Commencal Meta AM 4.2 – Long-Term Test Update

RockShox Super Deluxe Coil RCT vs RockShox Super Deluxe RT Remote

The Commencal Meta has been given a plush injection! It has been a long, long time since we rode a coil shock. With air shocks being so damn good, we didn’t understand the point of throwing on a coil – extra weight, fiddly setup swapping coils, it all seemed unnecessary. For hardcore racers, with 15 minute descents to contend with, it made sense. But for the punters… really? To be honest, we’d painted the recent uptake of coil shocks as a trend, driven by wannabes with an overinflated sense of their own abilities, and one that would surely pass.

We’d painted the recent uptake of coil shocks as a trend, driven by wannabes with an overinflated sense of their own abilities.

Fitting a coil shock added just under 400g to the Meta.

But then we pulled our head out of our butt and actually gave this whole coil shock renaissance a go. And, holy hell, there’s something to it! We’d been toying with the idea of swapping the shock on our Meta for a while (we didn’t like the clutter of the remote lock out on the original shock), so when the chance to try out the new RockShox Super Deluxe Coil RCT came our way, we grabbed it.

Weight difference – coil vs air shock

The weight penalty cannot be overlooked. The RockShox Super Deluxe RT Remote weighs 480g, the RCT Coil shock is 860g (with a 350lb/in spring fitted). That’s not an insignificant amount of weight, and if you’re a heavier rider using a beefier spring, the weight penalty will be higher still.

With a three-position compression lever to stiffen it up on the fly, the only real downsides when you’re climbing is the extra weight.

We welcome you, plush gods

But the weight difference took about three seconds to forget. From the very first moment we hopped on the bike, we had a big, big grin. We’d forgotten just how good a coil feels – that lively, silken PLUSHNESS – it’s brilliant. You can feel the difference instantly – the rear suspension is more active, more sensitive. There’s more traction, so you can go faster. It’s simple, really.

Now we’re not suggesting that a coil is the right option for everyone, but on this kind of bike a coil shock does make a lot of sense. The Commencal is always going to be a bit of pig on the climbs, so why not optimise its performance on the way back down? The shock has all the levers you need to aid your path back up the hill (including a compression lever, which firms it up dramatically, plus separate low-speed compression adjustment) so you’re really just contending with the extra weight. We can’t see ourselves rushing to put an air shock back on.

Compared to our usual go-to XT Trail pedals, it’s clear to see just how much more surface area the Saints have.

Shimano’s Saint pedals have been a long time coming.

Shimano Saint SPD pedals.

The long-awaited follow up to the DX SPD is finally here, with the new gravity oriented Saint pedal, and we’ve just popped them onto our Commencal to review.

Compared to our usual go-to XT Trail pedals, it’s clear to see just how much more surface area the Saints have. They’re designed to give you as much stability as possible with more flexible gravity style shoes, plus there are four height adjustable pins per side too, to bite into the soles of your shoe if you end up getting a little loose and need to ride it out without being fully clipped in. They weigh in at 540g/pair, which is a fair whack more than the XTs, which are just 403g/pair.

Maxxis Forekaster 2.6″ tyres

The Maxxis Minions that came on the Meta have been swapped out too, replaced by the generous 2.6″ bag of the Maxxis Forekaster. They’re billed as ‘last season’ tyre, which we assume is North American for ‘damp conditions’. Now, we don’t have a lot of damp to ride these in, but we’d heard good things about their performance in sandy trails too, which we have plenty of.

The large volume of the Forekaster 2.6″ makes for a supple ride.

Fitting the Forekasters shaved about 300g off the Meta, which was welcome given the extra heft added by the coil shock and Saint pedals. Our impressions so far are that they’re fast rollers, and that the big bag floats beautifully over sand and loose surfaces. They’re a supple tyre too, giving plenty of climbing grip on the rear. Where they do feel less impressive is under hard braking – compared to the Minions, they just don’t bite nearly as firmly. We’ve had one puncture so far, which isn’t unreasonable given the rocky conditions, but we’d had no such dramas with the Minions.

