Endtroducing: Max Commencal
Legend in our lifetime
Max Commencal could easily be called one of the ‘Godfathers of Mountainbiking’, or maybe one of the ‘Godfathers of Downhill’? He has been around since the early days and has had such an influence on our sport that he deserves those titles.
Photos: Steve Jones, Seb Schieck and Commencal.
He set up the legendary brand Sunn back in the 1980’s working closely with suspension specialist Olivier Bossard, thinking up and creating classic bikes such as the Radical and Bmix (amongst others). During that period Sunn won numerous championship titles, both in BMX and MTB, with riders such as Nico Vouilloz, Anne Caroline Chausson, Francois Gachet, Fabien Barel, Cedric Gracia, Christophe Leveque and Britain’s Dylan Clayton.
The Sunn dream ended messily in 1988, but after two years of thought and planning Commencal Bikes was launched in 2000. Max has always brought a certain flair and philosophy to everything that he has done and Commencal was no different. His attention to detailing, styling and design integrity is world renowned. Back in the early days his use of colour, bold graphics and photography was ahead of its time. Where Commencal have gone many other brands have followed, and this is largely down to Max.
Commencal Bikes was always going to be a success, but in 2008 the almost unthinkable happened when the Atherton family of Gee, Rachel and Dan all won their individual categories riding on Commencal bikes at the Andorra round of the World Cup. That was a once in a lifetime occurrence.
Fun, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and passionate… we are lucky to have Max Commencal.
Who is Max Commencal?
I made my way into the world of bikes by chance. I'm 60 now and I don’t know where the time has gone!
Where do you live?
What’s your job title?
Majority shareholder and CEO of COMMENCAL Bicycles.
What do you do?
I try to be involved in all areas of the business - new product design, marketing and communication, athletes and teams etc. I contribute to the Sales and E-Commerce departments and I don’t stop thinking about strategy for the coming years. I love the bikes but also the management, numbers and the statistical side of things too.
How long has COMMENCAL been going for?
COMMENCAL was born in 1999 and the first range was launched in the year 2000.
How did you get into MTB?
By chance! I had never really ridden a bike before I started, just a little Moto. I became interested in BMX and then got fully involved in mountain biking.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I had several. Building new Renault cars, working at a Silo plant for 10 hours day, door-to-door sales, preparing boxes of dry dog food... Many experiences that perhaps did not help me progress in my career, but which at least helped me to make decisions about what I didn’t want to do in the future!
Where’s your favourite place?
I often change my mind. At this point in time, I would spend more time in British Columbia, especially in Squamish. I also like to be in Andorra, especially in summer. In winter I like to go to Reunion Island and I’d also like to go back to Nepal.
Where’s your favourite place to ride?
At the moment, Squamish, Whistler or Andorra.
When are you happiest?
When I’m on form, so pretty much just when I’ve slept well and not eaten too much! And when I have the chance to do some sport, particularly riding bikes or skiing. I like to share my hobbies with my family, friends and colleagues.
What makes you angry?
Politics and the people who lead some of our countries. Too many people make war, while 99.99% of people only want to live happily and peacefully.
What makes you happy?
To share things with the people around me. I like it when people are enjoying our bikes, their smiles and gratitude are my greatest satisfaction.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t stop thinking about the future but don’t forget the present. The future always comes too quickly.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever given?
I try to avoid giving advice as such. I rather try to lead by example but it’s not easy…
What are your extravagances?
In every day life, I have few extravagances. They are more professional. I like to go down the unexpected route, where no one’s been before, off the beaten track.
Who do you admire?
Nobody apart from the great champions and the great champions that I've had in my teams. Champions are a different race.
What’s the most important thing in your life?
Remaining free to think and act. And being attentive to my family.
What would you never throw away?
I don’t throw anything away unnecessarily! In fact, I have a little OCD when it comes to recycling, I recycle everything and my recycling cupboard is immaculately arranged.
What’s your greatest fear?
War. I am against war and weapons, in any form, whatsoever.
What was your luckiest escape?
This was definitely when I was returning from my first Dakar Rally in 1979. The 4-seater aircraft, which I was travelling home on, crashed in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. No one died but I think since this I’ve seen life differently. From that day I felt like this is all a bonus, another chance at the game, extra time if you like.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
I listen to the news on the radio and wake up quietly. I take my time, there’s no rushing around or stress in the morning.
What’s the last thing you do at night?
What would be your dream meal?
There are thousands, and not enough time in life to experience and know them all. I like to eat and discover new tastes. I also like very spicy food.
What things do you always carry with you?
Unfortunately, my phone.
Do you have any regrets?
That we don’t get to live forever. I would like to live for hundreds of years. I'm so curious to know what will happen.
What’s the most important lesson that you’ve learnt?
To stay humble and modest. And be optimistic.
If you could have dinner with three famous people (dead or alive) who would they be?
Jesus Christ, The Prophet Muhammad and Albert Einstein. Together!
Who is your favourite rider?
What’s your favourite bike product of all time?
Our META family. If you only have one space for a bike in the back of your car, take a META.
What’s your least favourite bike product of all time?
Road bikes. I really don’t like road bikes.
What’s your favourite motto or saying?
Demerde toi! (Sort your own sh*t!)
What saying do you use too much?
Demerde toi! (Sort your own sh*t!)
What bike are you riding at the moment?
META V4 Race and Electric proto but at Vallnord Bike Park, the SUPREME PARK 2015.
What was the last magazine you read?
I don’t remember because it was too long ago! Excluding bike related stuff, I like photography or architecture magazines.
What are you listening to at the moment?
My own playlist on Spotify (COMMENCAL Spot) - Degiheugi, Ibrahim Maalouf, Damien Saez and of a night, Chopin.
What one thing would you change about yourself?
Nothing, it’s too late!
What are your weaknesses?
Being too sure of myself, demanding, perfectionist, alcoholic, eat too much, spending money, elusive, unpredictable, always in a hurry, falling in love at the wrong time and not falling in love at the right time.
What does the future hold for you?
I live for the future, but the future always comes too fast. I just want to continue to have fun doing what I do and develop the brand worldwide.
What does the future hold for mountain biking?
Fun and excitement. The world of cycling is another world. The MTB world has to break away from the rest of the cycling world because for me, mountain biking is not about suffering.
How would you like to be remembered?
Like an actor!
Like an actor!