Commencal Super 4.3 £1564.99

Light, tight and fast

BikeRadar score 4/5

The freeride flair of Cedric Gracia and the Atherton family’s World Championship downhill domination has put thefocus on Commencal's big-hit bikes. This new short-travel speed bike shows there’s no less excitement in their take on cross-country.

The Super 4 isn’t perfect. It’s desperate for a wider bar and deserves lighter equipment to cut its overall weight as soon as you can afford it. However, none of this hides the fact that the Super 4 delivers masses of fun and easy speed right from the first taut, tight tracking pedal stroke to the end of every high velocity play down the woods or ton-up marathon.

Ride & handling: Fast tyres and flick-knife geometry create a singletrack assassin

Commencal's old Meta 4 was always a lot of fun but the lighter, stiffer, lower, tighter Super 4 is a properly pugnacious ride. It certainly punches well above its travel in the enjoyment and enthusiasm stakes.

While it’s relatively weighty for a £1,500 4in-travel bike, the Contact System suspension has been reconfigured for less pedal bob and a tighter overall feel. The result is a very positive feel through the pedals and no sense of robbed effort, even when you’re grinding a big gear.

The use of a pronounced rising rate ratio (the rear shock compresses easier at the start than the end) still gives enough initial traction to stick the tyres rather than spin them on stutter bumps or gravelly sections.

The relatively low pivot means the Super 4 handles square edges without much kickback too, and it’ll snap down the power immediately wherever the suspension is in the stroke.

Even the custom-valved Fox shock can only do so much with 100mm of wheel movement, however, so you’ll still feel a hefty thump over bigger hits and full travel is a rare result.

There’s no avoiding the fact that the super-low bottom bracket meant we toe-tapped on a regular basis, and the crank tips took a battering which may put some riders off – particularly on rutted trails.

However the low-slung frame feels remarkably anchored when you’re drifting and ripping the bike through turns. Add obvious stiffness and attendant accuracy when it really matters, and the Super 4 feels more like a 4X rig than a cross-country bike when you hit the singletrack.

Comparatively slack angles mean you can take big liberties with the slippery-when-wet tyres without landing on your arse. Plugging in a set of proper width riser bars (and maybe fitting a shorter stem) would release the riotous character of this punchy prizefighter.

Frame: New short-travel frame is a cracker, but try one for size before you buy

Although it looks like the old Meta 4, the Super 4.3 is an all-new frame for Commencal. The mainframe is triple-butted and the head gussets are gone. There’s detailed reworking of the machined sections around the bottom bracket and head of the chainstays too.

This all saves 300g over the old frame, but there are mechanical changes too. Rather than a separate, flexy connecting piece, the rear seatstays now pivot above the dropouts then extend through to the top of the slightly modified Contact System suspension. The asymmetric rear end is also stiffer and there’s a sturdier gear hanger.

While the small size is part of the ‘duck and dive’ appeal on tight trails it’s worth noting that our medium test frame would be close to a small in many manufacturers’ ranges. So if you want plenty of breathing space, get a size larger than normal.

Equipment: Relatively low spec for the price, and silly narrow bars hamper handling potential

Andorra-based Commencal may have a big profile but they're still a relatively small company, which means they suffer slightly on kit comparison.

On the 4.3 that means you’re getting a heavy steel steerer RockShox Recon fork when you might expect top-spec RockShox or Fox, but at only 100mm the damping and control differences aren’t as marked.

You get a Truvativ Firex crank with SRAM X7 – not a Stylo with X9 – and the Avid brakes are basic too. Apart from weight though, you’ll notice very little performance difference.

The Hutchinson Pythons are classic dry weather/trail centre tyres with plenty of cushioning volume, even in the 2.0in version. The complementary white rims got plenty of admiring looks and stayed round however rough we got.

The sculpted SDG saddle was really appreciated, but the silly, skinny 620mm handlebars really hamstring the obvious singletrack blitz potential of the Super 4.3.

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