From The Top: Max Commencal

Sep 26, 2013
by Matt Wragg  
Max Commencal has never walked the path-well-trodden. Since mountain bikes first crossed the Atlantic to Europe in the mid-Eighties he has taken his own route in designing them. Whether it was introducing a BMX sensibility to their layout and kit, forging the blueprint for modern downhill bikes or producing enduro bikes the best part of a decade before it reached the mainstream consciousness, he certainly sees mountain bikes in an individual way. Today he heads the mountain bike company that he gave his surname to. We caught up with him a few days after Remi Thirion piloted one of his bikes to a spectacular victory in Andorra where the company is based and talked about his path from racing the Paris-Dakar to today.

Max

How did you first become involved in the bicycle industry?

At the beginning I was not a cyclist, I was more involved with motorbikes. I did the Paris-Dakar for the first six times it ran. I did it for the first time in December '78, so I was one of the youngest riders. After I met some people who were working in a garden equipment, selling machines to cut the grass, cut the trees, etc. But the sales of all these products were from Spring to the end of the Fall, so they were searching for a product to sell for winter and for Christmas. One of them, not me, thought to sell bicycles. He knew me from the Paris-Dakar, I was working as a journalist at the time. My first job was an architect, I did my degree, but then went into motorcycles to ride the Paris-Dakar and I helped magazines with pictures and text. It was not a very serious job, and he proposed that I take care of the Christmas bikes for him. It was under the name of, the Formula One Driver of the 70s, Jacques LaFitte. So I started to work in the bicycle industry in 1980. It is where I discovered BMX, it was a Christmas bike, but when I entered into this world, step-by-step, I became passionate about the BMX. Two years later the company was sold, they didn't want to continue the bicycles, they proposed that I continue to work with them, but I decided to work for myself, this was in 82.

My first name, for just some months, was MX France. I started to sell some bikes, I was alone, working with some people that assembled the bikes and every month I went to Italy to search for some parts and one day an Italian supplier told me he knew an English company that could be interested to buy 600 bikes! 600 BMX! Can you imagine? For me it was awesome. I prepared the best bike I could, took a flight to London and went to see this customer. At the end, he said to me "it is a white bike, is it possible to have these bikes in chrome?" I said yes. "Is it possible to have the handlebars with a special design?" I said yes. "Is it possible to have the pads with stars?" I said yes. "Is it possible to have the black tyres with the skinwalls?" I said yes. At the end he said, "can you change the name? Because 'France' is not good for sales." So I said yes, I'll think about it. I went away to my hotel, a cheap, small hotel in London for the night to prepare my new description. It was December, very cold, I was living in the south of France where it was sunnier, so I said I will call it Sunn, with the double N. And the name stuck. In the end I never sold the bikes to this guy, he never bought any, maybe it was a question of price, I don't know. But since that day I changed the name and since that day I used chrome frames. I don't remember this guys name, but for sure he helped me a lot.

Builing car

When did you first discover mountain bikes?

I started mountain biking in roughly 85 or 86. When I started with the BMX, immediately it was a big success. I had really good riders. I was at the races every weekend, in France, in Europe and worldwide. I had riders like Cedric Gracia, I had him when he was six years old. I can say that I'm a little bit like his father, when I went to Andorra he came with me here. It's a long story between Cedric and I. And other riders, like Christophe Leveque. It was successful, I did my first aluminium frames and we were competitive with GT! With Richard Long and Gary Turner! It was a nice moment. When I saw, in roughly 85 or 86, when I saw some American people doing what they called mountain bikes, I said, "It's not mountain biking. What they are doing are road bikes with off-road tyres. It's not mountain biking, I will show then what mountain biking is!" The first mountain bike I did was a big BMX, it was sloping, with exactly the same position you have on a BMX. Step-by-step I did mountain bikes like this, in 87, 88 and 89. And my sales were also immediately very successful because a lot of riders wanted to go off-road and to ride like a BMX and not like a road bike. I'm not sure, but I think I was the first to make sloping bikes. With a wide handlebar and with another spirit other than the road inspiration. I think, I think... Because we were coming from BMX and I think was also one of the first guys to make chromoly frames with TIG welding. All the BMX components needed to be very strong, so all my bikes using BMX technology were stronger than the bikes using traditional technology.

That s the evidence that Max taught Cedric Gracia how to drink only champagne of course
  The evidence that Max taught Cedric Gracia how to drink (only champagne of course)

How did the Sunn racing programme come around?

