TESTED: `05 Marzocchi 888 RC

WHAT: Marzocchi 888 RC
HOW MUCH: $1,149
WHERE: www.marzocchi.com

Marzocchi's top-of-the-line 888 RC dual-crown fork is a high-tech approach to solving the world's burlier problems. It provides 8 inches of up and down—what you automatically expect from a big daddy—while its adjustability and bomb-proof dependability make it one of the better long-travel forks on the market.

The fork is supple for the small stuff, strong for the big stuff, and malleable in many different ways thanks to rebound, preload and compression adjustments. Thirty click adjusters control rebound on the right leg and compression on the left, while preload can be changed internally via three-setting clip.

The 888 RC features the beefy characteristics of most long-travel forks: it weighs 7.5 pounds, has a 20-millimeter thru-axle, a steel alloy steer tube, an optional bolt-on stem and mounts designed for 8-inch rotors.

Where it steps away from the norm is its internals. Compression damping is provided by Marzocchi's high-speed compression valve system, a close relative to a motocross cartridge that uses an open-bath specifically designed to eliminate harsh bottoming and loss of control. Coil springs run inside 35-millimeter heat-treated, black anodized 7000-series aluminum stanchions, which in turn sink into stiff magnesium Monolite one-piece arch and sliders. The 888 also comes in a 7-inch version.

This fork has held up to months of abuse on the trail. Aside from some preload adjustment, it has required no maintenance or major overhauls. It's incredibly active when dealing with smaller bumps, moving smoothly into its travel with little hesitation. At the same time, the 888 RC ramps up nicely for the big stuff. Travel progresses significantly from start to finish. I know I stuffed the fork full travel a couple of times, and can't recall a single ear-cracking bottom-out episode.

The only noticeable downfall of the 888 RC is that it's a sluggish climber. Once the fork's travel is engaged "it's on" as the kids say. Therefore, climbing the fork is a bit of a squish fest, but no worse than other long-travel forks.

To beef up the 888 RC for serious drops, some riders add 7-stock oil to each leg or purchase Marzocchi's $40 aftermarket compression sleeve with three settings. Insert firmer springs, put the preload setting on the highest level and you've got a fork that will take huge hits and run smoothly for a long, long time.