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.
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.