TOP 3 Budget Performance MTB Forks | Marzocchi Bomber Z2 - Bomber Z1 - RockShox Domain

budget performance mountain bike forks header image with a marzocchi bomber z2 and z1 and a rockshox domain leaning against a white wall


It seems like every year, we see a new super fork with a four figure price tag and you’ll hear us talking about all those marginal gains they’ve made over the previous generation, but these top of the line forks aren’t the only ones getting upgrades every generation.

There are more affordable options that don’t get quite the limelight as the superstars at the top of the lineup, and they offer some great performance for the price. No matter what size of stanchions or amount of travel you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered. Today we’ll be checking out our favorite trail, all mountain, and enduro/freeride forks that pack a serious punch for their price.

Let’s get into it!

Alright so the theme with all of these more budget minded forks is that we’re going to be compromising on weight and adjustments, but the on trail performance is super comparable to the more expensive offerings. If you prefer to ‘set and forget’ your suspension and just get out there to ride, then you’ll be stoked on how straight forward these forks are and how well they perform right out of the box!

Marzocchi Bomber Z2

First up, we’re going to be looking at the Marzocchi Z2. Marzocchi has always been known for their no BS products, reliable performance, and has always been coming out with forks at a more affordable price than some of their competitors.

red marzocchi bomber z2 budget mountain bike fork leaning against a white wall

Specs and Price

The Z2 comes in 29” and 27.5” wheeled options, with travel ranging from 100mm to 140mm for both wheel sizes, and 150mm is also available for the 27.5" version. And those brake mounts on the lower leg are going to pair up with 160mm rotors and the fork weighs 2030 grams, about 250 grams more than the comparable Fox 34. Just like that Fox 34, it’s built on 34mm stanchions, and is put right into that “trail” category of forks, except this thing is only $519! That’s almost $300 less than the Fox 34 Performance! This thing is going to be a perfect fit on a bunch of bikes, like a shorter travel “downcountry” setup or on a more traditional 140mm trail bike. It also comes in a very stealthy matte black or this popping fire engine red.

Damper and Airspring

So what’s actually inside of this fork? The Z2 uses Marzocchi’s Rail damper, which is basically an open bath damper. On top of that damper, there’s a low speed compression lever that’s infinitely adjustable without any clicks of engagement, which allows for super quick on the fly adjustments.

It’s also super easy to just look down and see exactly where your compression settings are, rather than having to count clicks on more expensive options. On the bottom of that damper side is the rebound knob which has 17 clicks of adjustment, which gives you plenty of room to tinker and find your perfect rebound setup.

birds eye view of a marzocchi bomber air and damper side with rail damper

On the air spring side, you’ve got the same air spring as the Fox 34 Rhythm that you can put volume spacers to help tune that final part of your stroke. It’s just like any other fork! If you’re getting gnar and finding yourself bottoming out, then toss that volume spacer in there and get back to hucking your meat.

Marzocchi Bomber Z1

Moving onto our all mountain fork, this is the Marzocchi Z1! Yes, it does look super similar to the Z2 that we just looked at but on the inside and outside there’s a bit more going on. Let’s check out the external specs of the fork first.

red marzocchi bomber z1 mountain bike fork leaning against a red bmw e30

Specs and Price

The Z1 is made for 27.5" wheels with between 150mm and 180mm of travel, or 29" wheels with between 140mm and 170mm of travel. And with that big range of travel, this fork is also right at home on a bunch of different bikes. Whether you want to over fork a trail bike to make your rig a bit more capable or you want a long travel 180mm single crown on a park bike, this fork has you covered.

Just like the Fox 36, it’s got brake mounts for a 180mm rotor and It’s going to be sliding on 36mm stanchions, but with a much lower price point of $729, $150 less than the comparable Fox 36 Performance. The Z1 will weigh about 2200 grams, which is about 250 grams more than a comparable Fox 36. Also, if you’re a fan of firetrucks, then you’re going to love this red color, just like the Z2! Or if you’re trying to stay a little more under the radar, then there’s also the classic black which won’t clash with any paint schemes.


Now looking at the inside of the Marzocchi Z1, we’ve got a Grip damper, which is the exact same damper that comes in the Fox 36 Rhythm and Fox 36 Performance forks. Not only that, it uses the same air spring design and chassis material as the Fox 36 Rhythm fork. So you can expect this fork to perform identically to the Fox 36 Rhythm which is an OEM only fork.