Looking for more on our Commencal? Check out our initial impressions here, or our recent update here.

 

 

 

Commencal Meta AM 4.2 Long-Term Test Update

The obligatory suspension fiddling:

With sag gradients on the fork and shock, getting your baseline sag set is fuss free, but we’re still making refinements to the setup. After a bit of internet trawling, we initially set the rear end up with about 25% sag (some reviewers out there felt the Meta rode best with less sag than would be common for this style of bike). We’ve subsequently dropped the shock pressure to give about 30% sag, and things feel a lot more settled now in our opinion.

We’re 50/50 on the shock’s remote lockout. It’s a blessing on smooth climbs, but you do sacrifice adjustability to have the on-the-fly convenience.
The Lyrik just feels like a downhill fork. Superb.

We’re loving the performance of the Lyrik once again. This fork dominates, it looks bad-ass with its super wide stance thanks to the Boost hub spacing and it just chomps up the ugliest terrain. As we’ve noted below, the long 170mm-travel fork is tall, so we were planning on running it at 25% sag and adding some Bottomless Tokens to the keep the stroke supportive (the Meta comes with just one Bottomless Token fitted).

The SD Components Dynamic Volume Chamber is an Australian made piece of kit, available for RockShox Pikes, Lyriks, Boxxers and FOX 36 forks.
Installing the DVC was simply a matter of unthreading the old top cap and Bottomless Token and threading in the new unit.
One valve controls the main air spring, the second controls a smaller chamber that dictates the spring curve’s progressiveness.

Instead, we picked up a neat suspension mod from SD Components, the Dynamic Volume Chamber. This cool little unit allows you to independently adjust the main air spring and the end-stroke, so you can get a buttery soft initial spring curve, and still have good support in the mid/end-stroke. We’ve only just fitted it, so we can’t comment on performance yet, but it adds a bit of ‘factory’ cool we think!

Hitting the lockout lever helps keep the bike up in its travel which greatly improves the bike’s tendency to wander on steep climbs. The downside is that you sacrifice a lot of rear wheel grip, as the tyre doesn’t follow the terrain as well.

The rear shock doesn’t offer a lot of adjustability, just air pressure and rebound. With the remote lockout, you lose any kind of  independent low-speed compression adjustment in favour of the convenience of being able to lock things out on-the-fly. We’re still on the fence about this… We’ve found the lockout useful, as the bike isn’t the most willing climber, but you do sacrifice quite a lot of rear wheel grip as soon as you hit that lockout lever. It’s best used on smooth fire roads or on the tarmac.

The DVC’s valves do look mighty exposed there, let’s hope they don’t get damaged.

High rise, maybe a bit tall for shorties: 

With its 30mm rise bar, the Meta is pretty tall up front, especially for a shorter rider like our tester. When the trails point down steeply, it makes for a very confident position, at the expense of being a little ungainly on technical climbs. You’ve got to really consciously keep the weight over the front end to stop it lifting and wandering when negotiating steep pinches. We’ll be experimenting with the fork setup, running slightly more sag (and a more aggressive ramp-up) to see if this improves things. We might look for a bar with less rise too, 15-20mm would be ideal.

With the long fork and 30mm rise bar, the Meta is tall up front. Some riders will love it, others might want to get lower.

Rubber choices:

You’ll never hear us complain about the performance of Maxxis Minions. The stock tyres on the Meta are some of the grippiest and most predictable going, but we’ve just received some new 2.6″ Maxxis Forekasters to try, so on they go! The Forekasters are a little lighter than the Minions (785g vs 960g) and we’ll welcome the reduced rotating weight, but we hope they can match the Minions in terms of reliability, durability and traction.

We’re giving the wide 2.6″ Maxxis Forecasters a try on our Meta. They’re a fair bit lighter than the Minions they replace, so hopefully they’re tough enough.
Maxxis bill these tyres as a good option for dampish conditions, but we’ve had good reports about their performance in loose and dry conditions too.

We’re excited to see how this system performs… when we finally manage to fit it!

