First ride: Commencal Skin 2 review

Full-carbon cross-country hardtail

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £2,099.99 RRP | USD $3,382.00

Our review

Flat-out, great-looking cross-country thoroughbred that’s not for the faint-hearted but is hugely addictive
Skip to view product specifications

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.

Advertisement

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.

Commencal skin 2: commencal skin 2
Steve Behr

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.

Advertisement

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.

he formula brakes are easily powerful enough for such a light steed: he formula brakes are easily powerful enough for such a light steed
Steve Behr

Product Specifications

Product

Name Skin 2 (09)
Brand Commencal

Available Colours White
Rear Hub Shimano XT
Chainstays (in) 16.7
Weight (lb) 24
Year 2009
Stem Race Face Evolve XC oversize
Shifters Sram Trigger X7
Seatpost SDG Micro 2014
Saddle SDG I Fly
Rims Mavic XM317
Rear Tyre Size 26x2.0
Rear Tyre Larsen TT
Rear Derailleur Sram X9
Available Sizes L M S
Head Angle 69.3
Handlebar Ç 1'' 6061 DB
Front Tyre Size 26x2.0
Front Tyre Larsen TT
Front Hub Ç Superlight sealed disc
Front Derailleur Shimano Deore
Frame Weight 1200
Frame Material New HM Carbon T2T
Fork New Rock Shox Reba SL Air 100mm w/poploc
Cranks Truvativ Firex 3.3 Giga X Pipe 44x32x22
Brakes Formula Oro K18 160/160
Top Tube (in) 23.6