I have always been involved in racing. From the BMX side, remember, I went to all the races, I think in total we won 80 or 90 world champion titles. With my mountain bike team I was thinking it would be interesting to go with my BMX team on mountain bikes to a downhill race. We went to a downhill race and immediately it was successful. I remember, it was, maybe 83, I remember, not far from here [Andorra]... I was working in Toulouse, because it's my home town, and I went with two BMX riders and I said "Ok, today we go to the ski resort." It was in summertime. We went hiking up because we didn't like to pedal. We wanted to find out if it was possible to use a BMX like skis. We walked up the hill and we tried to descend with the BMX... I wasn't convinced! It was a disaster. I thought it should be great to practice bicycles in the mountains and, today, I see what we did there was the blueprint.


bigquotesWe wanted to find out if it was possible to use a BMX like skis. We walked up the hill and we tried to descend with the BMX... I wasn't convinced! It was a disaster. I thought it should be great to practice bicycles in the mountains and, today, I see what we did there was the blueprint.


A big part of your racing programme was Olivier Bossard and the scientific approach he brought to racing, how did you start working with him?

At the end of the 80s, I started to come into the mountain bike world with my BMX thing. At the beginning of the 90s I had such a strong team for mountain bikes and we were involved in both categories, XC and downhill. We had riders like Anne-Caroline Chausson, Francois Gachet... He was coming from trials, so he was strong, he was fast and he was precise. He was a really good rider. One day I received one day, I don't remember if it was a letter or a phonecall, from a guy in Britain and he said to me, "Max, I work in a bike shop and I prepare forks." I thought this was interesting, I remember sending him a Mag 21, he took apart the fork in his shop and when he sent us the prepared fork. When Francois Gachet tested it he came back and said, "It's amazing, completely different from the standard fork." So I call this guy, Olivier Bossard, he came to work with us and work on the bikes. After it has been fantastic, we had a strong name with Sunn and anything we did was accepted. When Olivier said we must use different hubs, we must use 180 or 200mm of travel, we must... For me, I was coming from motorcycles, so I had the same thinking as Olivier. We spent a lot of money to innovate. It was our job innovate, to imagine the bikes to be more efficient using the riders and our ideas.

Bike.

How did you come to leave Sunn?

It's a bad story... It's a business story. To sell more I needed money, so in 88 some people entered as shareholders. I was 35% holder. It is clear that one of the other shareholders was a rich guy who wanted to take my place. But he didn't know bicycles, he'd never been to the company before. Never, not once. One day he says to me a meeting, in 98, "You go and I take your place." I was the president, so I didn't have a contract. He only had 25%, but with two other friends who had invested in the company he had 51% of the shares. He was able to do that. The company was profitable, and it was a nice place, but he wanted to make cheaper bikes. He had many other goals for the company, so I was out.

Sunn have been declared bankrupt for the third time this year, is this painful for you to watch?

Yes and no. Because I don't look at the past, it's done. It belongs to my history, my knowledge, it belongs to me, but what it important is what will happen. I don't listen to old music. I prefer to imagine the future. I tried to re-buy Sunn, but I could not because it was too expensive. I didn't want to place Commencal in danger in order to buy it.

bigquotesI tried to re-buy Sunn, but I could not because it was too expensive. I didn't want to place Commencal in danger in order to buy it


When I was put out, my lawyer... Before I hadn't really a lawyer, or someone to advise me, but at this moment I took someone. This person was proposed by a good friend of mine who knew the guy who took my place. It was the Chipie owner, we had the Sunn-Chipie team together, and he told me to see this guy as he would help me. I went to see this lawyer and he furious, he said "they are very bad people, so I will find the money, I will find people to re-buy Sunn from this person. Sunn belongs to you and I will find money to re-buy the company and the name." When he said that to me, I was 43 years old, and you are strong when you are 40 years old, immediately I said "No. I don't want to give money to these people. I'm ready to start again and in ten years, we'll see." It was a challenge for me, after this heartbreak, to say "Ok, this can happen, I feel strong enough to start again."

What was the first Commencal bike?

The first Commencal bike was the Supernormal. We had no time to develop something complicated, so we did a normal bike but a superbike. It 14 years ago in 2000, it was a hardtail with a suspension fork and a riser handlebar. It was simply a bike to ride. I remember, I called one of my ex-riders, Christoph Dupouey. He didn't have a contract or a sponsor and just for fun he proposed to ride my bike for the Roc D'Azur. The Roc D'Azur in 2000, it was the first time I was presenting the range, and he won. It was a present.