CushCore frustrations:

We also took the opportunity of swapping out the tyres to try and fit the new Cushcore system. Note we said ‘try’…. While the in-tyre damping/rim protection system sounds very promising, fitting it proved too time consuming and we gave up after an hour of fighting it. We did try to follow the instructions, but perhaps we missed a step? We’ll return with a cold drink, plenty of spare time, and a better frame of mind and try to install it!

The CushCore system mounted to the Meta’s rim. Getting the tyre on is the tricky bit…

Video: Brendan Howey – A Decade With Commencal

It’s been 10 years since Brendan became part of the Commencal family and there have been few riders with whom they’ve written such a long story!


“Brendan helped us create history with the birth of Commencal in Canada and back in the day, he was part of our Young Guns Program with Micayla Gatto, Casey Brown, Alex Pro and Remi Gauvin. Still today that would be one hell of a team!”

“For us, Brendan embodies the exact vision we have of both British Columbia and MTB! When we were given the opportunity to work with Scott Secco for this video we didn’t hesitate for a second because we’re such fans of his work. This latest edit has definitely not changed our opinions.”

“Thank you for these 10 beautiful Howey years. Looking forward to drinking a Bloody Mary (or two) with you in Whistler next summer and making lots of new projects!” – Yannick Commencal

Want more Commencal? Check out our enduro long-term test bike, the Commencal Meta AM 4.2.

Introducing our Commencal Meta AM 4.2 Long-Term Test Bike

It’s big, it’s burly, and it’s oh so shiny. Welcome to Flow, you gorgeous thing.

The new Commencal Meta AM 4.2 has just joined our ranks of long-term test bikes. We’ll be riding this one for the next 12 months, using it is a the test sled for all manner of Enduro and trail-oriented products. That’s a prospect that brings a big smile – our last experience on a Commencal was almost ten years ago, and we can still remember the buttery smooth performance of that bike, the way it seemed to float. It’s great to be throwing a leg over one of these Andorran machines once again.


We LOVE that finish. Alloy bikes can be just as sexy as carbon.

Don’t know much about the brand?

That’s not surprising, they’ve had a bit of a hiatus from the Australian scene. During that time, the brand has really consolidated what it is they’re about. There’s a unique ‘fun comes first’ attitude with Commencal that we appreciate. Max Commencal, the brand’s founder, has been a behind the scenes figure for many of the sports’ greatest riders, and he gave us a fantastic interview recently where he stressed his belief that mountain biking should not be about suffering. In his opinion, mountain biking must be all about enjoyment – it needs to stand apart from the world of road riding. Even traditional cross-country riding isn’t really on the Commencal agenda, their range is dominated by aggressive trail bikes and enduro bikes.

There’s a unique ‘fun comes first’ attitude with Commencal that we appreciate.

The shock bolts and most of the pivot hardware uses 8mm allen keys – try to round one of those out! The shock is of the new metric sized variety.

Where do I buy one? 

The return of Commencal to Australian shores is timely. Like other European brands such as Canyon or YT, the brand operates via a direct sales model – you purchase them online, and they arrive boxed with a small amount of assembly required. It’s a concept the Australian market now understands and embraces, and it allows Commencal to nail some impressive price points too.

Nice attention to detail everywhere, including great chain slap protection.

And yes, the frame is alloy too, which we know will draw applause from the many carbon sceptics out there.

So what is this model?

The Meta AM is Commencal’s line up of enduro rigs. 160mm/170mm travel, with frame construction that is clearly built to go the distance. There’s nothing under-gunned about the assembly, with reassuring 8mm and 10mm Allen-key fittings for all the pivot hardware.

And yes, the frame is alloy too, which we know will draw applause from the many carbon sceptics out there. In fact, you won’t find a single carbon bike in the Commencal range – it’s another point of difference and a topic that Max Commencal is very passionate about.

Our test model is the ‘Race’ version, $5299, running full SRAM spec with E13 wheels and Maxxis rubber. There’s nothing about this bike we’d rush out to change, but that’s not going to stop us from making plenty of tweaks of course!

