We all know Commencal can build a rapid full-suspension machine – their Supreme has World Championship-winning pedigree and the Meta is the undisputed king of British trail centres. The new Skin range is the Andorran ﬁrm’s ﬁrst dabble into the full-carbon cross-country hardtail sector, but it can still rip.
Ride & handling: So light it needs to be nailed down
First things ﬁrst, the Commencal Skin 2 is ﬂat-out. This isn’t a bike you casually throw a leg over and go for a relaxed cruise around the trails on. Its race credentials are obvious and as soon as you’re underway the pace is frantic.
Power transfer is instant and its sub-10.5kg (24lb) weight means that the bike lives for climbs. Long thigh-burners can be spun out with ease and there’s loads of room to hammer it on techy steep bits. The ultra-stiff back end means every fragment of energy that goes through the cranks can be felt at the wheel.
Descending is a trickier business though. You have to read two turns into the future and deal with the inevitable under-steer when it crops up.
The RockShox Reba forks combine with the shallow head angle to do an admirable job of smoothing things out up front, while the back end constantly kicks and bucks about underneath you as only a carbon hardtail can.
The Formula brakes’ instant power can feel grabby on such a light bike and you end up using them in an ‘on/off’ fashion. But this sort of bike is always going to be hesitant at speed and you soon start learning its ways.
The combination of attacking climbs and white knuckle descending results in a totally involving ride. The Skin 2 will leave you buzzing all the way home or to the ﬁnish line.
Frame: Full-carbon chassis with race whippet geometry
Commencal are very proud of the carbon frame at the heart of the Skin 2. Manufactured from High Module 12K carbon ﬁbre in a specialist facility in Taichung, deep in Taiwan, it weighs in at a feather-bothering 1.2kg (2.6lb).
The geometry is race spec with 425mm (16.7in) chainstays and a 600mm (23.6in) top tube for our size large. The 69.3 degree head angle is slightly shallower than typical Euro racing snakes for quicker descending too.
The frame alone sells for just under a grand so it’s deﬁnitely intended as one to hold onto and upgrade.
Equipment: Lightweight build with emphasis on reliability, not bling
The Skin 2 beneﬁts from a lightweight but faultless spec. As the second bike in the range, it may not be dripping with exotic baubles, but what you do get is solid, reliable stuff.
SRAM X-9 shifting is precise, RockShox Reba SL forks weigh naff-all and feature a bar-mounted lockout, while the Formula Oro K18 brakes are razor sharp.
Our only gripes were the SDG saddle, which is too ﬁrm for such a stiff back end, and the Maxxis Larsen TT tyres. They may scorch up dusty trails, but show them a drop of moisture and you’re sliding your way to A&E.