The Evolution of the Commencal Supreme

Jun 26, 2020
by James Smurthwaite  

Commencal are a brand forged in the fires of racing, and it's an area they still excel in to this day. When Max Commencal was pushed out of Sunn in 2000 he didn't rest on his laurels; instead, he set about building his own brand. The Supernormal was the first bike from the brand and it found instant success with Christophe Dupouey who won the Roc d'Azur, beating 10,000 riders that year.

Fast forward three years and the Supernormal was joined by the Doctor, the Pasta and the Pasta Power but still, the downhill side was missing. That didn't last long as Max was able to reconnect with Anne Caroline Chausson, who left Volvo Cannondale to race for him, and Olivier Bossard to reform a trio of mountain biking legends that had previously dominated on the world circuit. This is where the story begins for the Commencal Supreme.

Commencal Supreme V1


Details

Released: 2005
Frame Material: Aluminum
Wheel Size: 26"
Travel: 7" (178mm)
Head Angle: 66.5° +/- 1°
World Cup wins: 6 (+2 World Championships)

Anne Caroline took a small step away from her World Cup racing in 2003, although she still found time to race her home race in Alpe D'Huez, which she won, and to defend her Rainbow stripes in Lugano, which she also won, to nobody's surprise. At this point, she wasn't racing on a Supreme but a BOS/Commencal prototype pictured below.

Photo: Commencal

Heading into 2004 ACC was no longer alone on the Commencal racing program as the Commencal Oxbow team launched with Bernat Guardia and Romain Saladini joining her. The Supreme was unleashed on the World Cup circuit and it made a successful debut as ACC won 2 World Cups while Saladini was crowned Junior World Champion.

The Commencal Oxbow team launched for the 2004 season

The original Supreme introduced the Contact system, a single pivot driven by a rocker link. Commencal have stuck with a linkage driven single pivot to this day although it has taken on many different guises in the 15-year life of the bike. The original Supreme was very adjustable with a headset cup allowing for 3 different head angle positions and adjustable chainstays that allowed for up to 16mm of movement.

A Commencal test bike that we called 'Jazminder'... different times...

Cedric Gracia joined the Commencal team in 2006 and then in 2007 the Athertons come on board with the brand through the brand's UK distributor Madison, after previously racing on Muddy Fox bikes. The Animal Commencal team was the biggest sponsorship investment Madison had made at the time and the Athertons were already being called the Fastest Family in Mountain biking.

CG signed with Commencal in 2006.

The start of a very successful partnership in 2007

With the World Championships in Fort William looming, expectations were high as they continued to race on the V1 frame. Rachel Atherton picked up one final victory for the Supreme V1 in Maribor, but there was a new bike being developed behind the scenes that would allow the family to fulfill their potential properly.



Commencal Supreme V2


Details

Released: 2008
Frame Material: Aluminum
Wheel Size: 26"
Travel: 8" (203mm)
Head Angle: 64° +/-1°
World Cup wins: 10 (+2 World Champs)

In 2008 the updated Supreme bike was launched at Commencal's HQ at the first-ever Vallnord World Cup (a home event for the brand). The Athertons, who previously raced on the bike in Maribor, swept the event with Rachel and Gee winning their respective downhill races and Dan adding the cherry on the top by winning the 4X too.

The new bike bore only a fleeting resemblance to the old bike thanks to the Contact System suspension design but looked almost completely different otherwise. The shock was now bolted to the downtube rather than the top tube, which allowed the brand to lower the centre of gravity. Other geometry changes included 1.5 degrees lopped off the head angle, which was now adjustable between 65, 64 and 63-degrees. We're not sure who was running their downhill bike with a 65° head angle, but we can be sure they weren't having a great time. The top tube was lengthened by 2cm and, despite appearances, the top tube was 2cm lower than the V1. Travel was increased from 178mm to 200mm and the shock length was increased from 8.74" to 9.5"

Talk about a dream debut season for a bike - Gee and Rachel both won gold at the 2008 World Champs on Commencal's then-new Supreme DH.

The Athertons continued to succeed on the second version of the Supreme after their Vallnord sweep. Rachel won 4 World Cups in total and the overall that year, and both Rachel and Gee won the World Champs in Val di Sole. In 2010 Gee won 3 World Cups and the overall title plus he piloted the Supreme to 2nd place at Rampage.



Also in 2010, Commencal started a smaller second team supporting French riders. It was called Commencal Riding Addiction Team and began life with Myriam Nicole, Gaetan Ruffin, Thibaut Ruffin and Jerome Crocombette as its riders.