It’s not a lightweight, coming in at 14.1kg, but it sure feels like it’s up for some punishment.

It does look bloody good too, doesn’t it?

Oh yes, it sure does. The brushed alloy finish is wicked, and the angry looking graphics set it off perfectly. The lines are great too, especially with the Trunnion mounted shock tucked right up into the top tube. This bike has some serious racing pedigree as well, with Cecile Ravanel absolutely dominating the women’s EWS series on board her Meta, winning just about every stage of every round.

What was the build like? 

Assembly was straight forward, the only elements that might irk some purchasers being the need to trim the dropper post line (it was very long) and the fact the bike didn’t come supplied with tubeless valves, which is annoying. Otherwise it was all smooth sailing – the gears and brakes didn’t need adjusting, and the wheels were true and tight out of the box too.

Our test model comes with Super Deluxe RT shock, with a remote lock out, it’s driven bar single-pivot/linkage arrangement. Room for a water bottle too!
Stunner!

What’s next? 

We’ve got a bunch of product already lined up for this bike; we’ll be using it as the vehicle for a head to head FOX and RockShox test, plus we’ve got new rubber from Maxxis and much more on the way too. But for now, it’s time to get acquainted with our new Andorran buddy!

 

COMMENCAL Go Direct in Australia

2013: COMMENCAL launches online sales in Europe and with it fewer middlemen, lower public prices and immediate success.

2015: COMMENCAL created a subsidiary in the USA including the opening of a warehouse in California, direct sales like in Europe, a showroom, prices in USD and also more immediate success.

2016: Opening of the subsidiary in Canada with the same pattern as in America. Here we have an office, a showroom and a warehouse in Squamish, BC.

May 2017: We are pleased to announce the opening of COMMENCAL AUSTRALIA.


What will change for the Australian rider?

– Prices identical to Europe and USA
– Prices in Australian dollars
– Specific customer service from Canberra
– Australian stock updated in real time
– Import tax already paid! Prices are net
– Short delivery times
– Arrival of new products at the same time as in the US and Europe


COMMENCAL AUSTRALIA:

Thanks to PUSHYS Store, COMMENCAL AUSTRALIA has a Brand Manager to listen to the Australian market together with a fast delivery service throughout the country, the possibility of collecting a bike in one of the three showrooms(Brisbane, Canberra, Albury) and an active after-sales service.

COMMENCAL is now permanently installed across 3 continents!
Website
https://www.commencal-store.com.au/

Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/commencalaustralia/

Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/commencalaustralia/

Interview: Max Commencal – Keep on Surprising.

In the coming weeks, Commencal will be making a return to Australia, with local support and sales via Pushys, so we took the opportunity to chat with Max about his experiences and (strong) opinions of where mountain biking is headed.


Who is Max Commencal and where is he happiest?

I am French but I have lived in Andorra for almost 20 years. One can say that I had two lives, one in France with SUNN and a second in Andorra with COMMENCAL.

I love sports, travelling, accompanying riders through their careers, releasing new products and shaking up the rules a bit… I love photography, film, music, competition, creation and commerce. I love working with and building my team! I also love to be at home in Andorra very much.

Supporting some of the world’s best racers has always been part of Max’s mission. When we asked him why, his response was that the “just loves racing” – this is a man driven by passion, not strategy!

What was the most important moment in Commencal’s history?

It was when I started COMMENCAL. The brand was born at the end of 1998. When I was sacked by SUNN, I decided to start from scratch at 43 years old.

When I started SUNN, all alone in 1982, it was the beginning of MTB and everything had to be built up from nothing. It was almost easy. For COMMENCAL, 16 years later, we had solid competition and I admit to having had difficult times. For sure, no one would have put money on me to succeed.

Today is pretty good and I have one of the best staff teams in my business history. The average age is about 30 years old and therefore there is both maturity and experience.

 

Concentrating on the past is useless. We must always explore new avenues, take risks and if possible, keep on surprising.

 

You have had the opportunity to work with some amazing racers. Who impressed you most and why?