The material used in the Marzocchi Z1 and Rhythm 36 chassis is a more affordable and softer metal than what’s used in the Fox 36 Performance, Performance Elite, and Factory chassis’. So to make the more affordable forks as stiff as the more expensive forks, Marzocchi and Fox use a little extra material so that the forks are ready to take the abuse you’re going to throw at them.

detail of grip damper on a bomber z1 mountain bike fork


I actually rode the Performance Fox 36 for quite a while before upgrading my damper to the Grip2, and I don’t actually think it was an upgrade! I loved the simplicity of the Grip damper and while the Grip2 has more adjustments, I discovered that I’m more of a set it and forget it kind of guy who prefers to have fewer adjustments. With just one compression dial and one rebound knob, you can spend more time riding your bike and less time worrying about how it rides.

Also, just like the Z2, if you’re a fan of firetrucks, then you’re going to love this red color! Or if you’re trying to stay a little more under the radar, then there’s also the classic black for that stealthy look.

alex royal riding some rocks on his mountain bike with a marzocchi bomber z1 budget mountain bike fork

RockShox Domain

Do you get super gnarly? Do you ride big drops? Is your 36mm stanchion fork not up to the challenge of your riding? Then let’s take a look at the Rockshox Domain! This fork is made for anyone looking for a super supportive and stiff fork when riding the rowdiest trails they can find.

rockshox domain mountain bike fork handing on a mossy tree

Specs and Price

Just like its brother, the Rockshox ZEB, this fork runs on 38mm stanchions and fits either 27.5" or 29" wheels. On the scale, the Domain comes in at about 2550 grams, about 250 grams more than the ZEB. The Domain also offers between 150mm and 180mm of travel, and the brake caliper mounts directly to a 200mm rotor with no adapters, which really makes the intentions of this fork clear. This thing is ready to get sendy!

At $579, it’s literally half the cost of the 2023 ZEB ultimate, and over $300 cheaper than the ZEB Select, and it still kicks some serious butt out on the trail! We already did a whole video comparing the Domain and the ZEB if you want the whole breakdown, but we’ll go over all the info on the Domain here too.

Damper and Airspring

This fork has a high volume DebonAir air spring that you can stuff with volume spacers to adjust how it feels through the entire stroke. On the other side, it has the Rockshox Motion Control damper which actually has super similar adjustments to those grip and rail dampers we looked at earlier!

detail up stanchions on a rockshox domain mountain bike fork
detail of compression knob on a rockshox domain mountain bike fork

This damper is an emulsion damper, which means that the oil and the air are mixed together in the same space. On top it has that adjustable low speed compression dial with clicks between open and closed and on the bottom has that low speed rebound knob. Its low speed dial is indexed, so if you’re someone who wants to fine tune their ride, then this is definitely a positive for you.

A huge perk of this fork is that you are able to upgrade your domain with the Charger 2.1 RC2 damper that was in the previous gen ZEB Ultimates in case you’re looking for even more adjustability with your high and low speed compression. This Charger 2.1 RC2 damper can just drop right in and then you’ve basically got the last generation ZEB Ultimate, which is a super sweet fork!


On the trail, the Domain is super comparable to other 38mm stanchion forks because their biggest strength is their stiffness over their narrower stanchioned family members. A stout fork like this won’t get thrown off line as easily as a 36mm stanchion fork, and that’s just to do with the chassis and not the damper or air spring. The stronger chassis won’t get pushed around by rocks or anything trying to shove your front wheel off line so you can plow through whatever chundery section of trail you point it at.

rockshox domain mountain bike fork floating in a forest
mike riding the rockshox domain budget 38mm stanchion mountain bike fork down some rocks


These three bang for your buck forks are all amazing options for those looking to save a couple of bucks, compared to the top tier forks, without sacrificing too much performance. While you may not get as much adjustment with the Marzocchi Bomber Z1 or Z2 or the RockShox Domain when compared to their top-tier options, you will be able to get on your bike with a fork that is built to last and performs just about as good.

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Got questions? Feel free to shoot us an email or give us a call!

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Tor Weiland



Bellingham, WA

Current Bikes: Transition Spire

Bike Size: Medium

Favorite Trails: Oriental Express, Galbraith

About Me: Hailing from the sunny landscape of California, Tor headed north and landed here in the cloudy town of Bellingham, WA. His riding style is "PINNED" and he loves to scope out those seemingly impossible triples. He loves riding and also loves sharing his experiences with others. You can catch Tor in front of the camera or behind the keyboard, but best of luck catching him on the trail!