Happy Riding

The Evolution of the Commencal Supreme

Happy Riding

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

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.
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.

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

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 stroke 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

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.

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.

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

Commencal Supreme V4

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.
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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