It has always been Anne Caroline Chausson. Her opinions are incredible, she has little or no prejudice and her insight is reliable.

For the other riders, let’s just say that winners have strong characters. That’s why they’re different and they win! They have the fire in them, the selfishness and an above all the will and motivation that sets them apart. They have confidence in themselves but that doesn’t stop them from needing attention and support.

To help them along is a privilege and I have always drawn from them the extra energy that made me push my own goals. These people are my role models!

I am also particularly fond of Remi Thirion, he deserves to be World Champion and he will be!

Thinking about this, I want to talk about all of them because I love them all!

There’s a lot of Max in Commencal. He’s a firm believer that suffering on the bike should not be a part of mountain biking – that’s for the road.

When you started, what was your vision for the brand?

I’ve never had a long-term vision. Every season, every year must challenge us completely, whether from a commercial, product or marketing point of view.

But in general, my course of action is to be a very qualitative, innovative brand and to have a presence worldwide, not just to be a generic brand.

 

 The majority of these stores are born through the road bike industry and therefore with limited MTB-specific industry knowledge, in particular with DH and enduro, our core disciplines within our range

 

What did you learn from your years at Sunn? Where do you want to go?

What I know is that you should never lose the majority share hold in your own company. Besides that, COMMENCAL is the continuity of what SUNN was. The state of mind is the same but without nostalgia and regrets! Concentrating on the past is useless. We must always explore new avenues, take risks and if possible, keep on surprising.

 

Tell me more about your choice to change your business from a traditional dealer model to a consumer direct model? 

Contrary to popular belief, there are few small bike shops. They are often grouped under an umbrella company or a larger corporation and working with these middle-men is hell. At the end of the day, I couldn’t stand them any longer. They always shoot you down, always ask you for more, always trying to extend the terms of payment and/or want to explain your trade. All that to be branded N° 3 or 4, to fill in the gaps of their more popular, generic brands. Another trigger, the majority of these stores are born through the road bike industry and therefore with limited MTB-specific industry knowledge, in particular with DH and enduro, our core disciplines within our range. So I decided four years ago to stop working with them and to get on ourselves by selling directly to the consumer. Well, we took it because the public immediately reacted very favourably!

It was possible to drop prices significantly and customers were happy to contact us directly, talk to our engineers, our salespeople and generally be in direct contact with after-sales service and know our stock levels because they are displayed on the site.

In a nutshell, the filters were broken down between the brand, our customers and everyone else involved in the business.

 

What are some of the challenges of being direct consumers?

There are not really any additional challenges compared to all the other means of distribution. You have to be serious, helpful and have the products to back it up which are top quality, reliable. It made us up our game because you have to be faultless. So listen, if you don’t do quality, don’t go direct.

Four years ago, Commencal stepped out of the traditional dealer network model and moved to direct sales. They haven’t looked back.

Explain how things will work here in Australia? Will bikes be warehoused here, and what about aftersales service / warranty support?

Australia is far away, particularly far from Andorra so we had to find a partner organisation on site that could accommodate stock, ship quickly and have a team of specialists. We chose to work with Pushys who are particularly well established and organised in this country. Together we chose an Australian brand manager who’s passionate about the brand and our bikes.

Although we are far away, the discussions with the Andorran office will be daily. The guys from Pushys will come to Andorra as much as possible and vice-versa. The Pushys team will participate in the R&D and it’s possible that we will make a limited series exclusive for Australia.

What makes the difference with the traditional distribution of other brands is that it will be our stock, it will be our website and we will apply the same rates as in Europe, Canada and the US. The customer price point advantage will be the same as elsewhere.

Since the bikes are produced in Taiwan, it is also likely that Australia will have the new products before Europe and the US!

As for the after-sales logistics, stock will be on site at Pushys in Brisbane and if necessary, we will also be able to ship parts from our other stocks. We will also stock parts for older models, which refer back to when we were working with distributors.

Customer satisfaction is our top priority.

 

Mountain biking should not be about suffering on the bike, there’s the road for that.

 

Which people or brands, either inside or outside the bike industry, are you most inspired by?

