To start things off, we would like to thank Commencal Bikes for allowing us to do a long-term test of their new race DH offering – the Commencal Supreme DH 29.
Why a 29”, you ask?
Up until a very short time ago, most people said that whoever chose to ride 29” inch wheels was an idiot, so to say, and I have to admit that I belonged to this group of people. It looked like yet another purely commercial move by a few manufacturers, which will show up at the World Cup a handful of times and then disappear. Well…that went differently.
Remember what the introduction of 27.5” wheels led to? The theories, the speculations and also plenty of hate regarding wheel size? Nowadays, a lot of people won’t look in the direction of 26” wheels anymore – it’s 27.5 or bust.
|FRAME||2018 SUPREME 29 Alloy 6066 hydroformed 205 mm travel|
|DAMPER||FOX FACTORY DHX2, 250 x 75, High / Low Speed Compression Adjustments, High / Low Speed Rebound (450 lbs on M, 500 lbs on L, 525 lbs on XL)|
|FORK||FOX FACTORY 49 FLOAT, Adjustments High / Low Speed Compression, Rebound|
|SET OF DIRECTION||ALPHA RIDE, semi integrated, COMMENCAL standard|
|STEM||RIDE ALPHA DH Direct Mount, 50 mm, 31.8 mm|
|HANGER||ALPHA RIDE, Alloy 7075, double butted, 30 mm rise, 780 mm, Ø31,8 mm|
|GRIPS||ALPHA RIDE, ergonomic grips, Alloy one lock, super soft compound|
|BRAKES||FORMULA CURA, 200 mm / 200 mm|
|SHIFTERS||SRAM GX DH, 7 speed|
|CHAIN GUIDE||E * THIRTEEN LG1 + WideGuide|
|DERAILLEUR AV / AR||– / SRAM GX DH, 7 speed|
|PEDAL HOUSING||E * THIRTEEN Press fit BB 92|
|PEDAL||NEW E * THIRTEEN LG1, 34T, 165 mm, 24 mm axle|
|CHAIN||KMC X11-EL BPBP, extra light weight, black tech|
|CASSETTE||E * THIRTEEN, 7 speed 9-21|
|WHEELS||E * THIRTEEN LG1, 32 holes, 30mm inner width, with integrated cassette|
|TIRES||MAXXIS MINION DHF 29 x 2.5 WT, 3C / TR DD front and MAXXIS MINION DHRII 29 x 2.4 WT 3C / TR DH Casing rear|
|SADDLE STEM||NEW RIDE ALPHA DH, 31.6 mm, no offset, ultra light, 300 mm|
|SADDLE||WTB HIGH TAIL PRO, black|
|ACCESSORIES||Shock absorber mudguard, transverse tube guard, cable shrouds, integrated bumpers|
Big Wheels Keep on Turning!
So what advantage does a big wheel have over a smaller size? It’s better at going over obstacles – smoother, easier, faster. The tire has more surface area that touches dirt and because of this also has a higher rolling speed. That’s just plain physics and it also applies outside of the bike world – just look at the size of car wheels that were popular in the 90s and nowadays – that’s not a coincidence.
Is a 29” inherently better than a 27.5”? That all depends – there are a number of factors that play into the decision which frame size you should ride – your height, the type of trails you ride, how you ride and what you’re looking for in a bike. You definitely need to be taller than 1.80m to get the most out of a 29er – anyone smaller will just be rubbing their behind on the tires all the time and it will be harder to control a bike of that size. If you’re a taller rider that rides wide trails and you’re not looking to do any tricks on tables and gaps but just want to shred, then a 29er will definitely be in your wheelhouse.
The Commencal Supreme DH 29 features a very straightforward construction, very solid and the lines of the hydroformed aluminum is just beautiful. It’s not the lightest frame on the market – the setup we tested came in at a whopping 16,3kg. The Supreme is kitted out with an integrated stem (ZS56) that comes with an angle adjuster. The stem has the crowns fully integrated and the area of the support is covered with protective foil to protect it from rock strikes. Cables are internally routed and the rubber chainstay protector makes the bike extremely quiet. The fender in the back and the moto-foam covered rear shock construction makes sure you don’t carry along too much mud on your ride down. Commencal definitely did one hell of a job with this.
This is a serious numbers game! Our L frame has a reach of 470mm (sizes range from M to XL), the chainstay is 439mm, the wheel base is 1283mm and the headtube angle comes in at 63.5. That all checks out! The BB Drop is only -15mm, but perhaps it’s for the best, because we’re riding with some serious SAG and a linear working shock, which means our position is already very low. Race mode on!
High Pivot? What’s that?
Plenty of manufacturers put out big wheel rigs this year, but the Commencal Supreme DH 29 is definitely one of the most interesting offers. It’s a racer, constructed around a high pivot point and a high chain line. This is something that’s been a staple of the industry for the last 20 years, and I’ve already tested a number of bikes that use this system – I’m a fan, so I’m happy to see it making a comeback.
A high pivot allows for smooth conquering of obstacles – as the rear wheel hits a rock, a root or other obstacle, the wheelbase lengthens out, so any braking as an effect is negated. If you don’t know what I’m talking about take your bike and ride down some steep stairs – you’ll feel that your bike isn’t accelerating even though you’re going down some steep stuff, but every stair you hit is trying to buck you off and over the bars. A high pivot model won’t do this to you. This system completely eliminates any kickback and the chain doesn’t pull back on your cranks. Your first time riding a bike like this will definitely feel weird, because it will feel like you’re braking the bike in half. It’s something you’ll just have to get used to.
Max Commencal hit the Commencal Supreme frame with the big wheels and created quite a ride! Bombing down trails, you’ll feel like you’re riding down tarmac! It’s the first time I’ve piloted a bike that stuck to the trail like glue this much. At high speeds, the long frame and racing geo make it feel like you’re rocketing on a motorcycle and sticks to your chosen line. In corners, all you need to do is shift your weight and the bike does all the work for you. Riding this, you’ll feel like the faster you go, the easier the ride. Actually, it’s not just a feeling, this bike makes miracles happen. The suspension works in a very linear fashion, so it’s actually pretty easy to bottom out – but the wheels don’t leave the ground, so you’ve got a very high degree of control during your ride. The suspension is very sensitive, making even the roughest trails smooth, which is very important in turns or on transitions. This bike gives you superpowers! All you need to do is touch this bike and you’ll already be faster. If your current offering is more of a toolbox than a speed machine, conquering even the most hardcore trails offer nothing but the rush of wind in your hair and the song of birds – it’s a full-on mental game which will have you feeling like you’re the fastest rider on the planet! I’m in love!
If you’re still not convinced, just take a look at what Amaury Pierron has been doing on this bike this World Cup season. Of course the bike is only one factor in the chase for success, but I’m sure the Supreme DH 29 will share a large part of the workload with you. If I was a World Cup racer and had a free choice with regards to gear, I’d definitely pick this Commencal Supreme DH 29!
Full Build available for € 5,399
Frame Kit available for € 4,599 (includes shock, fork and wheelset)
© All photos by Jacek Slonik