Max with the Supernormal 2012 the first Supernormal was the bike which launched Commncal in the year 2000
  Max with the Supernormal 2012, the first Supernormal was the bike which launched Commencal in the year 2000

The Meta 6 was arguably the first enduro bike ever made, what influenced you to make a bike like this?

I never thought about this, but probably yes, with the Rocky Mountain Slayer. The Meta 6 was a very important bike for us. For the mountain bikes, the most important thing is to have fun on the bike. It has always been my philosophy, even at Sunn. In 2005 we were able to have a fun bike with long-travel suspension that you were able to pedal also. The Meta 6, was thinking to say, "Ok, if you live in a place without chairlifts, when you are at the top and get to the singletrack you can have fun. The first race I organised here in Andorra, in 2001, was the Maxiavalanche. The gondola wasn't in place and there was track to bring the bikes to the summit. It already an enduro, it was in 2001.

Brakes

During the period from around 2008-2010, your bikes had a lot of reliability problems, many cracked, what happened during this period?

We never had reliability with risks for the riders, but it was more a production problem. Maybe, five or six years ago the quality of the aluminium is not as good as it is today. We depend on the technology, we, and all the others, do not make our own aluminium. This problem of reliability existed for us, but today reliability is the most important thing for us. With the new Meta, and we have built more than 20,000 frames, not one has broken. If someone has had a problem with a new generation Meta, he can write on your website. You can ask Pierre-Edouard Ferry [Commencals pro freerider who regularly competes at Rampage], he has six bikes and he has never broke one. Sometimes we are a little bit heavier than the others, but for us reliability is the most important thing.

At the Andorroa World Cup this year, you started working with Olivier Bossard for the first time in fifteen years, the last time you two worked together you were quite successful...

With Olivier we have spent nights and nights and nights fifteen years ago to understand the suspension. He is the boss, haha. But I think I understand him, probably because of my studies I am more mathematics-orientated, so I understand when he speaks. To explain a problem is one thing, but to propose a solution is another, so it's really a pleasure to see. It was nice this weekend to come back. For fifteen years we haven't worked like that, we have worked with Fox, Rock Shox and Manitou, but not like we did with Olivier. It was fun this weekend. We have decided to come back next year with a bigger team, with a proper structure to work again like we did before. With the suspension, with our riders, because it's important. We have some ideas about what we can do... It will be special. The decision has been taken.

The Remi Thirion victory in Vallnord
  The Remi Thirion victory in Vallnord!

Today there is no carbon in the Commencal range, in today's market that seems unusual.

It's... It's complicated. We have produced Metas and hardtail frames in carbon in 2007-2008. I went to China to visit these factories. It was a shock for me, because the conditions were a disaster. The workers were working on frames with only paper masks. Kids, I say kids, but they are not kids because they are 18 or 20, are working there weaving the carbon fibre. It's dangerous. When you speak with their boss, he says, "in my factory you don't stay too long because your life might only be five years." So they work six months and they change. All the suppliers are asking for cheaper and cheaper carbon frames. When I came back, believe me, I was not comfortable. I said, I will lose sales, but I do not want to produce carbon. We produce aluminium frames, strong frames, it's a game and we are not there to... kill... only because we want to save 300g weight. So I said, "No, I don't want to produce carbon." I have produced carbon in Toulouse for Nico Vouilloz and Cedric Gracia, 15 or 20 years ago. But it was made in a room with no air in it, with people wearing protective equipment, and it's very expensive. In China, for me... I do not want to communicate on this, I only talk about this because you asked about it. I don't say that all factories are the same, maybe some are cleaner, but, for the moment... And we are working on some other technologies, you will see next year or the year after... With carbon you cannot repair it, you cannot recycle it. Too many bad things.

Recently you seem to have put more emphasis in the online side of your business, is this a direction you're going to follow further for the future?

We have done this for two reasons. First one is that for small brands like us it's more and more difficult to work with the shops. The big brands, the majors, try to take all the space in the shops. They say, "You don't need Commencal to sell an enduro bike, we also do an enduro bike." They say,"You don't need Commencal to sell a DH bike, we also do a DH bike." They propose better and better conditions, better margins if they work with a full-space for them. It's not that they don't want us, but they prefer to focus on less suppliers. Second reason is that before the internet dealers and big chainstores had the monopoly for the distribution. You had to accept their conditions. If they said they want this margin, or for a chainstore they want to have this percentage for the supply, they want four percent for this payment, two or three percent for advertising, at the end you were totally without any margin. Also, they were pushing you to make bikes cheap. This monopoly, with the internet, has disappeared. We can sell without this network. They didn't want us and I saw the opportunity of the internet. I said, "Ok, we will be small." We continue to work with many dealers, but it's different. For sure, their margin is not so big, but we offer them other advantages. They don't need to have a lot of stock, we don't oblige them to make pre-orders. They can work comfortably and maybe this year we work with more than last year. But it's interesting, because now they are not obliged to work with us. Since we started to do sales online our business has increased. We did, in 2012, the best year since we existed, Sunn years included.

