First seen in 2015 under Rémi Thirion at the Lourdes stop of the World Cup DH circuit, Commencal's Supreme DH V4 is one of the more radical looking downhill bikes currently on the market, thanks to its high-pivot suspension design and integrated idler pulley. With 220mm of rear travel and a 63° head angle, the Supreme V4 was designed to tackle the roughest tracks around.
Commencal offers four different models of the aluminum-framed machine, with prices ranging from $2,999 USD for the base model Origin up to $5,699 for the World Cup edition tested here. Highlights of the World Cup model include a RockShox BoXXer World Cup fork, SRAM 7-speed X01 DH drivetrain, Code brakes, and e*thirteen's new LG1 carbon cranks.
It's a very well sorted component package, one that's race ready out of the box - just add a number plate and you're good to go. The fact that it has an aluminum frame versus carbon does help keep the price down at the cost of adding a few extra grams, but 37.5 lb is still a very reasonable fighting weight.
Other than the fact that it would be made from aluminum, roll on 27.5” wheels, and had to be fast, Commencal's designers were given free reign when it came to the design of the Supreme DH V4. At the time, Nico Menard, the head of the company's R&D had been experimenting with the concept of a high pivot bike, one where the main pivot is located well above the top of the chainring, and decided to create a 160mm enduro bike to test out the concept. That bike may not have been the prettiest to look at, but its speed out on the trails proved the the idea had merit, and the decision was made to use the suspension design on the Supreme DH V4.
The concept of a a high-pivot DH bike isn't new, but the Supreme V4 may be one of the cleanest executions of the concept to-date. Instead of having the idler pulley bolted onto the frame like a part from an Erector set, Commencal have integrated it into the seatstay, which makes the bike much more aesthetically pleasing. The large aluminum pulley wheel rotates on a sealed cartridge bearing, and can easily be removed for cleaning with the removal of one bolt.
Why is that pulley even necessary? It helps to counteract the relatively large amount of chain growth that comes with a high pivot suspension design, and minimize the associated pedal kickback. It also has the benefit of virtually eliminating any chainslap, making for a nearly silent ride out on the track.
It may look complex, but at its core the Supreme DH V4 is a link driven single pivot design.
Another one of the design goals for the bike was to keep its center of gravity as low as possible. To that end, the scissor-like lower linkage is located just above the bottom bracket, and the shock sits in a recess cut into the downtube. The suspension design does bring to mind the Sunn Radical DH bike, which isn't entirely surprising – after all, Max Commencal was the founder of that company as well.
The brake and derailleur housing are routed behind the integrated bumpstop on the bike's 1.5" headtube.
The chain runs over a rubber chainslap protector on its way into the seatstay where the idler pulley is housed.
A close examination of the Supreme V4's 6066 aluminum frame reveals a very high level of attention to detail. Integrated fork bump stops and internal cable routing are fairly common these days, but it's the little things like the moto foam tucked into the frame where the front of the shock sits that set the V4 apart. That's a trick usually seen on the World Cup circuit to help keep mud from finding its way into little nooks and crannies – it's not something you'd expect to find on a stock bike.
The inclusion of a front and rear fender is also a nice touch, as is the downtube protector that extends far enough to help protect the portion of the linkage that sticks out on either side of the frame.
The dropouts can be swapped out to add additional length.
Moto foam keeps mud from collecting underneath the rear shock.
The Supreme V4 uses a pressfit BB107 bottom bracket, which results in the same spacing as using external cups and an 83mm shell. 12 x 150mm spacing is in place for the rear wheel, which is secured with a bolt-on thru-axle.
For riders who wish to deviate from the bike's stock geometry, Commencal offers headset cups that can increase or decrease the reach by either 5, 8, or 10mm, and there are also different dropouts available that can be used to extend the bike's wheelbase.
Geometry / Sizing
The last few years have seen the reach numbers on most mountain bikes increase. The changes haven't been quite as drastic in the DH realm, but one thing is certain about the DH V4 – it's reach numbers are very conservative. According to Nico Menard, “For sure the Supreme DH V4 is on the short side in terms of length. We designed this frame and tested in Andorra where we ride steep and not so fast trails. In this type of riding, the reach is spot on.” For comparison, the size large V4 has a reach of 408, while a large YT Tues measures 450mm, and Specialized's latest Demo comes in at 440mm for a size large.
The good news is that for 2017 Commencal will be increasing the reach of all sizes, with the large going to 430mm and the XL to 455. Those numbers still aren't the longest out there, but combined with the use of reach-extending headset cups they should help a wider range of riders comfortably fit on the bike.
Commencal designed the Supreme V4 to be able to take on the steepest trails around, so that's exactly where I took it when it arrived. As I made my way down the first of many near-vertical dirt chutes it wasn't just the bike's composure that I noticed – it was how ridiculously quiet it was. Thanks to the idler pulley system there's virtually no chainslap; when you're coasting, the click of the freehub body is the only sound, and when you're pedaling the bike is almost dead silent. It's by far the quietest downhill bike I've ridden, and that's in its bone stock configuration – there wasn't any need to go wild with the helicopter tape to try and quiet things down.
