Suspension Testing with Commencal's DH Prototype - Fort William DH World Cup 2019

May 30, 2019
by Mike Levy  


Commencal's ever-evolving Supreme DH is continuing to do exactly that at this weekend's Fort William World Cup, with the team testing a host of changes to their racer's bikes that cover both the geometry and suspension fronts. And being Commencal, you know there's some data acquisition involved to boot.


This prototype Supreme DH is a bit longer up front, shorter out back, and gets a slightly more relaxed head angle.


The Commencal Vallnord Team bikes are often draped in wires and computers during practice to analyze how their single-pivot, linkage activated suspension is performing, and Arthur Quet, Commencal's R&D engineer, was having a particularly busy weekend swapping linkages and rockers.

There isn't anything wrong, but the team has always put a lot of weight on testing and developing their race bikes. "Mainly it's about the possibility to adjust the bike in different ways, like the geometry, suspension, and leverage ratio and the chain effects with the roller,'' Quet explained to Pinkbike's Ross Bell in the Fort William pits.


Commencal's team bikes are often draped with wires during practice while the team gathers data to use for suspension setup.

The prototype sports a rear-end that's said to be stiffer side-to-side than the previous version.


Each racer on the team uses different suspension linkages, and when you think about the adjustable chainstay length, reach, and bottom bracket height, there can be a dizzying amount of setup options. Too many? Quet doesn't think so: ''You know, we have two riders on platform pedals, and Remi on the 27.5, and then Amuary and Thibaut on the 29 with clips and being very accurate. It's different from how we used to setup the bikes a few years ago," he replied, emphasizing that while the racers are all very different, the bike can be tailored to their preferences.

While many racers only do these sorts of things during pre-season testing, Commencal Vallnord isn't shy about making changes at each event. ''We do have a few different linkages and rockers to work on different leverage curves; finding the perfect suspension for each track,'' Quet explained, with the idea being to use the same front triangle throughout all of the updates.


Different linkages are available for the team's racers if they want to change the bike's suspension action.


There was also an all-new and very prototype-ish looking Supreme DH under the Commencal Vallnord tent that caught Bell's eye. ''All the geometry is just a little bit different,'' Quet said of the unpainted mule that ditches the bolt-on dropout system that the production bike employs.

The other changes? ''We made the rear-end a bit shorter and a bit stiffer, the front-end a bit longer and a bit slacker, but keeping the bottom bracket pretty high,'' he went on to say.


More adjustments.


All of the testing and racing requires a lot of money, time, and effort, but it wouldn't be any different when Max Commencal is involved. The company that bears his name has always put a focus on racing, and that stretches all the way back to the mid-90s when he ran the ultra-successful Sunn team that took bike development to new heights. When asked what racing meant to his company, Max had this to say: "Clearly it's important since the beginning. Since forever. What is interesting is to have a separate department. So in the 'Competition Department' they test many things, and in the 'New Product Department,' sometimes we say yes and we go. But it's important that they [Competition Department] never stop. Sometimes it can be a good direction, sometimes it's the wrong one, but it's interesting to see it in the end. And to have feedback from the different riders, because all of them are different. If you compare Amaury and Myriam, they can't have the same feedback.''

There's no denying that Commencal has had some good success over the past few seasons, and one could even make an argument that the relatively small Andorran brand spearheaded the high single-pivot renaissance that has been playing out. As for the production version, we reviewed the Supreme DH 29er last year and found the bike to be an all-out race weapon, which is obviously no coincidence.


40 Comments

  • + 21
 Reminds me of the ktm dh bikes. So many different adjustments. Most of us mortals would just leave it in one setting year round and forget about it.
  • + 25
 Or DH bikes from 2003 where the manufactures would go f*ck it, drill 16 different holes for the shock mount and let the rider decide?
  • + 12
 @zyoungson: I'd actually prefer this option on all my bikes, maybe not 16 but 2-4 sounds good. Seems like I'm fiddling with offset bushings or headsets too often.
  • + 3
 @d3ftone: I agree, I think bikes have gone backwards in that respect, would be nice to see adjustable chainstays and some sort of headset adjust come back come back. Integrated headsets may look clean on single crown bikes but you cant do much with them.
  • + 1
 @zyoungson: commencal were supposed to offer offset headset cups for the v4+ bikes but they never made it to market
  • + 1
 The drop outs on the production bikes are also bolt on with the intentions being to offer longer and shorter cs lengths but I don't think those ever made it to market either.
  • + 1
 @d3ftone: sounds like you're just fiddling too often and should just go ride the bike dawggggg
  • + 2
 @d3ftone: My Scott 720+ has two modes one drops the bb and slackens the geo for more DH and trails riding and the other for XC and pedaling, you really can tell a difference i love it and its so easy to flip the chip!
  • + 14
 Loving the industrial look of that prototype!
  • + 4
 That raw finish (I do like the brushed alu but that just looks more rugged) plus some combo of the new xt/slx on next years Commencal Meta AM 29 and I think my next bike is there.
  • + 2
 @Rusettipasta: I have used organic paint strippers on aluminum frames and generally under the paint they all have that look. Maybe it's the raw bead blasted aluminum? I have no idea. Also, if you don't polish raw aluminum it oxidizes (not a problem, it hardens the surface in a good way) and creates that raw matte look.

Just my two cents, I have a YT Tues AL that I stripped raw and it turns all the heads.
  • + 2
 @freekandy: I think everyone would love to see some pictures from that bike. Just saying
  • + 1
 @marcoalves: True story, otherwise it didn't happen
  • + 9
 I love the fact that Commencal stick to their guns and continue to use aluminium over carbon but still produce brilliant bikes.
  • + 2
 I agree and also prototyping in carbon fibre is insanely expensive.
  • + 5
 Man these guys make some incredibly pretty bikes. That British green coloraway. The brushed alum Supreme and trail bike (name slips me). The chalk white and red here. Someone is really talented over there.
  • + 1
 Ibis and khs should hire whoever it is.
  • + 1
 @thesharkman: SERIOUSLY. They need a little help
  • + 7
 As an armchair welding expert, damn those welds looks,perfect
  • + 7
 Hopefully this bike doesn’t get stolen once it’s dialed.
  • + 4
 Looks like they moved the idler pulley down too, presumably that results in higher anti-squat.
  • + 1
 good spot. i missed that and it's key to that whole design.
  • + 4
 Would be nice to have an adjustable pulley on the production version, so you can have no chain growth for chunk and a bit more antisquat for pedally tracks.
  • + 1
 Different size jockey wheels should have a similar effect. Not exactly the same, but similar
  • + 1
 good spot, i noticed too and im sure it makes quite the difference. a bit of AS goeas a long way
  • + 2
 All this time and I never knew Commencal was named after someone, I always thought it was just a cool name someone came up with
  • + 1
 Just put a reach adjust headset. Beware that the bump stop wont be as efficient since the fork moves forward or aft depending if you shorten or enlarge the bike.
  • + 0
 What I want to know is what wizardry they used to prop the bike in the 2nd photo up and keep in from collapsing in on itself...
  • + 1
 Its on a crank stand you can see the bent tube behind the bike
  • + 2
 i love that the rear brake isn't mounted to a pile of spacers
  • + 2
 I would start with a different shock. JK, I've never tried one.
  • + 1
 I was curious about the shock choice myself?
  • + 1
 Yeah, now WCup only tested alum frame ????
Specialized new demo 29 alum ????
  • + 1
 That bottle cage bracket is BEEFY.
  • + 1
 shorter rear ends are so 2008
  • + 1
 Cool to see Max is still so passionate about the racing development.
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