Commencal have been messing around with short-travel, downhill-orientated bikes for some years now, but have never really hit the mark – until now.
The Supreme has less suspension than many ‘gravity’ machines (160mm/6.3in) but it’s more than capable of hitting the big mountain stuff on your annual trip to Whistler or the Alps and paying you back with a bucketful of grins. And in between, it’s an awesome plaything for honing your skills on.
Ride & handling: Playful rig that’s short on travel but big on fun
The Supreme really does live up to its design brief. Commencal wanted to create a bike that was just plain fun, and the Supreme is instantly and overwhelmingly so. The diminutive chassis of our size small/med bike felt more like a long-travel four-cross bike than a big mountain beast. The short travel, progressive rising rate suspension adds to the fun.
The firm suspension platform can be really worked to get the most pop out of any lip and the dimensions encourage you skyward at every opportunity. Coming back to Earth, the progressive rate of the shock is smooth enough that you don’t get a sudden ankle-straining jolt as you land, just controlled – but not mega cushioned – impact absorption.
As soon as the bike picks up speed it’s clear it just isn’t built to ride against the clock. There just isn’t the grip finding, speed-carrying, impact-absorbing travel you need for downhill racing. So you may not be the first to the bottom, but you’ll have the most fun. The low centre of gravity is pretty much centred between your feet, making direction changes lightning fast. With the ability to hop so easily and turn so quickly, the bike wants to take the most imaginative and fun route down.
Despite using a standard quick-release rear axle, the back end is stunningly stiff. With the intuitive feedback gained from the main pivot between your feet, this allows you to slam the bike into turns and feel for grip as you go round. Front-end tracking is also superb, with the Fox 36 Van R fork’s 36mm chassis barely flinching, even when pushed really hard through rough turns. The ability of the fork to absorb impacts belies the short travel, and there’s never even a hint of a harsh bottom-out.
This bike isn’t going to be the fastest, but the grin factor is awesome. Add to that the fact you can stick the saddle up and comfortably and efficiently pedal, then we’re even smiling all the way to the top for another go.
commencal supreme: commencal supreme Steve Behr
Frame & equipment: Amazingly manoeuvrable and agile chassis, with superb fork and shock
Commencal have taken all the elements of their successful Supreme DH bike and refocused them on fun – rather than simply winning races. The Supreme uses the same Contact System rear suspension as the DH, but with reduced travel The system uses a single pivot swingarm, with the main pivot mounted above the bottom bracket axle and in line with the top of the chainring.
This placement neutralises any effects of pedalling on the rear suspension and improves efficiency. Separate, triangulated chainstays and seatstays are used, rather than a single swingarm, which adds to the stiffness of the back end. This is definitely a good thing, because the bike comes with a standard quick-release rear axle, although a Maxle upgrade is available if desired.
The rear shock is activated by a linkage that sits way down in the frame, as does the shock, keeping the centre of gravity low. The shock itself, the rarely seen Fox DHX RC2 unit, is a serious upgrade, and it boasts external adjustments for rebound and low speed compression – meaning you can increase the damping for more efficient pedalling.
Up front, the head angle can be adjusted and set at 66 or 68 degrees by rotating the insert sleeve. Commencal splashed out a large part of the bike’s £2,500 pricetag on the fork. The coil-sprung Fox 36 Van R has external preload and rebound damping and oozes quality. Avid’s popular Elixir R brakes make an appearance and perform faultlessly.
Shifting across the wide ratio 11-34t cassette is managed by SRAM X7 shifters and rear mech, and the chain is kept in check with e.thirteen’s budget, yet superb, LS1 chainguide. The tyre spec is typically French, with Commencal opting for a smaller 2.35in Kenda Nevegal rear tyre over the 2.5in front. The cockpit is all Race Face, apart from the unusually high, 2in rise Commencal branded bars.