Most experts agree; if there’s only one aftermarket modification you can afford to make to your bike, it should be your suspension. It does no good to put an aftermarket pipe or other bling on your bike, if the suspension isn’t working for you. From the factory, most bikes are setup for a rider that is—ahem—lighter weight than a lot of us.
When it comes to aftermarket suspensions mods there are quite a few companies out there, and one that has been doing suspension longer than most of them is Marzocchi. Because Marzocchi’s roots are in Europe, it’s possible some of you may not be familiar with this 57 year-old company.
A couple of weeks ago we cruised up to the Marzocchi USA offices in Valencia, CA. Okay, the truth is, it wasn’t so much a cruise as it was a slow crawl through infamous Southern California traffic, but it was worth it. Once there we were impressed with not only their digs, but also their products, staff, and suspension work they are doing.
Here are some highlights from our conversation with Marzocchi USA’s Shannon Decker…
Shannon, I have to admit. I am still learning a little bit about Marzocchi myself. Walk us through the company history and how the company is progressing here in the U.S.
We started doing motorcycle suspension in 1949. The Marzocchi brothers worked for Ducati, then they split from Ducati and started their own company. Our history in the beginning was in road applications, but then branched off into off-road back in the ’70s. We actually had a really good suspension setup back in the mid to late ’70s that a lot of people were using at the time.
We weren’t here in the United States until three-and-a-half years ago. That’s when we started here, with the whole goal to support the spec that we have in North America. Providing, obviously, parts and service for that spec, but to also introduce our works products to the aftermarket, to racers and riders alike. That’s when we started to introduce our four-stroke mini line of forks for CRF/XR50s, DRZ110, CRF/XR70s, and TTR50s.
We also have our shock line, which is coming available at the beginning of next year for all of the four stroke mini application. On top of that, we’re going to introduce our works shocks with our 65cc works forks, and our 45 mil works forks for the 85s. Also we should have the shock for the big bikes, the 250F and 450F, this next season, so our complete works suspension package will be ready and available to everyone. We’re very excited about that, as you can imagine. We’re working towards building our program here, building on what they’ve done in Italy for years, and hopefully showing people that Marzocchi is definitely an option for them. We just keep moving forward each year with more applications.
When someone buys a brand-new 450F it has very good suspension already on it. But for the serious racer in Supercross, AMA Nationals or Arenacross, those guys or gals may need a little bit more, and that’s where we feel we come in as an option because we have a works-performance product with our 50 mil fork and the shocks coming very soon. We can give those individuals the performance they need to hopefully take them to the top level of racing.
In the four-stroke minis, almost every pro has our suspension. But obviously we also want to work with Supercross, Motocross, and Arenacross. We’ve been working with privateers to develop that stuff. The guys who are scraping every dollar they have to get to the races are very hungry and very hard on their equipment. They’re perfect test riders.
Is it challenging having your headquarters in Europe?
Track design differences between Europe and the U.S. have been one of the hurdles we’ve had to get over. The valving specifications that we would receive from Europe, for example, were based on their track layouts. That’s where our R&p;D Manager, Ryan Evans, using his background and experience has been working with our guys over here to take a very good product and set it up for American racers.
So you guys aren’t just a suspension shop, you actually manufacture your own components?
Right. The manufacturing is done in Italy, and they send the stuff to us. Here in the U.S. we do some of the manufacturing; all of our triple clamps are manufactured here. At this point what we receive from Europe is fully built legs with base settings that we provide to them, and shocks.
So, in terms of motocross here in the U.S., you started out with the mini bike stuff and more recently have moved into the bigger bikes?
For the aftermarket, yes, our big bike stuff has been more recently. But we’ve also had the spec on the KTM 50cc for years now, as well as the KTM 65cc. We’re also on the Cobras, and some other bikes. We also had the spec for KTM in the mid to late 90s. Like I said, one of our goals here has been to provide service and support to these existing products.
Ryan was explaining that one of your feature products is the 50 mm fork. Can you explain more about the benefits of that?
The 50 mm works fork is our top dog. The racers in Supercross and motocross that we work with now have been on that for a few years, and we’ve had great results. Ryan’s been able to do some spectacular stuff with the suspension, and the racers are responding well. I know for Ryan, once he gets someone to ride and test it, they never want to go back.
We want to take it as far as we can. We’d like to see a Marzocchi fork on every bike in the night show at Supercross. That’s our goal, but you have to take baby steps to get there.
So your target big bike customer is a pro-level rider?
Honestly, we also have non-pro guys that come in to setup their bikes. If you are looking for the best suspension you can get your hands on, we’re an option. We work with a lot of different people, from a lot of walks of life, from every day average riders, to weekend racers, to guys that race for a living.
The better your suspension is, the better your bike is going to perform. It’s that simple. The bikes you can buy now have very good suspension, very good. Everyone should spend the time and money to set that suspension up. That is by far the most important thing you can do.
Thanks a lot Shannon for sharing the company history and future plans with us. Where should people go for more information?