Commencal Supreme V3


Details
Released: 2010
Frame Material: Aluminum
Wheel Size: 26" / 27.5"
Travel: 203mm
Head Angle: 63°
World Cup wins: 3

The Supreme was first unveiled at Eurobike in 2010 and ditched the moto-esque linkage in favour of a large rocker that compressed the shock from above while chainstays compressed it from below. The floating shock layout wasn't new, even back then, but Commencal cited more tuning options and better small bump sensitivity for the overhaul. The shock was also offset by 7mm towards the non-drive-side of the bike to provide more drivetrain clearance, and geometry was still adjustable by way of inserts at the rear axle and a sleeve in the headtube.


Both teams found success on the new bike, with Rachel Atherton winning the Windham World Cup and finishing 2nd at Vallnord World Championships before the Athertons left for GT. In the Riding Addiction camp, Myriam Nicole won her first World Cup in Val di Sole in 2011 then Remi Thirion joined the team in 2013 and in Vallnord, he threw down one of the most creative downhill runs in recent history to make Commencal and BOS a winning partnership once again.

It was a fairly easy start for Remi rolling into the pits about half eight to give himself some time to chill and get ready for the short practice session in the morning.

Remis Commencal Supreme isn t just any bike it s made out of lighter weight tubing than the production models which sheds between 200 and 500g depending on the size frame.
Commencal made racers' bikes out of lighter aluminum tubing that was said to shed up to 500 grams.
Remi s setup for this course was to go high and slack getting the bar height up and taking a little of the head angle with an Angleset.
High and slack was Remi's set up of choice for the notorious Andorran track.

...

Later that year the 27.5"version of the bike was launched at the Roc D'Azur festival. It wasn't just a simple wheel swap for the brand though, they had also been working on a new streamlined link that brought with it a new kinematic. Other changes included a 7mm BB drop and a steepening of the headtube from 63° to 63.8°, designed to retain the feel of the 26" version on the trails.

Commencal Supreme DH 650B downhill bike Roc D Azur
The 27.5" version of the Supreme was inevitable by the end of 2013.

Commencal Supreme DH 650B downhill bike Roc D Azur
The new link vs the old link on the pink bike.

Myriam Nicole continued to be successful on the 'tweener wheel and took four World Cup podiums in 2014.

Commencal Supreme V4

Commencal Supreme V4 Review

Details
Released: 2015
Frame Material: Aluminum
Wheel Size: 27.5" / 29"
Travel: 220mm
Head Angle: 62.5°
World Cup wins: 9 (+1 World Championships)

Lourdes 2015 marked the birth of the Supreme V4 and a total shift in design from the V3. While it was still a single pivot, it now used the high pivot and idler pulley suspension system with a boost up to 220mm of travel.

Commencal DH bike prototype
Thirion and the new V4 in Lourdes.
16.5kg weight 205 psi fork amp 135 psi shock tyres at 1.8 bar front 2.0 back
[A French flag custom version from later in 2015.

The bike's head angle was now fixed at a slack 62.5 degrees, but its reach was now adjustable by way of four different offset headset cups that allow for eight possible configurations: -10, -8, -5, 0, +5, +8 and +10mm. The bike's rear center length was also very different from the old bike, with Commencal shortening it up from 447mm on the V3 to 425mm on the V4, and that was also adjustable by using different bolt-on dropouts.

R my Thirion bike check - Fort William 2016
The original V4 was criticized for being a tad short and we saw racers running reach adjusters on their frames.

Images for Commencal s Updated Supreme DH V4.2 PR
The complaints were addressed in the V4.2, which was stretched out by 30mm.

The V4 platform has never stood still for long and we're now actually on the fourth update of the platform. It got its first update in 2016 as the V4.2 launched with 30mm longer reach, a one-piece rocker and a claimed decrease in weight and increase in stiffness.

Fort Bill BDS 29er watch.
A 29er shortly followed just a fortnight after Santa Cruz's V10 29.

Fort Bill BDS 29er watch.

The next step in downhill bike design was bigger wheels, and Commencal were one of the first brands to race on 29' wheels, unveiling the new Supreme at the British Downhill Series race in Fort William in 2017. The new bikes were still prototypes built around the existing DH V4 chassis but with a new rear triangle and adjusted linkage ratios. The bike was tested throughout the year then launched in December of the same year to the public.

