Camille Balanche of the Commencal Dorval team will be looking to make it two out of two at Fort William this weekend. At Round 1 in Lourdes, less than a second separated Camille from second placed rider, Myriam Nicole of Commencal Muc-Off. Between the cold and wet (thanks, Scotland) training runs of Friday afternoon, we caught up with Camille’s mechanic, Yanik Braun, to check out her Commencal Supreme DH V5.
Update: Camille Balanche qualified fastest, going 1.794 seconds faster than RockShox-Trek’s Valentina Höll who qualified in second. In the Elite Men’s field, the Santa Cruz Syndicate’s Laurie Greenland went fastest. See the complete results from today’s qualifying runs here.
Camille Balanche’s Prototype Commencal Supreme DH V5
In the final stages of prototyping, the V5 Commencal Supreme DH you’ll see here will undergo very few changes before final production goes ahead at the end of 2022. The Virtual High Pivot Suspension platform that utilizes a 6-bar linkage design is very much confirmed, with the chain routed up and over an idler pulley in a bid to dissociate drivetrain forces from those of the suspension.
The position of that idler pulley is something that is still under consideration, as is the number of teeth. Camille’s team mate, Benoit Coulanges, is happy to run an idler pulley that permits some amount of pedal kickback, actually preferring the bike’s ride feel when it is present. Yanik tells us that Benoit feels as though the bike is missing something when it is completely absent.
Camille, on the other hand, prefers to minimize pedal kickback and the associated fatigue that comes with it, opting for an idler pulley of 15 teeth (as opposed to the available 14T or 16T options). The laser-machined pulley mount is also easily replaced by others of differing heights, allowing the team to continually play around with this aspect of the bike’s kinematic.
Yanik tells us that, in previous Downhill World Cup seasons, the Commencal race engineers found they were opting for a setup that was very much at the limit of what the V4 Supreme DH was capable of. Tracks such as Maribor, Slovenia, highlighted the lack of progression and the need for more compression damping than the riders were necessarily happy with.
We cannot provide any specific kinematic data, though Yanik says that the former race setting that was on the limit of the V4’s adjustability can now be found around the middle of the adjustment range of the new V5, allowing for a more usable range of tuning to allow riders to adapt their bike setup to different race tracks.
Indeed, there are a multitude of geometry and kinematic adjustments to play around with on the V5; this is true of both Camille’s race rig and of the production bike that is due at the end of 2022. Starting in the cockpit, the head angle can be adjusted by +/- 0.5°; for the rough rock gardens of Fort William, Camille’s has opted for the slacker of the two settings.
Chainstay length can be adjusted also, with a +/- 4mm range of adjustment available. Camille has chosen to run the bike in the mid-setting here. Yanik tells us the range of adjustment at the dropouts may increase for the production bike, possibly offering a flip-chip that alters rear-center length by 5mm or 6mm.
The final point at which the frame geometry, and kinematic, can be altered is at the lower shock mount, where a 4-position flip-chip can vary both the height and the fore-oft mounting position in order to influence the bike’s bottom bracket height and the overall progression of the linkage.
Camille’s Supreme DH rolls on Crankbrothers Synthesis DH 11 Carbon wheelset, with Schwalbe Magic Mary Super DH Casing tires on the front and rear. That tough casing, as well the use of a Cushcore XC tire insert (front) and a Cushcore Pro (rear) allows Camille to run very low tire pressures of 18 PSI and 21 PSI, respectively.
“First Ride” indicates these Magic Mary tires are prototypes. We spoke to Grant Wildman at Schwalbe to learn more, but he remained tight lipped, sharing only that this is a brand new rubber compound that will be available on production tires by the end of the year. Yanik said only that this compound is meant to be faster rolling, and offer more grip that the current range of Addix compounds offered by Schwalbe.
Yanik sets up Camille’s 9-Speed Cassette so that the jump between gears 4 and 5 is much bigger than the jump seen between the other cogs. This means she only needs to change gear once as she pedals out of the start gate; if the jump was smaller, she would need to change gear twice to find the perfect ratio for laying down the power.
It’s clear that Camille likes her bike to run very quietly; Yanik makes use of Chris Kovarik’s STFU chain dampers and VHS slapper tape to keep chain slap noise to a minimum. The STFU chain damper positioned closest to the seat tube doubles up as a secondary chain guide, limiting how far the chain can move from side to side as the bike charges down through rough sections such as the infamous Pinball. Yanik uses a wire to provide extra security to the chain dampers, in case a flying rock damages the cable ties.
We wish Camille and the whole Commencal Dorval team the best of luck this weekend.