When it comes to steep trails, the V4 is unflinching, and refuses to be rattled no matter how heinous the terrain; the combination of a 63° head angle and a very rearward axle path creates a machine that's ideally suited for plummeting straight down the fall line. I did find myself a little further off the back than I would have liked on a couple of occasions due to the bike's shorter front center – an XL would have been a better fit for my 5'11” height. The large was easy to place exactly where I wanted it, but more length would have given me room to shift my weight rearward without feeling like I was sitting on the rear wheel.
When it comes to steep trails, the V4 is unflinching, and refuses to be rattled no matter how heinous the terrain; the combination of a 63-degree head angle and a very rearward axle path creates a machine that's ideally suited for plummeting straight down the fall line.
It'd be easy to look at the V4's geometry chart and come to the conclusion that the 425mm chainstay length would create a bike that's a cornering fiend, but in reality that's not entirely true. It's no slouch in the corners, and it never felt like the rear end was hanging up or lagging, but because of the extremely rearward axle path, it does feel longer than those numbers suggest. The fact that the bike lengthens as you push into the suspension creates a incredibly stable platform, one that pastes the bike against a berm - it's like being stuck to the wall of a Gravitron, but without the smell of corn dogs and cotton candy.
The BoXXer World Cup and Vivid R2C felt well matched to each other out on the on the trail, and once I set the rebound and compression on the shock to my liking I didn't need to tinker with it again. The same goes for the fork – it didn't take long to find the sweet spot, which for my weight and riding style ended up being 77 psi and three bottomless tokens.
Put a man-made lip in front of the V4 and it'll blast off as far as you'd like, and when it's time for re-entry it'll touch down in the same smooth and controlled manner no matter what type of nastiness is in the landing zone. The rear travel has a very smooth ramp up, and there wasn't even a hint of harshness as the end of the shock's stroke was approached. Bunny-hopping is a different story, and it does take a little extra 'oomph' to pop the V4 up and over obstacles. Compared to the Rocky Mountain Maiden, the V4 prefers to stay low to the ground, mowing through obstacles rather than bounding up and over them.
Pedaling performance isn't quite as crucial on a DH bike, but it can't be neglected entirely – just look at the finish line sprint at the Cairns World Cup track for proof. Out of the saddle sprinting aboard the Supreme V4 is relatively bob-free, and the rear end remained calm even when I was mashing down on the pedals to gain a little extra speed.
The V4 is definitely capable of some serious fall-line plow action, but you don't need to be as wild as Rémi Thirion or George Brannigan in order to tap into its performance. Where bikes like the GT Fury and the Scott Gambler work best with a confident pilot at the controls, the V4 is still very manageable even without a fully pinned riding style. As wild as it looks, the bike's handling felt very neutral, and even at lower speeds it never felt unwieldy or sluggish.
• RockShox's Charger damper is usually a trouble-free unit, but after a few days in the bike park the Boxxer World Cup lost its rebound damping, and started making an unsettling top out noise. It turns out that a seal had been damaged, likely due to a hard bottom out. Once that was repaired it was smooth sailing once again, and the fork worked flawlessly for the remainder of the test period.
• The lower shock mounting bolt managed to works its way loose a few times, even with medium strength threadlock applied. It's worth checking it regularly, especially after a full day of smashing out bike park laps.
SRAM's Code brakes are still some of the best even after all these years.
e*thirteen takes of the bike's cranks and chainguide, both of which were trouble free.
• SRAM Code brakes: Code brakes have taken a backseat while SRAM's newer Guide brakes steal the spotlight, but for outright power the Codes still reign supreme. I'd actually sort of forgotten how much I liked the Codes until getting reacquainted with them on the V4. There isn't quite as much modulation as with the Guides, but the fade-free control that they offer in the steeps is still hard to beat.
• Maxxis Minion DHR II tires: It's hard to beat a set of Minion DHR II tires front and rear for an all-conditions tire combination. From hardpack to steep and loose they offer tenacious grip and very predictable cornering.
• Renthal Kevlar lock-on grips: Companies often try to pinch pennies by spec'ing cheap house brand grips, so it was a welcome sight to see that Commencal decided to avoid going down that route, and instead installed a set of Renthal's ultra-comfy lock on grips. Even after long days in the bike part spent rocketing through braking bumps my hands felt fine, without any unwanted sore spots or tiredness.
• e*thirteen LG1r carbon cranks: The LG1r cranks saw plenty of use and abuse – hucks to flat, extra-muddy laps in the bike park, you name it – and they're still spinning smoothly. Crankarm stiffness isn't an easy thing to notice when there's 220mm of travel between you and the ground, but I will say that the cranks definitely aren't flexy. Surprisingly, they came without crankarm protectors – I'd recommend tracking down a set to avoid hearing the sound of carbon crunching against rocks.
Do you like your trails steep, rough, and raw? The Supreme V4 is well-equipped to dive into the gnarliest terrain on the planet - just make sure to choose the size with the appropriate reach number to suit your needs, a tactic that may leave taller riders waiting until the longer 2017 version is released. - Mike Kazimer
About the Reviewer Stats: Age: 32 • Height: 5'11” • Inseam: 33" • Weight: 155lb • Industry affiliations / sponsors: None Twenty years deep into a mountain biking addiction that began as a way to escape the suburban sprawl of Connecticut, Mike Kazimer is most at home deep the woods, carving his way down steep, technical trails. The decade he spent as a bike mechanic helped create a solid technical background to draw from when reviewing products, and his current location in the Pacific Northwest allows for easy access to the wettest, muddiest conditions imaginable.