Andy’s 2018 downhill race rig is an anodized-black Commencal Supreme DH with a carefully selected set of components that fits his particular riding style and preferences. The starting point for the build was a frame-only shipment to the DoubleBlackBikes shop through an easy point and click purchase on Commencal USA’s direct sales website. Changing bike frames is never an easy choice, but considering the lessons he learned riding the Canfield Jedi 27.5, and studying the latest options for 2018 he settled on the Supreme DH v4.2. This frame offers a slightly more progressive ride than his bike from last year, and the high pivot point and idler pulley provides the excellent traction and compliance that fits his approach to riding DH race tracks.
After some preliminary testing with a full Fox suspension setup (Fox 40 Float front and Fox DHX2 rear), Andy returned to a fork he’s more familiar with - the Boxxer World Cup with the MRP Ramp Control Cartridge. In addition to being able to refine the ride up front with the Ramp Control, he prefers the ride characteristics of the BoXXer and considers it a more supple option, with solid mid stroke support. On the back side, he’s tested a needle bearing lower shock mount to reduce the friction that exists at that linkage. The Commencal Supreme has a unique linkage that results in more rotation at the lower shock mount that normal, and the bearing helps in this situation. Admittedly, the bearing requires more maintenance than the standard bushing and hardware, but it does allow for very supple, quiet movement. There’s a significant rotation in the suspension linkage and the friction becomes relevant on a design like this. You might ask...so why are the parts like the MRP Ramp and needle bearings on all bikes? Our opinion is that complexity, cost, and maintenance implications are the reasons why these parts aren’t Original Equipment on a DH race bike, but for the DoubleBlackBikes crew there isn’t a problem with that.
For slowing this bike down on the steep stuff, Andy tested the TRP G-Spec Quadiem brakes. This brand has gained favor recently in the market with some noteworthy Pros switching over to them. The Initial impression is consistent with many of the other existing online reviews, and these brakes are a legimate contender in a market that really needs new brands to put pressure on SRAM and Shimano for pricing and quality. In his opinion, the power is strong, but not overwhelming. With this in mind, riders can calibrate themselves quickly to the lever throw and feel of the brakes. This design seems to be well suited in a racing scenario where tracks are typically under 4 minutes, but on long days in the bike park the additional effort required to stop the bike in comparison to Shimano brakes became an issue. By end of the Summer season, and before heading out to Whistler - Shimano Zee brakes were reinstalled. Andy indicates “I have the opportunity to ride TRP, Saints, Zee, SRAM Codes and Guides, and Hope brakes…after all things considered, my preference is the Shimano Zee.” He cites the class-leading power and short lever design as the reason for preferring Shimano, and after years of experience maintaining both Saint and Zee brakes chooses Zees for the better maintenance record and lower cost.
Wheels are another area that got some attention this year. After a full year of testing the Stan’s Flow EX and MK3 in 2017, this build is going back to a tried and true approach of using a 600g rear rim vs. the 500g options from Stan’s. The overall durability justifies the weight penalty, and with a rider weight of around 200 lbs. this year he needed a bit more material on the rear rim to prevent constant rebuilds. As an experiment, the bike has a ‘staggered’ setup, with an Enduro spec rim up front paired with a DH rims in the rear, both on Hope hubs. The 500g DT Swiss EX471 front rim held up all year on some extremely rough tracks at Mountain Creek, Windrock, Snowshoe, and Whistler. The 600g DT Swiss FR 570 rim has proven to be a critical choice for a reliable rear wheel. The build is able to withstand Andy’s body weight and stay-on-the-ground riding style for a full season with only minor maintenance. Here, it’s important to note that he was also testing tire inserts this year, so that was part of the durability equation. We’ll be reporting on that in a later blog. Another interesting choice in this wheel build is the Hope Pro 4 DH Rear Hub. Hope designed this hub shell to accept narrow DH cassettes from Shimano, SRAM and Hope, allowing for wider flanges that accomodate stiffer wheel builds. DH - only here, my friends.
Last, but not least are the drivetrain selections. Over the past two years, the SRAM DH 7-speed cassette has set the new standard for defining what gears are really necessary in downhill, and what the ideal ‘step’ between the cogs is. The introduction of the economical GX-DH 7-speed shifter and derailleur ushered in a reasonable option for cost-conscious riders that want this 7 speed spec. This GX derailleur comes in at half the price of it’s big brother the X01 DH and based on our comparisons the functionality and performance is comparable. We all now that a DH derailleur takes a beating, and with any mistakes like poor line choices it can be destroyed in a split second…so for us it’s an easy choice to go with the low cost option So long, for now X01.
“This bike elevated my game, and provides ride characteristics that help me continue to build confidence.” For now, Andy plans to stick with with Commencal Supreme DH as he prepares for the 2019 Downhill Southeast races. Stay tuned for more bike checks from the Gravity Crew in 2018.