The direct-to-consumer brand known as Commencal has a rich history dating back prior to its launch in 2000. Max Commencal, the founder and namesake, began his journey by creating Sunn bikes in 1984. After 16 years of hard work and good memories, Max moved on from Sunn to launch Commencal. In 2005 the Meta was born, quickly becoming Commencal’s flagship enduro bike. Commencal began working with Cédric Gracia in 2006, and the following year they signed three young siblings out of the UK who are now recognized as some of the
top downhill racers in our sport. Rachel, Dan and Gee Atherton dominated the World Cup downhill scene aboard their Commencal race machines until they parted ways in 2011. Today, Commencal continues to work with great athletes, such as veteran rider Kyle Strait and young guns Bruce Klein and Luca Cometti. Considering Commencal’s rich history in the cycling world, we felt it was only right to invite their new 2018 Meta AM V4.2 into our test fleet for a full MBA shakedown.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Meta AM is an all-mountain bike made with 160mm of travel out back and 170mm up front. The bike means business and demands a rider willing to push it to its limits. Commencal sells its bikes direct to the consumer, so riders can expect to get great bang for their buck; however, don’t expect your local shop to do you any favors when it comes to maintenance. The Meta is made for riders who love to shred downhill while still being able to pedal back up. Oh, and did we mention this bike can be had for $3000?
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
Commencal constructed the Meta from an aluminum, 6066, triple-butted frame and updated it with new kinematics, a metric shock mount and an elongated top tube. The Meta has an aggressive 65.5-degree head tube angle, 17.2-inch chainstays and a 74-degree seat tube angle. Commencal gave the Meta Boost hub spacing, a semi-integrated headset and a Press-Fit BB92 bottom bracket. The bike also has a unique rear brake mount that is tucked in behind the rear seat- and chainstays. And last, Commencal added protection to the Meta’s downtube and chainstay area.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Commencal focused on offering the best bang for the buck with the 2018 Meta. Our test bike featured a SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, wide E13 TRS wheels wrapped in Maxxis rubber and a Ride Alpha cockpit. Commencal then spec’d a 125mm-travel KS Lev dropper post so riders could get rowdy out on the trails. The Meta comes ready to shred with Fox Performance Series suspension, featuring a Float 36 up front and a DPX2 in the rear.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Ready to rumble: The Meta comes ready to take on the trails with a plush Fox Float DPX2 shock. The Meta’s active suspension soaked up rough trails well but required our testers to flip the compression lever to a firmer setting when tackling climbs.
We adjusted the Fox suspension on our Meta to 30-percent sag in the rear and 25 percent up front. We then followed Fox’s suspension tuning guide in order to find base settings for our rebound. From there, we adjusted the fork a few clicks faster and our shock one click towards open. The Meta is a long-travel machine with plush suspension, so our test riders often found themselves flipping through the first two compression clicks of our three-position shock.
The Meta offers a comfortable fit with a long top tube and short stem; however, heel clearance was subpar. Our testers constantly rubbed their heels on the drive-side chainstay, which forced them to position their right foot slightly forward on the pedals. This didn’t prevent us from riding the bike, but it was bothersome at times.
Commencal states, “An enduro bike is a downhill bike that knows how to climb.” We found the Meta could crawl
up any climb like a mountain goat, but it’s important to note the word “crawl.” This isn’t a bike that’s going to race to the top of any climbs due to its burly aluminum frame and plush long-travel suspension, but it will indeed get a rider to the top of the mountain. The Meta maintains traction and forward momentum, and the front end stays well-planted during steep climbs.
The Meta has a low-slung top tube that provides ample standover clearance and helps keep the Meta’s
center of gravity low. Combine this with 27.5-inch wheels and an aggressive geometry and you get a bike that’s agile and easy to toss around the trails. The Meta came with a wide 2.5-inch tire up front, which hooked up well, and a 2.4-inch tire in the rear that was confidence.-inspiring but also allowed us to have some fun drifting around the trails.
Commencal built the Meta AM V4.2 to take on any part of the mountain. It has more than enough travel, and its long top tube and slack head angle gave us stability at high speeds. The Meta is a bike that glues itself to the ground due to its plush suspension and overbuilt frame. Riders who are looking for a bike with a more “poppy” feel may want to look elsewhere. That said, any rider who wants a bike that soaks up whatever is placed in front of it will get along well with the Meta.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
The Meta AM offers great bang for the buck and doesn’t skimp on high-quality components. Even the E13 wheels on the Meta came ready to rip with our favorite tire sealant—Orange Seal. The SRAM drivetrain delivered on performance, and we can’t say enough good things about Fox’s Performance Series line. The Meta’s SLX brakes performed well enough, especially considering the bike’s price tag; however, the heel-clearance issue was something that continued to bother us. Right-foot- forward riders may not notice this as much as left-foot-forward riders; however, there’s no excuse for heel-clearance issues on today’s advanced mountain bikes.
Commencal managed to pack so much into a bike that costs just $3000. Now, don’t get us wrong; we know $3000 is still a lot of money for a bicycle; however, it is less than many hard-core enthusiasts would be willing to pay, and what the Meta brings to the table for that price is quite impressive. Things such as a 12-speed drivetrain, high-end suspension components, a dropper post, and a great wheel and tire package are almost always reserved for top-tier bikes. That said, the issue of heal clearance is hard to overlook. If you’re a hardcore descender on a budget and are able to work past this issue then the Meta could be a worthwhile option for you. www.commencalusa.com
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