2017 was another successful year for the team as Myriam Nicole won in Lenzerheide and Vallnord, podiumed at every World Cup round, won the World Cup overall title and finished 2nd at the World Champs. The best men's result came from Amaury Pierron on the Commencal Lac Blanc team, after he finished 2nd in Val di Sole and earned himself a spot on the Commencal Vallnord team.

Myriam couldn t afford to relax today with Hannah laying down the gauntlet in qualifying but it would be Seagrave who d finish as her nearest challenger in the end.
Myriam Nicole claiming her first overall title in 2017

Foot out flat out and on a lose and aggressive run Amaury Pierron took home his best WC result ever with a 2nd place.
Amaury Pierron on his way to his first podium at Val di Sole. We called it at the time 'the run of his life', how wrong we were...

Images for SUPREME DH 29 with Amaury Pierron
The Supreme 29 was released to the public at the end of 2017.

The next year Pierron wreaked havoc and won Fort William, Leogang and Val di Sole in quick succession on his way to the overall title. Myriam Nicole also had a good year and took the win in Losinj.

2019 continued the streak and Myriam Nicole won the World Championships on her return from injury, while Pierron won Fort William, Les Gets and Lenzerheide, but was pipped to the overall in the final race run of the year to Loic Bruni.

Myriam Nicole went down early and would have a lengthy wait in the hot seat as she watched rider try and fail to beat her time.
Myriam Nicole completed one of the greatest comebacks in downhill history when she returned from injury to win in Mont Sainte Anne.

The moment it was all decided. Danny Hart crosses the line and punts Amaury Pierron out of the hot seat meaning Loic Bruni wins the title. You couldn t make it up.
Pierron was milliseconds from going 2 for 2 last season.

Commencal released the latest iteration of the platform in January this year to bring it more in line with what the team were riding. The new bike boasts Increased stiffness and precision to decrease energy loss, a new idler pulley position to increase pedaling efficiency and a new kinematic and main pivot point for increased agility.

The most recent iteration of the Supreme was released in January this year.



54 Comments

  • 76 1
 Through all the versions it’s just been a really clean looking (no pigs), well performing bike with a brand that feels like Max is and always has been heavily involved. Not many can say that, kudos.

More please PB!!
  • 60 0
 V3 in Atherton colors was always a favorite of mine.
  • 9 0
 Animal Commencal
  • 1 0
 @chyu: Hell yeah!
  • 37 0
 Let me guess, this article is in anticipation of the new Supreme mullet that is about to drop...
  • 9 0
 going through my starter pack: review dropping tomorrow
  • 8 0
 New bike drops July 6 according to Commencal's website.
  • 3 0
 @Lanebobane: too long of a wait. I want to see it now.
  • 20 0
 I still have my Atherton V3, such a great bike. Rode it at the Atherton's Bike Park, Dan was impressed it was still going. He didn't want fancy a part ex for one of their new ones.
  • 5 0
 Nice try though!
  • 8 0
 This article really shows the flexibility that a manufacturer can have when working with aluminum, especially with the V4 bike being changed a bit every year it seems. With CF, you really gotta commit to a design for a few years to get your money's worth out of the mould.
  • 8 0
 "and the stroke length was increased from 8.74" to 9.5"

Pretty sure that should be eye-to-eye, or different numbers... Unless they had a magical less than 1:1 leverage ratio rear suspension...
  • 13 4
 I see now that the new Specialized Enduro is an iteration of 2008 Commencal Supreme.
  • 5 0
 There was a V2.5 in there too (and possibly others of the different models?) in order to sort of the iffy gusset design from the initial ones. The 2.5 was less cracky, which was nice
  • 1 0
 My v2 lasted about a month before the welds started cracking
  • 3 0
 Not too relevant but for completeness: between Muddy Fox/Intense and Commencal, the Atherton team had a short stint with Giant.

