At the EICMA show in Milan, Italy last month, Marzocchi introduced its semi-active suspension system. The company plans to offer the system in the near future as an OEM fitment as well as aftermarket versions of the electronic forks and shocks.
The Marzocchi semi-active suspension shares characteristics with both Ducati Skyhook Suspension (DSS, used on the 2013 Multistrada) and BMW’s Dynamic Damping Control (DDC, offered on the 2013 HP4), and potentially offers more user-adjustability than each.
Damping in the forks and shock is controlled by electronic valves developed by Tenneco, which owns a variety of suspension and exhaust brands (including Monroe and Thrush) and acquired Marzocchi in 2008. The damping response time is claimed to be 10 milliseconds, about the same as the BMW and Ducati systems.
The suspension is controlled through the skyhook algorithm, which varies damping based on information from accelerometers mounted to the front and rear wheels and the front and rear of the chassis. The skyhook method of control is used in many automotive applications and is also used in DSS (hence the name). The Marzocchi system, however, goes a step further and also uses sensor inputs to take the current riding conditions into account, in a manner similar to how BMW’s DDC operates. The sensor inputs used include speed, throttle position, acceleration and lean angle; incorporating both methods of control in a single system does offer potential for increased performance over a wider variety of conditions, but the sensors of both arrangements would be required.
Marzocchi claims that a laptop or tablet computer can be hooked up to the system’s ECU to make changes, which allow a user to modify general damping settings or to directly change the skyhook parameters. Neither DSS nor DDC offer this type of adjustment (although adding BMW’s HP Calibration Kit to the HP4 does allow some alterations to DDC) and it’s unclear whether or not this type of access will make it to final production in either OEM or aftermarket form.
While the company has not indicated which manufacturer will offer the system on a production motorcycle, Marzocchi supplies OEM suspension units to Harley-Davidson, Ducati, BMW and Piaggio in addition to MV Agusta, and the system could soon be available on many models.
There is one interesting and perhaps ironic aspect of the Marzocchi/Tenneco relationship: Tenneco has its own semi-active system, dubbed Continuously Controlled Electronic Suspension (CES), which is available in many OEM automotive applications. The valves used in the CES system, which are presumably similar to those used in Marzocchi’s version, were developed in conjunction with Ohlins’ racing department. Marzocchi has quite a bit of interesting information on its website: http://moto.marzocchi.com/en/discover-the-new-marzocchi-semi-active-technology.aspx?idC=61754&LN=en-US“>.