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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.