Undeniable he loves MTB
  Undeniable, he loves MTB

We know that with our style, our differences, our identity, we will never be big or generalist. Our position is not to be strong in one country, but to be in many, many countries. So, we are not big in France, we are not big in Spain, we are not big in Russia, we are not big in Korea, we are not big Japan... But we are on all continents, everywhere. The majority of the people like the big brands, like Specialized or the others, but some people like our bikes. It's enough for a small company with 30 people. We like this position because we can continue to make what we like.

www.commencal.com

Must Read This Week

108 Comments

  • + 129
 I have so much respect for this guy, even more so after reading this article. If what he said about refusing to use carbon is true, then he's a legend. A big-time business owner with a conscience. That doesn't happen often these days, everyone else is just out to make a buck at any cost. He's correct about the weight thing tho - I have a Sunn hardtail that weighs 15.2kg!
  • + 29
 Actually what Max said about the cabon issues and concerns, is totally true. Building a decent carbon frame safely would cost us (consumers) much, much more than what we pay today.
  • + 52
 I rode for Commencal for six years and they were my first real sponsor. I was fortunate enough to meet Max on a few occasions and my opinion of him is this, Not only is Max a visionary and a great business man he is a great person and conducts himself and his company to a very high standard. He's in it because he love bicycles and that's how it should be.
  • - 32
flag tontonbadou (Sep 26, 2013 at 7:23) (Below Threshold)
 Max's point of view is fully Hypocritical : the extraction and refining of the aluminium is an ecological disaster. Sure the carbon can't be recycled and alu can, but you cannot use the ecological argument in one hand, and make alu frame in the other. If Max would really want to be honest, he would make steel frames.
  • + 8
 This was such a great interview. I was totally ignorant about the origins of Commencal. I always thought they looked like pretty nice bikes, but after reading this, I'm putting them near the top of the list for my next steed.
  • - 3
 Max is wrong when he said carbon cannot be repaired. www.robertscomposites.com/bike.html
  • + 8
 you can put a patch over carbon to hold it together but you can't re-attached each strand of carbon weave back together
  • - 3
 I'm pretty sure Robert didn't put a patch on this: www.robertscomposites.com/ride/pics_lo/break2.jpg . Carbon can be fixed. Max is wrong in his statement.
  • + 3
 You cannot re-attach carbon fibres after they have snapped, you have to set them when they are floppy, after the resin is applied they will go hard then after a hit the carbon will shear in two its not like metal frames where you weld them (melting the metal so it all spools together then sets again being permanently bonded) the way you 'repair' carbon fibre is basically the same principle as putting a patch on an inner tube you hold the two ends together not repair them
  • + 7
 whatever you say, I would NEVER EVER ride a cracked/''repaired'' carbon frame, I like my life too much
  • + 1
 Agreed, i met him at sea otter this past year and even though he knew verylittle english he was still one one the most down to earth laid back people out there in the biking industry
  • + 1
 You can only guess how much my Commencal Ramones (it was the first one; AL2) weighed when I put on some High Rollers, flat pedals, and wider handle bar. But it was (is) a bombproof bike. I could ride everything on it, and there's no signs of cracking anywhere. The only downside were the spokes, but I got them replaced with Sapim, as I managed to snap at least one every ride.
  • - 1
 Carbon isnt green Shimano rapes our oceans plastic is on every bike.. Has anyone made a bike out of hemp composites before like Henry Fords car. m.youtube.com/watch?v=srgE6Tzi3Lg
  • + 2
 Yer but i smoked it all after.....
  • + 1
 you're the boss max...the onlybone boss who not thinking about profit...
  • + 1
 typo only one
  • + 41
 The part about the carbon manufacturing is very interesting, and admirable.
  • - 33
flag hankbrowne (Sep 26, 2013 at 6:35) (Below Threshold)
 and a lie
  • + 11
 Are you saying Max did not see those things on his trip to China?
  • + 7
 i've seen the same factories in china - he isn't lying. that being said, there are more responsible chinese factories as well, but it's not cheap, i.e. you get what you pay for.
  • + 1
 What a pity!It's a long way for the Chinese factory to go
  • + 36
 I admire him for keeping his self-respect on saying no to epoxy-glued plastic fibre frames due to environmental, health, and security issues for chinese workers. Only by demanding proper EHS can the industry move forward. (ofcourse every big company claim to be EHS-minded, but they can`t control their subcontractors) Somehow the bicycle industry is "green" by default, it is not, and bicycle consumers "feel so green already", they don`t really care. The industry need more people like this.
How many underpaid chinese workers got pulmonary fibrosis from producing your new big S sub 11kilo enduro frame?
  • + 5
 I'm glad Max C. shined a light on the poor work conditions that exist in China. As he said, poor work conditions may not exist in every single factory, but it's something to think about. We (Western society) are becoming more aware of the origins of the products we use in our daily life. Are the carbon frames we're riding really harming/killing young Chinese workers? Are bike companies trying to innovate programs to recycle or at least repair old/damaged carbon frames and components? For the amount of money carbon frames cost perhaps it would be worth it to buy a steel or aluminium product from a local builder. Max Commencal has definitely given the bike industry something to chew on...
  • + 21
 My inside head voice read all of that with a French accent.
  • + 2
 HaHa me too !! only i wasn't going to admit it lol
  • + 17
 What a legend Max is, lives and breathes mountain biking...
  • + 11
 That picture of cedric is pretty amazing!
  • + 2
 Start em young!
  • + 1
 Yes indeed, but it makes me feel real old Big Grin
  • + 7
 This write up is why I bought a commencal meta 29er frame instead of waiting on a remedy 29er frame, I knew no one had broken the frame, and I knew about the guy behind the company
  • + 5
 It's nice that they decide to make direct sales but then they should REALLY improve their customer support. Unfriendly answers, missing parts, some that I never received... I like my Supreme v.3 but I'm still seriously pissed with Commençal. That's really sad cause they have cool bikes (heavy but good) and also a cool image. What a waste.
  • + 6
 You know, I'm sure you can have bad customer support with any company. Actually I had the best experience with commencal's customer support.
  • + 4
 That's true. And it can be only the reflection of a single person not the company. Or maybe just a bad day at the office. Unfortunately this kind of stories create dammage to the brand. It seems they have that sorted. They actually contacted me directly, whereas they could have done it here on this page, taking the opportunity to polish their image like we've seen many other brands doing it here on Pinkbike. It seems things have changed in the good way up there in Andorran mountains.
  • + 3
 It's a shame Merlin killed Commencal in the uk. Lots of shops got stuck with un sellable stock when Merlin were banging out meta frames built with better bits cheaper than actual full build ones from Commencal!. I think it will take a while for uk dealers to trust Commencal enough again to carry a lot of there stock in store.
  • + 2
 Would that not have been down to Madison [former distributor of Commencal].

