Commencal Supreme V4 with its creator Nico Menard
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FIRST IMPRESSIONS – COMMENCAL SUPREME V4
This was my fourth visit to the Commencal headquarters in Andorra to ride one of their downhill bikes. Whilst visiting the company last December I’d had a quick look at what was in store this season and it was great to see their main racer Remi Thirion apply the bike in fine fashion to the World Cup series this season before he got injured. He was surely on his way to his second win for them.
Of course Commencal has had its most wins with the Atherton family who took versions two and three of the Supreme to huge success including World Cup and World Championship titles. I’d ridden Gee’s V2 – in Schladming and also Wales and the V3 in Andorra. The V2 was heavy and pretty stiff but those 43lbs didn’t stop Gee from winning the World Cup series in 2010. The V3 was lighter and livelier.
This, the V4 is a radical departure from those bikes, and its easy to draw conclusions that they’ve simply gone out to copy the very successful VProcess bikes that multi World Champion Nico Vouilloz rode in the early part of this century. Inspiration, yes. Its similarity only lies in the high pivot with idler design. But is that enough?
Well, the proof would be in the riding and it was on this years World Championship track that I was to get an insight of what’s in store. First up there is less pedal feedback than the old design, not that is such a bad thing and the week after visiting Andorra I rode Lorenzo Suding’s V3 in Pila, Italy to get a reminder of how the old bike functioned. It was lively reminder and certainly no dog.
This new bike has a lot more travel, 220mm compared to 190mm so instantly the ride is going to be more comfortable in places. Sluggish? No. The bike is crisp off the top of the pedal stroke, manouevrable and certainly lively. More than anything on this bike I was keen to get some idea of weight transfer issues that might occur with the quite sizeable rearward axle path. Whilst I’ve ridden some excellent examples of such designs it needs to be considered how much forward weight bias can sometimes happen when the chainstays become crazy long when the bike is deep in the action.
The first impression of the bike were on its excellent composure when tracking over big breakers into hard corners, the bike can be guided well and there is very little skitter from the rear, maybe some chassis flex is at work here which is no bad thing. Its ace card however is in the nastier terrain, the kind of track which will be ridden at the Worlds next week, its here that the bike excels and the combined effect of what appears to be a low bottom bracket – I measured it at about 350mm and the chart says a minus 5mm drop – will aid this. Its rear damping system has solid and simple composure when charged through hard stuff and is very supportive in such places.There was some rattle from the idler but had designer Nico Menard says the material is being changed for production.
Commencal have an interesting headtube adjustability going on with optional inserts but on paper the reach numbers appear to be very small so this is certainly something we will be exploring further when the full range of sizes become available as I was undersized on the prototype bike that I was riding.
So what can we expect when the production versions become available? We weighed the prototype bike in these photos with Rockshox suspension at around 39lb without pedals and Commencal say that the new bikes will be slightly heavier than this. Is this too heavy? After testing Pila recently we found that even when you go down to 33lb that sometimes it makes not as much difference as you’d imagine for such things as suspension quality and frame stiffness will factor more importantly. That said many will be hoping the new bikes do drop in under 40lb.
It’s a very different bike to the V3 no doubt, and the suspension certainly builds differently to the old bike, the progressivity is good and the quality of damping on offer is excellent. Interestingly the bike will not be available with Bos suspension, which is a shame but price wise it will provide powerful completion to the YT Tues no doubt.
Is it a bike I look forward to riding when they become production or is it one of those bikes where I dread the conversation with the product manager? The suspension works well, I’m not overly worried about the weight and they’re one of the few companies that are offering a big range of sizes at a good price. Its also interesting to hear from Commencal, a brand historically distributed through dealers, that people are beginning to enjoy the immediate contact with the manufacturer that direct sales offers.
Prices and spec’s to be released next week