As for the geometry of the Commencal the Athertons were racing. I recall the Athertons (or at least Gee) liked the bike really long and slack and that's what they were getting. But as was common at the time, the production model got toned down a bit. Taking the Commencal Andorra staff as their reference. Who are probably still much, much better and faster riders than most customers who actually pay for these bikes. Not sure whether the numbers in the article refer to the geometry of the production bike or that of the bike as the Athertons were racing them. So technically that was clever and fine, but these days the general public would frown upon such practice. The average customer now wants (and gets) the exact same geometry that the pros are getting. At least for most brands. I recall Cube still tones their customer models down a bit to keep them fun for the pace their customers are going, but I'm not 100% they're still doing that.
  • 4 0
 Spot on, I remember years ago reading this in Dirt. Sam Hill’s Sunday was running circa 62 whilst customer bikes were 65 degrees, it ran throughout the industry back then
  • 2 0
 @sewer-rat: Yeah, another extreme example would probably be Fabien Barel back when he was riding for Kona. But yeah indeed for the Commencal/Atherton story, my source indeed is Dirt where they followed the team on an Andorran test session.
  • 4 0
 Pretty awesome how the same basic design of the V3 eventually became the second or third gen Meta. I miss my Meta SX (f*cking theives!), one of the most modern 26ers anyone ever made.
  • 3 0
 The first V4 was also quite fragile, a lot of them broke. There was a photo of Thiron's V4 breaking at Lenzerheide world champ. Commencal had it removed from every french website.
  • 1 0
 is it just me or does the v4 prototype remi is holding in lourdes have the same linkage and bottom bracket area as the 4.2?
did they make a last minute change for the production one and it bit them in the ass?
  • 2 0
 Also the V4.2 is prone to crack on the downtube above the bb or first version of the furious on the bridge of the chainstay and on the weld between toptube and downtube . Fortunately they've a great costumer support .
  • 5 0
 Supreme V3 Park VIP, P.E.F 'Rampage' geometry Single speed setup RAD as FK!
  • 4 0
 I loved riding the Supreme 29 last year. Such a mob machine.
Love how the last 2 WC DH Champs are also on aluminum
frames too. But carbon is still better right???
  • 7 0
 If you care about really arbitrary qualities like stiffness its a solid maybe, I'm of the opinion a carbon frame doubles the price of your bike without any real measurable benefits besides a pretty minor weight reduction.
  • 3 0
 @jackworth: carbon mostly just doubles the cost of the frame. It's roughly $1000 canadian per pound lol
  • 5 0
 Next comes the mullet supreme
  • 2 0
 Remi is riding the mullet
  • 1 0
 Sadly, the headset cups were never made available to the public. If you wanted different reach adjust options, you had to get a complete headset from vendors like Works Components or other reach adjust headset manufacturers. Might have kept my V4 or V4.2 if those had been available ...
  • 1 0
 Does anyone here have DH supreme 29" ? I want to buy one used, have heard of some issues with stiffness and would like the owners to speak out.

Also, it would be interesting if you could compare 2019 vs 2020 supreme DH 29, as instead of going longer, lower, slacker they went for shorter and steeper(I guess BB height is unchanged).
  • 4 0
 Did they ever smile back then?
  • 17 0
 There is only french people and the Athertons on pictures. What do you expect?
  • 2 0
 Loving the 2003 BOS/Commencal prototype! Shows how ahead they were, the 2015 V4 has a very similar high pivot and idler . . . .
  • 2 0
 Still got my V2 Atherton/Animal. It's the one bike I will never part with. It still rides way better than some of my friends more modern bikes. Chapeau Max tup
  • 3 0
 still got the headtube from my V1 of the supreme - bike hit tree head on, tree very much won
  • 2 0
 Great job, Pinkbike! More articles like this, please! Very interesting, especially for those of us who haven't been on this earth very long Smile
  • 3 1
 Anyone have a nostalgia boner and want to buy a V3 in the Atherton colours? Buy mine lol
  • 2 0
 Man the V2 is one of the sexiest bikes ever for me,the Athertons sure had their heyday on a good looking whip
  • 3 0
 man Myriam Nicole is drop dead gorgeous.
  • 3 0
 Great aricle. Would love more of these!
  • 2 0
 the V2 still looks pretty rad actually
  • 1 0
 It does. Nearly bought one 10 years ago, but I finally bought a RM Slayer SXC which pretty much looks the same but with climbing possibilities............ and I still have it and ride it... and love it Smile
  • 2 0
 The present supreme is the best downhill bike ever made. Change my mind.
  • 3 0
 Honda RN01 still takes that spot for me, Commy is sweet though
  • 2 0
 Need more of evolution of bike like this !
  • 1 0
 You can tell commencal really tries to put out the most excellent product they can, love the effort
  • 1 0
 I still have my Atherton edition of the V2! It has seen better days but still runs
  • 1 0
 They just keep getting and better and better great job Commencal!!!!
  • 1 0
 Love the brand, their ideals and the history behind!
  • 1 0
 I had an 05 Supreme, the grip on that thing was unbelievable.
  • 1 0
 I’d rather have ACC’s prototype over any of them. Such an awesome bike
  • 1 0
 Iconic bikes, I lusted over the 2005-2009 Supremes!
  • 1 0
 Dan Atherton, Mr. serious reporting for duty

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