I spoke on the phone to some one at Merlin, to find out about release dates for [uber-cheap] Shimano groupsets and they flat-out refused that it was Madison who they sourced their kit from [and refused to tell me who it came from] despite the fact that the Merlin range looks remarkably similar to the Madison catalogue...

Hmm fishy...
  • + 3
 I have owned 3 commençal bikes by now and i could say that i am a fan of the brand. But since my swingarm broke directly on the weld it is hard to get back the love of this bikes...especialy after waiting for a new swing arm for 9 months ( the bike was still in warranty) and when i finaly got it it wasn't even the same orange color... hope they realy improved the quality, but i think that my next bike won't be a commençal... Still love to ride my absolut sx, feels awesome, but the bad experience stays in your mind...
  • + 3
 Bought a 'last years' model Meta AM from the Commencal online outlet store, absolute bargain! Love the bike. Very few in the UK (where I ride anyway) and always getting positive comments on it! So glad I bought this bike.... even more so now after reading this and learning about Max!

Not sure about him saying they are not big in France though, Morzine and Les Gets were full of Commencals this season!
  • + 1
 The new Commençal Meta range is an absolute hit in France. Local Enduro races are full of Metas and so far no one is complaining about the reliability of their new frame design. It looks good so far, nothing like their old range or Lapierre aluminium frames.

Only downside to me is that the frame doesn't have enough clearance for some shocks, hope they will work on it Smile
  • + 3
 I have nothing but respect for what he did for mountain biking in my country back in the days but when He said that "you can't repair a carbon frame" I laughed so hard.

