26.07.13.Seth Barrett CommencalPIC © Andy Lloyd
26.07.13. Seth Barrett Commencal PIC © Andy Lloyd

Matching bikes to people and the type of riding that they do. This time around it is Forest of Dean local, and juvenile category downhill racer, Seth Barrett...

From Dirt Issue 139 - September 2013

Words by Steve Jones. Photos by Andy Lloyd.

From ripper to juvenile and next year into the youth class, Seth Barrett has been moving through the classes and gears, and recently gaining his first national podium. He’s bust a few bones along the way, but is now settling into life on the Commencal Supreme DH. At first there were concerns that we’d got the wrong size for him, but he seems to have tucked it in here and there on the bike and gained some upper body with the relentless hammering of downhill runs in the Forest of Dean.

He wrote this on the eve of another race win for both him and pro rider Remi Thirion at Andorra… both on Commencal. Great stuff. >>

Click through to keep reading...

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26.07.13.Seth Barrett CommencalPIC © Andy Lloyd
26.07.13. Seth Barrett Commencal PIC © Andy Lloyd
Height: 5ft 3"

Weight: 45.8kg

Class: Juvenile

Bike history: Kona Stinky 24, Scott Voltage FR 10, Commencal Supreme DH V3 

Dirt: On the Scott Voltage, your previous bike, you had great success, so why did you want to change?

Seth: It was just because you see everyone these days doing downhill racing on a downhill bike, and when you’re doing the sport on a 160mm travel bike you lack something, plus it’s just not as quick and smooth as a downhill bike. The Scott had also seen quite a lot of action before it came along to me, so after carrying out quite a few repairs initially the bike was getting pretty tired and bushings and bearings were a becoming a regular problem. It’s still a great bike, with great memories!

You have a medium, it is similar in dimensions to your old Scott, but would you have chosen a medium downhill bike? Surely most manufacturers have you down as a small size?

That’s what I would’ve thought as well, but when I first saw the Commencal I noticed how it was a little longer and bigger, so from coming off the Scott and onto the Commencal, you could feel a difference. However once on, and after a few tweaks here and there, the bike felt simply so much better.

Do you think it fits?

Well I think it fits perfectly. I think it distributes the amount of body weight evenly over most of the whole bike. The Commencal feels a lot higher compared to the Scott, but my body weight feels well distributed.

Are you comfortable with the ride position?

Yes, absolutely.

You were gunning for a Nukeproof, but the Commencal is lighter than the Pulse, but heavier than the Scott. Is it a fair trade off, and how’s it been on a heavier bike? Does it actually feel heavier when riding, some bikes ride lighter than others after all.

26.07.13. Seth Barrett Commencal PIC © Andy Lloyd
26.07.13. Seth Barrett Commencal PIC © Andy Lloyd

Have you felt a need to ride it differently?

Not really no, I feel that the 10mm rise on the bars may be a tad too low but other than that nothing at all… except that with the bigger triple clamp) fork I can charge harder.

Have there been any problems adjusting your ride that you’ve noticed?

So far I have replaced the bars, and had to play about with getting the right shock settings. I have adjusted the Fox Van R shock to get it right for my weight and I also had to play about with various springs in the front to get the balance right.

Have you felt the benefit, can you ‘charge’ more?

Definitely yes, because it’s specifically a downhill bike which I have complete confidence in so therefore it has given me personal confidence to go head on into sections faster.

Can you feel the increased stability?

Definitely.

Do you need 200mm travel? Previously you were on 180/160 correct?

Correct, on the Scott I had 160mm of travel and I had to set it up too hard for me, making the ride very uncomfortable. Now with 200mm of travel I have set it up perfectly for my weight and still have plenty of travel remaining. I’m not really using all the travel in most places I go to, I’m pretty light at eight stone and so we’re at the bottom end of spring rates.

Let’s talk detail then. You’ve made a few changes? Talk us through them, what have you swapped for and why.

As I said, my first swap on the bike was the bars. Originally there were some normal Commencal bars on the bike and were around 760mm. I knew that was way too big for me so I advanced on some Renthal Fatbar Lites with a 10mm rise and cut the width down to 720mm. This made the front a little lower and better for my reach, my shoulders are a fair bit narrower than Peaty’s. Then I changed the springs, swapped the wheels for Superstar DH–595’s (as I buckled the front wheel straight away racing at Combe Sydenham), replaced the flat pedals for Crank Bros Mallets.  Since then the only thing I have had to do is to replace the chain guide as the current one snapped in two.

With the suspension you’ve moved from a Fox 36 to a Fox 40, how’s that been in terms of size and manoeuvrability?

At first I noticed that the fox 40 did weigh a lot more than the 36’s as the 40’s were a lot bigger. However the 40’s are way better because they respond in choppy ground and feel a lot smoother than the air fork, still the air 36 did do me proud for a few years.

And on the rear, a Fox air can to a coil?

I definitely prefer the coil because it is more suitable for downhill racing. The Fox air is just not as smooth. When bottoming out on the coil, you barely notice, but when you bottom on the air, it makes a loud noise and feels more like a solid smash. When I was riding the air set up I felt it was more biased towards XC, it just bounced, whereas the coil feels more planted.

Are there any improvements that could be made with the suspension?

Not off the top of my head at the moment, but maybe to tweak the suspension just a little more to make the ride a little plusher.

Do you ever work the dials? Not that you have many dials to chose from?

There’s only the rebound, but yes I wouldn’t mind trying a shock with a bit more adjustability. Just a compression adjuster would be good.

26.07.13.Seth Barrett CommencalPIC © Andy Lloyd
26.07.13. Seth Barrett Commencal PIC © Andy Lloyd

Yeah, it’s perfect now. At first I found it very difficult to just get the rear shock right, we have been through spring after spring just to get it right, but we figured it out and feel we have found the perfect spring rate.

How has the reliability been with the bike in general?

The bike has just been mind blowing, it’s just so smooth, but planted. It has been really reliable, nothing has gone wrong with it so far. It’s just that perfect.

Mud clearance?

Since getting the bike the weather has been pretty good so mud clearance has not really been put to the test. However, during one (and the only once since getting the bike) particularly wet and muddy race I purchased a Rock Guardz mudguard which helped keep the muck out of my eyes and also keep the important bits on the bike clean as well. I notice the 2014 bikes have guards to protect the shock, which is a definite plus.

Noise?

Just a bit of chain rattle and a creaky saddle.

Brakes. Is the Formula RX a good race brake? Would they be your first choice?

I’m not sure if they would be my first choice, but don’t get me wrong, they are still great, but it does just take some time getting them right to stop you dead and to get a good feel about them. I am on my second set of pads and had them bled twice. I’d prefer a smaller lever with better sensitivity.

You bumped into your mate and new National Youth Champ Laurie Greenland last week, he’s on a Nukeproof Pulse, what were your feelings when you jumped on his bike?

My first thought was how big it was. It was a small but it felt a little bigger than my medium Commencal, but that might have just been a set up thing, but other than that felt practically the same.

Where next with the Supreme?

Well I really hope for big things too come. The bike is perfect right now, I have several races booked up and I have every confidence in it, have every ambition to succeed and most importantly will enjoy every moment I’m left with it. This bike is definitely one to remember.

In reality Seth’s new Commencal was never that much bigger than his old Scott Voltage, especially in the downtube and wheelbase. However he’s gained speed and has the confidence to hit sections harder and faster. It needs a touch of lightening here and there, but Seth as well as Thirion have proved, the bike is a winner.