Prepare to drool uncontrollably as we show you around the guest editor's favourite rig...
Cedric Gracia has just moved from long-time sponsors Cannondale to Commençal and here's the bike he'll be dominating gravity events on this season - the awesome Commençal VIP Supreme DH.
The flamboyant French downhill/ freeride star was lured to Commençal by the prospect of working with Max Commençal, who was his boss when he was on the Sunn team. Max agreed to let Cedric get involved in bike design and our man has always had very firm opinions on what he wants.
So what is Cedric looking for in a downhill race bike? Most importantly, he must feel 100 per cent at home on it. After all, if you're trying to shave tenths of a second off a race run or launching a 50ft gap at the Red Bull Rampage, there's no room for 'nearly right'. And living just 500 yards from Commençal's design office in mountainous Andorra, Cedric can have plenty of direct input into the design process.
Like many of the best French downhill racers (riders like Gachet, Vouilloz and Chausson among others), Cedric prefers less rather than more rear wheel travel and has settled on 178mm (7in). The ability to get by on less travel than usual is testament to the smooth 'flow' approach of French racers who ski or snowboard during the winter months (Cedric used to be on the French national ski team). The VIP Supreme's frame is made from Commençal's own Nuts AL tubing which is designed to provide high strength at a low weight (3.8kg without the shock). One of the most interesting details is the adjustable head angle that can be moved one degree either way. While that might not sound a lot, on a fine-tuned race bike the change in performance can be massive.
The frame has a single pivot rear suspension design with a rocker link activating a Marzocchi Rocco RC rear shock. Up front is a Marzocchi 888 VF2 DH fork complete with a crownmounted Marzocchi stem. The two suspension units are tuned to Cedric's ride preference, which means lots of smooth linear travel ending in a soft but firm ramp to bottom out. What's more surprising is the almost complete lack of rebound damping - a set-up that flies in the face of the current vogue for slower rebound rates.
"I like it like that," says Cedric, simply, and who are we to argue? He also praises the performance and toolless serviceability of the Rocco shock.
Pimpin' it up!
Braking is handled by Formula Oro brakes with standard pads and 203mm rotors. From experience, we know that these stoppers have enough bite to put Jaws to shame. We hear that Formula will also be producing special metallic gold models featuring Cedric's new 'CG' logo, which are bound to look awesome.
The SRAM X.0 transmission is flawless, featherlight and, despite its fragile appearance, surprisingly resilient. RaceFace supply their bombproof Diabolus crankset and bar, and Crank Brothers Mallet clipless pedals connect Cedric's Oakley shoes to the bike.
Top downhillers usually like to shave weight from their bikes by fitting light but strong wheels, and Cedric is no exception. He runs Sun Ringlé Abbah SOS hubs on Sun Ringlé Singletrack rims shod with Maxxis Minion DHF frontspecific tyres (in the sticky Slow Reezaay compound) at both the front and rear. Cedric reckons that running a front tyre out back makes high-speed cornering more predictable. He uses this bike for downhill, freeride and slopestyle with only minor changes, mostly tuning and positioning rather than altering the spec.
Cedric has also been responsible for the look of the bike. He's known for his love of luxury items (he drives a new Hummer H2 with the same 22in wheels as basketball star Shaquille O'Neall uses) so he's taken care to make sure the bike looks good. The result is virginal white paintwork with black and gold graphics for that Las Vegas touch. The frame is also adorned with custom 'CG' graphics arranged in a Dolce and Gabbana meets Louis Vuitton style - something you'll be seeing more of later this year when Cedric launches a range of CG-branded products. For more info check out www.cedricgracia.com.
WHAT MAKES THIS BIKE A SUPERBIKE?
- Factory-fettled Marzocchi suspension
- Cedric controlled all aspects of the design
- Adjustable geometry for a personalized ride
The connecting rod
This is the heart of the Contact system. The single-pivoted swingarm drives the shock via a linkage controlled by a push rod. The length of this rod and the dimensions of the link are designed to keep the ride supple and linear in the first few inches of movement, ramping up towards the end of the stroke. This means that the shock's adjustment and effect are as independent from the frame as possible.
Commençal have raised the pivot to be as near to the chain-line as possible. This is designed to give the most effective neutral position for sprinting, pedalling and rear end movement on a downhill bike that's designed to run a single chainring and chain guide.
SRAM X.0 gears
Fast, silent shifting comes courtesy of the short-cage SRAM X.0 rear mech which is the perfect blend of lightweight, function and bling. A short cage means less chain and that results in a quieter bike when banging down World Cup courses.
We love the 'McDonald's chic' name badge on the top tube. It shows that Cedric doesn't take things too seriously.
Adjustable head tube
This is a crafty way to allow Cedric to fine tune the geometry of his bike to suit individual race tracks. Slacken the pinch bots, turn the cups 180 degrees and adjust the head angle by a degree for instant performance benefits.
Cedric's a showman who likes his bikes to make an impact. For 2006 he's designed his own CG graphics; how cool is that!