Maybe it's quite hard everywhere else than Europe, but here it's cheap and easy. Simply because we have more open wheels competitions, so you bring your cracked frame to a carbon bodywork repairer and the frame is fixed for cheap. The funny part is that your frame will become stronger than ever hahaha ...

Ok you can recycle an cracked aluminium frame but you can't repair it, well you can try but it's not safe at all and ya got all the chance of getting a new crack.

And what about Taiwan made carbon frames? He mentioned China and I'm with him 100% but a Taiwanese skilled worker costs as much as a Polish skilled worker. So what don't you go to Poland then?
  • - 3
 You can pretty much weld aluminium and it won't crack twice in the same spot. My Kona Stinky swing arm is welded and since then i had no problems whatsoever.
  • + 4
 Cool story but your aluminum swing arm is far from being more reliable after you welded it. We are not talking of steel but aluminum brah, and fixing an aluminum frame the way you did is unsafe, even worse you're taking a risk with your safety.
  • - 4
flag PedroVieira (Sep 26, 2013 at 12:44) (Below Threshold)
 Keep your idea, i keep my facts.
  • + 1
 Pedro, I had an IronHorse that cracked on the rear triangle, got it rewelded but the proper heat treatment was crazy expensive (over ½ cost of frame!) so the repair only lasted a month, and cracked in almost the same spot. There's a good reason they heat treat frames after welding.
  • + 0
 Howcome i haven't cracked my swingarm then?
  • + 3
 Might be lucky, maybe not in the future, best of luck!
  • + 2
 They way Max carries his business ethics is extremely admirable. Rather then following the industry trends he develops his own and seems to be marketing it very well. This level of integrity in production is a very hard thing to find anywhere these days. Your an inspiration Max!
  • + 2
 I got only one custom ex Aterton V2 Suprime DH and i can confidently say this is the strongest bike ever and Max and Cedric are the biggest persons in bike world so far ... keep doing great things Max and fk the monopole and their rules we dont want cheap bikes that break in few months we want bike's that last and will lead us to the top Razz
  • + 2
 He has the recipe for success, sticking to his roots aiming for quality and never ending quest for innovation. Unsuccessful businessmen just make hasty decisions make mass productions and afterwards hopes to make a quick buck. Commencal will surely be on my shortlist when I purchase a new bike. I respect him for being so open on this interview. Props to Matt Wragg!
  • + 2
 Inspiring article. And i wonder why my lowest range 2010 Premier is poppy like a BMX and still stands even when I've been DJing it all this while.

And having an amazing philosophy and value. And this is the sort of business/brand that moves people.

Props, Max Commencal
  • + 2
 His point regarding recycling is correct and there is no solution and no bloody wall to hide. I am friend of progress and future visions, and carbon apparently is a perfect material for the bike industry however there is always the other side. And this side is really not good. I don't want to judge working condition there as I haven't seen the inside of those companies yet, but I am sure there is a lot of shit happening with those poor dogs.

Everybody has to find his personal opinion and decide whether yes or no. He did that - respect!

Everything has its positives and negative sides.

HOPEfully the industry finds a solution and we don't end up with the knowing that the only sustainable thing about carbon is producing waste for our future generations.

Pretty weird that this topic isn't discussed in public yet. Many people are concerned about when you crash with carbon and so on, but those issues are supposed to be
way more important for "passionated nature loving bikers"!!!!
  • + 4
 As far as the carbon repairs comment, I'm not sure that was true. Although I don't have personal experience, I've heard some guys such as Calfee do some great carbon repairs.
  • + 3
 Well some repairs can be done, usually using specific resins but only for minor damages that do not compromise the frame strenght (not for a BB or headtube...). And prior to that, a structural study has to be proceeded where the frame has to be x rayed... Quite expensive.
  • - 5
flag hankbrowne (Sep 26, 2013 at 6:31) (Below Threshold)
 Actually you're wrong. You can replace BB and head-tubes. I may have never visited a carbon factory in China, but I wouldn't place too much stock in what this man has to say about it sense he is obviously opposed to the material.
  • + 1
 Dirt Rag did a good story on repairing carbon down tubes. Like a broken bone, its actually stronger after the repair. It probably isn't easy to replace complex shapes.