Very good question. Honestly, I liked the competition with other brands of bikes when they still belonged to their founders, when they still had their originality. There was inspiration and challenge when we met at races. I think for example at Cannondale, GT (during the BMX boom) or Santa Cruz. Today, big corporations own them and we feel that the soul of the adventurer who created them has disappeared.

Fortunately for us, component manufacturers have brilliant engineers and they are real creators and true enthusiasts. It is always a pleasure to meet them, to rub shoulders with them. At SRAM, RockShox, FOX, Shimano, Spank, E-thirteen and more, I forget… there are plenty of exciting and inspiring people.

Max Commencal believes carbon to be a poor choice of materials for building bikes – he feels it imposes too many costs which inhibits adaptability and responsiveness, and that it’s an unpleasant material to work with generally.

Do you think mountain biking has reached maturity yet?

No, not yet and far from it. Mountain biking should not be about suffering on the bike, there’s the road for that. Riding should be fun, being in the great outdoors, exploring, travelling, playing sports, riding with friends, family, kids… There is also the arrival of electric assistance which will make climbing less extreme and just more desirable.

On today’s bikes, it’s still too rough and bumpy and although we have made great progress so far, there is still a long way to go.

 

Carbon is disgusting and dangerous for the workers who produce it, it is not recyclable, it prevents acceptation of the new standards without reinvesting in all the moulds… in short, it’s just bad

 

What is the best thing you’ve ever created, and why?

Created, I do not know but I don’t regret the decision not to make carbon frames. Carbon is disgusting and dangerous for the workers who produce it, it is not recyclable, it prevents acceptation of the new standards without reinvesting in all the moulds… in short, it’s just bad. Not to mention that many riders who rode the two will tell you that if they have the choice between a very good aluminium frame and a top carbon frame, they will choose aluminium. It’s more comfortable, livelier and generally more pleasant to ride. The delusion is that often, one assimilates carbon as high-end and alu, low-end. This is stupid.

Anyway, I’m happy with my decision.

 

If you could go back to the very start of mountain biking and change one thing, what would it be?

I would not change anything. The path was magnificent and the evolution went in the right direction. It’s just a shame that MTB is too tied up in the world of cycling. This genre of environment is very conservative and has often slowed down developments.

City bikes and MTB do not have the same DNA.

 

Where will your next ride be?

In Andorra, very fast! With PEF (our rider of the Red Bull Rampage), we build trails and I push to make it also easy. I do not want it to be an extreme sport. I want to see lots of new faces, lots of kids, girls and beginners. All skiers are potential riders and the day we have as many riders in the mountains in summer as we do skiers in the winter, we will have won our challenge. Not before.

Since there are many more mountains and “rideable” countryside than “skiable”, we have not finished enjoying!

George Brannigan Going Big In Cali

On location in California, close to the COMMENCAL USA offices, the crew assembled and our new recruit George Brannigan was united with the COMMENCAL VALLNORD DH Racing Team. 

True to his reputation as a committed and somewhat crazy rider, “Geo-Geo” was soon used to his new SUPREME DH V4 and rode it exactly how we had imagined
100% part of the family, Welcome George!

 

Fresh Product: 2014 Commencal META AM 650B Video

None of you friend is keen to shuttle you up the hills? Easily gets up the hill and provide you a killer run down, our AM bikes have no problems taking on the mountains. Your buddies may have a problem though…

META AM 650b : « The » AM bike by excellence and the solution to all your needs: grip, output, speed. Far from marketing buzz and closer to the riders’ needs and riding in the mountains, we adapted our META AM to 650b wheels. Nervousness preserved. Enhanced grip. It still loves pedaling. But would rather aim down the tracks. A real META as we like them with comfort and total fun.

As Remy ABSALON, you want this META as your ally to get another victory on the Mégavalanche in Alpe d’Huez? They are all spec’d race ready, even the Girly. We can swear you that you will have a blast alone or not!

A new format. Perfect for All-Mountain. Pure fun sessions. Alone or not!

