Commençal hasn’t gone in for a huge amount of fancy shaping on the front end of its bikes. Traditional round tubes make up the front triangle with only a tiny gusset under the down tube adding weight. The rear triangle is slightly more interesting. Triangular tubing is used for the seatstays. With the flat plane wheelward, this adds lateral stiffness to the bike. Another nice touch is the asymmetric dropouts. To save weight on the drive side, rather than a large dropout, small, elegant forgings are used where they simply have to secure the wheel. Stresses from the disc brakes are resisted by a much bulkier component. 3D in design, the disc-mount holes are incorporated into the ‘fins’, helping remove flex. The only aesthetic let-down is the crimping on the short chainstays, which is ugly and serves no purpose.
Like many bikes in this round-up, the Combi Disc uses Suntour’s XCR platform. However, on the Commençal, they are of the 120mm persuasion. 30mm-diameter upper tubes cope well enough with cornering forces, and keep the wheel tracking well, but like every other similarly specced bike, they suffered from blowing through the first third of travel. The compression damping-based lockout lever allows for a bit of tuning, taming the action slightly but, we were still not inspired.
Fitting Avid’s fantastic, fully hydraulic Juicy 3 brakes, with their reliable, powerful action and class-leading lever action has had consequences. Rather than the nine-speed components fitted to 75 per cent of the bikes in test, the Commençal only has eight-speed — an indication of lower-quality parts. One thing we did notice was extra cable tension. This was more likely a result of sticky cables or routing under the bottom bracket than the exact specification, as the same parts were fitted to the Marin with no complaints.
The bar/stem combo shared dimensions with the Specialized, but the 70mm stem and full-width bar had a smaller, 28.6mm, diameter. We felt little difference in stiffness. The highlight of the finishing kit is the SDG Bel Air saddle.
Previous Combi Discs shared geometry with their more expensive stablemates, Commençal’s race machines.
For ’07, the designers have chosen to err more towards a fun day out in the woods. The combination of a longer-travel fork and geometry placing more of the rider over the rear wheel slightly limit the climbing ability of the Combi Disc. In reality this is only an issue when direct comparisons are made to the Rockhopper, the best climbing machine on test. The long fork bobbed and had a tendency to blow through to the first third of travel. Thankfully, rider position helps here. With more weight over the back wheel, the fork’s reluctance to hold up rider weight is less relevant. On tight singletrack and downhills, it shines. Despite sliding around on some of the slippiest tyres on test it was a true joy: the slack head angle and short chainstays make for a bike that is incredibly receptive to small shifts in bodyweight. As a tyre lets go, a hip movement back or forward keeps almost any slide in check.
For a fun, playful bike the geometry on the Commençal is bang on the money. It may not have the fancy fork, or nine-speed drive of other — better-specced — bikes in this round-up, but the true test always comes in the dirt. When the trails turned twisty or pointed downhill, it always seemed to be time for the testers to need “just one more try of the Combi Disc”. In our books, that’s praise beyond words.
MBR RATING: 9/10