I've seen a bike I worked on (carbon tri bike) being built in a Asian factory, and it wasn't amazing. There weren't crimes against humanity, but it was ghetto.
  • + 1
 If anyone from Commencal is reading this - guys, I ordered a Meta AM bike on Tuesday from your online shop, but did not receive tracking number yet. Support was good during the ordering process with all answers answered, but now - it is full silence. Can anyone help?
  • + 4
 Received the tracking number, so far I can say I do really like the guys I'm talking to via email. Tracking number was a tiny hickup and I'm just dying to see my bike and am VERY impatient right now. So can't blame them really. I need to calm down... Man, I never was excited so much about a bike in my life...
  • + 0
 You can be excited ! I've been doing the Megavalanche this year on my 2012 Meta AM (with a lyrik, the flexy 32mm fox would have been too...Flexy), a race where the machines are pushed to their limits. I can tell you that I've just approached the 85% of the bike's capacity, a great, great bike! Bicycles d'opinion.
  • + 1
 Stop it, please. 3-4 days to survive...
  • + 2
 AT LAST! AAA!!!11 Goodbye guys! For a few weeks!
  • + 1
 Hi just to clear it up, it was 1993 not 83 that Sunn chippie team was at World championships in France this was the year Mike King won the Downhill
Could you tell me why Sealed Drive Mountain bikes dont exist? not the same reason as motorbikes as motorbikes as that was because the drive over heated
  • + 1
 I've took the liberty to translate the interview to Portuguese. Feel free to download it in PDF format here:

ge.tt/4imV3811/v/0

(Tomei a liberdade de traduzir a entrevista para Português, podem ter acesso ao documento copiando o link acima apresentado)
  • + 1
 Lost faith in commencal when my 2008 DH supreme cracked at the head tube , seat stays , shock tower and drops outs with in 1.5 years , they were not interested in the slightest in helping me out in anyway at all , shame because the bike rode like a dream.
  • + 1
 Reading this story does give my personal switch (because I broke my frame) from a Sunn le Saint to a Commencal absolut Al some extra dimension.. I love the brand already, and the bike rides better than ever! Love this frame max! Thanx you!
  • + 1
 If this is true I never gonna buy any part made from carbon and also will try to avoid any company which produce carbon parts.

"It's... It's complicated. We have produced Metas and hardtail frames in carbon in 2007-2008. I went to China to visit these factories. It was a shock for me, because the conditions were a disaster. The workers were working on frames with only paper masks. Kids, I say kids, but they are not kids because they are 18 or 20, are working there weaving the carbon fibre. It's dangerous. When you speak with their boss, he says, "in my factory you don't stay too long because your life might only be five years." So they work six months and they change. All the suppliers are asking for cheaper and cheaper carbon frames. When I came back, believe me, I was not comfortable. I said, I will lose sales, but I do not want to produce carbon"
  • + 4
 yes but that's not all factories, if there is any way of checking out the factory before you buy go for it, just keep in mind alloy isn't always better, I've seen workers pour molten aluminum with bare arms and just skimpy gloves and dentist type masks so it's your call
  • + 2
 Alu releases nontoxic gas, carbon is way worse: Epoxy fumes are cancer inducing, hormonal active, fibers embed in your lungs, giving silicosis. Epoxiwaste leaches into water supply. Frames cannot be repaired, not recycled. If you ride carbon - you are an environmental hog with disrespect for the environment that we all cherish so much. Friendliest material is steel.
Had three Commies. Great bikes, the Supreme Racing from 2010 with its bottomless rear is an all time favorite. Max does a great job.
He is right about the big brands: Overpriced suckers.
  • + 2
 carbon can be easily repaired, roberts composites here in vancouver does it and I think the states has calfee...
  • + 1
 trek bikes recycle carbon, though its not very efficient at this point
  • + 2
 In the 90's my dream bike what a chromed SUNN. I love their bikes. Never had one since, or a Commençal, but I do appreciate Max and what he does.
  • + 1
 Can they build a frame that doesnt fail within a year yet/return emails yet?

