Marzocchi 55 ATA // $935
More info: 800-227-5579; marzocchi.com
Marzocchi's top-of-the-line, all-mountain fork weighs just 4.6 pounds, yet cranks out an impressive 6.5 inches of travel. On top of that, it comes loaded with a suspension lock-out, variable low-speed compression damping, a quick-release, 20-millimeter thru-axle, and 40 millimeters of adjustable travel. It's a veritable Swiss Army knife on steroids.
Marzocchi says the nickel-coating treatment on its 35-millimeter stanchions reduces stiction and cuts a quarter-pound off the finished product.
Climbing steep pitches while your front wheel flops around like a dying fish isn't a ton of fun. To that end, the wind-down, travel adjuster on the 55 ATA is easy on the fingers and does a nice job of steepening your head angle. It does, however, take a heck of a lot of clicks (36, to be exact) to drop the fork from 165 to 125 millimeters of travel. With all those clicks at your disposal, it's easy to lose track of where your ideal ride height is. Hash marks on the stanchions would help.
To reduce unwanted bobbing, Marzocchi outfitted the 55 ATA with its premier compression-damping system--TST Micro. In a nutshell, you twist the gold knob at the top of the left fork leg to fine-tune the firmness of the suspension "lock out" (i.e., the amount of low-speed compression damping you want). You can set the fork to ride hard as a rock or as soft as Jell-O without resorting to getting off the bike, fiddling with five different knobs, changing air pressures, or taking a college-level course in fluid dynamics.
You can also fine-tune the fork's spring rate and bottom-out resistance by adding air to the PAR (positive air resistance) chamber. The 55 ATA can feel surprisingly coil-like or it can ramp up steeply at the end of its stroke. Adding or subtracting just a few PSI in the PAR chamber completely changes the nature of this fork.
After two months of flogging the 55 ATA, I'm a big fan. Despite its insanely light weight, the 55 ATA is darn near double-crown stiff, the stroke is smooth and predictable, the thru-axle system is easy to use, the fork seems almost impervious to mud, and I could easily adjust it to ride any damned way I wanted.