Ben tests the Commencal Clash that sits somewhere between an enduro and park bike to see if you can have one bike to do both.

With a 180mm Rockshox Lyrik and 165mm rear wheel travel, the Commencal Clash Race that Ben has been testing isn’t quite an enduro race bike or a park bike, so what’s it best at? Ben finds out below.

Photos by Dave Price.

Key features:

  • 180mm front, 165mm rear travel
  • 27.5” Wheels
  • SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed drive
  • Concentric rear triangle pivot at rear wheel axle.
  • Euro 3499
  • Commencal-Store.co.uk

Ben has just finished a 4 month stint riding the Commencal Clash Race. Not quite an enduro bike, but more of a freeride or park bike designed and built with fun in mind. It is hard to categorise the Clash…

Frame and Build

The Clash is built on a sturdy alloy frame with the main pivot sitting just above the bottom bracket and the shock actuated by a linkage hinging on the downtube. The rear triangle pivots around the rear axle, in the same way as Trek’s ABP system, isolating the rider from pedal forces and in theory boosting braking performance and reducing rider fatigue.

All the pivots run on super-smooth enduro bearings which should mean a long lifespan and stiction free suspension performance. Despite loads of wet and grimy rides and plenty of hose downs the bearing and linkages were all running perfectly through the whole test. Nothing came loose and it all seemed to be well assembled and thought through.

All cables are routed internally and the whole bike runs super quiet, thanks to the chainstay protector and decent cable routing. There is a downtube protector, sturdy looking gussets and beefy welds that give you confidence to send this bike hard and not worry about whether or not it can take it.

The Clash Race runs on a 180mm travel Rock Shox Lyrik and is paired up with a Super Deluxe RCT Coil shock running a 450lb spring. I was surprised to see SRAM Guide brakes specced on a bike like this, and would have expected Codes instead. As it happens the Guides were bang on, giving me plenty of control and modulation throughout, and enough power when paired with the 200mm rotors front and rear.

Shifting was straight forward throughout the test and was provided by a SRAM Eagle 12 speed groupset mated with Truvativ Descendant cranks and 32t chain ring. On size large and xl, the cranks are 175mm long. Personally I would prefer to see shorter cranks to give better ground clearance, especially on a long travel bike like the Clash. The only thing missing in this department was a chain device. Apart form money saving, I can’t see why you would not spec one on a bike like this?

The Commencal was rolling on Spank Oozy 350 rims on Formula hubs and grip was provided by Schwalbe’s Magic Mary up front and a Hans Dampf in the back. Finishing kit was mostly Commencal own brand, with a KS Lev Integra dropper post to round things off nicely.

 

The geometry numbers are a little bit different for a bike of this travel and it hints at a more flickable and playful nature suited to party laps and senders rather than out right race speed. At 65 degrees the head angle is a bit conservative, especially given the 180mm fork, however the 467mm reach on a large is bang on by modern standards.

I was also pleased to see that the chainstays come in at 434mm as I was expecting them to boast about how short they are, trying to slam the rear tyre up behind the seat tube. When you combine these numbers with the -12mm bottom bracket drop and a bit of suspension sag you get a really nicely balanced bike that is very capable in a lot of situations.

Up Hills

Clearly the Commencal is never going to win any hill climbing competitions. In fact it could well spend a lot of its life on a chairlift, tailgate or uplift truck given its attitude and build. Having said that, if you just sit and spin, then it does a good job of winching back up the fire road.

Stans Flow EX3Stans flow EX3

It comes with a climb switch fitted to the shock and although I generally never use this feature I anticipated I would, given the travel and the fact it is coil. Actually I found that with the shock in climb mode it damped it so much I found myself bobbing back off the now heavily damped platform. It didn’t go as deep in the travel, helping with climbing geometry, but it wasn’t as comfortable as just spinning along with the shock open.

On tech climbs the coil shock and Hans Dampf hook up nicely, but you are always conscious of pedal strikes when skipping up over steps, rocks or roots due to the long cranks and suspension sag.