I've not owned one that hasnt failed, and they wont warranty a replacment so im bikeless - cheers.
  • + 3
 reading this has put commencal on my list of future bikes to consider.....it's a long list but hey, they're on it now.
  • + 2
 Great article!! More interviews like this please pink bike! I enjoy reading these as much if not more than the endless vids.... That said keep it all coming.
  • + 1
 Oi, reading a story like this is more inspiring than reading some brilliant rider's, cos i know i have no chance to be elite rider this life, but still got the chance to start up my own decent bike business...
  • + 2
 Commencal has a great approach to what mountainbikes shoul be. That's why im on my 5th Commie, and im not leaving anytime soon.
  • + 2
 I'm interested to see what the commencal WC team with BOS will be bringing to the table in 2014, could we see a return to the days of the french rule again???
  • + 2
 I won't be getting rid of my supreme dh v3 anytime soon after reading this, thanks for the article pinkbike! and thanks for taking the time to answer questions max!
  • + 3
 Still riding a 2010 Meta 5, and I still pine for a new generation Meta SX. There just seems to be something about them...
  • + 1
 The new SX is an awesome machine! it's built like a tank yet it still manages to drag my arse back up the top of the trails with relative ease, thats when the fun really begins!!
  • + 2
 My ramones cromo 2013 is just awesome! Beats my slayer and various other big named bikes I've had, and he's right fun is the name of the game!
  • + 4
 Very interesting! Big respect for living legend!
  • - 1
 house mate just bought a supreme fr, 3 light rides and the swing arm bolt came loose stripping its thread because of a bad bearing, commencal charged him $100 for a new bolt and bearing, shocking customer service. would never touch one of there bikes after this, no matter how cool they are.
  • + 4
 Wow i'm surprised it was so expensive, perhaps they have changed in recent years but when I had bearing problems with my Supreme V2 in 2009 they didn't just send me new bearings, they sent a complete linkage set free of charge. It was a hassle before that, sending the bike back to the shop etc but I was happy in the end and i'm still riding the same frame.
  • - 1
 bike is brand spanking new, 3 rides in, never logged any air bigger than 3' and the swing arm bolt drops halfway out. Bolt torque was tested 1st. Originally commencal said they didn't warranty bolts. When my friend pointed out that the bolt was stripped because of a defective or badly installed bearing, commencal then responded that they wouldn't warranty it because the bike was mail ordered from chain reaction in europe and they were commencal usa!! i mean this is a bolt and a bearing were talking about, not a whole new frame. hopefully chain reaction will step up to the plate, as my friend has payed a $100 to commencal for the parts and a labour charge to the LBS on a brand new bike.
Suprises me that commencal would rather look like a bunch of tw@ts than comp somebody a bolt and a bearing, which must cost them next to nothing. When he first bought this bike i was more than a little jealous, now i'm glad its not mine, if this is what it takes to get a bolt, I hope nothing else major goes wrong!
  • + 1
 I hope you know that a lot of companies will not warranty anything through online dealers. That is just the risk you take from buying online. You never know where the product came from originally. I'm sure commencal would warranty through an actual LBS. Somewhat political in their decision making but they have to draw the line sometimes. Also most of these bike come with service bulletins and they catch these issues withing the first months of production. Did you build the bike or did chain reaction?
  • + 2
 Looking at the range of bikes they have and reading this interview, i'm putting Commencal to the top of my shopping list !!
  • + 1
 I was always curious who was behind the meteoric rise of the Sunn brand in BMX. I applaud his ethics and choice when it comes to carbon.
  • + 2
 Ordered a meta-Am 29 yesterday. Having read this article, it feels even better that I did it.
  • + 1
 I`ve bought Meta frame in Commencal on-line store last year - probabely I do it again next year. I love this kind of business philosophy!
  • + 2
 I have a Commencal Meta SX and doubt i'd change it for anything, best bike i've ever owned
  • + 1
 So go buy a very cheap Commençal Supreme frame ;-)) ==> www.pinkbike.com/buysell/1200011
  • + 1
 Hemp lugs bamboo tubes grow your own. www.hemp.com/2011/03/hemp_and_bamboo_a_bike_growing_the_future
Screw carbon.
  • + 2
 I Love those Bikes,they are just amazing
  • + 2
 My 2012 Supreme V3 is broken at the Chainstay !
  • + 2
 I have 3 Commencal bikes and love them all They are the MAX
  • + 2
 Love the spirit. We also prefer to be Great instead of being Big
  • + 1
 Interested to see what "other" materials he is working on.
Graphene, micro lattice metal, ...?
  • + 2
 Bamboo? Wink
  • + 2
 I love my meta 6. Great article!
  • + 2
 just to say RESPECT !
  • + 1
 Max... je veux la meme voiture pour promener mon Ramones!!!!
  • + 0
 "The majority of the people like the big brands, like Specialized or the others" (c)

Golden words!
  • + 1
 It seems that Max and i share the same hate for Specialized with a passion.
  • + 0
 same to me
  • + 1
 I still want a Sunn exact!! The french blue pls.
  • + 1
 Interesting points about carbon. Here's to new technologies.
  • + 1
 Yes. respect
  • + 0
 Carbon can be repaired. Santa Cruz does it.
  • + 1
 With duck (silver) tape, everything can be repaired! But I don't want either carbon or aluminum crack.

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