There were a number of things about the Supreme that were welcome surprises from the start. It was my first ride on a downhill bike for a while, and first time ever on a 29" model. Despite the sheer size of the bike (it barely fits in my van or garage, and it likes to fall off shuttle trailers and chairlifts), it takes off swiftly on the pedals, and from the first run, I felt like I could do nothing wrong.
Well, almost. I instantly found myself over the working speed limit of my mind and eyes on my everyday trails (normally hitting the bikes limit comes first). I was riding faster than ever, but well below the bike's limit. Strava isn't the most accurate way to time runs, but four PR's out of four on my regular trails, starting from the very first run? That was impressive.
From the outset, the Commencal was as close to silent as possible, with no need to add tape here and rubber there to keep things quiet. It was also so smooth on the initial strike of each bump that it eliminated small trail feedback, and even when landing small jumps and hops I could barely, if at all, feel the rear wheel coming back in to contact with the ground.
After the first couple of rides, I had to wait patiently for some more big wheel DH bikes to turn up before I could to make some back-to back comparisons. Was the Supreme that good
or was it just big wheels combined with a DH-sled that surprised me?
More testing ensued, and things only got better. Charging into rough rock gardens and braking bumps is unreal - I tried a section in Pila faster and faster, and the Supreme was the first bike I have ever ridden that got easier to handle the harder I pushed it. It never even came close to flinching. As mentioned in other reviews, for me, the high pivot system is the holy grail for a flat pedal rider who wants his feet planted on the pedals at the worst of times. The increasing chainstay length gives more confidence as it extends through the travel. The stiff but not harsh front end, combined with a fairly flexible swingarm, allows enough give at the rear wheel for fantastic tracking and line-holding through rough and off camber sections, without springiness found with some carbon bikes.Rider-forward handling:
What else to say about the Supreme? Despite its massive 495mm reach number, it didn't feel as big some similarly sized bikes I've tested. I put this down to the long chainstay and rearward axle path, which helps my center of gravity move forward between the axles as the suspension compresses, and keeps me more centralized on the bike. The front end rarely felt like it was getting away from me, and I never needed to lean back over the saddle when things got steep and gnarly.
That forward stance may be a sticking point for riders who are used to parking off the back of the saddle when things get gnarly, as the Supreme will feel horribly out of control. A change of technique is required to stay forward, and more upper body and arm strength will be required to stay in the middle of the bike and keep charging on.Cornering:
Anything without a berm for support, with camber and rough is a traction treat, the small bump sensitivity is fantastic and the flex in the rear wheel and triangle seem to glue the bike to the dirt, while still having plenty of support to push against. The bike feels big in the berms, but the not-so-low bottom bracket height makes it easy to flick between opposing corners.Braking:
Under braking, due to the high-pivot location, the bike squats into the travel, but I am a fan of this. This bike should
be ridden down steep and gnarly downhill tracks, and you should not be braking on flat ground over bumps. You are, however, going to be hard on the brakes on steep sections into corners. The suspension will become slightly less sensitive, but I believe you will always have more grip on the rear wheel, a feeling I prefer compared to having a bike that pitches forwards and un-weights the rear wheel, despite their suspension being more active under braking.