works!
UPDATE: Pinkbike exclusive on the new downhill fork and rear shock: READ HERE
|Ok here it is, but dont tell anybody I showed you....|
|sorry not yet...!|
We spoke at some length about Tenneco plans and strategies, budgets and quality control. We had a look at the motorcycle plant where quality is measured in PPM (parts per million), the Bologna factory has now been running at ZERO PPM (for rejects and failure) for two months, which is an insane by anybody’s standards. This gives you an understanding of the QC that Tenneco insist on and what they expect in their new MTB factory.
Tenneco is a manufacturer so it is only logical that they want to make their own products so the budget of $2.5m is already in place for the new Marzocchi Asia factory. Marzocchi also now have complete control over the entire supply chain and can manage and monitor every single component. The goal of all this is to completely control every aspect of the fork production to ensure every fork performs and lasts as Marzocchi intended.
Lastly Marzocchi are also very proud that all the design and engineering is done in house in Bologna and that they have never had any forks or shocks designed out-of-house. It is also worth noting that none of the engineering team have left the company, they are all still there!
Our lasting impression of the trip is that Marzocchi are very positive about the future. They are now back in production with a very high end assembler, they have budget for future growth and new factory, they have a passionate and talented team and lastly and most importantly have some great products!
Get to the Marzocchi booth at The Sea Otter Classic for a 2014 first look!
As a foot note a Bologna Airport had a stunning 25th anniversary lamborghini Countach on display, part of another local company’s 50th birthday celebrations…