META AM 650b 2014 / COMMENCAL All Mountain range from COMMENCAL on Vimeo.

Fresh Product: 2014 Commencal Meta AM Hardtail Range

Our Andorran mountains have a big influence on us, but we get that riders don’t need full-suspensions bikes.

Formerly known as the Ramones, the META HT may be seen as the ginger stepchild at first glance but it is fully assimilated to the META brood. Say goodbye to XC and its performance obsession! Only keep the hardtail setup, add fun and pleasure. Its Enduro position, with 650b wheels and 140mm travel fork are a big part of it

It feels good to climb with it but you will have a blast heading down.
MTB is not following any trend. It matures. And this META HT already found its righteous place…

New Meta AM HT 650b 2014 / COMMENCAL all mountain hard tails range from COMMENCAL on Vimeo.

Tested: Commencal Meta AM 2 29er

Without a doubt aesthetics has a lot to do with a consumer’s bike choice. You could have the world’s best performing mountain bike but if it’s ugly then you’ll be hard pressed moving it off the shelves. The same can be said for the opposite.  Make it sexy, but if it has little substance, then the novelty will soon wear off and the people will shy away.

This is where the Commencal Meta AM 2 29er shines, it looks damn good and works well to match. The bright colour, big tubes, the low and positive stance, and the neat internal cable routing all make for a clean and strong looking mountain bike. There weren’t many times when people didn’t stop us to check out the bike, and conversely, there weren’t may times when we were asking for more performance out on the roughest and toughest of trails.

We took the Commencal out for a test recently and here’s what we thought.

The Design

We think the bike looks very sexy. Just look at the cables disappear into the frame.

The 130mm travel Meta AM 29er is designed for all-mountain riding and is built for a more aggressive rider who loves to hit the trails hard. Made from triple butted aluminium the AM 29er is big and strong. Every tube is oversized and some of the pivot bolts require allen keys sizes which you probably won’t have in your toolset. The frame looks a little over-engineered and maybe some weight could have been shaved off, however the strength and durability of the AM should be something you have little to worry about.

Everything is big. Most people would not have a 10mm allen key, let alone a torque wrench that goes up to 35NM. The bottom pivot did come loose once and lucky for us we had both tools. It never came loose again.

The head angle is a relatively slack 68 degrees, bottom bracket drop -33mm, and chainstay length 458mm – all elements designed to make the bike more stable at speed. The top tube is very sloped and gives the bike excellent standover height and cockpit room, both of which are very important on bigger wheeled bikes.

The rear suspension is based around the Contact System Evo design initially launched on the Commencal downhill bikes. Simplistically, it has been downsized from the downhill design and is basically a linkage driven single-pivot rear-end with the shock neatly tucked away low in the frame. The shock position is great for lowering the centre of gravity but the position does have an unintended consequence, which we will go into later.

The Contact System EVO, based on the successful downhill suspension platform, and scaled down for the smaller bikes.

The rest of the design continues the theme of big, strong and aggressive. The 142×12 rear was notably stiff, the tapered headtube keeps the front pointed, and the massive pivots reduced flex.

One standout design feature we loved was the internal cable routing. Yes, the bane of bike mechanics world wide, but we loved how neat and functional Commencal had made all the routing. Every cable disappears seamlessly into the frame and only re-appears at the last possible moment – making for a very clean looking frame. No additional noise was noted from the routing either.

One of the best displays of internal cable routing we have seen on a mountain bike.

There where two notable negatives from a design perspective and those were the lack of water bottle mount and the rear shock position – nice and low and tucked away. The first is pretty explanatory and you better invest in a good hydration pack, however the latter needs a little explanation. We have raved and raved about how good FOX CTD is and how much we love to be able to adjust our bikes while riding. However, the rather “tucked away” shock position did make it harder for shorter riders, or those built like a T-Rex, to reach down and find the CTD adjusting lever.

For those who like the data and stats here’s the important numbers.

The Build

The Meta AM is built with middle level spec – but is priced there too. All parts are strong and durable but do add to the overall weight. That can be a good thing as it enables you to throw your leg over an excellent frame for a good price, and then later update the parts to continually improve your ride.

