July 26, 2010
Doing what it says on the carbon tin
Looking around at what the other staffers are riding the Commençal fits into the growing trend for lighter more pedalling-friendly bikes. The 32lbs, 6in travel tech sleds of a year ago are being left at home in favour of something that won’t have you coughing up a lung on the ascents and capable of doing a few more descents too as you’re not knackered from dragging round a beast that seems to be stuck to the ground with tyres made of putty. The downs can be a bit more of a battle, but that’s also part of the fun.
Having recently had the run of several similar bikes throwing a leg over the Super 4 still makes me smile. It’s that combination of lightweight urgency, confidence and fun inducing angles coupled with capable suspension that come together to make a bike that leaves little in the way of compromise for those looking for an all rounder.
The idea with our long term test bikes is that we ride them continuously to find what’s good and, more interestingly, what’s bad about a bike. With a bike that costs as much as it does it can be pretty much taken as read that the Commençal Super 4 is a great bike. No stunning realisation there. It’s therefore of more interest if there’s a flaw in an expensive bikes, in this case carbon, armour.
So, it’s taken a while to get the Super 4 to be anything less than, well, super, and its failing is more of a small flaw really. Some bolts are a bit rusty. There you go, nothing dramatic, just a bit of oxidisation. To be honest on a frame this expensive it is a bit of a let down, the rear shock bolts seem to be made from the cheapest of cheap metals. Tightening or loosening the bolts leads to rounding out and they rust. Commençal say they are not up to spec and would be changed under warranty, so no big deal, just a bit of a let down on a super-bike like this.
Just because the frame is made of carbon doesn’t mean it’s been treated any differently to the rest of my bikes, it’s been thrown in the pile outside the pub on night rides, dropped on rocks, had light batteries velcroed to it, zip ties attached to it and scuffed from the constant brushing of fat five tens and baggy shorts on the frame. A bit of scratching on the lacquer and a few scuffs here and there are the worst of the damage. No carbon scare stories here. Sorry.
Under heavy front end braking there is a clunk coming from the headtube so some headset love is probably in order. Either that or the headtube is about to shear off. I’ll let you know either way.
OK so it might not be the newest and shiniest any more but Shimano’s 970 series XTR drivetrain has been faultless. There is an element of Trigger’s broom, but this drivetrain started life on my Giant Anthem long term over two years ago and I’ve changed the chain twice, the rear mech once (because it had an argument with a large stick) and the cables three times. The chainrings could probably do with replacing some time soon but I reckon there’s a months worth of riding still in them. Special mention has to go to the XTR shifters. Whilst the rest of the drivetrain is a case of lighter and sexier than XT or SLX the XTR shifters are a case of just plain better. The speed and ease at which gears can be pulled and pushed across the block under load is addictive and after using them any other shifter just feels a bit of a let down. I’d happily run Deore mechs rather than XT if it meant I could have XTR shifters.
Magura’s Marta brakes are a perfect match for the frame; light, powerful, reliable. I’ve just changed the front pads because they got contaminated but that’s been the sum of their maintenance. If only all brake brands were as fuss-free.
I’ve had mixed experiences with Mavic wheels in the past, some have been faultless and others no end of trouble, these Crossmax ST have been the former. Zero maintenance 100% functionality. Unlike their owner.
As always a tip of the hat to the Continental Rubber Queen Black Chili tyres. Another season (dry this time) and no need to change them. I love how boringly great they are.
So, in summary, it all just works. Boring I know, but it’s good to know that the expensive stuff does last and continues to work despite being uncared for if not unloved.