Down Hills

I was really excited to get this bike pointed down hill to see what it could do. I have not ridden many bikes with coil shocks and was looking forward to a magic carpet ride, floating over the rough stuff with the 180m Lyrik up front ploughing a path for me. The reality was a bit different for me, at least at first. The problem is, that whilst coil shocks are very trendy on enduro/trail bikes right now, they are reliant on having the right spring for the rider and the trail conditions.

I rode a real variety of trails on the Clash, from fiddly, slippy, off camber tech to high speed bike park laps and everything in between. At 80kg plus my riding kit I found that I was over-sprung for the slower, muddier, trickier winter rides. I struggled to find rear end grip and with compression wound all the way out I was not going fast or hard enough to use the travel or get the most out of the coil shock.

 

The situation was very different however on drier, faster trails and at Bike Park Wales where the spring was bang on for my weight and riding style. I had plenty of support, great traction and the shock was beautifully smooth over the rough stuff. If you normally only ride one type of trail then a coil shock is a great option, but if it were my bike, I would probably have a lighter spring for winter and a heavier spring for faster summer trails. An air shock removes this faff, but is not as cool in 2019.

The Rock Shox Lyrik fork is a proven performer and it was my first time riding it in its 180mm form. I ended up taking all the tokens out and running a few more psi which really unlocked the full potential of this fork for me. I still found it to be progressive enough for big hits and rowdy trails, whilst being silky smooth off the top and through the mid-stroke. It gave me so much confidence going into sections fast and committed, acting like a ‘Get out of jail free‘ card for when my limited talent was waning. I really was impressed with the added control and composure that 180mm of smooth, well damped travel can give a bike and rider.

 

In the turns the Clash is easy to ride and very capable. It has good front/rear balance in the size large tested and I enjoyed the maneuverable 27.5” wheels as I have mostly been on 29” lately. The Scwalbe Magic Mary front tyre is as good as all-round UK tyres get and a great option for the Clash. It just performs so well on such a wide variety of trails, and especially in UK winter slop. The Hans Dampf out back was in their lighter, trail casing which is a shame as it punctured on the second ride and then again on a further ride. It is just not tough enough for this bike and you should budget for a tougher rear tyre if you live somewhere rocky.

In the bike park and over the jumps the Clash is rad. Just easy to razz about, well mannered, stiff, solid and chuckable. If you want to take the inside line and square the turn off with a big shralllp then the Commencal Clash has got you covered. If you want to hop up the edge, onto the high line to drop in and rail the racing line then the Clash will do that too. The fork suspension takes a lot of fatigue away from the rider and you never feel beaten up after a day of laps. The slightly steep head angle for the travel keeps things playful without being twitchy or nervous and adds up to a great fun park bike that is also capable on more mellow trails as well as the black runs.

The only place that I found the Commencal Clash lacking a bit is on super-steep natural trails. As the travel is mis-matched (180/165mm) the head angle effectively becomes steeper that its static 65 degrees when you sit in the sag at about 30%. Then the trail points straight down and the fork goes deeper in its travel and you find that it lacks the steep ground capability of shorter travel bikes with slacker head angles.

There is decent space to move around with the 467mm reach so you can make it work but it is never going to beat a focused enduro bike down tracks steep enough to make you clench your bum in fear.

Reliability

Apart from the rear tyre puncturing a couple of times, there were no problems with the Clash during the test.

What do we think?

The Commencal Clash is fun, capable and pretty versatile. It doesn’t really fit any specific category of bike, but that is fine with me. It is just a long-travel mountain bike. No marketing, no BS, just a great bike that some riders will really ‘get,’ but that is probably over-kill for the majority of the trail riding British public.

We love:

  • Sturdy, reliable build
  • Versatile over a lot of terrain
  • Fun, playful geometry

Could do better:

  • Steep head angle makes steep, natural trails more difficult

You can check out the Commencal Clash Race on the Commencal website here.

Read all of Ben’s other reviews on the Wideopenmag site here.


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