The FOX suspension was excellent with CTD (Climb, Trail, Descend) on both ends. Having on-bike adjustability is a key for all-mountain bike riding.
The bars, stem and grips are all Commencal in-house brands. The grips were comfortable and the 730mm bars felt the right width. We did flip the stem to get a little lower on the front but that was definitely a personal preference rather than to compensate for any design deficiency.
The drive train was a mix of SRAM products. X5 cranks (38/24), X7 front and rear derailleur, X5 shifters, and SRAM PG-1030 11-35 rear cluster. Nothing you would Instagram about but all worked well together. We do love the new clutch/type 2 derailleurs and thought that was the only missing part.

As with many a bike in this class we would have liked to see a single right setup with chain guide. The frame has ISCG mounts so of you do choose to do go down that path you can easily.

The wheels are 15mm up front and 142×12 rear. We did notice some steering flex from the front end of the bike and felt the wheels could have been a little stiffer to reduce this. That being said, they remained straight and true with no issues.  The rims are not UST compatible however we did convert them to tubeless without any hassles (using a good rim strip). It’s almost blasphemy to not run tubeless in this day-and-age.

The Formula RX 12 brakes worked very well with no noise or issues noted. We have been impressed by Formula as of late and matched with 180mm rotors, both front and rear, we had no hassles pulling up when needed.
The Kenda Nevagal tyres are a good choice for more aggressive riding, however, we noted that the European spec for the same bike supplied a Kenda Small Block 8 for the rear. We did have some issues with rear tyre rub on the front derailleur cable and a single instance of the rear tyre hitting the seat tube on extreme bottom-out, so we recommend you change the rear tyre to something smaller.

The Ride

The AM gave us the confidence to attempt the toughest lines.

The Meta AM was a great bike to ride on the rougher, steeper trails. Once pointed downhill the bike would be able to maintain any line you asked …or didn’t ask. Great at masking poor line choices, the strong frame and larger wheels were able to keep us surprisingly upright even when we had our eyes shut in preparation for something worse. We found this to be the real strength of the bike – its ability to mask mistakes and maintain momentum at the worst of times. We could pick any rock garden and ride down it with little regard to line, or self.

Of course, a bike being this heavy was a little sluggish uphill. We’d be lying of we said anything else. But that’s not why you would buy this bike. As long as you begin your journey with that in mind you will recognise that the energy you can save by going a little slower on the climbs is better expended on the fun stuff when pointed down anyway. We were still able to climb the steepest trails no problems, just a little slower, or a little more exhausted if we tried to smash it.

The Commencal loved going fast and the more momentum you gained the more it kept.

We did find the rear suspension to be a little linear and finding that perfect balance between blowing through the travel and small bump performance a hard balancing act. We found we would blow through the travel with little “ramping up” at the end of the stroke and thus had to keep adding air to the rear shock to avoid harsh hits on the really large knocks. However, once we added too much air the small bump performance was compromised. We did end up getting the balance correct and had to run the shock with a little less sag than normal and set the CTD on Trail mode for climbing and left in the the Descend mode for pretty much everything else.

The larger tubing and wide setting of the rear end did mean some shoe rubbing on the frame but that’s less of an issue for clipped in riders than those on flats. It was never noticed on the trails and only post bike-wash was it revealed.

Overall we loved the ride of the AM 29er and found joy in hitting rock gardens with more confidence. The bike wasn’t nimble on the tighter stuff but once allowed to wind up, it was hard to stop. We, in fact, were able to ride sections of trails faster than we ever had and joyed at sessioning difficult sections of trail.

The Conclusion

The Commencal Meta AM 2 29er is a great if you prefer riding more down than up. It’s more than confident holding a line and the faster you go the more stable the bike feels.  Without a doubt, it will instil confidence in your descending and technical riding. It is a big bike, a little the heavy side, so you will just have to make sure you take your time enjoying the sights as you slowly climb.

If this bike was a little lighter it would be in our shed.